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Meditation No. 12

Meditation Title: Persevering


Jas 1:12,13   Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;


We said in the previous meditation that we are now moving on to consider trials that the Christian goes through and what the Lord achieves by them. We might wonder at times who the author of the trial may be. Sometimes we bring difficulties upon ourselves but it would appear that ‘trials' come expressly from God and they may come, depending on the nature of them, via Satan.

James starts out these verses in general vein but moves into specifics. Initially he speaks generally about a ‘trial' or ‘test'. Students know all about tests which are designed to see how much the student has learned. Lawyers know all about trials which are designed to weigh and assess the defendant of any case. Thus the Lord uses these things to check the state of growth of his children. A father may entrust his child with a particular task to see whether they are ready to take on responsibility. All these things have the same outcome – the revealing of the truth about an individual.

Now the outcome that the Lord wants, according to James, is twofold. The first thing is implied and the second thing is explicit. The test or trial, first of all, is to see if this person is going to persevere in their faith, i.e. keep on going under tough circumstances. We learn perseverance through trials. The temptation will always be to give up or give in. If you ever had to do long distance running at school or college, or even later in life for recreational purposes, you know what this is about. Somewhere along the course tiredness hits and you wonder why you are doing this. But you have decided to do it and do it you will – so you persevere and keep going.

Perseverance is all about keeping going. When you eventually die and go to heaven as a Christian, the one quality you will go with, is perseverance, for many times in life the pressure will be on, from circumstances and the enemy, to give up! The writer to the Hebrews said it quite clearly: “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us .” (Heb 12:1). The apostle Paul was able to say to Timothy, “the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim 4:6,7) i.e. I have persevered and stayed the course! Someone once said of a particular distance runner, “He often looked like he was going to give up – but never did!” That was perseverance!

The second outcome is a reward from the Lord. It is the Lord's “crown of life”. The same reward is mentioned in Rev 2:10 . A crown is a symbol of position or of authority or of success. It says that this person is worthy of what they have. ‘Life' as from God is the experience of the presence of God Himself who is the author of all life.

A crown was often given as a prize for winning a race. Listen to what the apostle Paul said: “ Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Cor 9:24 ,25) There it is! Earthly runners run to get a crown at the end of the race, but that crown won't last. The ‘crown' we receive lasts for ever – indeed perhaps the crown is eternal life in heaven; that surely is the reward we get for persevering in the faith in this life.

But there is often a negative aspect to trials and testings, and that is temptation, which is why James says, “When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone,” because as we said earlier, the test of is often to overcome a temptation – sometimes the temptation to give up or give in. The temptation isn't from God, even though He allows it. Yes, He may stand back and allow Satan the opportunity to tempt – as he did with both Job and Jesus – but the temptation comes from Satan himself. Thus earlier we saw the double references to David being incited (by God and Satan) to number his army (see meditation no.3). It was in line with the Lord's desire to reveal David's heart that Satan came and tempted him into this act of pride, and David fell for it!

God tests us so that we may overcome and triumph and persevere, while Satan tempts in order to try to bring us down. If we have allowed sin to reside in our lives, then we make ourselves vulnerable and we may well fall (only to be picked up again afterwards), but God's preference is that we overcome and persevere in our faith and do not give way to the temptation. Yet He does uses, trials, testings and temptations to teach, train and discipline us so that we may grow in the faith and mature. May that be the outcome in our lives!







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Meditation No. 13

Meditation Title: Intimacy


Rev 2:17   He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.


In a previous meditation I wrote, “ we can boil the Gospel and everything we read in the New Testament down to the fact that God wants and works to bring us back into relationship with Him whereby as little children with their Father, we rely utterly upon Him.” We have also, in general terms, considered us being overcomers. Now in these present verses these two things come together. Again there is the encouragement to become an overcomer, someone who perseveres and presses through whatever trial or difficulty we may be facing, especially when it has been originated by Satan. At the end of each of the letters to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor , seen in the book of Revelation, we find this encouragement to ‘overcome'. It is a necessary encouragement because in every case there is something that is either wrong and needs putting right, or there is a trying situation with which they had to cope.

But here in this particular one there is a promise for the overcomer which shows us something quite different. There is a twofold promise. First it is to receive “hidden manna”. Now of course manna was the food provided by God on a daily basis to the children of Israel while they were wandering in the wilderness before entering into the Promised Land. Manna, therefore, is divine provision. But this is ‘hidden' manna, food that is not obvious but which God will provide for those who overcome. So the first promise is of daily ongoing provision.

