The Necessary Elements of Faith

This Friday I re-post an old post from November 2020, with some light editing.

Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know. For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain. But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord. For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?

1 Thessalonians 3 : 1-10 (NASB)

Here is a word that we all use, and in some cases abuse. I am talking of faith. How many of you remember writing letters and signing off at the end “Yours faithfully”? It was written as part of the structure of the letter without much thought. In everyday chatter we talk of having faith in this or that thing, or maybe in a friend. Yet as life often shows us things fail and friends can disappoint us, suggesting that our faith was really blind hope.

What is real faith? The book of Hebrews 11:1 tells us “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The book of James 2:26 further tells us that the evidence of faith is found in our actions. Real faith is not a wishy washy blind hope, but the exercise of the soul trusting God and proving it in daily life. When I read 1 Thessalonians 3 I was struck by the detailed list of what I now call “The Elements of Faith.” Let’s not waste words as I share them with you now.

The Thessalonians’ faith is to be encouraged by Timothy (3:2), and It is also our duty as members of God’s family to encourage our brethren to greater faith. The enemy will afflict us tempting and trying our faith (3:4-5); our strength in faith hampers Satan’s plans against us, thus he endeavours to disable your faith by any and all means. Faith is a comforter (3:7) to the brethren in Christ who witness your faith in action, particularly those in need of encouragement amidst times of personal tribulation. The next element is closely linked to the last, faith brings joy (3:9)! In times of pain and sadness there is nothing better than a big slice of joy, it brings momentary relief from what ails us. The practice of faith witnessed is a joyful sight, to the witness and the one doing the faithful act. Faith must be prayed for (3:10) in the church family, in the name of Christ and, also often personally for ourselves, that we all may increase in acts of faith in our daily walk with God.

Dear reader, be encouraged today to not just pursue Godly faith but to also put it into action. In your practice of faith take note of faith’s partners in action; faith and love work hand in hand doing God’s work (3:6). Acts of faith are borne of love, for God and also for our brethren. Let us pray to our Father, seeking guidance and strength for our faith today.

Beachcombing The Word of God

Leven Beach, Fife, Scotland on a Summer’s day.
Photo by Alan Kearns.

The words of the Lord are pure words;
As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.

Psalm 12:6 (NASB)

I remember fondly many hours beachcombing as a boy, scouring the beaches of the Fife Coast searching for anything of interest. Even if nothing was found a good time was had in the salty North Sea breeze blowing in off the Firth of Forth. Occasionally a shell, pebble or smooth green glass would catch my attention. I would wipe the treasure clean and dip it in a rock pool to see it in all its glory. I have never found anything of significant value over the years, certainly no silver, but I find silver everyday in my Bible.

Searching God’s Word is certainly as time consuming and as pleasurable as any beach search, the major difference being that we will always find treasure in His Word. How much biblical treasure we find is completely dependent on how much we search and how often. An individual who excelled at searching God’s Word was the Dundee Evangelist Robert Annan, who dedicated whole nights to the Word and often more than one night.

Dear reader, how much time do you give to searching the Word of God? Not just reading it but praying over it and dissecting the phrases for deeper understanding, just like examining your beach finds and washing it in the rock pool water. Such attention to your Bible will deliver greatly, building you up in your walk with Father God.

New From Old

that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Ephesians 4:22-24 (NASB)

Yesterday I was reminded of a simpler time, when I was a boy in our village. The pride of every lad was his wheels, his bicycle whether it was new or old. We all knew and respected one elderly man known as “Spadgie,” a big strong ex-miner who walked with a stick. What endeared this man to the village lads was his expertise with bikes; he could fix any problem needing attention. But he particularly specialised in building bikes at a low cost from recycled parts. Spadgie worked out of his garden shed a few doors away from me, I remember visiting him in his wee workshop. His shed was an Aladdin’s Cave of old bike parts of every make, colour and shape, most of which he was given by villagers. Many times in my childhood wheels or brakes were renewed on my bike by Spadgie at little or no cost. Not long after reminiscing of this old gentleman I found myself reading todays verse, I saw a connection between my memory of Spadgie and the Scripture.

