Persecution

Hebrews 12:3 and 4 says, “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.”

Jesus suffered infinitely more than any of His followers are asked to suffer. This is a great encouragement when we are feeling weary.

Hebrews 4:15- Jesus does not expect us to go through anything that He hasn’t already been through.

2 Thessalonians 3:12 and 13 says, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life will be persecuted, while evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” Pesecution in some form is inevitable for the believer.

Hebrews 10:33,34- Though they had suffered persecution and loss of possessions, they had not yet had to die for the faith. They’ve not yet had to resist with the pouring out of their blood. Some people WILL have to have their blood poured out for the gospel. Praise the Lord if that hasn’t happened to you,  but some of the “cloud of witnesses” were stoned, sawn in two and put to death by the sword. They are our inspiration. Consider the outcome of Jesus’ life and what He achieved in spite of the opposition. You reap what you sow. And Jesus reaped a marvellous reward . Ecclesiastes 7:8 says, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning”. Consider the end of the matter. Consider the result and reward in Heaven of a godly life. Consider the eternal destiny of your opponents if they don’t repent.

Fix Your Eyes On Jesus

Hebrews 12:2 says, “looking unto Jesus , the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Just as a runner concentrates on the finishing line, so we should concentrate on Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus shot the starting pistol – we started out on our spiritual life because the Holy Spirit drew us to Christ (John 6:44), and He is the one who will perfect our faith. Jesus was at the start and is at the end of the race. He is the One who brings our faith into being and causes it to grow, and He will bring it to maturity and perfection.

Jesus endured the pain, shame and humiliation of the cross for our sake, so we could be made right with God. What was the joy that was set before Him? Luke 15:7 says, “… there will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” The joy was the Father’s pleasure at Jesus’ sacrifice and the repentance of sinners who otherwise would have no means of being made right with God. Furthermore Jesus was glorified at the Father’s right hand. He scorned the shame of the cross – Jesus died as someone disgraced, outside the city (Hebrews 13:13) and He died as someone cursed (Galatians 3:13) Crucifixion was the most degrading kind of execution that could be inflicted on a person, but Jesus scorned its shame because He knew what it would accomplish. Similarly the humiliation of our present suffering for the gospel’s sake is far outweighed by the prospect of future glory.(see Hebrews 11:26 and 2 Corinthians 4:17,18)

Likewise, we too, if we are obedient,  can look forward to the joy set before us . Matthew 25:21 says, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

Now, Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the throne of God. The work of redemption is complete and Jesus is actively ruling with God as Lord over all.

The right hand of God is a position of authority, second only to God’s.

The more you look at someone, the more their likeness is imprinted into your mind. Let Jesus influence your life. Men put blinkers on working horses so they are not distracted by things on either side. If our eyes are on Jesus we should be blinkered to the things of the world that seek to distract us. The Bible is not talking about a quick glance on a Sunday morning, but steadily and continually fixing your eyes on Jesus.

Let Jesus transform you.

Perseverance


Hebrews 12:1,2  says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great  cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”

The Greek word “martus” translated ” witnesses” is the origin of the English word “martyr” and means “testifies, witnesses”.

Here, Christianity is compared to a long distance race and we need perseverance to finish it.

This letter was written to Jewish converts who were familiar with the Old Testament and were being tempted to revert to Judaism or to Judaise the gospel.

The witnesses are the heroes of the faith who were mentioned in Hebrews 11 and they are our inspiring examples. Examples of some of these heroes are Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph , Moses, Gideon etc. They and others through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, were tortured, had trial of mockings and scourges, chains and imprisonment, were stoned, sawn in two, were tempted and slain with the sword. Their work on earth has been done. Now the baton has been passed on – to you and I.

To run this race successfully we need to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and run with perseverance the race that is set before us.

We can take comfort in the fact that this race has been marked out for us. The Lord directs our steps and our stops. If He has brought us to it, He will bring us through it. God says, “This is the way, walk in it.”

The definition of “perseverance” is “the steadfast pursuit of an objective” or “the constant persistence , for example in a belief ”

Throwing off everything that hinders is like someone in a hot air balloon throwing out everything that’s heavy so the balloon can rise. Everything that gets in the way of serving God needs to go.

The Christian life is not a short sprint – it is a long distance race and we will need perseverance. There will be peaks and troughs. Despite all that, we need to keep going. Just as a runner concentrates on the finishing line we need to concentrate (fix our eyes on ) Jesus.

It will be worth it in the end!

Hebrews 10:36 says “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”

Trust whilst in transit

I’m on the train to London today. I have checked where I am right now (near Milton Keynes )  and I know exactly how long it will take me to reach my destination. That’s the sort of person I am. When our family travelled to India on the airplane I was following our progress on the flight tracker. Watching the plane icon travelling over the different countries was comforting to me.

