Friday, 19 May 2017

Do The Work

Dear Friends,

I've been meditating this week on one particular verse which has both encouraged and challenged me.

King David had it in his heart to build a temple for God. However, God told him that this was not for him to do, but his son, Solomon would be the one to build it instead. David spent time preparing and planning for the temple. In 1 Chronicles 28:20 he says this to Solomon:

“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly." (NLT)

David was Solomon's encourager. He wasn't bitter that someone else was getting to do what he had dreamed of. Instead he demonstrated his support of Solomon.

1. Be strong and courageous This was not so much about physical strength, but rather about staying power, persevering, not giving up. I wonder if Solomon felt he wasn't up to the work? I wonder if he ever felt that God should have chosen someone else? It was a big task to tackle.

I'm so aware of my weaknesses and limitations, but I also know that strength comes from God. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)

David knew Solomon would need courage in the weeks, months and years ahead. God had called Solomon to this work and knowing this would give Solomon the courage and confidence he needed. When the way ahead looked difficult, Solomon could remember what God had said to him through David.

When God calls us to do something out of our comfort zone, it requires faith on our part and the courage to step up and follow where God leads. My courage and confidence comes from my relationship with God.

2. Do the work  There comes a time, for each of us, when we have to decide whether we are going to do the work God has asked of us. Despite our questions, our fears, our concerns, our feelings of lack of ability, will you and will I do what God is asking of us? What is our attitude as we work for God?

Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. 1 Corinthians 15:58b (NLT)

3. Don't be afraid or discouraged David knew there would probably be times when Solomon felt fearful about what lay ahead of him, fearful about what he was getting himself into. David knew Solomon might feel discouraged at times. Times when it felt like his work was going backwards rather than forwards, when the progress was slow or when others disagreed about the way it should be done. But David knew that with God there was no need for Solomon to be afraid or discouraged.

When I look ahead at what God is calling me to I sometimes feel afraid. What if I fail? What if I'm trying to do more than I'm capable of? What if no-one stands with me? There are also times when I feel discouraged by my lack of progress, discouraged in the delays, discouraged with my limitations. When I give in to fears and discouragement it hinders the work and can even stop me from starting. When I focus on God I know there is no need to be fearful or be discouraged.

4. For the Lord my God is with you David tells Solomon he can be strong, he can be courageous, and he can do the work because God is with him.

You and I can do all that God is asking of us for that very same reason - because God has promised to be with us. When we step out in obedience to God's word to us, we are stepping out with him.

5. God will not fail or forsake you David encourages Solomon that he can do this, he can accomplish what seems like a formidable task, not because of who he is but because of who God is and God will not fail him. God will supply him with all that he needs to succeed. God will not forsake Solomon halfway through the task.

There may be times when I fail God, when I let him down, but I know that he will never fail me. He will never abandon me or leave me to do the work all by myself. God will not lose interest or turn his attention elsewhere. I can be sure in the knowledge that whatever happens in the future, God is with me every step of the way.

God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” Hebrews 13:5 (NLT)

6. God will see to it that all the work is finished correctly David was letting Solomon know that the ultimate responsibility for the completion of the work is God. Solomon was responsible for doing his part of the work, not for God's part.

I find this immensely encouraging. It takes a lot of pressure off me if I know that the work I'm doing is God's responsibility. I just need to make sure I'm doing my part and following God's directions.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

To Think About:
What work has God called you to?

In what ways to do you need strength and courage for the work?

What fears or discouragements stop/hinder you from obeying God?

What difference does it make knowing God is with you, that he won't fail or abandon you and that he will see it through to the end?

If  what you read was of interest to you, then you may like to know that my book "Dear Friend...52 Weekly Devotions to Encourage, Challenge and Inspire" is available to buy from Amazon. (It's content is material adapted from previous blog posts.) To learn more, click on the link below:
"Dear Friend..."

Friday, 12 May 2017

Living The "Zoe" Life

Dear Friends,

Do you ever find yourself wrestling over a verse or passage of Scripture? Perhaps because it's hard to understand or grasp. Or perhaps it doesn't fit with your experience.

