Loving God’s Word

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.  -Psalm 19:7-11 ESVUK

When is the last time you picked up a Bible, read, and loved it?

There are so many ways we can read God’s Word today. We can read it on our phones, tablets, computers, and the actual book. I tend to read verses every day on my computer yet study from the book. There are also different versions and languages of the Bible. I personally read the English Standard Version (Anglicised) and I also enjoy reading the Complete Jewish Bible. We all have our preferences that speaks to our own understanding.

Despite technology and being able to have different ways of reading the Bible, languages and versions of the Bible, many Christians still do not read it. There are different excuses as to why they don’t. I am giving just a few and the answers as to why you can.

“I don’t like to read.” You can listen to recordings of the Bible. You can buy audio cd’s or listen to the Word online on your phone, tablet and computer. If you have an ipad, you can listen to a Bible podcast.

“I do not have the time.” We all have 24 hours a day. Surely, even 5 to 10 minutes isn’t too much time to take away from busyness to read the Word.

“I find it hard to understand.” There are many different versions to read for different levels of understanding. Ask your minister or a friend for help. Also, Bible study groups are good to help each other understand the Word. Also, online, Biblegateway is an excellent source to help you as they have different versions to read from and commentaries. There are other sites that can help as well, if you search for them.

“The Bible makes me feel bad when I read it, besides, it’s irrelevant to today’s world.” If the Bible makes you feel uncomfortable, usually it is the work of the Holy Spirit convicting you of something and all you need to do is pray about it. Sometimes you need to confess what is wrong and change. The Bible is still relevant today. In fact, prophecies from the Old and New Testament are occurring now.

The Bible is God’s authoritative Word. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (1 Timothy 3:16 ESVUK).

David, the famous Psalmist and King, loved the Word of God and spoke of it often in the book of Psalms. The Word he knew was the first 5 books of the Bible, called the Torah. He also knew the Word that was passed down throughout the generations and taught within the home and synagogue. He would have had to know all of the 613 commandments for his Bar Mitzvah at 13 years of age. The 613 commandments were to be followed by the Israelites and were summed up by Jesus as loving the Lord our God first and loving our neighbour.

David speaks about the law and the Word in Psalm 19:7-11. He declares the law of the Lord is perfect. God’s Word is holy. When we follow God’s word and live it out daily in our lives, we will also be holy, and separated from the world. The Word revives our souls. Yes, it can convict us, but God’s law can also lift our spirits and correct us. God’s testimony is true. We can trust it. God’s precepts are right. The commandments of God are pure. He has our best interest at heart. They enlighten our eyes showing us what is wrong and right in God’s Light. The rules of the Lord are true and righteous.

David desired God’s Word more than gold, even the finest gold. Do we honestly desire God’s Word more than our most valued treasure? David says God’s words is sweeter than honey and drippings of they honeycomb. Honey is lovely and if you ever have had honeycomb, it’s even better. David surely tasted fresh honey whilst as a shepherd. He knew how sweet it was. He says God’s Word is better than the honey’s sweetness.

David said keeping God’s Word is rewarding. How do we keep God’s Word? By hiding it in our hearts and living it out daily in our lives.

What a contrast from our view of the Bible and David’s. We have the whole Word, including the New Testament about Jesus who David didn’t meet until heaven. David was known as a man after God’s own heart. He spent time learning, meditating, and studying God’s Word and talking to God. The Word was very important to David. It made a massive difference in his life.

Like David, have you hidden God’s Word in your heart? If you don’t read the Word, how can you know more about God? How can you grow as a Christian? How can you know the truth when the world says otherwise?

God’s Word is absolute truth. We cannot and should not add or take away from it. Jesus is the Word, the Word is Jesus (see John 1:1). The Word is truth. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by him (John 14:6).

Read the truth. Love the Truth. Hide the Truth in your life and live out the Truth, God’s Word daily. Amen.

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Covenant Prayer

 
“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” -Psalm 34.8
 
What we need is a desire to know the whole will of God, with a fixed resolution to do it (John Wesley). Covenant prayer is about having a God-intoxicated life. Our time and our lives are dedicated to God. A covenant is an agreement between two people or two groups that involves promises on the part of each to the other. Covenant requires commitment. If we are to have a God-intoxicated life, we must have our hearts steadfast in Christ. “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music” (Psalm 57.7).
 