The second promise is of “a white stone with a new name written on it, known only him who receives it.” Now there has been much discussion among commentators as to what this stone refers to. White stones were given on days of festivity and celebration; they were also used in courts to announce innocence or acquittal, and they were also given to the victor in the games. In addition they were given to close friends on which the donor's name was inscribed as an indication that the recipient would always be welcome in that home. Finally they were also given to people to invite someone to a sacred feast in a temple and the stone was inscribed with the deity in that temple.

Now if we put all those things together we find that the stone indicates celebration, acquittal, victory, friendship and intimacy in worship. This stone speaks of all of that but note that it is given by Christ to the overcomer. The fact that it has a name on it which no one else knows, speaks of a special intimacy between Christ and the overcomer. Now whether the name on the stone is a name of Christ or of the overcomer, we are not told. But it is a new name. It indicates that either the overcomer will be given a fresh revelation of Christ and will see and know him in a new way, or it signifies that Christ has a new intimate name for the overcomer. Husbands and wives and lovers, tend to have ‘pet names' for the other person, names that only they know, names that indicate a special intimacy. That seems to be the sense of the picture that is conveyed in these verses, that when we struggle against the trials and tribulations that we face in life and overcome, then we will receive a new dimension of intimacy with our Lord.

Why should this be? Well apart from the obvious – that he has promised that this is how it will be – there may become a new awareness that we have overcome only because the Lord himself drew near and was our support, encouragement and provider of grace that brought us through. It may be that there is the sense of comrades who have fought shoulder to shoulder and triumphed, those who alone have been through that unique battle. It may be that having gone through such a battle there is also a new awareness of the love and grace of God that is there for us, which we simply hadn't appreciated until it was there for us in these circumstances. We realise in a fresh way that he truly is there for us and that means he fights for us, provides for us and stands with us.

We come to appreciate these things only when we have been through such battles and, dare we say it, when we have failed and fallen and he has picked us up and restored us! In those times, there is a new sense of closeness and intimacy with our Lord, and they are only there in such times. Otherwise we may talk the words, but it is the experience of it that counts – having been through the battle, staggering and almost going down, only to find that Christ is there alongside us, and he reaches out and supports us and lifts us and sees us through it even though we don't deserve it. As we come out the end of it we find ourselves clinging to him like we never have before. There is a new level of intimacy and it only came about because we battled together and overcame together. Hallelujah!







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Meditation No. 14

Meditation Title: Learning Authority


Rev 2:26   To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations


Authority seems a strange subject in Christian circles. A number of years ago the so-called Restoration Movement received bad press as it sought to establish authority within the church – authority of leaders over the flock. In that sense authority only existed when the flock gave the leader authority. Authority meant having a say in that person's life. It was supposed to be an extension of discipling but no doubt in some cases went too far.

We find talk of authority when Jesus first sent out the disciples: “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” (Mt 10:1) Note in this case authority was given from above and authority here involved the exercise of power – power to expel demons and to bring healing. This authority brought very tangible changes, changes that could not have come about unless God had moved through them.

We also see authority being mentioned when Jesus gave his disciples what we call the Great Commission: “Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt 28:18-20). Note the logical order there: Jesus now has all authority in his hands. He has earned it by his work on the Cross. Moreover he is going to be with them to the very end, even though they will not be able to see him. Therefore the man of authority is with them. So, now they can go and do what he has being doing – making disciples, baptizing them and teaching them – and he will be with them to back up all they do in his name, with the authority he has, i.e. it will be Jesus working through them exercising his authority to achieve God's purposes.

Now Thyatira was a commercial centre of communications with many trade guilds who tended to have their own gods. If you wanted to work you needed to belong to a guild but that meant worshipping their gods. One commentator speaking of the false prophetess Jezebel who is spoken against by Jesus in this letter, declared, “She apparently argued thus: in order to conquer Satan you must know him. You will never be able to conquer sin unless you have become thoroughly acquainted with it by experience. In brief, a Christian should learn to know ‘the deep things of Satan'. By all means attend the guild feasts and commit fornication… and still remain a Christian.” This was utterly false teaching that led some into sin that was condemned by Jesus, but it came from a desire to deal with or handle or conquer the ways of the world (by becoming part of it).

No, says Jesus now, this is just the standard stuff of deception, temptation to be overcome. You want to know how to overcome the world? Overcome sin and reject the temptations of Satan and remain pure and holy even in the midst of the world. Don't join the world; be in it but not of it. The call of Jesus for us to be salt and light (see Mt 5:13-16) means that we affect and change the world, not the other way round.

