One of the disadvantages of having had good parents is that you miss them all the more when they have passed away. It was fifteen years earlier in the month since my Dad died; I still miss him. I just want to muse here upon his hands.
My Dad had farmers’ hands. No surprise there because he was a farmer. But they were real farmers’ hands that authenticated his calling. Thick fingers and remnant callouses. They were just the large hands of a man who had worked at farming all his life.
My Dad was no theoretical farmer. His hands proved that he actually did the farm work. Alas, there are a lot of theoretical Christians around who think and talk about getting out and living for the Lord, but give little evidence in their lives that they ever get on and do it.
My Dad’s hands also reveal a man of relentless commitment. Those hands were not formed by spasmodic bursts of devotion to his land and his animals which he indulged in when the feeling took him. Those hardened hands spoke of a man who in all weathers and in all feelings still kept going to fulfil his calling. Not a fair weather farmer my Dad. I fear there are a lot of fair weather Christians around. When the heat of life has risen and the difficulties of life have encroached upon them they have said “not today” to the Lord and copped out until some easier day. Their flabby characters and tepid passions betoken fair-weather Christianity.
And as I finally think of those hands I think of all that labour my Dad engaged in in order to earn a good living. And on the back of that good living that he laboured to achieve I have benefitted so much. The older I get the more I appreciate what he did for me. Thanks Dad, I miss you.
I wrote here about my Dad; he was a great man.
It is a good thing in life to always take time in making decisions. I am not talking here about the trivia of life such as whether to choose this or that from a menu. I am talking about decisions which have a life changing element to them.
One of the phenomena of the last year have been the number of significant announcements from our governments about the restrictions being implemented appertaining to the coronavirus outbreak. The danger is that we respond to the relevant announcements by immediately scrawling through the details of the text to see what it means for my life and then immediately make decisions based there on.
For some people it is absolutely necessary that they do act in that way because they have to make an immediate response. In that context I am in admiration of how many school leaders responded to the announcements of January 4th to make sure they had measures in place so that their schools could operate on January 5th.
However, for most people, decisions do not have to be made instantaneously. In such situations it is best to take time for things to settle to see what is the understanding of the regulations and then make relevant decisions about how you will act.
In saying all this we are very much dealing with a principle which should flavour our lives in whatever capacity we operate. The principle is that we should always take time to fully assess the information and options before making decisions. Very few things of a life changing character require an immediate decision. It is always good to follow the dictum of Judges 19:30b consider it, take counsel, and speak.
And here are a couple of proverbs to confirm the wisdom of this approach.
Desire without knowledge is not good,
and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way. (Prov. 19:2)
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,
but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. (Prov. 21:5)
And in considering every situation and in making every decision don’t forget to pray. If I make a decision before I have prayed to my Father, I am displaying foolishness.
We truly are in a battle. When we become Christians we are called into warfare. Satan has two strategies:
- To stop people becoming Christians. The outcome of this strategy is to take people away to hell and destruction.
- If people do become Christians he wants to nullify them. In doing this he makes sure that they are ineffective in their calling to be fruitful for Christ in life and ministry.
Satan and his demons work tirelessly to implement these strategies. But we give praise to God that our God is bigger and the devil must submit to the sovereign purposes of God. We read in Job 1:6-12 of a conversation between the Lord and Satan; wherein Satan is asking permission to assail Job. The final statement of that interaction is And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord (Job 1:12). This resoundingly informs us that Satan in undertaking his nefarious work does so in submission to the will of God.
The onslaughts of Satan though, are very real and he is not fair in his fighting tactics. We can say that he does not fight according to the accepted rules of fighting. Queensbury Rules, the accepted rules of boxing, are very much ignored. He will use any means he can to seek to undertake the aforementioned strategies.
It struck me recently in reading through the passage on spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:10-20 how the arrows that come the way of the believer from Satan are fiery arrows. We read In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; (Eph. 6:16). The flaming character of the darts indicates the ferocity of the attack that he wages against believers. He laces his darts with pitch and tar to maximize harm and damage.
However, praise is due to our God that the shield of faith can extinguish these darts. We are not left to be overwhelmed. We need to know the Word of God to be able to effectively utilize that shield of faith.
