Principles for Life

“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.”
Romans 7:21 NLT

Paul wrote that he had discovered a “principle of life”. And he goes onto say what it is. But it is a principle with negative connotations, that are at odds with what we would normally regard as a “principle” for life. The Bible is full of principles, advice for how life should be lived. Principles for lifting us and encouraging us when needed. Principles for keeping us on the straight and narrow path of the pilgrim’s journey through life towards our Promised Land. So we have Romans 12:2, “Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect”. Or there is 1 Peter 2:11-12, “Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbours. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honourable behaviour, and they will give honour to God when he judges the world”. Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 6:19-21, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be”. There are many other “principles” embedded in God’s wonderful book, the Bible.

What principles of life drive us pilgrims? It is interesting that, although many a life coach or author has written books with titles such as “30 Life Principles” or “Principles: Life and Work”, for a Christian (in my opinion) there are only two and they set the scene and underpin all other ways to live our lives. We don’t need long lists of rules or suggestions. We just need to follow the answer Jesus gave to a Jewish lawyer who was trying to trick Him with what he thought was a difficult question. We read in Matthew 22:37-40, “Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments”. 

God is the only Source of principles for life. Unless principles are founded on what He has to say, then they will fall short of what we really need in life. His guidance won’t let us down.

Dear Father God. We know that You love us and care for us. Thank You for Your presence with use day by day. Amen.

Not Giving In

“Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.”
Romans 6:12-14 NLT

Paul gets down to the nitty-gritties of living a life of faith. He starts to get personal. But how can he, a sinful man as well, tell others how they should and shouldn’t live? What right does he have, perhaps you ask? But what he writes is correct. As Christians, we cannot, must not even, allow sin to be the dominant force in our lives.

Paul starts with our minds. “Sinful desires” start in that space between our ears. We look at something and we lust after it. That cream cake. A new car. Men in particular can have a problem with beautiful women. And before we know it we are in the danger zone, sorely tempted to give into a “sinful desire”. And in case we find ourselves in a safe place, our enemy, the devil, will creep up on us and plant a sinful seed into our minds. A rationalising process can take place, much as it did with Eve in the Garden. Just one more chocolate biscuit won’t hurt. Another glance at that web page won’t really matter. “Did God really say …”. But we must stand firm, always alert for an attack on our minds, on our thoughts. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, “We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.” Someone once said that we can’t stop birds flying over our heads, but we can stop them nesting in our hair. 

Paul then moves onto our bodies. Our physical beings. Those bits of us controlled by our minds. Perhaps he is saying that it is bad enough to think sinful thoughts but to then use our bodies to apply the sin compounds the felony. By so doing they become an “instrument of evil”. Jesus emphatically made this point – we can read His words in Matthew 5:29-30, “So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Of course, theologians try and rationalise what Jesus said. Perhaps I do as well. But Jesus was deadly serious. If our bodies become an “instrument of evil” then there is only one place where they will end up, probably with the rest of us following close behind.

But now to the positives. Paul wrote, “for you were dead, but now you have new life”. Of course we do. We are a new creation, in transition to becoming the persons God designed us to be. Work in progress, journeying through life. Through Jesus we have an opportunity, breathtaking in its simplicity, profound in its concept, and eternal in its outcome. An opportunity that just cannot be overlooked and missed. Living a life of holiness, because that is what separation from sin is all about, may, in worldly eyes, be dull and boring, but the resulting life to come will be filled with so much incredible joy and excitement that we will never regret it.

Dear Father God. We thank You for these Spirit-inspired words of wisdom from Your servant Paul. Please help us to take note of them and apply them to our lives, day by day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Slaves to Sin

“Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.”
Romans 6:5-6 NLT

Perhaps we have an image in our minds, of a unified person. Consider a picture of Jesus, and a photograph of ourselves, and then superimpose one over the other. Personally, a unified picture of Jesus and me. How does that make us feel? Good? Apprehensive? Unsure? Yes, all of the above, but that is the reality of the Christian life. Association with Jesus in this way, in true unity, is the only way forward towards our goal of salvation. And Paul’s use of the baptismal imagery continues, with the mental picture of being raised to life just as Jesus was. 

The next thought from Paul profoundly impacts a new Christian’s life. And the older Christian’s too, because we must never forget and slip back into our old sinful ways. When we pilgrims fell onto our knees at the foot of the Cross, a pictorial way of describing how one day we brought our sins to Jesus in repentance, asking for His forgiveness, and believing in Him, we effectively crucified that part of us that was our old life, riven by sin. Now, crucifixion was a terrible way to die. A slow, lingering and extremely painful death. But Jesus went through that to set us free from the dominance of sin over our lives. In fact, the whole process in our spirits was, and is, life changing because we realise that what Jesus did for us we deserved ourselves. Sin has to be dealt with sooner or later. The grace of God is breathtaking, because He allowed His own Son, Jesus, to suffer in this way so that we wouldn’t have to.