When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour we are “born again” and renewed in God’s family. We give up our old life and sinful ways, putting on our new self as one puts on a new coat. Our old corrupt self is like an old rusty bike with dodgy brakes and bald tyres; through His Son God takes us into His Workshop to refurbish us. We come out afterwards fit for the road ahead of us. Our newly refurbished man/woman is superior to the old one in every way; we bear the hallmarks of our Maker in our new life of holiness and righteousness. As villagers in Dundonald recognised Spadgie’s bikes by his work, the world recognises those saved by faith in Jesus – they bear the unmistakable traits of a child of God.

Dear reader, have you swapped your old self for a renewed self through Jesus Christ? Is your life a constant witness to your Father God’s love for you; do you bear His hallmarks each day shining as a light in a dark world?

Guddling in The Bible

Rock Pooling the Scottish coast.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105 (NASB)

Who remembers rock pooling as a kid during the summer holidays? I remember our family holidays to the caravan park on the hillside overlooking St. Andrews beach, it was a haven of delights. My nephews, neice and myself disappeared all day down to the beach like explorers in a foreign land. The Scots language for rock pooling is “guddling.” It’s the same term used to refer to fishing for trout with your hands from a river bank.

My heart gets excited as I read God’s Word. In my mind I think it is like guddling on the beach at lowtide, searching the shallows and the deeper pools, turning over rocks to see what lies beneath. Reading my Bible is a fishing adventure for my soul. I must confess I squeal with delight at my Bible discoveries like I did when guddling on St.Andrews beach all those years ago.

Dear reader, do you get excited reading and searching His Word? Get yourself a mug of coffee or tea and open your Bible today. Grab your highlighters and notebook and go guddling in His Word – the treasures you will find in its pages will enrich and excite you, and also it is fun!

Devotion to His Word

The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.

Acts 17:10-12 (NASB)

This post was originally posted on the 4th May 2020. I have editted it and made some changes for todays version.

I read the above text recently and it struck a note in my heart, which had me asking myself “How do I measure up to the Bereans?” Do I study God’s Word effectively, or can I do better?

The example of Bible study the Bereans set for us is a good approach to personal Bible study. “These [Bereans] were more noble [fair-minded] than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with eagerness [all readiness], examining [searching] the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” (Bold text in brackets mine).

The first description of the Berean Christians suggests that they were yielded to God in their approach to the His Word. They “received the Word.” As we approach our Bible study, we also need to be willing to receive and apply any and all biblical principles found in its pages.

Second, the Bereans were intentional in their approach to Bible study. They came to the Scriptures “with all readiness” looking for truth. They had an eager mind, a hungry spirit for His Truth. It was not a matter of reading a chapter to fulfill their Christian duty based on a daily reading plan, but rather having a real personal desire to seek and understand the truth of God.

In the third place, the Bereans approached Bible study with a word by word study of the Scriptures. They “searched” the Scriptures in their pursuit of truth. Theirs was not a superficial fast reading, but reading questioning the meaning of individual words. The Biblical use of the word “searched” means “to sift” as a baker sifts flour separating every particle. When you
study the Bible “word for word,” you are “sifting” every word of Scripture to try to understand what God is saying in it.
As we invest time researching the meaning of words and expressions used in Scripture, we gain insights missed by those who skim over passages in their reading of the Scriptures.

The fourth characteristic of the Bereans was their routine of “daily” Bible study. Each day these Christians had a fresh personal encounter with God through their study of the Scriptures. On a daily basis they were reminded of God’s merciful compassion toward His people. Just as Jesus instructed His disciples to pray for daily bread (Matt. 6:11), so we need to go daily to the Scriptures which is the Bread of Life to every believer.

The fifth characteristic of the Bereans was that they searched with purpose in the Bible. When the Bereans wanted to know anything specific they turned to the Scriptures. They studied “to find out whether these things were so.” They were concerned with the content of Scripture and the accuracy of it. They sought assurances from their Bible study.

Dear reader, we should follow the Bereans’ example in our own Bible study, we need to check out all Biblical teaching we receive in church, on social media and YouTube for ourselves. Sadly too many folk accept what they hear without confirming the validity within the Scriptures.