God fulfilled his covenant to his people by sending Jesus Christ as the sacrificial Lamb. He always held His side of covenant. You and I are a part of the covenant because of Jesus. His death and resurrection have enabled us to become heirs of the kingdom of God. “Now if we are children, then we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8.17). It should be our heart’s desire to obey God as His children. This is the first part of covenant prayer.
 
God desires us to make a covenant of obedience. Obedience to God comes out of a desire to follow Him. We are able to do what he calls us to do through the power of the Holy Spirit residing in us. Jesus promised us that he was going to give us the Holy Spirit as a Comforter and Friend.
 
Obedience to God is simply falling head over heels in love with him. God gave his all for us, the least we can do is offer ourselves to him. If we are truly in love with God, we will desire to be open to him and the leading of his Spirit. God desires us to be obedient to his Word and to his still small voice that speaks to our hearts. God desires our hearts and minds to be solely focused on him. The essence of our relationship with God is love. God told this to the Israelites in Deuteronomy and Jesus taught us in the Gospels that we are to “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6.5). Love is key to obedience. We will fall at times, and that’s okay. It’s like learning how to ride a bicycle, we may fall off the bike several times before we get the hang of riding it properly. The same is true in our relationship with God, mistakes will happen, but we must get ourselves back up, shake the dust off and keep pursuing Christ. He will indeed bless us in return. A.W. Tozer says “We pursue God because, and only because, He has put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit.” The more we obey Him the more we will want to.
 
Consistency is another part of covenant prayer, this is a covenant of time. When is our special time to pray? For David it was in the morning “In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation” (Psalm 5.3). For some, it may be in the evening time. Others, it may be in the afternoons. Jews prayed at least 3 times a day. They prayed morning, noon and night. Our times with God should be sacred. For some people having a set time each day is not easy. Start off by praying on a specific day and time. Make sure that you keep this time set aside just for God. Have your cup of tea or coffee in hand and any other items with you and pray. The phone may ring, the doorbell may buzz, the internet may be calling, but do not answer. Those things can wait. Your time with God is most precious, do not let anything steal that time away from you.
 
Have a place of prayer. A place of prayer brings stability. Have a place that you specifically meet with God, not just Sundays. Meet with other people to pray together. This is community. Community brings nurture and accountability. The church needs to have a prayer group. This group is the church within the Church. Prayer is the backbone of the church. The place of prayer needs to be with a group of people who are dedicated to praying and interceding. It is said you can tell how popular the minister is by those who attend Sunday services, and you can tell how popular Jesus is by those who attend the prayer meetings. Sadly, in most churches, the prayer meeting is the least attended meeting.
 
Covenant prayer is about heart preparation. When is the last time we came before the Lord with “Holy expectancy”? When is the last time we entered into the “holy of holies?” God desires us to listen for the Kol Yahweh, the voice of the Lord. In order to truly enter into the “Holy of holies,” we need to learn to discipline our tongues and come in silence. “But the LORD is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him” (Habbakuk 2.20). When we come before the Lord with Holy expectancy, we seek him and know that we will receive from him. There is an awe about this intimacy with God. “There is none on earth that live such a life of joy and blessedness as those that are acquainted with this heavenly conversation” (Richard Baxter).
 
Some of us may feel like we are at the bottom looking up wondering how we can get to the top. Some may be on the long climb up, some may be already at the top enjoying every moment of the holy of holies. Wherever we are, may we desire to take time to pray, whatever it takes. May we desire to pursue God out of obedience. May we prepare our hearts and enter the holy of holies. This is covenant prayer. Are we willing to make our time of prayer a commitment between us and God to share in an intimate relationship?
 
I guarantee you, the more you get to know God intimately, you will be changed for the better.

Loved with an everlasting love

“…I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! …” -Jeremiah 31:3b-4a ESVUK

The above verses have been shared often. However, many times they are shared out of context. We tend to choose which verses we like and apply it to ourselves without thinking about the bigger picture surrounding the chosen verses. Let’s have a look at the background of today’s verses and how they relate to us now.

