God and Sin
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death… Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:13-17) - We do bear the consequences for our own actions, but God has also extended to us the offer of forgiveness. Rather than thinking we are good enough, better to see that Christ is entirely good and allow him to bear our sins for us. The cross is, after all, a sign of grace and mercy.Read more
Warriors and the Will of God
Against a godless nation I send [Assyria], and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. But he does not so intend, and his heart does not so think; but it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few … When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes. (Isaiah 10:6-7, 12) - Just before his death, Moses warned the people that if they turn to other gods, then they will lose the land. The only way to maintain life in the land is to obey the commandments of God.Read more
What About Evil Deeds?
“this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:23) - Right at the end of Genesis Joseph is speaking with his brothers, those brothers who threw him into a pit and then sold him into slavery. The brothers were fearful that Joseph would take revenge, but he assured them: “as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Never think God is absent in the face of evil. He is not.Read more
How Do You Approach God?
hen came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” And he went with him. (Mark 5:22-24) And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. (Mark 5:25-27 )- Here in this passage we find two starkly contrasting people, but the same result. They both reached out. Will you?Read more
“He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,” (Romans 4:19–20) - The history of the Church is scattered with unpromising people who were mightily used by God. God is able to act above nature, and that is something which gives great hope. You may feel a small Christian, but you have a great God. And that is plenty.Read more
God Does as He Pleases
“But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.” (Hosea 1:7) - To be Creator implies not only a mastery over creation so that it can be used to bring about whatever God wishes, but also the right to act in a way which takes priority over the created order.Read more
The Means to an End
“And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the ship’s boat into the sea under pretence of laying out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.”” (Acts 27:30–31) - “He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.” (Acts 27:43–44) - To have a belief in a God who is sovereign over all should not imply we simply have to sit back and do nothing. Yes God decrees the end of things, but he also decrees the means by which this end will come about. Yes, we are secure in God’s hands but we also have to follow the commands he gives.Read more
What is an Act of God?
“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22) - “Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD of hosts is his name:” (Jeremiah 31:35) - Old insurance policies used to mention “Acts of God”, by which they meant unusual and unforeseen events such as earthquakes, lightning strikes or volcano eruptions. The problem with this language, though, is it relegates God to the realm of the spectacular. It assumes that God can only act in ways which overwhelm and draw attention.Read more
Who Killed Jesus?
“this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:23–24) - In these couple of verses, then, we see something of the way in which God brings his will into being. He determines something will come to pass, and humans bring it about. They are acting in accordance with their will, but God’s will is deeper. They may even seek to defy God, but that might simply be a means to an end.Read more
Is God Sleeping?
And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:27-39) - Oh Christian you will encounter storms in life, times when life seems to be sinking and hope fades in the darkness. This is when your faith counts, this is when belief has to be put into practice. In all places and at all times remember that Jesus has said to you: “I am with you always” and so he will be. Pray with confidence, and trust in the one who keeps his promises. You may think God is sleeping, but maybe something greater is in mind.Read more
To the Praise of God’s Glory
“Like livestock that go down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. So you led your people, to make for yourself a glorious name.” (Isaiah 63:14) - “… so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 3:10) - “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”” (Romans 9:17) - “They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.” (Psalm 145:7) - To give God glory is to understand that he is full of a weighty holiness. To give him his due. It is also to recognise God for his goodness, wisdom and power.Read more
Advisors and Counsellors
“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…” (Ephesians 1:11) - “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.” (Psalm 33:10–11) - There is a danger in not seeking the wisdom of others, as the book of Proverbs is quick to point out: “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22). Going it alone in the spiritual realm is a hazardous path, and if you are not careful you find that it is not so much God you believe in. It is yourself.Read more
The God who Foresees
After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’” (Acts 15:13–18) - From his vantage point in eternity God knows all things, and is not trapped as we are in the narrow tunnel of time. To trust in God is not to place your hopes in one who will be surprised by a turn of events. It is to trust in one who already knows. It is to trust in one who writes his great plan of redemption on the fabric of time, and who brings to fruition plans laid centuries before.Read more
Wise and Holy
“The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3) “O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” (Psalm 104:24) “The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.” (Psalm 145:17) - Power may corrupt imperfect human beings, but fortunately for us God is not a bigger version of a human. He is good. His is not corruptible.Read more
From the Greatest to the Least
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:29–33) - Never feel too unimportant to raise your voice to heaven, or think something is too trivial to bring before God. God may guide the affairs of the nations, but he also notices the individual. He is concerned with the greatest and the least.Read more
The Divine Controller
At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honoured him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34–35) - God needs no more from us, than the model railway builder needs from the little tiny model of a dog. To know God as almighty, is to regain a sense of things being under control.Read more
God Given Growth
“With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” - So Christian, fret not! We may be weak but God is strong. The Gospel is still good news, and the scriptures still have their power. Mustard plants need mustard seeds, and revivals in the fortune of the church need small starts. Maybe what we are experiencing now is just the beginning of that small start.Read more
The Great Upholder
“He [Jesus] upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). - Life not only came from God, but continues to come from God. This is the way in which Christ “upholds” the universe, and This act of upholding serves to underline our entire dependence upon God. We not only owe him our existence, but also our continuing existence. As life flows back into the countryside in Spring, it flows from God. As life ebbs from the body at death, it continues in eternity before God.Read more
What is Providence?
