Category Archives: The Christian life

Like my mother


Truly I am your servant, Lord; I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains.”

Psalm 116:16

I don’t know what trial God has required you to cope with. Some trials are very grievous, and they never resolve themselves in this life. There are no accidents in suffering. God knows every part of our being, and knows what we can handle. Our inherent weakness tells us that we cannot take any trouble at all and we pray to be free from all pains. But we instinctively know, that God is not going to leave us sailing through life with no storms to cope with.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide an escape, so that you can stand up under it.”

1 Corinthians 10: 13

This is a fearful Scripture for our faithless hearts. God is not going to rescue us from the troubles He sends, but gives us the power to go through. He knows what we can bear, because He will always give the necessary strength. The way of escape is through. So when the waves and breaker hit our life, we can stand up under their beating.

It is reasonable that the greater our troubles and the deeper their effect, then the stronger we will be.

The Psalmist talks about release from chains. This is a precious truth. As we weather the storms, there comes a point when the chains fall off. It is not in the cessation of the storm, but the moment we exercise faith. This is God’s purpose for His people- that we will be over-comers through Christ who loves us and went to the utmost pains, to be there first.

There was no trouble like His trouble, and no sorrow like His sorrow.

Is this nothing to you, all you who pass by Look around and see! Is there any sorrow like mine, which was inflicted on me, which the LORD made me suffer on the day of His fierce anger?”

Lamentations 1: 12

Will we, as followers of the Lamb, be sheltered from sorrow? This is the reason many fall back and make shipwreck of their souls. This writer of this Psalm, entertains no such idea. He has a strong witness, the life of his mother, who lived for God. He saw her face the troubles of life undaunted, and go through them, with courage and patience. His mother was a true child of God and her witness brought blessing to her family. The Psalmist could see faith at work, and it’s truly practical manifestation in his mother’s life. He had no qualms that a woman should be his model, and that he should learn from her lessons. 

He has believed and so is now free from the chains of unbelief and sin. Now he is the servant of the Lord, and is able to face trouble in his own faith given by God, and put that trust in the same God as his mother. If you had a Christian mother, maybe you could think of her and how she was helped by God, to face the trials of life. If you did not have such a blessing, maybe it’s time for you to step up and exercise living faith in the only Saviour, Jesus Christ. Maybe you will be a witness to your family, and have the joy of seeing them live for God.

May every child of God, loose the chains and walk free, with the trials vanquished and the enemy of our souls trampled on. We live life free from the chains and looking to Christ, our Lord. 

Moth-eaten stuff

Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth eaten.”   James 5:2

So, once again, we will not let go. We clutch desperately to the things we have accumulated in this life, and cannot think beyond them. We forget that we leave it all behind. It has no influence on our spiritual life, and no effect on the eternal place we go to. We face God alone. He sees the reality of our character and what exactly we are made of. We have no council to support us, no evidence that we are good or worthy, and when we do see the Lord, we will be terrified. Suddenly all we hoped for is gone. All the warnings we received in life, were true. God so wants us not to face this position. He is not willing that anyone would perish and He goes to great lengths to show us and teach us His ways.

God’s ways are so peaceable and loving and the ability He gives us to trust Him, is so restful. We don’t need to worry about the next life, and also in this life we are kept by His power. He is reaching out again and again.

Here we have another word picture. Your riches are corrupted. What ever we accumulate in this life, is all subject to the second law of Thermodynamics. Everything in this life is running down. Everything is corrupt and will rot away and all living things eventually die. Our houses will be knocked down some day, our clothes will end up in the dump and our food goes out of date really quickly. Our bodies get sick, we eventually die. This is the way of all living things.

Even our data systems have viruses than contaminate and render our systems useless. Our businesses fail, our relationships fall out, our effect on our planet at the moment, is very destructive. But we still trust that somehow our affairs will be ok.

God focuses in this verse, on clothing, which we all need and desire. Whatever clothes we have will never last the test of time. The fibres get worn out, and holes develop and our clothes become useless. They end up in the bin, or sometimes recycled into something else, which in turn, will rot away. God is trying to let us see the ultimate end of everything. We must think outside the day in front of us. How difficult it is to even keep the house we live in, clean… We spend time washing, brushing, wiping our belongings to keep them clean and to keep harmful germs out of our homes. The effect of the cleaning does not last beyond the next washing of our hands. Many find it a futile exercise to keep places clean.