Dear Father God, thank You for Your living Word, the Bible. Please fill me with a love for reading and studying Your Word, that I might draw closer to You and be a better servant. Amen.

A Riverside Memory

Coul Den Reserve, Fife.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord. “For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NASB)

In my long recovery from my recent illness I have been grateful for the prayers of many good friends, I won’t name anyone but they know who they are. I treasure them and their prayers.

Today I sit looking out my window at rain and the trees dancing in the Autumn breeze, I am really hankering for a woodland walk in Formonthill Woods. It has been a long time since I had the breeze off the Lomond hills on my face, filling my nostrils with the sweet scent of harvest. One of my favourite places is walking the path next to the Black Burn (river) through Coul Den up to Formonthills. The babbling waters and the twittering of warblers make it a blessed place. I often stop at a bend in the burn beside a blue iron bridge to reflect and pray, it is beautiful under the dappled shade from the willow canopy on the banks. There is sometimes the bonus of seeing birds at the waterside, Grey wagtail and Dipper being the most frequent. Yes, I miss it a lot but today I thank God for my memories.

I feel closer to my Father God in these precious moments, more so than in other places. At such times I am reminded of the first psalm and Jeremiah 17 with their references to trees. There is something pleasing in being likened to tree resting by flowing water, what more could one ask for? Especially so since the source of the refreshment comes from our Heavenly Father in whom we trust. In His provision there is no need to be anxious, His river of blessings flows through eternity itself. What a balm to my soul this has been by the virtual waterside, sitting in my old armchair today.

Dear reader, fear not what life may throw at you today. Dunk your roots deep in His river bank, let Him sustain and sooth you.

In Memory of Dora

Today I want to share something personal with you dear reader. This morning I received very special delivery from my postman, a handwritten letter from a dear sister in Christ. It was a reply to a letter I sent recently, after being prompted in my devotions to reach out. There is a blast from the past for you, actual letter writing. It may be old fashioned but it is still a valuable method of sharing with folk you care about.

I have known ‘L’ for many years, she is a spiritual mother to me having cared and prayed for me constantly. Do you have a spiritual parent in your life, not necessarily your birth parent? I am so thankful for Godly saints such as ‘L’ who spread the Love of Christ in the church family in this way. My dear sister has had serious health issues and our Lord has preserved her in this, praise His name. In light of her trials it was quite pertinent that she quoted the above scripture from Romans to me, it makes it stand out when applied to our lives. Our God is amazing, this very scripture was on my mind yesterday…a classic example of a God-Incidence. What a blessed assurance this scripture gives us; that nothing in our life can separate us from God’s love for us, wow!

‘L’ told me about an old saint who was a spiritual mother to her in recent years, her name was Dora. This lady was a fervent prayer warrior. Just for a moment, stop and think of such prayer warriors in our churches or in our lives. We must remember them in our devotions and thank God for them. Dora our sister was recently “Promoted to Glory” just short of her 100th birthday, but before she left she sent prayer cards to all her friends. ‘L’ has passed her one on to me and, today I pass it on to you dear reader. We never met Dora but her final act of intercession for the saints of God has reached and blessed us today.

Finally dear reader, I hope you have been blessed by this message of Christ’s Love shared. I would pray that you are challenged by the example of ‘L’ and Dora; who can you bless today?

Just Wait!

Someone once said that everyday is another lesson in life. I think this is more so for the child of God, everyday is an opportunity to mature further in our walk with our Creator. Not all days are great revelations or massive blessings from Heaven, sometimes there is silence. We have prayed and read His Word, but there is no immediate reply. The silence is not rejection from God, it is a time of reflection for your benefit. Waiting is exercise for your personal faith, God will answer at the right time and in the right way. Dear reader, sometimes we need to be patient and faithful – just wait!

Just Wait

The sun sets and rises each day
Whatever the weather,
God hears the prayers we say
In our private chamber.

Sometimes birds don’t sing
Yet they are still there,
Heaven may be silent
But the Almighty is forever near.

Time continues forever onward
Minutes and hours passing,
Heaven hears your eager words
Just wait, an answer He will bring.

