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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Disturbing Reality

When we are full of bitter anger how do we respond to grace and peace?

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

Acts 9:3-4

Saul is on his way to vent his anger. There he meets Jesus who speaks tenderly to him, “Saul, Saul” the tender call to a child who has lost his way.

Saul has met Love. In his self righteousness he cannot tie together the call of love with the accusation of persecution. Jesus has to spell it out.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,”

Acts 9:5

Now Saul’s world has been turned upside down. He had thought of himself as the star doing God’s work. Now he realises has been opposing the Messiah.

“Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”… when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

Acts 9:6-9

Saul was not told to fast, yet he did not eat or drink for three days. Maybe a response to discovering that his whole life had been a violent lie?

Do we have the courage to hear disturbing truths from Jesus?

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Reality Check

How do we interpret events? 

When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in their local dialect, “These men are gods in human form!” 

Acts 14:11-12

Core beliefs overrode reality. Paul had preached Christ, but since he did a miracle he must be a god.

Paul and Barnabas ran out among the people, shouting, “Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings—just like you! … Even with these words, Paul and Barnabas could scarcely restrain the people from sacrificing to them.

Acts 14v14-18

Each of us can fall into this trap of holding too strongly to treasured theories. They might appear Biblical but are not in fact in the Bible. Our Father will bring us events to challenge our clever man made ideas. Do we have the humility and peace in our hearts to listen to what God is actually saying?

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Who is exalted?

Many want endorsement through signs and wonders, after all-

God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him.

Acts 2:22

Yet we forget that endorsement was not enough

Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him.

Acts 2:23

When we are right in our own eyes we will stop at nothing to arrange the world in our image – even at the cost of the Way the Truth and the Life.

But God … raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip.

Acts 2:24

The Father’s sovereign power was so much greater than we people in our arrogance could produce. Not even death was enough to stop Jesus.

Now he is exalted to the place of highest honour in heaven, at God’s right hand.

Acts 2:33

When we want endorsement, we are in danger of becoming conceited and arrogantly arranging the world in our image. Let us rather exalt Jesus to the highest place and acknowledge that he alone is sovereign, no matter what appearances are.

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Response to wickedness

There are people who seem to spread a spiritual death wherever they go and whatever their intentions.

These wicked people are born sinners; even from birth they have lied and gone their own way.  They spit venom like deadly snakes; they are like cobras that refuse to listen,

Psalm 58:3-4

These people are likened to snakes and since the devil is equated to a snake, that leaves us with a very sad evaluation. They have some characteristics that are worth noting. The use of deceit, the determination to go with their own will and their use of words to bring death to those who are listening to them.

ignoring the tunes of the snake charmers, no matter how skillfully they play.

Psalm 58:5

When such people brim over with evil it does not matter how skilful or wise those who try to intervene might be. That evil is going to come out. In such cases retreat is the only real option.

We don’t want to step back because it leaves the arena free for wickedness. Yet, this is the place of humility. We are not God.

God will sweep them away, both young and old, faster than a pot heats over burning thorns.

Psalm 58:9

Only God can deal with such people. The Godly need to step aside and allow him to do his work.

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