In the bigger picture, our world’s resources are running out. Surely that will speak to us about an uncertainty in the future, which is healthy. We see huge lumps of Arctic and Antarctic ice, breaking off glaciers and thawing to nothing in the sea. It affects our world climate and everything changes, often to the hurt of our local environment. It doesn’t seem to make any difference to our thoughts or habits. We continue with destructive behaviours, and our world continues to deteriorate.

For I, The Lord, don’t change; therefore you, sons of Jacob, are not consumed.”
Malachi 3: 6

The Lord does not break His promises and He is full of mercy and love towards us. We are spared the consequences of our wayward lives, and are given time and opportunity to repent and believe. God does not change, but we must.

So let us analyse, even a little, the physical things, including ourselves, and compare them to love, hope, peace and patience, and decide what is worth spending time on. God is able to save us from ourselves and open our eyes to see wonderful things in His Word and things that will be in the future. We are not just bodies, and we know it. So let us expand our attention to our inner self, our souls, and seek God’s truth.

If the physical realm is changing, so the spiritual realm in our souls also changes. We need to be sure it is for the good, and not for our hurt.

“Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4: 5-7

 

Like the moon

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Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness—and I will not lie to David— that his line will continue forever and his throne endure before me like the sun; it will be established forever like the moon, the faithful witness in the sky.”  Psalm 89:35-37

David’s kingly line was the human outworking of the grace of God to all people. David was the second king of Israel and his heart was like God’s heart. He loved the Lord his God and trusted in Him, and did great exploits.

David was also guilty of great sins and fell into a period of spiritual dullness and therefore was disobedient to the commandments. He committed dreadful sins and was insensible to the magnitude of what he did. The prophet Nathan, had to speak to him about it, before he repented and returned to fellowship with God.

Yet God still points to David as a type of the coming Saviour, Jesus the Lord, who’s kingdom will never fail. The throne of Christ the king will stand forever and all power and energy will come from Him, as the sun of righteousness. All spiritual life will emanate from Christ, just as physical life is supported by our star, the sun.

The throne of God in Christ will be established as the moon. The moon is not a light source, but reflects the glory of the sun. So also the Christian and the group of Christian known as the church of Christ. We reflect His glory in what we do and say.

The moon is above us and every day it reflects the light of the sun, especially in the darkest night. It shines out as a faithful mirror to the glory of the life-giving sun. So also the Christian. When people look at us, do they see the light and life of God, or are we showing something else? I am not talking about dead orthodoxy, but the very semblance of the God who is light. We reflect the life of Christ in deeds of kindness and love, and paying attention to those who struggle, as we ourselves do.

Those with the mind and heart of Christ, learn from their own struggles and bless others with all spiritual blessings. Those who shine with the reflected glory of the Son, will endure forever, and will shine like stars in the sky, when all this dark world is over.

Remember how fleeting is my life. For what futility you have created all humanity!”   Psalm 89:47

Don’t waste your life, or the sorrow you have known, but shine the light and others will come to the light and find Him to be everything they need. To be the reflection of the Saviour is our true destiny. God’s holiness will be reflected in us.

The well

“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”   Isaiah 12:3

The wells of salvation have no bottom. They are endless waters of peace and refreshment. There is no other place of such access to eternal life. All who draw water from those deep depths are never left unsatisfied.

When we first come to the well, we are laden down with sins and sorrows. We are desperate and unsure about lowering our bucket into the deep dark waters. We know we need to. We feel the guilt of our sin and the strong desire to be rid of it moves us to approach the well.

In desperation we reach for the water. As we draw up the salvation of God, we are immediately changed and a new life rises up in our souls. We have tasted that water and it is good. Forever after, we return to drink deeply of those living waters and drink deeply with great joy.

Every day of our lives as Christian people, we draw water from those wells of salvation. Every day we have the joy of our Lord Jesus welling up in us, since He bought us by His blood. The dreadful price He paid, He paid, knowing the joy set before Him and the certainty of possessing His people for all eternity.

We draw the water, daily, and always will. The well will remain open to us, even in the glory of that eternal city, so that our joy in the Lord will be full.

