Free?

What does it look like to be spiritually free?

“Long ago my people chose to live in Egypt. Now they are oppressed by Assyria. … But I will reveal my name to my people, and they will come to know its power.”

Isaiah 52v4-6

The choices we make can leave us in emotional cul-de-sacs. Life situations can oppress us. It is from these places that the Lord can reveal his power in our lives!

Wake up, wake up, O Zion! Clothe yourself with strength. Put on your beautiful clothes, O holy city of Jerusalem … Sit in a place of honor. Remove the chains of slavery from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

Isaiah 52v1-2

It is while we are captive to circumstances that the Lord tells us to wake up and clothe ourselves with strength. We are asked to clothe ourselves with his beautiful character of love seen through joy, peace, patience, kindness and the like.

When we can live like this by the power of God in us, whatever the circumstances, then we are demonstrating freedom in Christ. Then his name is revealed and we see his power.

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Where hope?

Many hoping for relief are disappointed, Covid is resurging, society has shrunk, …

“Listen to me, all who hope for deliverance …

Isaiah 41v1

Everyone has situations needing rescue. Maybe a personal tragedy, maybe a global crisis …

… think about Abraham, your ancestor, and Sarah, who gave birth to your nation. Abraham was only one man when I called him. But when I blessed him, he became a great nation.”

The Lord lifts up a hopeless case that he turned around.

The Lord will comfort Israel again and have pity on her ruins.

Isaiah 51v3

The Lord knows about our ruins. He encourages and comforts us.

… Joy and gladness will be found there. Songs of thanksgiving will fill the air.

There is hope for the future.

Look up to the skies above, and gaze down on the earth below. For the skies will disappear like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a piece of clothing.

Isaiah 51v6

But, that hope is not worked out in the global situation.

The people of the earth will die like flies, but my salvation lasts forever. My righteous rule will never end!

Our desires will often be disappointed but if we focus hope on the Lord we will see his salvation that makes sense of everything.

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Save the planet?

The eyes of the world have been on COP26. Will our leaders be able to save the world? Yet there is someone else we might want to be looking for

Why was no one there when I came?

Isaiah 50v2

We are so determined that salvation is in our hands that we seem incapable of looking beyond ourselves for salvation. When Jesus quietly enters, no one is there to greet him and ask him to save us.

Why didn’t anyone answer when I called? Is it because I have no power to rescue?

What a heart breaking question! We worship the all powerful God, but then he is the last one we turn to. Have we lost confidence in him? Yes, he can help me with my personal troubles but, saving the world? It seems we don’t really believe that the creator of the universe has that kind of power.

No, that is not the reason! For I can speak to the sea and make it dry up! I can turn rivers into deserts covered with dying fish.

The Lord has shown again and again that he has all power. Saving the planet would be a trivial task. So, we are left with his question –

Why was no one there when I came? Isaiah 50v2

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Integrity

Franchise owners ensure that outlets maintain standards. The Lord is even more concerned with the use of his name.

“Listen to me, O family of Jacob, you who are called by the name of Israel and born into the family of Judah. Listen, you who … call on the God of Israel.

Isaiah 48v1

It is very easy for us to apply labels, but is the inside of the tin as described on the outside?

You don’t keep your promises, even though you call yourself the holy city and talk about depending on the God of Israel …

Isaiah 48v2

We are identifying with Jesus, the truth. When teaching his disciples to pray to the Father, he said, ‘Hallowed be your name’. How does our speech reflect our hallowed Father?

Thankfully that same prayer says, “Forgive us our sins.” Mercifully he knows when we fall short and is ready to forgive. He is also ready to intervene when we slip. I once made a flippant statement to which a colleague took offence – “… and you call yourself a Christian!” He tried to prove me corrupt, but the Lord justified me to that colleague. I was so grateful.

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Facing Challenges

With new challenges it is encouraging that the Lord has been preparing me for them.

Praise the Lord, who is my rock. He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle.

Psalm 144v1

We might not welcome the challenge ahead, but without it, the skills he has developed in us will never be fully realised.

He is my loving ally and my fortress … my rescuer … and I take refuge in him

Psalm 144v2

I can go forward without fear knowing that he will keep me safe.

Open the heavens, Lord, and come down. Touch the mountains so they billow smoke.

Psalm 144v5

When the Lord acts we can be disturbed. Yet, our response is to pray, and this prayer is not without effect.