So how do we have ‘authority over the nations'? Three things come out of this verse: first, it comes by us overcoming and doing God's will, for ever. If you are not adhering to God's will you will not have his authority. Second, it is what is given by Jesus. It only comes as he gives it. Just as he gave it to his disciples when they went out to do his will, so he gives it to us as we go out to do his bidding as he sends us. Third, it is the expression of Jesus through us, for all authority has been given to him, and he is the one who exercises it.

So, as we submit our lives to him and refuse to have anything to do with the ways of Satan, as we conform our lives to God's will, He will be able to take us and use to extend His kingdom. For example, in some he will give the gift of prophecy to speak out and declare the will of God. To another He will give the gift of sharing the Gospel in such a way that people respond and are saved. To another He may give gifts of healing to release the captives. To another He may give the gift of wisdom to bring counsel that opens up closed situations. In these and many other ways, He gives us authority so that lives and circumstances are changed. The power and presence of God is manifest and God is glorified. May it be so!







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Meditation No. 15

Meditation Title: Learning to Fight


Judges 3;1,2   These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience


There is something that has been surreptitiously in the background of the recent meditations, something that will have been there probably without our noticing it or thinking about it, and it comes out in today's verse from the Old Testament. It is that when we have to overcome, when we have to persevere, when we have to reject Satan's advances, it is a fight, and we have to learn to fight to overcome.

The concept of a fight or battle or struggle, as being at the heart of the Christian life, is familiar in the New Testament, implied or explicit. For instance, the apostle Paul speaking of his life and ministry: “I do not fight like a man beating the air.” (1 Cor 9:26) and “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor 10:4,5) and “I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight , holding on to faith and a good conscience.” (1 Tim 1:18 ,19) and “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.” (1 Tim 6:11 ,12) and “I have fought the good fight , I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim 4:7)

Probably the clearest passage in the New Testament about spiritual warfare is found in Ephesians 6, in which we find, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” (Eph 6:12) and which is followed by the famous verses about armour. Yes, the Christian life is a struggle or battle or fight to hold onto the faith in the face of Satan's attempts to get us to give up.

So we ask the same question that we have asked again and again: why does the Lord allow him to do this? Surely the Lord could have banished Satan from the earth so that we would be free from his temptations and his accusations and his lies? And of course the answer is, yes, of course he could have done this but he allows him this path to strengthen us.

With the case of Israel, as the verses above indicate, the fact that Israel had not managed to oust all the pagan tribes of Canaan meant that they would be a thorn in the side of Israel, but that the Lord would allow that so that the next generations of Israel would learn how to fight and defend themselves from those who are enemies of the people of God. So what are the benefits of ‘fighting' or struggling' for our faith?

Well, when we are challenged over our faith it makes us think about it far more. I believe Richard Dawkins has been of immense service to the church in recent years, as he has challenged the truth from his atheistic viewpoint. It made me personally think through every issue he raises, much more deeply than I had ever done before, and having done that I realised on what a secure foundation we are. We actually have nothing to fear from the empty words of the crusading atheists – IF we will take the trouble to examine the foundations of our faith. If we will do this we will come out much stronger and clearer in our faith.

When we are challenged over our faith, it also makes us turn to the Lord more. This happened with Israel again and again. The testimony of the book of Judges is that without God we are in a mess but when we realise that and cry out to Him, He will be there for us straight away. Sometimes we need to have our lives challenged to stir us out of the self-centred complacency that we can so easily fall into.

When we are challenged over our faith we don't only have to use our minds but also our spirits. As we turn to God's word and we turn to prayer, we find ourselves freshly in contact with the Lord and His strength flows to us. We hear His voice and we respond in faith and we are strengthened. If you want to be physically fit you go down the gym or go swimming or generally take exercise. You expend energy and effort and in return your muscles harden up and strengthen, and you become fit and able. The same is true of the spiritual world and so it is for this reason that the Lord allows Satan to remain in this world, so that we will learn to fight, learn to exercise and become stronger and healthier.

So, when you are confronted by temptation, deception, accusations and lies, rejoice that you are God's gym and being given the chance to fight and to overcome. As Paul said, “ Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” (Eph 6:10) Our strength comes from Him. It is His power in us that prevails and it is His power therefore that makes us strong. Hallelujah!