Let us be aware then that the Christian life is not for the fainthearted. Rather, it is for those who are ready for warfare. But all praise and honour to our all strong and all prevailing God that the victory has been secured by Jesus our Lord and Saviour.
In Deuteronomy 31 we find Moses passing on his final instructions to the Israelite. They are going into the land specially prepared and provided for them by the Lord. He, himself, is going to glory to be with the Lord. Accordingly, he will not be with them. Nevertheless, his heart still pants for their best welfare:
One part of the scripture reads as follows:
When Moses had finished writing the words of this law in a book to the very end, Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, “Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against you (Deut. 31:25-26).
The Word of the Lord given to Moses is to be put in writing so that it can be preserved. It is then to placed adjacent to the ark of the covenant. Now the ark of the covenant is that which declares the presence of the Lord among His people. The placing of the law of the Lord adjacent to the ark is a declaration that the presence of the Lord and the Word of the Lord are connected. To have the presence of the Lord is conditioned upon being obedient to the Word of the Lord.
This is critical for our understanding of what it is to be a follower of our Lord Jesus. For someone to say “I have peace about it” or “I believe the Lord is with me” and to be disobedient to the Word of the Lord is self-deceiving humbug.
For a couple to be having sex before marriage and be declaring they they are knowing the joy of God’s presence is to be falling into the devil’s trap.
Now let us be clear we should be moving in the Lord’s presence and we should be feeling that and be aware of that. A Christianity which is not felt is to be rejected. Also many have a lifeless and joyless commitment to obeying God which is to rejected as well.
What we need to see and experience ourselves and in others is the the joy of the Lord as we move forward in obedience to his Word and know the presence of the Lord. Moses longed for that for the people of God and so should we.
John The Baptist had a major ministry in the purposes of God. His ministry was to prepare for the coming of Messiah. He preached boldly and he preached repentance. In Luke 3:10-14 we see him directing certain groups as to how they would live out their transformed lives. Each group would reveal one characteristic of what should be seen in all the lives of true disciples:
Generosity (see v11): Those with excess possessions were urged to share with those who were deprived. This is not misguided philanthropy which gave to scroungers. Rather it is wise generosity. Every believer should be wisely generous.
Honest (see vv12-13). The tax collectors were known for their dubious practises which lined their own pockets. John told them to be honest. There was to be manipulation of the figures. We should be honest.
Reasonableness (see v14a). Paul would exhort the Philippians to be sweetly reasonable. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand (Phil. 4:5) are Paul’s words. And so were the soldiers to be. They were not to be using force or intimidation to get what they wanted.
Contentment (see v14b). Finally the soldiers were to be contented with their lot. They were not to be agitating. We similarly should be cultivating contentment. The words of Paul ring true again here:Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content (1 Tim. 6:6-8).
So if you are a disciple of Jesus Christ you should be generous, honest, reasonable and content. If you do not have these characteristics then you are most likely not a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
This scripture from Hebrews 3:12-13 gives us a reminder of the sobering truth that there is an inclination in each of our hearts to allow our evil unbelieving hearts to lead us to fall away from the living God. The necessary response to such a tendency is to be exhorting one another to continue on in the way of the Lord’s grace.
A vital implication of this teaching is that we need one another. Left to ourselves we are prone to drift into ways of spiritual peril. With good brothers and sisters around who are prepared to “speak the truth in love” we are encouraged to keep in the good way of the Lord.
Oh how we need each other. But we need each other to be spiritually on our case. So much of our time together as Christians has more of a resemblance to the cleaned up version of the world, rather than vibrant local church centred on discipleship. I should not want to interact with other Christians just to pass the time; I want to interact so as to see them progress for the Lord.
O lets’ healthily, helpfully and above all prayerfully be getting on each others case more and more.
Paul enjoins the Ephesian Christians to Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving (Eph. 5:4). We need to be careful with our words. Particularly here I want to think about the need to avoid bad language.
A foul tongue reveals a foul heart. In Matthew 12:34 our Lord addresses the Pharisees and says: You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The state of our heart is revealed by the content of our speech.
