Yesterday I read a post by Mitch Teemley called “Fairness Is Overrated” which spoke about when all is not “ticketyboo” (going well) in life, and sometimes it just plain stinks. In it I particularly loved his statement, “The happiest people in the world aren’t those who’ve gotten “the long end of the stick,” but those who are happy simply to have a piece of the stick.” I pondered this and discussed it also with a brother in Christ (Steven Berry) I concluded this was about being content with the life we have.
The best known Bible verse on contentment is in Philippians 4:11 written by Paul; “for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” Paul points us to His Lord as his source of contentment, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). The text I chose today highlights contentment versus worldliness, always seeking more. The Greek word used here suggests that we are to be satisfied with having sufficient to live by, even when having little. The final line “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” is the ultimate in assurance. No matter what life is throwing at us, our Lord and Saviour is always by our side.
Dear reader, are you contented in life or are you struggling? Be assured by two things; Jesus is very near and, this world is but a staging post on the way to Heaven!
You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit… John 15:16a (NASB)
Recently our daughter applied for a new job, she was one of 140 applicants which were whittled down to a shortlist of seven contenders. We were all proud when she was chosen for the job. We were sure she was chosen for her particular skills in retail and dedication to her present work over other applicants. It reminds me of lining up in the field as kids to play football, the first to be chosen were those everyone knew to be particularly talented.
When our Lord chose His disciples He did not choose the great and good, or especially talented individuals. He chose common men, often despised by others. So it is with disciples then and now, God chooses the unloved, despised, weak and the unskilled to follow Him – “but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:27)
Dear reader, you are chosen by God not for your strength but for your need of Him. Often our Lord’s disciples felt inadequate, but He was able to use them to preach the Gospel to the world. Thus, He can use you today – He chooses you!
As a lad I wanted to join the Royal Air Force, more specifically as a dog handler. My dad’s stories of military service had convinced me that a life of honour and respect was for me. Sadly when I had a kidney removed my dream was over, I would not pass the military medical. The civilian police force had the same restriction, and sadly for me my childhood dream was definitely over. I never lost my respect for those in uniform, they are “set apart” serving a higher cause to a high standard.
As Christians we are called to be “set apart” in our life for God; that is what it means to be consecrated. More specifically to be “set apart” from sin (or temptation) that would stain our relationship with a Holy God. Part of Biblical consecration was to wash and change one’s clothes, or uniform. Our faith is our uniform that singles us out in society, and if our faith is not evident by our behaviour…there is something wrong.
Dear reader, are you consecrated before God like Joshua and the Israelites? Do you wear the uniform of a holy follower of God, without stain? If there be any doubt, get on your knees and bathe yourself in prayer.
SUNDAY – Guest blogs (Invites are open at present).
After much thought and prayer I have decided to adopt a publishing format in Devotional Treasures. To give credit where it is due my good friend and brother David had suggested this some time ago as something that may be useful. He had pointed to CGThelen as a good example, which was very true and helpful. My format is simple but may change in the course of time, as the need arises. The reasons for the change are that I want to nurture my original aim of writing short Devotional Gems, and restricting longer studies to once a week on Saturdays. At present I am reserving Sundays for guest blogs, which are now open for any new submissions. Any suggestions, questions or submissions should be emailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
13 Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted. 14 Just as many were astonished at you, So His appearance was marred more than any man And His form more than the sons of men. 15 Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see, And what they had not heard they will understand.
Today I tentatively begin a series on the famous fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, I say tentatively because when I read this scripture I feel I am in the holiest of scriptures. In it I find my Lord and Saviour with His face set towards a hill hundreds of years in the future, and His mission to save not just Israel but all humanity from sin. The Book of Isaiah is said to be clearest description of the God’s plan of Redemption in the Old Testament; detailing the many sins and judgements of His people and then leading to the promised Messiah. Indeed the key word in Isaiah is salvation as seen inIsaiah 12:2, “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid;.” As I read Isaiah 53 and the surrounding verses I could see clearly that the final three verses ofIsaiah 52 are misplaced, and should really be the first three verses ofIsaiah 53. In further study I found that many commentaries arrive at the same conclusion; thus our study begins in Isaiah 52:13-15.
Isaiah 52:13 begins ” Behold, My servant ” which could be paraphrased in modern parlance, “look, see My Servant.” Almighty God is calling all to attention, introducing His Son, His Servant. I do not like the next phrase “… will prosper“, in my opinion the KJV “shall deal prudently” is more accurate in relation to the root meaning of the Hebrew text. It clearly shows our Lord doing ALL things well, in complete wisdom. Our Lord is lifted high three times in this text; first at Calvary’s cross, then by His Father from the grave and, finally by all who see Him as Lord and Saviour. In this final group there are even those who denied or doubted Him, whose eyes are opened to the reality of Redemption.