A hard series of sayings from Matthew 10

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“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Our fear should be exclusively for the Almighty God, who holds our breath in His hands. We revere Him, honour Him and obey Him, because of who He is. We don’t need to fear people, because the worst they can do is kill our body. They cannot touch our soul, which is safe in Christ. People might tell us to go to hell, but only Jesus has those keys. We must work for our Lord with a great and holy boldness and walk this sin-sick world with joy in His presence. No one can pluck us from His hand.

 

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“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”

My vocal words of witness for Christ are tied in with my place in the heavenly city. If I am too shy, or too weak in faith to speak for Him who loved me and gave Himself for me, I have no place in that place. I don’t even have to deny the Lord, just not say anything at all. If I cannot bring myself to try, or teach myself to speak up, Jesus will not own me as His own. The Saviour of the world must be shared everywhere. To deny others the joy of hearing and knowing Him, is to deny Him. The place in the kingdom is forfeit. Yet if I speak of Him and share, teach and uphold Him, He will uphold me before the face of His Father in heaven.

 

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“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

This is a difficult saying because it pulls at our most sensitive heart-strings. Our first love is for family and we look to family for our sense of belonging. The fifth commandments tells us to honour our father and mother, so that we can live long and productive lives. Is this command over-teaching the commandment? Patently not. We usually love parents, but never more than Christ. To love earthly family more than your Saviour, means you do not have a clear understanding of what He did for you.

Christ comes first and His work on earth comes first. This shouldn’t clash for attention. But if God is calling you do go somewhere outside your family and country, you must go. We should never use the reason about family needs to stop us doing God’s work.

If I put family needs before obedience to my Lord and God, I am on the wrong track. God will order all things so that when we obey, He will work out our life arrangements for the blessing of all.

It is the same principle with our children. They must never take the place of or overtake our life or love for Jesus. This is a very difficult realisation. Our children are so precious to us, but not as precious as the Lord. No matter how close we feel to our daughters and sons, they are still loved far more by the Lord Jesus, than we ever could. To put them before Christ and we are sowing the seeds of unbelief in their hearts.

We will also be saying to Jesus, that He is not that special to us, and we don’t particularly need Him. We will show a complete irreverence for what He did for us on the cross.  We fail to realise our total dependence on Him and our faith rests on someone outside of the Lord. In a sense we are never worthy of Him, and yet we are made worthy and given strength to walk worthy. There are those who give all for Christ and they will be rewarded in the kingdom of God.

 

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“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

The Christian life is tough. We are called to lift up and walk with our cross, bearing His reproach. There is no life in God without the cross. There is no easy way. The pathway includes, temptation, persecution, sacrifice, loss, weariness, shame and reproof. If we decide not to go on this way, we are castaways. We loose our lives and eternity too.

If I should build a life for myself on Earth, I will loose it.

All our work for this life, cannot it be taken into heaven. We will loose it when we die and go into eternity. But more, because we chose the things of this life over the next, it shows we have no taste for the spiritual life with God. We will get what we have chosen. Life now, and no eternal life.

But there are those who give up the right to the things of this world. They follow God and grow in spiritual stature, and become like Christ. Their citizenship is in heaven where they belong because of Christ. These Christians go in to maturity and bear rich fruit for God and His kingdom. The kingdom does come in their lives and they obey God’s will as if they were already in heaven.

There are Christians in every generation who actually loose their physical lives for the sake of Christ and the spread of the gospel. These are richly rewarded for this loss. They themselves count themselves unworthy to bear such an honour as to die for their Saviour.

May we have such love for Jesus Christ that all earthly considerations fade away, and become opportunities for faith and love.

A heart like God’s heart

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David, was the greatest king of Israel, and ancestor of the Kind of all Kings, Jesus. Many find it hard to comprehend how such a loving and devoted follower of the mighty God, could fall so badly, and sin so grievously in his life as God’s king.

As we read the Psalms of David, we are lifted high into the presence of God, and our souls delight in the glory that we see there. David loved the Lord his God from a small boy. He spent protracted periods of time tending his father’s sheep, where God prepared him to lead His people as the nation of Israel. David cared for the sheep and protected them- even from wild animals that would have torn him apart. He was delivered from them and certain death. David was emboldened to face Goliath and conquer him with a small stone and massive faith. David had no inkling of the future, but rejoiced in the presence and creative gifts of God his Saviour, which we now enjoy.