The people of Israel were being held in captivity in Babylon. Many false prophets rose up and shared with the Israelites they were going to be freed from captivity quickly and they also made threats towards Jeremiah when he told the truth. Jeremiah had prophesied to the Israelites about their sin and their captivity. He also prophesied during the captivity and about the future when they would be able to go home. As we know the Israelites were in Babylon for seventy years. There was no quick fix for them getting out. They were in captivity because of their sin and rebellion against God.

God still loved Israel. The captivity was actually a sign of his love. He disciplined Israel just like we, parents, would for a misbehaving child.

Imagine how the Israelites must have felt. They missed their homeland. Some of them didn’t want to admit their sins. Often, they were angry at Jeremiah and did not heed his warnings from God nor did they listen to many of his prophecies. They were anxious and frustrated, especially when false prophets came along giving them false hope because what they said sounded good, but it was not a word from God.

During this time, they were made to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s statue (see Daniel 3) and were not allowed to pray to their own God (see Daniel 6). This must have been very confusing to them, but instead of standing out like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel, they went along with the Babylonians. They were used to worshipping other gods as they followed the cultures around them (this was one of the reasons they were in captivity). They were afraid of standing up for God in this situation as they were afraid of persecution, the pit of fire and being thrown into the lion’s den.

God wanted the Israelites to know he had not forgotten them. He promised them he would give them a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). He promised Israel and Judah they will be restored (Jeremiah 30). Then at the start of chapter 31, God continues this message of hope to the people of Israel and their clans. He said, “I will be your God and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:1).

God then declared to those who have struggled that he has loved them with an everlasting love and he continued his faithfulness to them. No matter what they had done, he still loves them. Nothing can ever stop God’s love for his people! He was faithful to them. He always looked after them. He always made sure their needs were met. God did not fail Israel, even if they felt he had.

God also promised he will build them and they will be built. He is declaring that he is wiping the slate clean. He knows they have rebelled against him. He knows they worshipped other gods and they may fail again. Human history has shown this cycle of failing God since Adam and Eve. God was telling the Israelites, he was starting fresh. He was giving them another chance. He was going to bless them, by building them as a nation again.

The time was coming for them to go home. They served their time in captivity. When they go home, they will build vineyards, fruit trees, etc. They will be rebuilt as a nation. There will be singing when they go back to their homeland. There will be repentance, mercy, and great joy.

We are fortunate enough to have not suffered in captivity as the Israelites had. However, we have sinned, at times backslidden, and fallen short of God’s glory.

The scripture shared is for all of Israel, including us. As Christians, we are grafted in as a part of spiritual Israel. But it is not for individuals. The word “you” in this passage is for “you” plural not singular. So, as we declare these truths for ourselves, let’s remember the context it was written in.

My brothers and sisters, God loves you and I (us), with an everlasting love! Nothing can separate us from his love (Romans 8:38-39). It doesn’t matter what we have done in life, he still loves us. He called us to be his children. God proved this to us by sending his son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead on the third day. Jesus made a way for us to be children of God and a part of his church.

He is always faithful to us (Lamentations 3:22-23).  He looks after us. He meets our every need according to his riches in glory (Philippians 4.19). He promises that he will be with us always to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20b).

When we first became Christians, God began to build us. He began to build us as one body in Christ. The past is forgiven, and the future is secure. Be encouraged by God’s love and faithfulness. Be encouraged that we are a part of Christ and the wider church (spiritual Israel) across the world and in heaven. Be encouraged that we are being built as a people of God. His promises to Israel are promises to us. Praise the Lord!

So yes, these verses are meaningful. They are filled with hope and encouragement. They were written and said by God to the Israelites in captivity and they are for us as part of spiritual Israel today. Always remember, you are loved with an everlasting love. God bless you.

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Dwell and Abide in God

He who dells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” -Psalm 91:1-2 ESV

There is no record of who actually wrote Psalm 91. However, most scholars believe it was Moses. This makes sense looking at the style and wording of Psalm 90 which was definitely written by Moses.