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:28-31

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:24-26

Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

Hope in the Darkness

“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. “Even after my skin is destroyed,
Yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold,
And whom my eyes will see and not another.
My heart faints within me!” JOB 19:25-37

If you have been reading my recent posts you will know I am reading the book of Job at present in my devotions. It is a book which is dreaded by many based on third hand information, that it is not a jolly read. To a certain extent this is true as it does deal with Job’s extreme trials and mournings. Oh but believe me it is a precious book, it has touched my heart deeply. There is heartbreak, pain and yes, there is humour too. But my favourite passage thus far has to be the one above, how my heart soared and celebrated these sacred words.

At this point Job has lost everything, all his wealth, children, and health. His life is hanging by a thread. He really believes he is going to die soon. His wife and neighbours mock him, and his friends are no comfort at all (Job16:2). In such depths of deep despair rather than whine he praises God; “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives…” What an amazing testimony to this man of God, despite all that has happened his faith is rock solid in his Redeemer. He knows that He lives!

These words are etched in my memory from when I was a member of The Fife Youth Choir, and singing Handel’s “Messiah.” These words spoke to my soul and stayed in my memory, eventually years later I was able to sing them for real – “I know that my Redeemer liveth!” They played an important part in my salvation, preparing the ground for the seed of the gospel. This simple refrain has stayed with me through many dark moments, mainly relating to my health.

Not only did Job know that his “Redeemer lives,” but he was also certain of his eternal destination where he would meet his God. What astounding faith in distressing circumstances, no matter what life threw at him he held firm to God. I have peeked at the ending, don’t judge me…we’ve all done it, right? God rewards Job’s faith in God in difficult times. His God is our God, He is the same today as He was then. He rewards faith in Him in the trials of life.

Dear reader, our Redeemer Kinsman is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He bridges the gap between us and Almighty God, our Father. No trial or tribulation can break that bond, therefore rejoice for our Redeemer lives!

Our Destiny

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. JOHN 6:44.

In this day and age we are possessed by the idea of destiny; many seek their destiny in daily horoscopes in newspapers or websites. A common refrain we hear is “it was destined to happen,” or even “we were destined for each other.” But these are mere sugar-coated sentiments based on crossing your fingers and wishing for the best. I was never a big fan of that wishy washy nonsense, when I became a Christian I set my destiny based on the certainties of God’s Love and His infallible Word, the Bible. There is nothing vague or uncertain about the sure promises of God, He is a Holy God who does not lie.

The chosen verse from my morning devotions mentions a subject (predestination) I have pondering on lately, and my heavenly Father thought it was time I heard what His Word said. What an amazing God, He hears our prayers and answers them. It is important to the understanding of this that we accept that God is Almighty; He is all powerful, present in all, and that He know all things in the past, present and future. There must be no question of accepting the Bible as the faultless Word of God, trustworthy as our Believers Guide to The Galaxy.

The doctrine of destiny (predestination) is a big deal and the subject of many strong debates, which can be good but also it can be negative. In my humble opinion as a common man let’s keep it simple and base it purely on the person of God and His Word the Bible.

According to what our Lord Jesus says in John 6:44, no one can come to Him unless they are first “drawn” to Him by God the Father. The word “drawn” can be seen in the Greek as to figuratively “drag” someone. This certainly gives a very strong impression of God’s purpose in saving us from sin. Do not be mistaken, this is not a matter of being forced; God knows our weaknesses even before He created the world (Ephesians 1:4) and He knows how to rescue us (draw us) from sin. He has the answers to our eternal needs before we were even born! He shows us a better way through Jesus His Son and draws us to Him by loving us (Jeremiah 31:3, Hosea 11:49).

In my opinion this mind-blowing truth is what makes His work of Salvation so amazing, despite knowing our failings almighty God has chosen each of us to have the opportunity to be in His family. He knows who will accept the drawing and sadly, those who will reject it. Our destiny is set, and is known by Almighty God. You won’t find this in any newspaper horoscopes, or as I call them “horrorscopes.” God has pulled out all the stops to save each of us, that our eternity is with Him in Heaven and not in hell. What amazing Love He has for us his creation, it is my sincere hope that all who read this grasp this reality and secure your future in Him.

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:28-30.