For some months, possiby years, there has been one verse which I've wrestled with. It's this one from John 10:10b Where Jesus says, "My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life." (NLT). Other translations use words such as an abundant life, life in all it's fullness, enjoy life to the full, everything they need.

What is this kind of life that Jesus is talking about? Is it really possible to experience it ourselves? I want to share with you the place I'm at right now in my journey of understanding.

We will never fully understand all that the Bible has to teach us and sometimes we (I) will get it wrong. You may very well disagree with how I am interpreting what I read. But if it causes any of us to go back to the Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand what he wants to say to us, then this can only be a good thing.

With that said, here's what I've been learning...

I think there are times when we interpret God's Word from our earthly perspective. We look at it from our 21st Century viewpoint. So, when we read about the abundant, rich, satisfying and full life that Jesus promises us, we may think it is referring to things such as good health, a successful career, a wonderful marriage, perfect kids, regular holidays, cars, other possessions etc. A life with no difficulties, no struggles and no problems. 

But the reality of our life is usually something far different. If I'm not experiencing the kind of abundant life I described above, then what's gone wrong? Has something wrong? Am I not living in faith? Am I failing in my relationship with God? Is God's promise not for me? Is he not able to keep his word?  

Does the fact that I struggle with poor health mean that the abundant life is not for me, that's it's beyond my reach? If our lives include health issues, relationship breakdown, unemployment, persecution, loss of possessions, poverty, trials etc. does that mean we cannot know what it means to have an abundant life? 

If we are searching for this kind of abundant life we will forever be disappointed. We will never know what it means to be content. We will always be dissatisfied. We will always be wanting more. Is this really what Jesus meant in John 10:10?

Or can we know the abundant life Jesus is describing despite our circumstances?

I'm no Greek scholar, but with the help of some books I have, I've learned that there are several Greek words for life. One is "bios" which refers to lifestyle, wealth, possessions. Another one is "zoe" and this is the word used in John 10:10. It refers to our spiritual life.

Lawrence Richards writes that "the principle of [this] life lifts our vision beyond our earthly existence to reveal a unique quality of life that spans time and eternity and that has it's roots in God." (You might need to read that a few times, I know I did!)

The Greek word for "abundantly" is "perissos" and means above the common, superabundant (in quantity), superior (in quality), beyond measure.

I don't know about you, but this excites me. This is the kind of quality life I want - not in the distant future, but right here and now.

This is the life which God has in himself and which he gave to Jesus as he lived out his life on earth. Jesus says in John 5:24-26 “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. 25 And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. 26 The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son. (NLT).

Jesus is eternal life (1 John 1:2) and he gives this life to all of us who choose to believe in him. "so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:15-16 (NLT).

This "zoe" life means that God has blessed you and me with every kind of spiritual blessing. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Ephesians 1:3 (NIV) The life he gives us is superabundant, overflowing, above the common. And it's a life God wants for us all to experience and enjoy. 

With this life from God comes:
- his grace, mercy, kindness and forgiveness
- his presence with us always; he walks alongside us; he's interested in every facet of our day; he will never leave us
- his unconditional love  and acceptance
- his supernatural joy which is not dependent on our circumstances, what we have or don't have
- the sure hope of eternal life; we know that one day we will be with God in heaven and see him face to face
- peace in every situation
- wisdom, guidance and direction
- strength for the journey
- one who is greater than anything that comes against us
- purpose, meaning and satisfaction
- and more.

Nothing and no one can take this life from us.

This "zoe" life is not dependent on what I have or don't have. It's not dependent on my circumstances, on others, my work,  my achievements or anything else. Whatever my life is right now,  I can still enjoy a "zoe" life which is beyond measure and above the common because I have the life of Christ in me. 

This is why Paul was able to write: Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. Philippians 4:11-12 (NLT).

I like the wording of John 10:10 as paraphrased in the Message: I [Jesus] came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

The "zoe" life is real, it's eternal, it's more and it's better than any other kind of life we could want or wish for.

To Think About:
This "zoe" life is available to all who believe in God. Is there anything in your life which may be hindering you from really experiencing this life as God intended? What can you do about that?