Moses knew what it was like to dwell in the shelter of the Most High God

The dictionary defines the word “dwell” as “to live or stay as a permanent resident.”

Moses had a continual relationship with God. He stayed in his presence for 40 days on the top of Mount Sinai and plenty of other times before within the tent. Before this, he walked daily with God, becoming a permanent resident of his presence and power. Exodus 33:11 says “Thus the LORD used to talk to Moses face to face, as a man speak to his friend.”

Whilst on the mountain, Moses requested to see God’s glory. God told Moses to hide in the cleft of the rock as he would not be able to see his face and live. Whilst Moses hid in the cleft, God showed him his glory.

Moses knew what it meant to abide in the shadow of the Almighty, especially whilst in the cleft of the rock. To abide means to remain, continue, or to stay, and can also mean to continue in an attitude or a relationship. Moses remained in a continual relationship with God.

“For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and a buckler.” -Psalm 91:3-4 ESV

Moses talks about being delivered from the enemy. He said we can find refuge under God’s wings. Wings are warm, soft, and comforting. Wings are also beautiful. We don’t know exactly what Moses saw of God’s glory in whilst in the cleft, but our imaginations can join with him to see wings keeping us safe.

“You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.” -Psalm 91:5-6 ESV

Moses said that we don’t have to fear the arrows or the fowler that comes at night. Though the Egyptian Army followed the Israelites out of Egypt, God protected them by his fire being placed between the two groups. They did not have to fear being destroyed by the enemy.

“A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.” -Psalm 91:7-8 ESV

The Israelites crossed the Red Sea and the Egyptian Army continued to follow on the footpath through the raised waters. The Israelites were afraid. However, once the Israelites got to the other side, God allowed the waters to crash down upon the Egyptians killing every single one of them. Thousands fell that day. God protected them once again!

“Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place- the Most High, who is my refuge, no evil will be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.” -Psalm 91:9-13 ESV

God was good to Moses. He protected him and delivered him and the Israelites because Moses remained in God and he prayed audacious prayers. Think about the conditions of the desert where the Israelites wandered for 40 years. There would have been snakes, lions, and other beasts that could have harmed them. God made sure they were protected and provided for. God rescued the Israelites.

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honour him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” -Psalm 91:14-16 ESV

When we make God our permanent residence, he is our safe refuge. Evil will not be able to touch our souls. Yes, it may attack us. We are not immune to spiritual or physical attacks just because we are Christians. God never promised we would. We will suffer because we are a threat to the enemy, Satan. However, God’s angels will guard us. They will keep us from spiritual harm. We just need to abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

We too can have this relationship with God. We can live in Christ permanently because we have the Holy Spirit residing in us. The longer and more often we spend time with God in prayer and studying his Word, the more we will reflect him in our daily lives.

There is safety in God’s love. There is healing in his wings. There is protection in his care. God is our Rock and our Fortress. We do not have to fear whatever the enemy throws at us because God protects us.

No matter what life’s circumstances are, we can trust God. Bad things happen, but greater is he that lives within us than he that is in this world! We are more than conquerors in Christ. We are his and he is ours.

Be encouraged, my friends. God can be trusted. He knows our name. Remain in a daily relationship with him. Dwell in the shelter of the Most High and abide in the shadow of the Almighty! God will take care of you!

 

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Five Minute Word- Beauty

The word for today is beauty. Many things can be beautiful. The world says people of beauty need to be thin, wearing the right clothes, being confident, having the right shape, and for women, the right make up.

However, God doesn’t look at our appearance, but he looks at the heart.

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. -1 Samuel 16:7b NIV

I want to see beauty like God does.

I believe God sees beauty in the widow who is grieving her husband, or the homeless man on the street who was trying to makes ends meet. He sees the beauty of two women speaking in sign language next to me whilst I eat. He sees the beauty of my persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.

Beauty is seen in everyone, no matter their size or shape.

Why?

Because we are all made in the image of God. And, God is the creator of beauty.

Father God, may I see beauty in everyone you created because you are beautiful and we are made in your image. Help me to look at people’s hearts instead of their appearances. Amen.