I think it is human nature to want to know where we are at in our journey.

However, in our journey of life we do not know how far along we are. We do not know when we will reach our destination of Heaven. That’s where trust comes in. We are commanded to pray to God for our daily bread and advised to not worry even about tomorrow.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, ” Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding:in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

God knows when we will reach our final destination.  God orders our steps, and our stops and we can only entrust our journey of life to Him.

Be kind

Too many times I have watched grieving parents talking on TV about how their beloved children had been the targets of cyber bullying and had decided to commit suicide. This is heartbreaking. So today I want to remind all of you out there (and myself) to be kind.

In Proverbs 12:25 it says, “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up”

Proverbs 11:16-17 says, “A kindhearted woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth. A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself.”

1 Corinthians 13:4 says, “Love is patient, love is kind.”

Colossians 3:12-14 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

The definition of kindness in the Oxford Living Dictionary is “The quality of being friendly, generous and considerate.” It can also be used as a noun to mean “a kind act”.

Synonyms for kindness are ” affection, consideration, cordiality, courtesy, decency, forbearance, gentleness, good will, goodness, grace, graciousness, heart, helpfulness, humanity, indulgence, mildness, sweetness, sympathy, tenderness, thoughtfulness, tolerance, understanding, unselfishness.”

Antonyms for “kindness” are ” cruelty, harshness, meanness.” (all from Thesaurus.com)

Words are vitally important. They have the power to kill or to bring life. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Words can really hurt someone, conversely they can encourage someone too.

When I speak about words, I am also speaking about the written word on social media. I watched a clip today from the “This Morning” programme where a grieving mother was saying that her daughter had been bombarded with cruel messages , even in the middle of the night. It seemed there was no let up and no way to escape this cruelty. The last message recorded on her phone was, “Why don’t you hang yourself.”. The next day this teenager committed suicide.

Dear friends and readers, can I just urge you today to be kind to others. It doesn’t cost anything to have a kind word to say about someone. If you know of someone who is a victim of cruelty, stand with them and encourage them. If you see someone being excluded try and include them in your group. Be careful what you are writing about others on social media. Would you say that to their face? If you couldn’t, maybe it’s not something you should be writing at all. The Bible says you will give account of every word that you speak.

There is no profit at all in being mean to another human being – it hurts them and it dirties your own soul.

Be kind always.

The Parable of the Talents

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My cousin, Eleanor, sewed this tapestry by hand. It is absolutely beautiful.

Now I’m going to share a bit about my cousin’s life. Eleanor was born in Bradford in January 1974.  Later, the family moved to Leeds and Eleanor attended a special school in Bramhope, Leeds, called Hilton Grange.

She was a very strong and determined young woman who had a passion for sewing. She would sit for hours sewing various rugs and tapestries.

Eleanor had many limitations, and she spent a big part of her life battling an immune deficiency syndrome. Despite that, she had a loving family and later on, a son,  and still she kept on sewing. Eleanor sewed this beautiful tapestry of the Lord’s Supper.

Eleanor sadly passed away in August 2015 but her sewing is still here to inspire us.

I want you to understand today that you may have limitations in your life, but no matter who you are, God has given you talents. Read Matthew 25:14-30.You may have only one talent, you may have many. But, please, use whatever talent you have to bless others. Don’t let other people put limits on you and rise above your limitations. You have a blessing to offer us all.

Cast all your cares on the One who cares for you

1 Peter 5:7 says, “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

In 1985 I attended the Billy Graham crusade in Sheffield, England, with the youth group of my Church . There, I recommitted my life to Jesus. I was given a sheet with some important Bible verses to learn and this verse was one of them.

One definition of “to cast” is ” to throw (something) forcefully in a specified direction.” eg. a fisherman casts his fishing line into the river or a boy casts stones into the water.

God cares about you and nothing that worries you is too insignificant to Him. God can handle any anxiety you have and here you are invited to give everything that is worrying you to Him – in fact, throw it on Him, He will catch it!  He already knows what you are going through but He’s waiting for you to talk to Him.

You were not created to shoulder all your burdens by yourself – give them to God. Let Him handle them.

I can’t count the amount of times that I have given my concerns to God in prayer and He has answered. But more than that, as soon as I have unburdened myself I feel peace. I am confident that God has heard me and He is undertaking on my behalf. People say, “A problem shared is a problem halved.” When you know that Almighty God has the problem in His hands you can relax. You are in safe hands. Turn your cares into prayers.

Philippians 4:6,7 says, ” Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Are you feeling anxious today? Are you worried about the future? Are you sick? Do you have financial problems or relationship problems? Are you feeling suicidal? Are you feeling upset? Cast your care upon Jesus. He loves you so much and wants to help you. Exchange your cares for His peace.