Why did Jesus have to go through what He did? There were other forms of capital punishment available to the Jews, such as stoning. That happened to the first Christian martyr, Stephen. Crucifixion was a method the Romans used to put someone to death, and in the process they hoped to deter other people tempted to commit the same crime by attaching a list of their misdemeanours to the cross used. Pilate, the Roman governor who authorised Jesus’ death, ordered that “King of the Jews” was written above Jesus’ head. The Jewish authorities saw Jesus as a threat to their rather fragile relationship with the Romans because He challenged their cosy status quo with His radical teaching and miraculous acts. The people were following Him in large numbers, and, because of their unbelief, the Jewish leaders couldn’t allow the situation to continue. Evil ruled the day but God allowed Jesus’ death to happen because it was all part of His plan of redemption for mankind. 

Because Jesus went through what He did, taking on board our sins, we have been released from their dominance over us. I’m sure we can all think of sinful situations hidden away in our skeleton cupboards, that emerge from time to time to embarrass and harass us. But we don’t have to be slaves to these thoughts anymore, because Jesus has redeemed us from them. The skeletons are buried. Their power to torment us is gone. As Paul wrote, “We are no longer slaves to sin”. We can shut the door on our cupboards and lock them. But it’s up to us now. The question is – what will we do with the key? Hmmm…

Dear Father God. What an amazing and gracious, loving God You are. We worship at Your footstool. Amen.

Adam’s Sin

“When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break.”
Romans 5:12-13 NLT

The word “sin” is not one that is used very much in today’s societies. It is mostly associated with religion, being defined as an immoral act, or when a law is broken. It is one of those words that make people feel uncomfortable, so they attempt to reduce or eliminate the potential pain by calling it something else, or projecting its reality into a treatable illness rather than calling it what it really is. This particularly applies to words defining sin in the Bible. So “adultery” becomes “an affair”. And, perhaps controversially, taking drugs, or stealing, or drinking alcohol to excess, are illnesses. And so on.

A typical dictionary definition of the word “sin” is “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law”. So without even mentioned God, the definition connects morality with law, and particularly in a way that involves a higher being. So is breaking a secular law a “sin”? Technically yes, but perhaps not in a way that complies with the dictionary definition of the word. It is rare, even unheard of, to hear the word “sin” associated with a traffic offence, for example.

In Genesis 1:27 we read, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”. God doesn’t sin. He never has done. So His original intention for mankind, having made them in His own image, just like Him, was that they would be sinless as well. We must therefore consider what it was that violated God’s creation, and why.

In parallel with the Eden story, a battle raged in Heaven, with an angel called Lucifer trying to take over from God, a sort of Heavenly coup. We read what happened to him in Isaiah 14:12, quoting from the King James Version. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” Lucifer ended up in the only place available to him – Planet Earth. And it is here that he introduced his rebellious and wicked spirit, here he introduced “sin”. In the guise of a serpent, he caused Eve and then Adam to break the only law that they had been given by God. We read in Genesis 2:16-17, “But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die””. And we all know what happened next – the sad story is recorded in Genesis 3. Sin started with a rebellious angel in Heaven and in due course infected Planet Earth.

Sin happens when we break laws. And in particular God’s laws. The one overriding law that underpins all others was told by Jesus to a local Jewish religious expert. We read in Matthew 22:36-40, ““Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”” So the root of sin is disobedience to God. These simple laws power all other laws, and those who don’t want to sin must start here. And in so doing, they must bring everything they do under God’s scrutiny to see if they line up with these laws.

Perhaps we wonder what would have happened if Adam and Eve had confessed their sin, and were made right again in God’s presence. Their relationship with Him restored. Their sin wiped away and forgotten. But sadly it didn’t happen, and the disease of sin has been with us ever since. A pandemic of all pandemics.

Paul, in today’s verse from Romans 5, states that Adam’s sin became human sin. All have sinned, he said. And it is very true. I don’t know of anyone who has not broken any laws, let alone God’s laws. And all those who sin will ultimately die. That is, unless, they find forgiveness and redemption in God’s presence. Through Jesus we can discover that sins can really be washed away. Forever.

Father God. Only You, the Sinless One, has the power to forgive sins. On our knees today we worship You, deeply thankful for Your amazing grace. Amen.


