All in Encouragement

Principles for Service

Although this section applies to a specific period in Israel's history when the Kingdom was being offered to them (v9,11) there are underlying principles that are cross-dispensational and apply to us today.

The Spiritual Health Inspection

During the middle of last year I received a letter from my doctor inviting me to present myself at the local surgery for what was described as a ‘Health MOT.’ (For those reading outside of the UK an MOT is an inspection of a vehicle’s roadworthiness performed by an authorised mechanic on behalf of the government). The letter detailed some of the tests to be performed–height, weight, BMI, blood pressure, resting heart rate; in addition to some blood tests. Having reached a milestone birthday in the year, and ignoring the obvious issue–inviting the over 40s for a health exam is exactly the wrong group to invite if you really want to improve the long-term health outcomes of the general population–I presented myself at the doctor for my ‘Health inspection.’ 

Back to Our Knees

I was conversing with some older saints across a buffet table recently, discussing some of the challenges of 21st century Christianity. They had experienced some disappointments of late and commented on certain difficulties that Christian testimony faced in coming days. Being young and impetuous I had a to-do list of solutions that I was waiting to share - until an older gentleman counselled: ”it’s time we get back to our knees”. My solution in light of current difficulties was self-centred, his was God-centred. I thought of activity, he thought of prayer.

Take Up Your Cross

The change from the dispensation of law to grace brought about significant change for the disciples. With the benefit of hindsight we sometimes wonder at their slowness inunderstanding, but alas, we are often like them. Peter had just acknowledged the Lord as “the Christ of God” (Lk. 9:20) and though the 12 knew his true identity they did not know how thisaffected them. They expected a role in the kingdom with a reigning Messiah, instead the Lord was about to show them their role on earth with a rejected Saviour. This is the principle of suffering before glory.

The Trial of Faith

Luke has just finished writing about the parables of the Lord, where he has pressed the point that genuine faith is evident faith (v1-21). If there is no fruit on the branch then there is no faith in the root. Faith that begins is faith that preserves – “faith without works is dead” (Js. 2:20). A person that is saved can never be lost but it is equally true that a person who is saved will overcome; “for whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (1 Jn. 5:4).

God's Question To A Sufferer

The patience of Job has become an idiom reserved for those with exceptional fortitude and self-restraint. As I read Job’s story, I’m not sure what he deserves more credit for; the way in which he persevered under the direct attack of Satan, or the manner in which he tolerated his four unhelpful, uncharitable and self-righteous friends. ‘Miserable sympathisers you are,’ was about as rude as he got.

Psalm 125

The first verse of this Psalm announces an overarching principle of life. Writing to those who have found refuge in the Lord, the Psalmist seeks to strengthen them by reminding them that, because they trust in Him (v 1), they are “his people” (v 2). Drawing on the geographical features of Jerusalem, he recounts how the land and the people are God’s possession (v 1).

Hiddenness Part 5: Hidden Beyond the Boundaries at Sinai (1)

We are returning to the same mount as in the last article, but much ground has been covered both physically and spiritually since Exodus 3. Three months into their wilderness journey, having just witnessed the miraculous scenes at Rephidim, we see Moses with over two million Israelites arrive at the foot of mount Sinai. Only Moses had been there before, and it would seem only Moses was prepared for what was to follow.

Rising Up A Great While Before Day

Recently there has been a glut of articles revealing the activities that successful people do before 7 am. They range from the mundane, such as drinking lemon water, to the more ridiculous, such as thinking about three people that make you smile! 

The thought of doing anything before 7 am might fill you with horror. If that is the case, then you are not alone. Only 1 in 10 are up before dawn. 2 in 10 go to bed very late, while the rest are somewhere between. That explains the 8 am rush hour! According to a study, early rising is a genetic thing, or strictly speaking, going to bed late is–night owls are more likely to have the FTO gene. Some might not consider 7 am to be early, but for the inbetweeners, that is, the majority, having an hours work done by 7 am requires a modicum of effort!

Hiddenness: Hidden In The Ark

“And when she could no longer hide him, she took for him an ark of reeds, and plastered it with resin and with pitch, and put the child in it, and laid it in the sedge on the bank of the river.” Exodus 2.3 (Darby)

As we saw in the previous article, although Moses was just a mass of worthless molecules to Pharaoh, to God he was a “a mass of shining gold.” A load to be carried surely, but upheld by faith it became bearable.

Hiddenness: Moses Hidden at Birth —Part 2

The influence of parents on the outcome of a child cannot be overstated. It is good to recognize the plethora of situations where the “opposite effect” can be observed. We’ve all heard of, and perhaps have even known, godly parents who gave every effort, spiritual advantage and attention to their children only to see them reject and rebel. Perhaps you were raised in very difficult and ungodly circumstances but, by the grace God and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, you have become an exemplary believer and contributor to your local assembly.

Buyer's Remorse

Have you ever bought a product, taken a vacation somewhere, or even just ordered something off of a menu at a nice restaurant only to be thoroughly disappointed in the final result? Isn’t it a downer when you have your heart set on something and then when you finally experience or obtain it you are overwhelmingly let down? How much more do feel this way when we place our hopes on people who end up not meeting our expectations and leave us totally disappointed?

Waiting On The Lord

Turmoil, strife and conflict had hounded David since the day Samuel had called for him in Bethlehem and had anointed him king. Certainly, the circumstances that David had experienced were probably not what he had expected when the oil from the horn in Samuel’s hand ran down his head. He had been anointed king, but what he had experienced was the loss of close friendships, separation of family, a divided kingdom and civil war as he fled for his life. So you would almost expect him to doubt the Lord and wonder “Is this what the Lord had in mind? Was Samuel mistaken? Is God being unfair or unfaithful to me?”

Subtle Lies And Seeds Of Doubt

New beginnings are oftentimes met with excitement and enthusiasm as they allow us to accomplish or change some of the areas in our lives that we deem weak or failing. We describe new beginnings as a 'fresh start,' 'turning over a new leaf,' 'blazing a new trail', or 'breaking new ground.' These different expressions resonate with us more when a new year begins and we start the year wanting to make effective change in our lives, especially in spiritual areas.

Hiddenness: Introduction

There has never been a time in history when it was easier to put our lives on display. The advent of social media allows the public to broadcast their daily activities, showcase their latest accomplishments, and even publicize “those things which are done of them in secret” (Eph 5.12). While there is great need for display in its proper context (Eph 2.7, 1 Tim 1.16 Darby, Col 2.15 NASB) in the scriptures it is most often mentioned in a negative sense (2 Cor 11.27 NASB, Matt 6.1 NET). It is of great interest then to see the antitheses to the showmen of our times in the great men of scripture who lived their lives in “the secret place,” and “under the shadow of the almighty” (Psa 91.1).

At The Return Of The Year

The passing of the old year and the arrival of the new gives pause for a few moments to consider what has gone and imagine what is coming. None of us can be sure about the latter, but of the former we are all certain. All will look back at 2016 with some degree of regret—opportunities missed, sins committed, decisions made—that if we had the year again we'd change in a heartbeat.

God With Us, In Us, For Us

"God with us" (Ma. 1:23) is a mystery that the world tends to reserve for the month of December, and even only giving it fleeting consideration. Already, Carol services and Christmas concerts the world over will have included readings from both Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23.