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Meditation No. 16

Meditation Title: Revealing God


Eph 3:10   His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms


One of the difficult things of the Christian life – and it is so obvious we hardly think about it – is to remember that there is a spiritual world as well as this material or physical world, and it is as real as the material world. It is the world of God, of heaven, of angels and demons and spiritual powers – at least the New Testament clearly says it is. I have this suspicion that most of us are so taken up with coping with this material world that we don't have much time to think about the spiritual world, yet it is there and it is spoken about in the New Testament.

Now today's verse is, I believe, one of the strangest and most un-thought about verses in the New Testament. It is very simple and straight forward. It simply says that through what happens in and through the church, God's wisdom is revealed to all the angelic and demonic onlookers, and the clear inference is that He is glorified as a result of that.

The apostle Peter, speaking about the prophets who spoke of “the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow,” and how this was all revealed in the Gospel said, “Even angels long to look into these things.” (1 Pet 1:12). It suggests that the angelic hosts are allowed to look on and see what goes on here on earth. It suggests that they can look on and appreciate the wonder of God's wisdom as His love and grace are received and expressed in and through the church. Of course this also includes how we overcome sin and Satan and are seen to be redeemed beings.  

As we triumph God is glorified in the heavens, by the angelic hosts. When Paul starts that verse above with “ His intent was” it suggests that it is part of God's express purpose that He wants to win over the hearts of the angelic hosts. The fact that Satan and a number of the other angels fell (see Rev 12) suggests that angels have free will and have the capability of either submitting to their Creator like we do – or not! It would appear that part of God's strategy is to let them see what happens to us so they can see and realise the wonder of His wisdom and His love.

In the revelation of John we see something of what happens in heaven: “ Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” ( Rev 5:11 ,12) This is the fulfilment of our verse today, the angelic hosts praising Jesus for what he has done. The vision continues, “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" ( Rev 5:13 ) as the praise encompasses Father and Son. The heart of the revelation is declared and sung by the creatures closest to the throne, but all the rest of heaven hears it and understands it: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Rev 5:9,10) It is a simple and glorious declaration of the Gospel and the effect of it.

Why, we might wonder, is it important for God to be glorified? The simple answer is that when He is glorified it is a straight declaration of the truth – He is worthy of all glory because of who He is and what He has done. There is no other like Him. When He is glorified by the praise and worship of men and of angels, it is a declaration of the truth and the reality of existence. It is all because of Him. Such a declaration helps us realise the true order of things. We are not the most important beings in existence. God is! The angels are not the most powerful beings in existence. God is!

Order and harmony exists in existence when the truth is revealed and understood. God uses the church to help the spiritual world understand some of these things. That enables them to live in heaven at peace and harmony. It also reveals the folly of those who rebelled against God and fell from heaven. God uses our lives to reveal all this to the heavenly hosts.

When God acts, the truth is seen. In Mk 1:21-27 as Jesus cast out a demon, God was glorified. In Acts 13:6-12 as Saul triumphs over Elymas, God was glorified. It is a simple recognition of the power and presence of the sovereign Lord, expressing Himself in His love towards men. We have majored in earlier meditations on Satan and trials and tribulations being used as instruments of God, but we must not forget that we too, the church, is also an instrument used by the Lord. Hallelujah!







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Meditation No. 17

Meditation Title: Righteousness Revealed


Rom 6:13   Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.


While pondering just what should be part of this series of meditations, I found myself considering this verse above and realised that any consideration of the instruments that God uses must include us, and the use of our bodies.

When the Bible speaks of righteousness it ultimately means life or behaviour that conforms to God's design for us. God has designed us human beings to live and work in certain specific ways. Those ways become revealed through the Law in the Old Testament and the teachings of the New Testament. They involve living in relationship with the Lord Himself and the life that flows out of that relationship. When we live accordingly, we are declared righteous. Now right at the beginning of this series of meditations we noted that God is working to bring mankind back into relationship with Him. That comes out throughout the whole Bible. It is almost THE primary purpose of the Bible to reveal that. The Lord wants us to understand that and purposefully cooperate with Him as He works to do this.

So ‘righteousness', as we've just described it, is God's ultimate goal for us, but how do we recognise it, and how do we assess righteousness? The obvious answer, of course, is by our behaviour. And how do we assess a person's behaviour? We watch their body. Behaviour, by definition, is what I do with my body.