“So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”
Romans 5:11 NLT

Paul made another statement as though it was a fact. He took it as read, beyond an assumption, that rejoicing would follow the process of belief in Jesus and all that He did at Calvary. Quite a leap for someone in that culture, moving from idolatry, to faith in the one true God. Society wasn’t very kind to those early Christians. But Paul wasn’t being theoretical when he wrote that. He wasn’t living in some different world, divorced from reality. What he wrote to the early Christians in Rome was a perfectly valid statement, designed to set out for them what a relationship with God should be like. A relationship that they could rejoice about. A relationship that was wonderful and new.

We fast-forward to today. If anything, our world is just as hostile a place to Christians as it was in Paul’s day. More so, if we read about the levels of persecution experienced by some. Constant negative news reports wear us down. The hostile spiritual environment where even leaders in the faith struggle and prevaricate rather than act as beacons for God’s ways. Worldly expectations have created a society where God doesn’t exist any more. And here are Christians today who, in spite of all that is going on, are called to rejoice in our relationship with God.

But we pilgrims have made a decision to follow Jesus. Through our faith in Him, believing Him for our future salvation, we do in fact have a “wonderful new relationship” with God. We are indeed His friends, positioned right in the “sweet spot” which He designed for us before the foundations of the earth. We rejoice! It’s not something we can do with one eye on what is happening around us. We do it with both eyes on God, because it is in Him we find a Friend who has overcome the world. We view the natural world through God’s eyes. And in that way we get His perspective. Through prayer we approach difficult situations and relax as God whispers in our ears wonderful words of wisdom and guidance. 

It may have been some years ago that we experienced  the “wonderful new relationship” with God. Perhaps we have taken our eyes off Him a bit. Perhaps we have been worn down by all the information, most of it negative, that bombards us every day. Well there is good news. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “ … Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”. Having refreshed ourselves in God’s presence we can experience being friends with God. And that has to be good news. That has to be a wonderful experience. And through it all, regardless of the circumstances, we can rejoice. We look forward to a time when joy is the norm, and worldliness is no more. And because we are God’s children, we can experience that joy right now. 

So if any of my readers are experiencing a lack of joy this morning, feeling they there is nothing to rejoice about, we read these words of Paul. Through Jesus we are friends of God. Meditate on what that means this morning. How amazing is it, that the Creator of the whole universe, wants to be friends with us. That very thought is enough to make even the stones around us burst into praise. It truly is a momentous statement, and one that we embrace through our faith in Him. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:4, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” That is not a statement of delusion. It is a fact and one that will never leave us regardless of our circumstances. Join me this morning in rejoicing, because Jesus is alive, and because we are God’s friends.

Father God. We worship You today. You are the source of joy. You are the mighty One, our Lord and God. Amen.

The Right Time

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.”
Romans 5:6 NLT

When was it that we were “utterly helpless”? Surely that isn’t true. But when we look at our humanity in the context of eternity, then we might, indeed should, come to a different conclusion. Being “utterly helpless” is a state of realisation that no matter what we did, we could never achieve God’s gold standard of righteousness through our own efforts. The Israelites, the Jewish nation, had tried for many generations to achieve that state, and had failed. And failed miserably. We see the bright spots in Israel’s history of times when their relationship with God was going well. But then there were the long dark ages of oppression and exile, after and during a time when they abandoned God. We must all realise that without God, we are “utterly helpless”.

We read further in today’s verse and find that “Christ came at just the right time”. But what about all those people who preceded Him? And all those who have never known anything about Jesus? As Old Testament readers find, there is a theme of salvation running throughout the Bible. In Romans 4 we read about how Abraham achieved righteousness in God’s sight by believing the promise that God gave Him. Genesis 15:6, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.” The Israelite king, David, was a man after God’s heart, in spite of all his very public sinful behaviour. We read in Acts 13:22, “But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’” There were many prophetic messages about salvation in the Old Testament. A common misconception, held by not only the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, was, and is, that in pre-Christ days salvation came through keeping the Law. But Paul clarified this viewpoint in Galatians 3:11, “So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”” We’re back to the example of Abraham in Genesis 15:6, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.” 

Without faith in God we are indeed “utterly helpless”. We will end up in a lost eternity, continually regretting our inability to realise our true status and where, as Jesus put it, “… there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12b). But here’s the Good News. Paul informed his readers that Jesus Himself came at a certain point in history, a time we call the “right time”, to die for all mankind, so that all sin, past, present and future, will be forgiven to those who believe in Him. We read in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2,  “As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvellous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation“. 