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Jesus Prays for Us

Jesus prays for us and prayed for us before he was crucified.  We know he prayed the simple but difficult words of “Not my will but yours be done.” We know how he was so anxious about what was to come, he sweated drops of blood. This is very important to remember because it was here where Jesus made the decision to go through the betrayal, arrest, beatings, and crucifixion.

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However, there is a beautiful prayer tucked in the book of John that Jesus prayers for us. Yes, us. You and me. This prayer was prayed after the last teachings Jesus taught the disciples on Maundy Thursday right before he entered the Garden.

Jesus was already nervous. He knew what lied ahead. However, he prays for all believers. He first prays for his twelve disciples and then he prays for us and all believers. John 17 is where this prayer is found.

Jesus begins the prayer by declaring he is the glorification of the Father here on earth. He accomplished all God had asked him to do. He knows his death and resurrection to follow was how he will be glorified just like he was before the world began.

He continues by praying for his disciples. He share how he taught them, giving them the words God have him. He reminds God how he watched over them. He gave them everything he had. He shared communion with them not just in the upper room but in his teachings and daily relationships with them.

In verse 11, Jesus said, “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”

Jesus prayed for his friends despite how anxious he felt. He prayed for them even before he prayed for himself in the Garden! Jesus wanted his disciples to be united as one. He knew he was longer going to be with them. As we see later before Jesus appears to the disciples after the resurrection, several of them went back to their earlier professions, such as fishing. God did answer Jesus’ prayer as they were united as one in the upper room waiting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

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Jesus taught the disciples so much. He knew that the world hated him and because the disciples were with him, they were hated as well. Jesus knew the trials and sorrows they were to race ahead. He asks God to no take them out of this world but sanctify them (make them pure and holy). Jesus was going to send them out into the world to tell the world the good news. Jesus asked God to sanctify them before and as they went out. They had to be holy as Christ is holy. This holiness would separate them from the world but also empower them as Christ would live within them through the power of the Holy Spirit (see Romans 8:11).

Then Jesus prayed for us. He prayed for all who would come to know him since his resurrection and Pentecost. He prayed for unity for us as he did for the disciples. He prayed we would be one so the world would see Christ in us and would come to know him as their Lord and Saviour. He asked God to give us his glory (his Spirit living within us).

In the mist of all that Jesus went through, he not only prayed for his disciples, he prayed for us. Jesus always put others before himself. Jesus death and resurrection was for our salvation. He loves us so much he prayed for us before his betrayal and the rest of the events of that Holy Weekend.

I am personally humbled that Jesus prayed for me. I am grateful for his unselfish love. What an example for all of us. I am amazed that even in the midst of the most anxious, terrifying, and sad moments, Jesus loved you and I so much he prayed for us. And, he continues to intercede on our behalf on a daily basis. “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25 ESV).

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Be assured, we are so loved Jesus prayed for us and continues to do so. We are never alone. Christ is always with us, praying for us. What an assurance! No matter what we go through in our lives, Jesus knows, he cares, and he prays. He is our example for praying without ceasing.

Today’s one word: surrender

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. -Psalm 73:25-26 ESVUK

Surrendering my life to Jesus has not been as easy as I thought. It’s easy to sing and pray the words “All to Jesus I surrender” when things are going well. But guess what. Life hits you, and sometimes it can hit very hard.

I was busy being a minister preparing to move to a new hall. I preached every Sunday, and ran women’s programmes and toddler groups, etc. Severe fatigue kicked in and made things harder and harder to manage. This was just the beginning of a downward spiral to becoming housebound.

My health went from not just being exhausted all the time to having pain as well. Everything hurt. I got angry. I cried. I grieved. I fussed at God about everything. The last thing I wanted to do is surrender everything to him. I thought he had taken away the core of who I really am.

Then as I began to realise this was not going away any time soon, I just gave it all to Jesus. I gave him the pain, fatigue, emotions, everything.

The days are still no easy. I enjoy the few “good” days but I rest assured that God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. I have to surrender myself every day to God’s will and way. I also have to surrender my family to him as my illnesses affect them.

God still uses me despite of my many shortcomings. He loves me just as I am. I continue to discover the core of who I am and I will continue to surrender all to Jesus. He is my strength for each and every day.

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