Here is our church newsletter for May 2020. It has an article on the Lord’s protection of us at this time.
Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category
What is our greatest need as humans beings? Our greatest need is to know God. Our Saviour taught His disciples“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matt. 7:21-23)
Moreover, He said to His Father And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3).
Being in a relationship with God is life. To not having a living relationship with the Lord is to be a worker of lawlessness and set for an eternity experiencing the rejection of Christ. The pain of that is beyond fathoming. It means an eternity of experiencing vanquished hope, total exclusion of from every blessing and blackness of darkness and helplessness forever. The eternal regret of what could have been will gnaw at the soul forever.
Religious activity, even of the grandest sort, does not supersede the necessity of relationship. Casting our demons and doing mighty works are pretty impressive. Alas the performers of such sensational activities are hell-bound without a relationship with Christ.
A critical purpose of the incarnation is so that we can be bound into the eternal life which the Father and the Son share. This is so gorgeous for us to contemplate.
So we need a relationship with God. We need it desperately. It cannot just happen though! Because of our sin we are excluded from God’s favourable presence. But the good news is that Christ came to save us from our sins. His cross is the place of our coming to know God. When we bind ourselves to him and Him alone by faith then we come to know God. Our sins are removed forever and our souls bound to Christ. That is life; that is relationship; that is blessing.
Oh what good news this is. Our life secured with God forever.
Our Lord said to the scribes and Pharisees: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! (Matt. 23:23-24). The question this statement raises is that of the emphases of our faith. Are we people who focus on the externals or on the matters of the heart?>
Our Lord is not saying here that this is an “either / or” issue. Neither is He saying it is simply a “both / and” issue. What he is saying is that both the externals and the heart issues should be in our lives. But beyond that, that we should be aware that the heart issues are weightier and of more consequence than the externals.
A religion which specialises in the correct external paraphernalia is a malformed religion. The proper arrangement of our affairs should be known and visibly on display. However, in our faith there should be a lot more than just the externals. A faith that acts with only the outward is dry and moribund.
Our faith rather should have a joy in the internally derived, Spirit energised workings of justice, mercy and faithfulness. These are beautiful characteristics in the life of a human being. They are the embodiment of everything that our Lord Jesus was. To have such a life coated with the right tithing techniques is beautiful.
There does seem to be the type of person in our churches who can by their emphasis on correct practices appear to be impressively spiritual. After all they seem so keen to implement the Bible. However, when you analyse their conduct a little more discerningly, you realise that their faith does not dig into the weightier matters of character development. Such people are more to be equated with the Pharisees than our Lord Jesus
To just have the right tithing techniques leads to an ugly and unattractive faith. So am I displaying straining of gnats and swallowing of camels faith? Lord please may it not be so. Help me to show a beautiful potency to my life whereby the realities of my heart lead to a well-ordered life. Please work to that end Lord.
The hard stuff of life will either make you bitter or blessed; it will either do you good or do you bad. The key thing in all this is how you (and me) respond to the hard stuff.
Zechariah was struck dumb in Luke 1 on account of him failing to believe what Gabriel said to him. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” (Luke 1:20.) It seems from the sign making in v62 that he was also left deaf through the judgment.
Now Zechariah was a priest and an essential part of his calling was to speak. It must have been so hard for him to endure those nine months of enforced silence. Effectively he was indisposed from his duties; his whole identity was being messed up.
Moreover, he could have legitimately argued that it was all a bit of an overreaction by God to take away his speech. After all he had only had a question about how it was all going to happen; that is how Elizabeth would have a baby.
Notwithstanding the pain of the experience and the apparent harshness of the way of God Zechariah was a man who consecrated all of this hard experience to God for good.
It is in this context we read the beautiful words And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God (v64). The experience that Zechariah had been through was consecrated unto blessing. His mouth proved it. He knew the good workings of the Lord, he could see such was the case with his happy wife and beautiful baby in front of his eyes. But more than that he knew all was in the purpose of God. It is this latter appreciation which made him joy in God as was proven in his song of vv67-79
Here are striking things for ourselves. In the hard circumstances of life we will be saved from bitterness of soul when we realise that God has purpose in our sufferings. We may not full understand, but we can believe that He has good purposes.
Zechariah went into his dumbness not believing; he came out of it full of faith. May we come out of all our hard situations of life full of faith.
And finally just to note that hard stuff never leaves us neutral. It will always change us. and that can be for bad or for good, Are your trials making you bitter or better?
In the Book of Ruth Naomi is a key figure. It she that Ruth returns with from Moab in ch1. Naomi’s demeanour initially is very negative. She can only speak of God being against her as she says: “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me (Ruth 1:20).
When she and Ruth do start to settle, she is of little help to Ruth who seems to have some initiative about getting things sorted out for them (see Ruth 2:2). Alas, Naomi does not seem to advise or assist.