Has what you've read changed your perspective about life and how it's to be lived? In what ways may it have helped, encouraged or challenged you?

What are your circumstances right now? Whether they may be described as good or bad, how do you see God's "zoe" life in you?

If  what you read was of interest to you, then you may like to know that my book "Dear Friend...52 Weekly Devotions to Encourage, Challenge and Inspire" is available to buy from Amazon. (It's content is material adapted from previous blog posts.) To learn more, click on the link below:

Friday, 5 May 2017

"Who Glued It There?"

Dear Friends,

Last week, my friend shared with me an amusing conversation she had recently had with her two-year-old daughter:

Daughter: (Pointing to her own neck) "Is this my neck?"
Mummy: "Yes, it is."
Daughter: "Who glued it there?"

Whilst we may laugh at her wording. This two year old is asking a very good question. After all, we believe that we have each been uniquely created by God.  He has "glued" us together in remarkable ways. 

We read in Psalm 139:13-16
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvellous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed. (NLT)

We are incredible beings, fashioned by God.  Each part of us has a function and a purpose - limbs, skin, ligaments, muscles, bones, eyes, ears, heart, kidneys, liver, brain etc. God has made us with a body, mind and soul and we are "wonderfully complex!" The more I learn about how the human body works, the more in awe of God I am.

In several of Paul's letters to the churches, he uses the body as an illustration to help us understand the church as a spiritual body. I want to share a few of these with you now. (You may want to take your time as you read the following verses, and ask God to speak to you through them.)

Romans 12:4-6
Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. (NLT)

The Message version puts it this way: In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvellously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

1 Corinthians 12:12-26
You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body...14-18 I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it...19-24 But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of.
25-26 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. (The Message)

Ephesians 4:16
He joins and holds together the whole body with its ligaments providing the support needed so each part works to its proper design to form a healthy, growing, and mature body that builds itself up in love. (VOICE)

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know how much I love to share and teach God's Word.  Recently, myself and another member of our Preaching/Teaching Team provided our church with some mid-week Bible Teaching. It was such a wonderful and blessed time. Have you experienced for yourself the delight there is to be found in doing what God has called and created you for? From my point of view, there is nothing else like it. As we read in Ephesians 4:16, I was working to my proper design.

However, I was just one part of this. I was not able to do it all myself. God has not made me to do it all. We read in Romans 12 that God has given each of us spiritual gifts to do certain things well. I needed my co-teacher to do his part. He also provided what was not within my skill set - excellent resources such as folders with a cover design, a master PowerPoint slide and other technology.

But again, the evening wasn't dependent on just the two of us. Many worked in the background to print our student notes and set them in order, to prepare the room, prepare refreshments, work from the sound desk so that there were audio copies of our teaching etc. 

The end result, I believe, was excellence. Not because I did it all (because as you can see, I didn't), but because parts of the church body were doing what they were created for. They were fulfilling their God-given function. If one part had decided they were not going to play their part, then the whole would have suffered. The outcome would not have been the same.

I believe it's vital for each of us to know and understand what our part is within the church body. I need to recognise what my strengths are, and know that I have them, not through my own merit, but because God, in his grace, has given me certain spiritual gifts. The same is true for you too. I am to do those things I've been created to do, and not try to do those I've not been created for. If I try to, I will only make myself miserable and I will fail. To use the example of the body: if I am an ear, it's no good me trying to be an eye. It just won't work and would cause problems. However, when I am the ear God has created me to be, I can function well and leave those who have been called to be eyes, to play their part.

God has created our human bodies so that each part has a particular function and purpose. When each part does what God has created it for, we see the glorious handiwork of God.

In the church, when each part carries out its own God-given function and purpose, we see the church working as it should. We see a healthy, growing and mature body. And each part brings glory, not to itself, but to it's maker, to God.

To Think About
Do you know what your particular function and purpose is within your church body? If you do, are you doing what God has created you for?

If you don't know what your part is then ask God to reveal it to you and wait on him for his answer. It can also help to talk to a mature Christian who knows you well, as sometimes it's easier for someone else to see what our spiritual gifts are.

Are there any ways God wants to develop those gifts in you?