Work hard!

Proverbs 14:4 says, ” Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; But much increase comes by the strength of an ox”

Oxen are messy and smelly. It is hard work to look after them. But, in Bible times, oxen were extremely useful. They were used for ploughing, treading out the corn, for draught purposes (when they were yoked in pairs)and as beasts of burden. By using the oxen in this way, a man could become very wealthy.

However, in order for this to happen, the owner had to take care of the oxen – feed them, groom them and keep them clean. A lot of work was involved.

This Proverb is telling us that with profit comes trouble and hard work. Yes, it’s easier to sit at home and complain that you don’t have any money. But, if you really want to make money, you have to be prepared to roll up your sleeves and start working!

The Bible doesn’t offer a “Get rich quick” scheme. Yes, I do believe that God wants to prosper His children, but I also believe that we have a responsibility to take whatever is in our hand and put it to work.

David was a King of Israel. But before he was a King, He spent years as a shepherd boy, taking care of the sheep, killing the lions and bears when they came to attack the flock and practising throwing stones in a sling. Even after he had been anointed by the prophet, he still went back to his sheep until God required him for something else.

The time David spent as a shepherd was not wasted. God never wastes any of the experiences we have. He spent time practising throwing stones in a sling. He did not realise at that time that he was training to kill Goliath. But God knew that.

Brothers and sisters, be prepared to work hard in whatever you have been called to do right now. Then God will grant you success.

Pray for the police

It’s half term and we have had time to watch one of our favourite TV programmes, “Police Interceptors”. All the family likes this programme and we enjoy watching the police embark on high-speed chases, uncovering drugs hauls, arresting drunken drivers and the like. We have watched them break people’s doors down and use the “stinger” to stop speeding cars. We have been amazed at how cool and collected they are when faced with violent and abusive criminals. They are highly trained and skilled professionals.

In 1 Timothy 2:2 the Bible tells us to “Pray for kings and all those in authority, that we may lead peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

Law and order is important, and the police are the enforcers of this. They are doing an incredibly difficult job and need our prayers. Of course, they are not perfect and may make mistakes, but that should not be our concern. Our concern should be to do as God commands – to support them and pray for them.

 

The Shade of God

Isaiah 25:4 says, “For You have been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat.”

When the sun is overpowering, oppressive and beating down it’s nice to be in the shade – it’s cool, refreshing and protective. It’s the safest place to be in the heat of the day.

“I am shading you”, says the Lord. “You won’t be overwhelmed, I have caused my shade to spring up.”

Let’s look at the story of Jonah. Jonah had just finished reluctantly preaching to the great city of Ninevah. First he had run away from the calling of God, ended up being swallowed by a great fish (a whale) and then was spat out onto dry land. Eventually he decided to follow God’s command and the people of Ninevah, having never had a preacher like this at all before and no doubt astonished by someone probably bleached white in appearance by the gastric juices of the whale, all repented.

Amazing! Yet Jonah was not very happy. He knew this would happen! He was obviously the most reluctant preacher ever. Most preachers would be happy that the whole town repented – not Jonah! He went into a massive sulk! (Another example of how God uses even the weakest of us to accomplish His purposes) So Jonah went out of the city and he made himself a shelter so he could sit and wait and see what would become of the city.

God, in His mercy, provided Jonah with a plant that would provide a shade for Jonah. Jonah was very grateful for this plant.Even in his impetuousness and anger God was there to provide for His needs. How good God is! How kind of Him to look after us even on days when we are not all we should be. He is a faithful God. Jonah was a fallible human, very prone to change and very moody, but God still used him and took care of him.

In 1 Kings 19:4-18 Elijah had had a mighty victory , having executed all of the prophets of Baal. Now he was running for his life and was extremely depressed and discouraged. He wanted God to take his life. But God hadn’t finished with him yet! An angel provided some food for him. The angel said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you”. Then, in the strength of that food he was able to travel forty days and forty nights.

God knows what we need and when we need it.

Maybe you have got so fed up of the things that have happened to you that you have asked God to take your life. Yet God has not done that. Instead He has prepared a shelter for you, a little comfort and encouragement. It might be all you’ll get for another forty days, but in the strength of God’s Word take heart that He has not finished with you yet. If He was, He would take your life. We don’t get to tell God when our purpose on earth is finished. Maybe you feel you have really messed up (and maybe you have) but God is merciful. He can turn a mess into a message. He can turn a trial into a testimony.

God sees your trial and He has prepared a shade for you. You are not facing an onslaught by yourself – you are shaded from the heat by Almighty God. If God is on your side, who can be against you.