Everything changes though, in Ruth 2:20 when we read And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” Previously she had been speaking negatively of the Lord, now she is positive. Previously she was negative and miserable. Suddenly she is transformed into a bright and active lady.
So we see the lady who previously had been of no help to Ruth is making plans to secure Ruth’s future. Ruth 3:1-4 reveal an active mind presenting plans to Ruth for the rescuing of their case.
The problem for Naomi and Ruth had been their destitute condition. They were both widows and were looking at a life of penury. However, there had been a deeper problem in Naomi; there was absolutely no faith in the living God. She had lost all sense that the Lord had a good purpose for them. So the early part of the book sees Ruth wallowing in faithless misery.
But suddenly in 2:20 faith arises. She sees that in Boaz there is a kinsman-redeemer who is fully equipped and suitably placed to rescue their situation. Suddenly she sees what could be, rather than what was not. Faith transforms the whole situation.
Eventually we see Ruth cradling in her arms the One who would be the forbear of Messiah. We read these beautiful words in Ruth 4:14-17:
Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighbourhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Oh what a difference faith makes. So have faith in the God of good purpose in 2020.
I want to mention who are my hero and heroine of 2019. They would be Andy Stock and Olguta Ghimici. They have both experienced cancer this year and they have both been not just steadfast in the Lord, but delighting in the Lord.
To have observed them, and had the privilege of knowing them, has been such a great encouragement for my faith. There is nothing really impressive about believing in the Lord when something goes in our favour. A promotion at work, a receipt of certain monies, a healing of the body; all these and many others are great blessings from the Lord and should lead us to be grateful to the Lord for His goodness. But everybody and anybody can quite easily “have faith in God” when they perceive that they are receiving good gifts from Him.
However, it is so very different when we experience things that are not favourable to us. It is in such situations when we find out how genuine our faith in God. is. A sifting takes place which proves whether we trust God for what we get from Him or because of who He is. James (in James 1:2-4) puts it like this: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
The true Christian knows through the love of Christ expressed most fully at the cross that God is good. This means that when the tough stuff of life appears, and life can be exceptionally tough, we can believe in a good God who has a good purpose, even when we don’t understand.
So to return to Olguta and Andy, they are my heroes because of how they have responded under great trial. They are living proof that the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is true. Paul says of the Philippians that I thank my God in all my remembrance of you (Phil. 1:3). That is something of my experience when I think of Olguta and Andy.
I want to emphasise through, that they are not just bearing their difficulty with teeth gritted grimness. Rather, there is a delight in the Lord and sense of them growing and developing in Him. It is so encouraging to be aware of this.
I also do not want to minimise the physical and mental struggles that have come to Olguta and Andy. They have suffered real pain. But through it all the life of Christ and the reality of being in Him and living for Him have shone through.
Andy is due to speak at our “Home” event on January 25th. I look forward to that. See details here
I conclude by mentioning this article (see here ). It is about Jon Tilson who died in 2018. Jon’s life was rescued from drift into a vibrant last few months for the Lord. Read it and be encouraged.
Adam was told by the Lord that “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 3:16b-17). When he was given this instruction the primary question Adam had to resolve is: Is God good?”
If God is good then the withholding of something was bound to be for Adam’s good. The withholding of the fruit though, was not the only issue. The fruit by it’s name, being called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, had a certain significance. The clear implication of not taking the fruit, is that certain knowledge was being withheld from Adam and his, soon to be, wife.
If Adam concluded that God was not good then this restriction was mean and the accompanying threat was just scaremongering. However, if God is good then the restriction is a grace from the Lord for Adam’s benefit. And the warning is a kindness which reinforces the need to keep the commandment which was for Adams’s blessing.
So how could Adam know that God was good? Simply he just had to look around himself and see the beautiful, fulsome and convivial environment he was in. All of it provided by and gifted to him by God.
But after the command God even went further to prove His goodness. He gave Adam a wife, Eve. She would have been the most beautiful woman in history and they would have had the best sex in history and they were encouraged to do such (see Gen. 2:24 and 1:28).
We conclude then that God’s goodness as etched all over Genesis 1 and 2. Alas, mankind did not live long in this blessed appreciation.
Satan sought to bring Adam and Eve down by inferring that God was not good, but rather a killjoy. His lie was God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Eve, with the by-standing Adam complicit, fell for it and the rest is history; very sad and bad history. And we feel like shouting at Adam in particular, why did you allow that to happen; you must be crazy to allow any suspicion that God is not good.
This question about the verity of the goodness of God is continually with us as we seek to understand the Bible and life. When we don’t know and don’t understand how do we handle the issues of life? If we have doubts about the goodness of God then we are inevitably in an uncertain predicament about how to move forward in our lack of understanding.