We pilgrims have embraced this truth and we are no longer “utterly helpless” because God has forgiven us and we, like Abraham, are counted as righteous because of our faith. But there are many around us who do not realise how desperate their situations are. We must tell them. Try and persuade them even. Before it is too late. “Today is the day of [their] salvation”. 

Dear Father God. Please help us and guide us as we tell those around us of Your wonderful free gift of salvation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Strength of Character

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
Romans 5:3-5 NLT

What is this entity “strength of character”? The dictionary defines the word character as, “the particular combination of qualities in a person or place that makes them different from others”. But the “character” that Paul was referring to was much more than that. Just to be different in character to other people is all very well, but Godly character is something else. This type of character is active, not something that is passive. Godly character is something that is constantly improving, drawing us closer and closer to the person God designed us to be. As we endure the hassles of life, our endurance in maintaining our faith and relationship with God strengthens us, so that when the storms hit, we stand firm.

Someone who has a Godly character is like the wise man in Jesus’ parable about the builders. In Matthew 7:25-26 we read, “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock”. The wise man had the right character, because he knew, perhaps from previous experiences, the consequences of building on a dodgy foundation. Perhaps previous “problems and trials” had taught him much and honed his character. He knew that only Jesus had the words of eternal life and would lead him to the right outcome. But so many people instead put their trust on sandy foundations. They trust a friend, or a political party, or their bank account, trusting a substitution for God that will collapse like the foolish man in Jesus’ parable when the storms of life crash against them. They lose their jobs, or their friend moves away and cuts off contact. Their bank account is swallowed up by inflation and they find that there is too much month left at the end of their money. But whatever happens, they find that they have no endurance to get through the crisis. Their character fails the strength and endurance test.

We pilgrims are made of sterner stuff, of course. Not for us a trust in worldly systems that could collapse at any moment. We have built our foundations on the Rock that is Christ. Psalm 18:30-31, “God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock?” Who indeed!

Father God. Only You can develop our characters through the trials and problems of life. Only You can hold our hand and help us. We praise and thank You today. Amen.


“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
Romans 5:3-5 NLT

In the UK at present, in the natural, there seems little to rejoice about. The cost of living has gone up dramatically, impacting a new generation of adults who have never known anything other than very low inflation and interest rates. Energy costs have more than doubled over the space of a year or so and there seems no sign of them returning to the level enjoyed before the Covid pandemic. Eventually, wages will catch up, but “problems and trials” will abound for the foreseeable future. So why did Paul make the statement that the difficulties we are facing into will “help us develop endurance”?  

Paul wasn’t the only early first century Apostle who made such a statement. We read in James 1:2-3, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow”. 

So what is this “endurance”? It is that ability to persevere through “problems and trials” without going under, without giving up, without jumping ship and joining another with less hassles. The Christian life was and is never going to be an easy option. Not only do we have to clean up our own lives under God’s gracious and loving guidance, but we will be largely shunned by those in society around us. In some parts of the world, even the state authorities will be against us. We have many brothers and sisters persecuted for their faith in other countries like North Korea and Afghanistan.

Jesus told His disciples, “But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world”  (John 16:32-33). Jesus was facing into an incredibly difficult situation. He knew He was heading to the Cross and a horrible and painful death. And He knew His disciples would abandon Him to His fate. And here He was, encouraging His disciples with words of comfort. He told them that their future natural lives were going to be full of “problems and trials” and yet, through it all, they would have Jesus with them because, as they would find out later, His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, would be with them, enabling them to “overcome the world”

There are many Christians who start well, but then become shipwrecked on the trials of life. Perhaps they are in a church that goes through a difficult time with splits and changes of leadership, and they get hurt in the process. Or perhaps a Christian friend is treated badly by another Christian and they decide that they want no more of this faith. So they stop going to church. They stop reading their Bibles. And before long they have failed to endure. 

What do we pilgrims do, when circumstances seem to conspire against us? Go down the tubes? Or rise up above the difficulties? A Psalmist, Asaph, was facing into an inexplicable situation that severely challenged his faith in God. We read in Psalm 73:2, “But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone”. As we read on, we see the gyrations that went on in his mind as he considered how the wicked seemed to get away with their behaviour. Bitterly, he said, “Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?” And then we read, “Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked. Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do” (Psalm 73:17, 25-26, 28). Asaph regained his perspective. There are many other examples in the Bible, of people who faced into trials and problems. We read about a few in Hebrews 11.

But through it all, we have a wonderful loving Heavenly Father who is always there for us. He will always help us through our times of trial. Somehow in His presence, the trials don’t seem half as bad. There is an old saying, “When the going gets tough the tough get going”. Much truth in that when it comes to endurance.