I was particularly moved by Isaiah 52:14, it paints a harrowing scene before us of brutality, pain and anguish. Have you ever seen pictures of someone who has been badly beaten? I have seen the aftermath of such brutality first-hand, it is not pretty. InLuke 22:63-65 we see such a beating given to our Lord by the soldiers, as i ponder this scene it brings tears to my eyes. He is in the midst of a jeering, swearing crowd of burly soldiers, being spat on and punched countless times; you can be sure they broke some bones. Those that were “astonished” were His followers either close to Him or from afar (like Joseph of Arimathea?), but the Hebrew text defines it as being devastated or spiritually destitute. Dear reader, can you imagine the pain of these folk, as they watched in disbelief as their Lord was crucified?
Isaiah 52:15 pulls us out of grief and into the glorious hope of Redemption (Propitiation!) that has been achieved by the cruel cross, death and resurrection of our Lord. The Servant King brings Salvation to not just the chosen people of Israel, but to ALL nations of the earth. Many are silenced as the reality of who He is and what He has achieved for them dawns on their hearts. What was unseen before is clearly seen now, by His disciples and many other peoples.
Dear reader, what we have in this passage is a foretaste of what Isaiah 53 has to tell us. Here the glorious gospel of Salvation is presented to us, are we saved by it, are we silenced by it, do we kneel before Him today?
In yesterday’s post I gave what I hope was a fair explanation of sanctification, which is in a group of words not often used or heard in the 21st Century church. While answering comments on that post I suggested I would follow up with another word similarly not well used today, propitiation. Propitiation comes from the Greek word “hilasmos” in the New Testament, meaning “atonement.” In today’s verse our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is presented as our Propitiation (the Atonement for our sins). Earlier in 1 John 2:2 John shows us the immensity of His propitiation for sins in that it is not just for the sins of a select few, but “for those of the whole world.”
In recent generations there has been a move away from using propitiation in favour of the word “expiation,” the reason being that some theologians had a problem with propitiation’s focus on the appeasement of an angry God. Bear with me as I try to explain the subtle differences between the two words. Canon L. L. Morris (in the New Bible Dictionary) states that expiation relates to an object where propitiation relates to the act of an individual. In my simple thoughts on this I see expiation as the penalty (fine) paid for our sin by God, and the propitiation is our pardon for our sins – Jesus Christ was our pardon on the cross at Calvary, thus He was our propitiation.
To understand the immensity of this salvation we need to know what God’s reaction is to sin. There can be no debate on the fact that God is perfectly righteous in all His ways, thus He cannot overlook sin of any size.Psalm 7:11 clearly says “God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day.” As a loving Father God He is not quick to anger (Nehemiah 9:17), but in His righteousness He ” is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.”(Numbers 14:18).
Dear reader, our God is a compassionate Father willing to forgive us our sins if we repent (Psalm 78:38). He has provided a way for us His children through His Son Jesus Christ, as our propitiation (pardon). Through our Saviour we can turn away the wrath of God for our sins. Let us look on our Lord Jesus loudly proclaiming with John the Baptist ““Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”(John 1:29).
But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 1 Corinthians 1:30 (NASB)
Today I want to share my thoughts from my recent study on the subject of sanctification. I heard much about this word in my younger days, mainly in reading the teachings of General William Booth in Salvation Army doctrine. But Such words are hardly heard nowadays which is quite a shame, many souls are missing out in their walk with their God in not knowing words like sanctification.
Sanctification is the impartation of the Holy qualities of Jesus Christ in a believer; it is not mere imitation but allowing Him to work in and through us. In “My Utmost For His Highest” Oswald Chambers defines it thus: “it means being one with Jesus. Sanctification is not something Jesus Christ puts into me – it is Himself in me.” In the Bible the root idea of sanctify is to “set apart.” By Almighty God’s choosing we are set apart from the beginning of time ( 2 Thessalonians 2:13). As believers in Christ it is our duty to set ourselves apart from the world, to follow Him.
Sanctification is the work of God by His Holy Spirit in us; it is the process by which the Spirit makes our union with Jesus Christ deeper and more real, leading us into a life of holiness. In the work of sanctification we have the whole Godhead at work in and through us, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, throughout our entire life ( Romans 6:19,1 Corinthians 15:31).
Dear reader, are you being sanctified in and through your Lord and Saviour, by the work of the Holy Spirit? I pray that you are on this lifelong trek along the Highway of Holiness, being surrendered and inviting Him into yourself each day. May sanctification progress in your walk with God, leading you closer to Him.