David was left out and overlooked when the time came for the important work of choosing a leader, but God did not forget him. David was chosen to be the king- God’s king of Israel, with a character like God and a picture of Christ Himself. When we read David’s words, we see a man consumed with His God and familiar with His ways. As we observe David and how he dealt with ungodly Saul, we see a man conversant with respect for God and the commandments laid down. A man willing to wait on God’s time and for His will to be brought into practice.

David was dead-set against the enemies of God and those who refused to follow Him earnestly. David had plenty of time to know His God in the fields, and as an outcast on the mountains. When the time was right, he took the crown of leadership, given to him by God. He was without doubt Israel’s greatest king and his exploits defy belief. David knew where his strength came from and trusted in the Lord and overcame his enemies and brought peace to Israel.

“The Lord is King for ever and ever;
the nations will perish from his land.
17 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror.”
Psalm 10

There were incidents in his life, which showed his human weaknesses and failings. In a time of indolence and backsliding and ungodly complacency, he fell in love with a beautiful woman and was unfaithful to God and his family, as he pursued her. He then had to cover his sin and caused others to commit murder for him. He seems to accept this situation for some time, until the prophet, Nathan, spoke out to him about his great sin. David repents when he sees his sin, and is restored.

When I read the book of Psalms, especially David’s Psalms, there are sentiments expressed that cause me to question whether David was particularly called to carry an illness that most do not seem to have to bear. I believe David was a Bi Polar person, and it seems obvious as I read the Psalms, especially the early writings.

David suffering significantly in his inner life. He knows what sleeplessness does, he asks for rest, he values rest and sleep as a gift from God. And yet it eludes him. His Psyche is full of sorrow and his tears and weakness is uncontrollable. We feels the close proximity of his foes and paranoia dogs his days and nights. It seems he is tasting the bitterness of his future unfaithfulness to God, and God is preparing him for this time. David hates sin, as he sees it in his own life and in others. He is jealous for the holiness of God.

“Whoever is pregnant with evil
conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment.
15 Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out
falls into the pit they have made.
16 The trouble they cause recoils on them;
their violence comes down on their own heads.

17 I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness;
I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.”
Psalm 7

David has had time to consider the ways of God and the outcome of not living in them. His grasp of depressive mind set and thought processes is clear. He knows that thoughts lead him down into the grave. He asks God to protect His mind and soul from the onslaughts of the enemy- he knows the work of Satan, and recognises his work in his mind. God clearly has given David “insight” also known as wisdom. David values this quality and it helps him to identify and fight the weakness within.

“Lord my God, I take refuge in you;
save and deliver me from all who pursue me,
2 or they will tear me apart like a lion
and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.”
Psalm 7

The writer has been very aware of his own sins and has spent time languishing in sorrows and searching his heart in the depths of the night. He finds solace in the night, and yet it is painful and full of torment as he considers his many failings. He recognises this as not evil, but tells us we should tremble before the Lord, and stay away from sin. God teaches His people in dire circumstances.

“Tremble and do not sin;
when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent.
5 Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
and trust in the Lord.”
Psalm 4

It is therefore shocking that such a person should fall down into serious sin. David indulged himself in things that were out of character for him. He found himself in a time of less anguish, and let himself be dragged into temptation and sin by the foolishness of his own mind. He was so out of fellowship with his God that he seemed not to notice, or to excuse himself. He had to be confronted with the enormity of what he had done. David repented.

We again see the heart of God. A soft heart that baulks at sin and runs from it. David repents in dust and ashes, and finds his God to be his Redeemer.

The abject lows of a once depressive mood in younger days, were replaced with self-belief and grandiose ideas that David could do what he liked and get away with it. The highs and the lows indicate someone who suffers at both ends of the spectrum of mind illness. David knows them both, and we see that reflected in his writing.

This does not seem to be acknowledged in historical analysis of these texts. The stigma is such that we refuse to believe that someone who suffers in their mind, could be anything to God. Many refuse to think of mind illness as any other illness, but load it with spiritual negativity. People who suffer are marked down as “unworthy” and even evil. The mixture of thinking about mind illness and evil spirits is supremely unhelpful. Many Christians will not talk about their suffering because of this reality. Spiritual lessons are therefore lost, and abilities are side-lined and the person reduced to almost nothing.