Father God. Your Son Jesus knew all about trials and problems. We thank You for Your encouragement and guidance when the going gets tough. Through You the world has been overcome. Thank You Jesus. Amen.

Faith Brings Joy

“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.”
Romans 5:2 NLT

Paul mentions that word again – “faith”. So much can be achieved through that word and all that is behind it. He mentions that “faith” brings us to a place of undeserved privilege. Now in this life, privilege is something only rarely granted. We usually have to work for it, or pay for it with our hard-earned money. That is, of course, unless we were naturally born into what we refer to as a privileged family. But we know that when we accepted Christ, believing in all that He did for us, we were spiritually born into God’s family, a family far more significant and privileged that any natural family could ever be. And through God’s grace such a birth was and is undeserved. 

This place of privilege in which we now find ourselves is transforming in its extent and scope. There is the benefit of being in God’s Kingdom here on earth. A place where we have abandoned lives of sin and adopted righteous living instead. A place where we can share God’s grace and love with those around us, doing God’s missionary work in a lost and deluded world. A place where we can drop in when we want to, to spend quality time with our Heavenly Father, worshipping at His feet. But Paul wrote that there’s more to come. Over the horizon, but on our radars nevertheless, is God’s glory. And He will share it with us. How amazing is that? Through our faith we have confidence that it is coming. Perhaps sooner than we think.

How does that make us pilgrims feel? Excited? Joyful or sad? Whatever we feel about our lives today, the life to come, eternally in God’s presence, is going to be “immeasurably more than we can … imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). And joy beyond anything we have experienced will be found there. 

What is this “joy”? People often confuse it with happiness, but it’s totally different to that. The dictionary definition of “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness”  doesn’t come anywhere near what true Godly joy really means. The joy we experience as Christians comes from a connection with God. We feel joy because of what He has done for us and for what He will do for us in the future. We feel joy because of our salvation, the fellowship with other believers, and the promise of eternal life with God in Heaven. The list of joy-sources is endless. But we can also experience joy in a prison cell, persecuted by an evil state. Joy is more than a feeling. It is a deep assurance that God is close to us, loving us, providing for us. It may manifest in an outward expression of praise and worship. In Acts 16 we read about the desperate situation Paul and Silas found themselves in. Because they cast a demon out of a slave girl, “They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening” (Acts 16:23-25). How could they do that? Because they were full of joy. A joy founded in the fact that there was nothing other human beings could do to them that would destroy their relationship with God. They experienced the same joy that Nehemiah knew about. We read in Nehemiah 8:10, “And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!””

So, fellow pilgrims, are we full of joy today, or are we overcome and miserable because of our circumstances? Full of Godly joy, we can rise above all that is going on in our lives and around us. Regardless of our situation in life we can still be joyful in our amazing Creator God. We read in Habakkuk 3:17-18, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” Dire circumstances for a farmer, don’t we agree? But nothing was going to take away Habakkuk’s joy, and it won’t take away ours either.

Dear Father God. You are the Source of our joy. We worship You today with grateful hearts. Amen.

Peace With God

“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.”
Romans 5:1 NLT

Paul seems to now draw a line under his previous references to the Law, Abraham, and legalism. He, almost as though in passing, makes a statement of certainty, that through our faith in God we are now righteous in His sight. And he reminds us that our new-found status is all because of Jesus, and what He did for us. Because of all of this, he declares that we now have peace with God.

Mankind is either for God or against Him. There is no middle ground. No grey areas. All those people who deny His existence, or choose to ignore Him, are at war with God. And that is a very serious place to be found. It is only by God’s grace that His enemies aren’t zapped by a lightning bolt or something similar from Heaven. God’s patience is such that he gives people time to make the right decision and make the transition into His kingdom. In 1 Timothy 2:3-6 we read, “This is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time”. The “right time” is now. Today. Because we don’t know when God’s patience and grace will expire. 

Are we pilgrims in a place of peace with God today? Or are our spirits agitated and all confused? If that is the case, then we must enter our places of prayer, wherever or whatever they are, and touch base with our Heavenly Father. He is not against us, because we are His children. What loving and gracious Father goes to war against His children? Instead, He reaches out His arms in an attitude described by Jesus in Matthew 11:28, “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest””. That’s the place for troubled souls. And as we rest in His presence, all our troubles somehow become less of a problem. After all, our Heavenly Father knows what is best for us. 

We finish today with the well-worn, but profound, verses from Philippians 4:6-7, “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”. 

Dear Father God. Thank You for taking on board all our chaos and confusion. And in return providing us with Your peace, that is totally beyond our understanding. Amen.