However, if God is good then faith bridges the gap in everything. This is so because, I reason that He is withholding full knowledge from me for my good. At the heart of that conclusion is the reckoning that it is better to trust God than to know everything. As the Word from Habakkuk 2:4b says the righteous shall live by his faith.
So how can we know that God is good? Through the evidence of God’s creation and sustaining of this universe most definitely we can conclude God is good. And as we enjoy food on our tables can we ever doubt that God is good when we have a God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17b). Food comes to us not only as suitable to benefit our bodies, but also for our enjoyment. God is good.
Moreover, when we look back we can follow the example of Samuel in 1 Samuel 7:12 and raise our Ebenezer stone. In that verse we read: Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.”
The apogee of our being convinced of the goodness of God is the cross of our Lord Jesus. Of that event we read God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Calvary says “God is good” in the most profound way. In Christ, God deals with our most pressing need; our sins. Truly God is good.
The evidence then is overwhelming: there is a God and He is good. The saving value of the benefits of the cross trumpets this above all the other melodies of His goodness.
Calvary says: God is good, So faith says: I believe, even when I don’t understand. When suffering comes, when people mess us around, when we feel disobedience would be more convenient. In all the trying circumstances of life we recall that God is good and we trust and obey.
There is a great message here by Rupert Bentley-Taylor. In it he refers to two gospels
Gospel of Performance
This is based on what I do and what I achieve. It is based on me recommending myself to God so that He will be pleased with what I have done. It is ultimately a false gospel. It is flawed because of the frailty of humanity waylaid by sin and rebellion against God. Everything about it is false because this is true We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away (Is. 64:6).
So the gospel of performance is no gospel at all.
Gospel of Grace
This is based on a salvation which God has achieved. He has done everything and He kindly bestows His saving goodness on all who believe. In this gospel I am declared wrecked in my sin and an offence at a holy God. In such a condition He reaches down to rescue me. Historically He reached down in the sending of His Son to bring salvation through His cross. There in His dying he was undertaking the wrath exhausting work of salvation by His cross. Experiencially, I received this grace when, by the Holy Spirit, I believed in the blood shedding, risen Saviour.
Oh this is true gospel.
Which gospel are you believing? There are only two; performance or grace.
In Luke 1 Mary is given a declaration, from the Lord through Gabriel, that she will be the one to give birth to the Christ. Given her virgin status she knows, and all heaven knows, that this is an impossibility according to natural means. And so we get this interaction between the angel and Mary.
The key statement of Gabriel is: The Holy Spirit will come (Lk. 1:35b). The problem of how the impossible can be achieved is always: the Holy Spirit will come. How vital it is for us to know and implement this truth. The Holy Spirit is the means by which someone comes to faith in Christ and continues believing in Christ. The Holy Spirit is the achiever of the translation of a believer to glory. The Holy Spirit is the One who makes the Church and He is the One who sustains us as communities of grace.
When we survey the desolation of our situation whether that be personally or in the community in which we live then all is hopeless. Natural schemes and initiatives will not remedy the predicament. It is only “The Holy Spirit will come” which gives us hope.
As we continue on the voyage of faith and long for the spiritual welfare of ourselves, our families, our churches and our communities it is only when the Holy Spirit comes that there is going to be transformation to life and for the Lord’s glory.
In Mary’s situation she accepted the Lord’s arrangement (see Lk. 1:38) and the rest is history; salvation history, God glorifying history.
Perhaps it is time that the church in the UK did likewise, and perhaps it is time that Philip Venables did likewise. And how will this be known? It will be known when we are believing and obeying the Word and also are passionate in prayer to seek the Lord’s will.
Psalm 73 describes how the confused man becomes the confident man. In v1 Asaph states how God is good to Israel. he then goes on to outline his confusion as regards to the apparent blessings of the wicked in vv2-16. Finally in vv 17-28 we see the confident man.
the transformation of Asaph comes on account of v17 where we read: until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. It is in the sanctuary of God that the reality of the goodness of God starts to rise upon in his soul. How a good God allows the wicked to prosper will always be a perplexity to us until we go into the sanctuary of God. Confusion and despondency will prevail until we go to where God dwells and see as He sees.
Accordingly, in the last section of the psalm, we see some glorious statements about the good purposes of our good Lord and God. Let these verses (vv23-26) brighten and enliven your soul, if you are a true believer in the Lord:
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterwards you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.
Here is a full expression of the believer’s life. Here are comforts to the soul in the present, and expectations of glory for the future. This is the true man of God acting in faith and steadying his soul in God.
As confidence emerges in our souls, we remember that is is not self-induced confidence, but God-worked confidence.
This world does confuse us and will always do so until we go into the sanctuary of God. Have you spent time in the sanctuary today? If you do you will be different. You will enter into a fresh awareness of the god that is good and that good God will do good to you.
And so Asaph concludes in v28:
But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.
Amen Lord! So let it into my soul and to the souls of my fellow-believers.