There are certain words in the vocabulary of every language, it seems, that are categorised as swearing; they are understood to be such. There are some which fall into a grey area of acceptability; there are others which are clearly deemed to be swearing. Such words would not be used where decency is expected. The Christian should always be one who cultivates in his heart, and interacts with others, in that which is decent. Paul tells the Philippians Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Phil 4:8). It is just not good for Christians to be using language which does not conform to decency.
Enmeshed within this consideration of the use of language is the shunning of anything that speaks evil of God and can thereby be categorised as blasphemy. The command of the Lord stands that You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain (Ex. 20:7). We should not be rash in the use of the Name of our God and of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
So let us be careful in all our speakings. The content of our language matters. Let us glorify our God in all of our speech and let us pray Psalm 19:14
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
And remember that your mouth reveals your heart. Your speech ultimately reveals the real you.
Paul says to the Corinthians Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbour (1 Cor. 10:24). This is an explosive verse as regards to our priorities in life. it occurs in the context of Christian freedom. Such freedom means that we are free to take of food offered to idols because the idols are nothing. However, Christian responsibility and love determines that if it causes harm to my brother then I will most certainly not take that food.
We live in a self-seeking world. So much of the ethical air that we breathe is pushing us to take care of ourselves, indulge ourselves and generally put ourselves first. But when we read a scripture like this we are accosted by its abrupt precision. It cuts deep into out self-prioritising beings. Through this word, the Lord says: “re-align your life. Make sure that the good of your neighbour is your priority.”
In making this assertion we need to be aware that there are certain personal priorities that have to be undertaken in order that I make sure that we are of maximum blessing to others. At a very practical level if I am unkempt and have very poor personal hygiene people may be repulsed by me and not and me in their presence. Cleanliness and decency of appearance are therefore important.
On a spiritual level if i am not taking time to be built up in the Lord then my usefulness to others is prejudiced. So our time with the Lord is not a time of self-indulgence, but an essentials pre-requisite to the prioritisation my neighbour.
………..they don’t let you down.” Generally that is the case anyway. What I am referring to here specifically is the fact that you know that they will not regress into sin that is publicly disgracing to their life and ministry.
They have run their course and therefore their track record is to be seen. Of course their is the possibility of skeletons emerging from cupboards a la Robert Maxwell and Jimmy Saville. However, when you quote them or recommend them, you know whether they have kept the faith to the end.
It is something to commend every believer that they keep the faith to the end. When we quote a living saint we do not have that sure knowledge of them keeping strong in His grace until the end.
Moreover, when we quote those who have passed on, particularly many years ago, then history has tried and tested their work. As a result, through this evaluation, you know who are the giants from the past.
So let us be finished with chronological snobbery which views the contemporary as the best. Let us study and let us be blessed in the stalwarts of history.
It used to appear on radios and televisions, DER was the acronym standing for Domestic Electric Rentals. DER were the producers of electrical goods. I remember that one Christian reworked the letters as an acronym for “Devil Entertains Regularly”. The message was that through the radio or TV the devil takes people away from occupying themselves with more wholesome, soul-strengthening activity.
Firstly, I would want to be clear that we should be free to use radio or TV in a wholesome way so as to give much benefit through valuable programmes which educate us and even edify us. Along with that there is the recreation that can come when we use these means in a proper way.
However, with the proliferation of media sources, primarily through the internet, we have vastly more opportunities to indulge in distractions and diversions than ever before. Therefore, we are more easily open to the DER phenomenon whereby our time is used in trivial (and less trivial) distractions which can take us away from more wholesome and valuable activity.
I confess to being very much guilty of being taken away to consume so much time in triviality by the use of the computer and phone. I believe this is a key battle ground for our souls welfare, It is not that we might be consuming unedifying material. but it is that we are not giving ourselves to a more excellent way.
Paul in Ephesians 5:15-16 makes this observation: Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. The idea is that time is passing us by and we need to buy it back so as to make best use of it. We need to take heed to this in an age when we have distractions, diversions and entertainments all too readily available.
So when we are consuming media let us be thoughtful of how DER is a real thing and can lead us to be taken away from things that are more excellent. With this in mind perhaps we need to be thinking more about having media fasts which give us time away from DER things.