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?” Matthew 7:15-16 (NASB)
Yesterday I discovered yesterday an error in my knowledge, I had believed the Shard in London (opened July 2012) was the tallest free standing building in the UK. In fact at 309 metres the Shard comes in second place behind the Emley Moor Tower (330 metres) in North Yorkshire. I remember the hullabaloo about the Shard being the biggest at it’s launch, which wasn’t exactly true. Another form of fakery is currency, fraudsters and the Royal Mint are forever jousting over the latest bank notes. Earlier today I had a brief conversation with a friend regarding English retailers rejecting Scottish bank notes, alongside the British weather it is a common debate. Our lives are awash with fakes and frauds trying to mislead us, be it information, currency or in goods such as the watch on your wrist.
There are also many fakes and frauds in belief too, the most obvious culprits being Islam, Buddhism, Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses. But according to the Word of God and the verse I share today the most insidious fakes and frauds are lurking near the fence of Christendom, and some even within the sheep pen too. To the unsuspecting they may seem lovely, like Joel Olsteen who is an eloquent softly spoken preacher who soothes his listeners personal pride.
Dear reader, the acid test for all preaching is the Bible in your hands. Just like the Bereans test the fruits of every preacher against the Word of God (Acts 17:10-11). If you find that they preach anything different to what God says in His Word they are fakes and frauds, trying to lead you away from your Shepherd. Beware dear brethren!
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 (NASB)
“There Is A Green Hill Far Away” by Mrs. Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895) is one of my favourite hymns. Mrs Alexander wrote many great hymns such as “All Creatures Great and Small.” She was born and raised in Ireland, on the border of the Wicklow Hills. I would not be surprised if the sight of these hills was in her thoughts as she composed today’s hymn.
I remember this hymn from my early childhood and youth. It was sung in school services guided by the minister of Auchterderran Parish Church, it had a particular familiarity to the village children because we had “The Green Hill” nearby where we played football in the field next to it. I chuckle to myself as I remember the minister leading us off on the first line, and somebody always quipped “no its no, it’s jist up the road oot there minister!” to much sniggering which was soon barked down by our burly teacher.
Even at that early age this hymn touched my heart in a way I could not understand at the time. I had heard of Jesus from my mum but most of all at my grandmother’s knee. Her stories made me sad but also glad, because she told them with a smile and cuddled me. The seeds she sowed in my young heart were watered by this hymn; as the words of it told me her stories over and over, even after she was gone.
Our “Green Hill” was not outside a city wall but was outside the boundary line of my part of Cardenden village, which was Dundonald. I would cross over under the railway viaduct and there on the right was “The Green Hill”, a constant reminder of grandmother and her Jesus. A few years later one Sunday I passed that “Green Hill” on my way to the Salvation Army hall in Lochgelly, to dedicate my life to Jesus – my Lord and Saviour. As I passed it on my way to the bus stop, I could hear that old hymn in my heart and see my precious grandmother smiling at me.
Dear reader, do you know Jesus? Not just as a historical figure, but do you know Him personally? He knows you, and He died on a hill nailed to a cruel cross for you. The fact that you are reading this proves that He calls you to His side today, will you answer Him?
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals.1 Corinthians 6:9 (NASB)
As I read the book of Hosea this morning about the sad unfaithfulness of Israel towards God, it reminded me a news item I had read earlier in The Christian Post (2 Georgia churches leave United Methodist Church over LGBT stance, announce merger). Basically these two churches want to accept LGBT lifestyles within their congregations, thus they split from the Methodist denomination. As sad as this may be it is not unusual, here in Scotland churches have split from the Church of Scotland to maintain a Biblical integrity against such unbiblical lifestyles.
The Bible is explicitly clear, Almighty God created man and woman, thus marriage is a heterosexual union between a man and a woman (Mark 10:6-8 NASB). Homosexuality is against God’s law (Leviticus 18:22,Romans 1:26-27,1 Corinthians 6:9). Reassigning gender within a Christian context is effectively telling Almighty God He made a mistake, which is unthinkable for any believer. Thus there is no middle way in God’s kingdom on this subject – there is no compromise.
Dear reader, our life on earth is short in contrast to eternity, which is forever. Our life is likened to mist or smoke out of a chimney in God’s Word (James 4:14, Hosea 13:3), or as I saw this morning, as short as a raindrop’s life on a Hosta leaf before full sun has ascended. Knowing our lives are so short, let us not deceive ourselves but instead follow Almighty God’s calling to righteous lifestyles.