I will sing a new song to you, O God! I will sing your praises with a ten-stringed harp.

Psalm 144v9

Seeing him do new things, we worship him with a new song.

May our sons flourish in their youth like well-nurtured plants. May our daughters be like graceful pillars, carved to beautify a palace.

Psalm 144v12

Then, after patient endurance, we look back and see the fruit of his work with joy.

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Who is my brother?

Seeking God’s blessing it is easy to focus on spirituality, worship and style of ministry. We forget the Lord has desires.

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!

Psalm 133v1

Harmony is easy between those who share forms of worship, spirituality and style of ministry. When we differ, not so much.

For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe.

Psalm 133v2

The Lord values harmony as we do the outpouring of his Spirit. As Jesus said,

‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’

John 13v34-35

What would it take to develop the love of our brothers irrespective of being conservative, liberal, charismatic, high church, …

Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.

Psalm 133v3

There are practical constraints. We shouldn’t undo beliefs or paper over differences. It is however, possible to have a welcoming heart and a positive attitude. It is possible to treat as brothers. We can build up rather than scores points. We can choose to be together rather than merely acknowledge from afar.

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A New Song!

There is a time to sing a new song.

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.

Psalm 33v1

After 8years of leading the UK Navigators, I hand over leadership to Phil Boydell. I am relieved! We sing a new song for many reasons. 

For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.

Psalm 33v4

We look back on the mission coming to a good place with God. Our people have developed so beautifully. In all of this we affirm that it was the Lord first and last. We are so grateful to him.

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.

Psalm 33v6

When I contrast all that he has done through us with all that he has done without us we are left in humble awe.  Why does he even involve us?  Why do we take so much onto our shoulders as if it depended on us?

But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.

Psalm 33v11

Now we look at how the Lord will create new songs and new ways forward into an unknown future. We look in expectation!

Humility in Conflict

In a divisive world the counsel of Jerusalem stands as a beacon of hope.

While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the believers: “Unless you are circumcised as required by the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

Acts 15v1

Two theologies had developed in tandem. Only one could be true.

Finally, the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, …, to talk to the apostles and elders about this question.

Jerusalem was the seat of power for the circumcision view making this an act of humility and faith.

When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church,

Acts 15v4

In polarised situations the opposing party could not welcome. As the church of Antioch had shown humility, so did the church in Jerusalem.

some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.”

Acts 15v5

The opposing view was openly stated. Without this there could never have been the necessary range of discussion. Any solution would have appeared a fudge.

Peter stood and addressed them as follows: “Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe.

Acts 15v7

When everyone had been heard, Peter took them back to the critical intervention from God. May God give grace that we could resolve things with such humility.

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What trail do I leave?

What is the trail we leave behind? Is it of love, zeal or complacency? In our pursuit of Jesus we fall into traps.

After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?

Galatians 3:3

I run ahead of Jesus. I presume that by following spiritual exercises we developed together, I will be with him. Likewise, I put myself under the obligations that seemingly are godliness. When I run ahead of Jesus these become idols characterised by zeal or complacency.

“Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

Galatians3:6

Remember Abraham. He had none of our spiritualities or obligations. He trusted his Lord and lived out what was shown. Though he stumbled God met him and led him into what was important though faith.

when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.

Galatians 5:6

When Jesus is the centre, he leads us into love. When we are living with him and not running ahead there will be a trail of love. This trail is characterised by joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness …

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Dealing with enemies?

I can be indignant at the way people relate with me. I want God to deal with them but when I see how the Lord has dealt with me I see gentleness.

There he has broken the fiery arrows of the enemy, the shields and swords and weapons of war.

Psalm 76:3

I am interrupted while telling someone of an injustice. I think that I am so right, but maybe the Lord is breaking my fiery arrow! The interruption gives me space to regain God’s perspective and let the subject go.

At the blast of your breath, O God of Jacob, their horses and chariots lay still.

Psalm 76:6

In my agitation can I hear the voice of God suggesting a road of peace? Can I allow him to still me from my indignation?

God is honored in Judah; his name is great in Israel.

Psalm 76:1

When I have listened and resisted the temptation to lash out, I have later discovered that it was good that he had intervened. I am left in awe at God’s greatness.

Can I learn from the way God has acted in my life and pray for a similar intervention into the lives of those who I feel are wrong, maybe even other dear children of God?

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