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17) - Providence is not a word much used in Christian speech. Whilst a very common concept in the writings of previous ages, for whatever reason it has faded from much of the modern church. Providence is more than mere foreknowledge. In Christian terms it is the understanding that God continues to care for his creation and his people. And he cares through providing for it and for us.Read more
It is only when we realise that we, like all others, are flawed individuals that we can gain a true perspective on ourselves. It is as we acknowledge we get things wrong, we are ready to learn and to seek forgiveness. Gentleness is not weakness. It is simply being realistic.Read more
Self-control is the ability to restrain your emotions. To say no to impulses or desires as they begin to rise. It is putting your head in charge of your heart, and detecting your emotions. Are they legitimate, or something you’ll regret in ten minutes time? Is this really the best way to behave? Shouldn’t this temptation be resisted? It is a product of patience and an abiding joy in life. It is a quality of someone who is kind and good, who is trustworthy and doesn’t think too highly of themself.Read more
Faithfulness is about being someone in whom other people can trust. You are reliable and committed, not swept along by whatever fad flits across the screen that particular day. It is, to quote the standard dictionary, “that which evokes trust and faith” or “the state of being someone in whom confidence can be placed”. If we are to be faithful people ourselves, we would be best advised to follow the Christ who is deeply faithful. This is a fruit of the Spirit which gives deep and enduring foundations.Read more
Is there an eternal measure of what is good? Well, yes. If we hold that God is both good and eternal, then goodness is to be found in his character, actions and teachings. To be good is to be upright, just and trustworthy. Christ taught, healed and gave up his life so that others might be reconciled to God. There is goodness. It is a generosity, and a willingness to self-sacrifice. It is an interest in the welfare of others. When it comes to deciding between good and evil, it is vital to do so using a standard which transcends culture and time. No wonder Jesus said: “No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18)Read more
Mad, Bad or God?
How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. (Mark 3:22-28) - Perhaps you view him as someone who is trustworthy in parts, or a good teacher who was made a messiah by mistake. If so, think on this: Jesus made tremendous claims to be God. He dared to teach on his own authority, and forgive sins. Something which only God has the right to do.Read more
Very often the word “kind” is equated with “nice”, but that does little justice to what the word meant in Greek when Paul wrote Galatians. The word he used - chrēstótēs - primarily means behaving in an upright manner with people. It’s not misleading them, or deceiving them. For Paul, the word “kindness” means being open and honest, and not hiding uncomfortable truths. This is the truly helpful and beneficial thing to do.Read more
The present is one of the hardest times in which to live, living entirely in the here and now, not anchored down by past regrets or consumed with yearnings for future promises. Patience is trusting in God for your future and having a deep sense that in the end his timing is probably better than yours. It is living in the present, and not being dominated by a future which might never happen.Read more
Peace is a cousin to joy, and swims in stiller, deeper waters. Rather than simply being the absence of war, or of strife, peace also points to a state of wellbeing. It is a deep calmness which withstands the buffets of waves, and the whirling winds of anxiety. When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul!”Read more
The greek word translated ‘joy’ (chara) has the wonderful definition “the experience of gladness”. In Christian terms this comes from a sense of security in God. You are his, since he gave up his son for you. The Spirit of God resides within you, and you are in his care. This joy can bubble up in difficulty, and sustain in times of struggle. It is the kind of joyful security we see in Deuteronomy 33:27 where we read: “the eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms”.Read more
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-24) - In the passage, Paul is using the word: “agapē”. It is a kind of love which is not based on self interest, but on a warmth for another. It is not the sort of love that leads to marriage, but rather an affectionate esteem for another person. It’s not limited to intimate relationships, and only very rarely did the Greeks of the day use it to describe anything sexual.Read more