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.”
Psalm 13

The constant forwards and backwards flow of endless thoughts that cause such anguish. David calls on God to intervene, before he should be defeated by the inner enemies that grieve his soul. The enemy seems to get the upper hand, and the only escape is death. David asks that his enemies will not triumph over him. This ebb and flow is a constant battle for Bi Polar sufferers.

The Apostle Paul speaks of being out of his mind for Christ… Paul talks about being “out of his mind” in his thoughts and deeds for his Master, but being “in his right mind” for the sake of the people of God. Paul knows there are other ways of knowing than the cultural equivalents of his day.

“ If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5

Paul states the “madness” of being dead to this world and alive to Christ. He sees no shame in being thought “out of his mind” indeed it is the Christians reality in a dead and sinful world.

The Lord Jesus Christ suffered ultimate spiritual and emotional anguish, but no one would ever say He was suffering in His mind or was “out of His mind.” We have become very influenced by the rationality of Western Education and our post-modern thinking and this has affected our interpretation of Scripture. The Prophets were all men and women of deep spirituality and had experiences from God of visions and understandings, messages and dramas to speak to Gods people. They were considered “rubbish” by society and rejected as out of touch. Paul also tells us of his experiences with God-

“And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.” 2 Corinthians 12

Could Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” have been an emotional and thought-centred disability? This would explain his devotion and dedication to Christ and His church, and his willingness to suffer such ignominy for the sake of Christ, and his monumental passion for lost souls and God’s kingdom. Paul felt deeply for the person of Christ and for His people, and went through deep troubles for their sake.

The Lord who made the body, also made the mind, and He knows it well. He knows how mind sufferers suffer, and identifies with them. Our modern day, Christian attitudes are at best, murky, and our reticence to see that kind of suffering in the Scriptures is curious. David sinned and failed, but he was still “a man after God’s own heart” He is an encouragement to all who suffer and a lesson, that mind illness is special and God asks only certain people to carry this burden.

It is a privilege to suffer after the great lives of faith, revealed in the Scriptures. It is Christ-like to suffer as the Saviour of the world, who bore our sins in His own body on the tree and suffered anguish like no other. In His sufferings He bought forgiveness and peace for all who come to Him. We need to be careful what we ask for. To become like Christ is a universal expression of devotion, but also a seeking to identify in His sufferings, which is a deep and serious commitment. David knew it. It was his delight, and also Christ’s to draw near to God in that way- in faith knowing the Father in heaven is in control.

10 “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” 2 Corinthians 4

We should not look down on mind sufferers, but see them as people who are sensitive to the Spirit of God and who seek the face of the Father for comfort and joy. They know for sure that the help of other people is no use. When the chips are down, only God is sufficient. Paul knew the power of God in his ability to fight and control his thought life…

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10

The way mind sufferers think is helpful and can be a help to those who don’t suffer. The problem is no one wants to know about mind illness, in case it should affect them. So all is kept quiet. How wonderful to have the record in the Scriptures, which is such an encouragement to those who suffer in their thinking and feeling. That the Greatest King and the “man after God’s own heart” should understand their every treadmill and depression and manic episode, is no less than their Saviour God.

A heart like His

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“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”
2 Chronicles 15:7

King Asa had a heart for the Lord His God. Asa was not perfect, but made a stand against the social and spiritual currents that lead people away from God. He even destroyed the work of his grandmother, rather than let it pollute the minds of the people. He stuck closely to the will of God- to obey Him and spread His ways among the people.
In the political and social turmoil, the prophet of God relayed these words to Asa…
“Be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”
Asa worked to bring down the falsehood and rebuild the truth from God, everywhere he could.

People all around came to Asa, as they could see God was with him. They promised themselves to God and rejoiced before Him. God gave them rest from all that was troubling their lives. God knew that Asa loved Him and that Asa’s heart fully belonged to God.

This is what God looks for. He looks for a heart that loves Him. That is all we need. The rest God will easily give us when we need it. May we pray for such a heart and not be satisfied until it beats in time with the living God.