My body, in Paul's language, is an instrument that reveals my behaviour. I can use it, first of all according to Paul here, as an instrument of wickedness. In other words I can do wrong things with it. If I am violent, that is a very obvious wrong behaviour. If I murder, steal, abuse, rape, or cause damage to property belonging to others, that would certainly fit this description of my body being used as an instrument of wickedness. When we speak badly of others, slander them and are unpleasant to them or about them, we might not think of that as wickedness, but it is certainly not righteous, so it is wicked by definition! Perhaps we need to view our behaviour in a different light. If it is not righteous, it is wicked! How does that make us feel when we review our responses and ways of dealing with other people?

But, says Paul, we who are Christians have been brought from ‘death to life'. In our old life we were dead to God and indeed dead to righteousness. We were self-centred and so really had no sense or feeling of God or of His will for our lives. We were just self-centred and so unrighteous. But now we have been transferred from that old life into a new life where the life of God flows in us and through us as we live out His will, as we give ourselves to Him or, as Paul says, offer the parts of our body to him to be expressions of righteousness. That bears thinking about – how we use the different parts of our body.

Let's start with our eyes; what do we let our eyes feast upon. They are the windows to the soul so we should be careful on the Internet to ensure we avoid certain websites that reveal the abuse of women and children in particular. Pornography definitely does not fall into the righteous category! Do we look at other people with desire? Remember, windows to the soul! David looked at Bathsheba and the rest followed. Be careful how you look!

Our mouths? Words and food and drink. Obviously what we speak is of major importance and unrighteous behaviour is probably as much about wrong speech as about anything else. Excessive eating or drinking results in gluttony and drunkenness. The wrong use of drugs could also be included here. Careful what comes out of our mouths and careful about what goes in them!

Hands? Hands have the potential of conveying blessing or of being used to bring violence or to cause damage. It needs very little explanation. Our feet? Where we allow them to take us can be a cause of our undoing. Again, a fairly obvious thing. The use of our sexual organs? Simply within marriage. These are all fairly obvious things to the student of the Bible but we should not treat them casually for the evidence is all around us in modern society, of every part of the body being used NOT righteously, and so therefore wickedly in Paul's terms.

One might hope that these are all obvious ponderings but they are clearly not so obvious because in so many ways, even for Christians, behaviour is often not righteous, it does not conform to God's design and God's will. Remember what our starting point was – that God is working to restore us to Himself and to the design that He established for us when He created the world. Our part, as Christians, is to come back under the umbrella of His design, His will. May we be found doing that!









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Meditation No. 18

Meditation Title: A Light for the Gentiles


Isa 49: 6   I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."


  There is sometimes a misconception that rises to the surface in discussions about God's activities. It is that God was only concerned with Israel and that the rest of the world was lost to Him. Now in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Outside of the Bible there are occasional indications that God revealed Himself to other nations. The Chinese ancient language indicates such a thing. Inside the Old Testament, for the student of the Bible who is willing to look, there are very many references to the rest of the world and the clear indication is that the Lord wanted to use Israel as an instrument of revelation to the rest of the world, i.e. that they would reveal the Lord to the rest of the world.

  Now the verse that we have above comes from one of Isaiah's so-called “Servant Songs.” These are prophetic songs about God's servant but the trouble is that, as with so much prophetic literature, they are ambiguous and so for one moment it appears that the Servant is Israel , and then the next is that it appears to be some other figure who is yet to come who will reveal the Lord to the world. Of course we now know that this figure was Jesus, the Son of God.

   So let's examine just a few indications that the Lord's intent was to take and use Israel as an instrument through which to reveal Himself to the rest of the world. It must start with Abram and at the end of the first prophetic verses of Genesis 12 we read, “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." Later we read, “Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and   all nations on earth   will be blessed through him.” (Gen 18:17,18) Again a clear indication that God's eyes were on the whole world. It was then reiterated to Isaac: “The LORD appeared to   Isaac   and said, …. .through your offspring   all   nations on earth   will be blessed” (Gen 26:2-4) Similarly to Jacob: All peoples on earth  will be blessed through you and your offspring.” (Gen 28:13,14). Thus to each of the Patriarchs came this same prophetic declaration.

  When we move on to the Exodus and Moses we find Moses stating something fairly obvious: The nations will hear and tremble.” (Ex 15:14 -16) i.e. the effects of the Exodus will be heard in the surrounding nations and the word will go out. This is repeated by Moses a number of times. Eventually he declares in respect of the Law, “Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations” (Deut 4:5,6) and then in the way they will settle as a nation, “Then all the peoples on earth  will see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they will fear you.” (Deut 28:8-10). There are a number of other similar references through Moses.

  On the day that David brought the ark to Jerusalem he wrote, “Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known  among the nations  what he has done… … Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds  among all peoples.” (1 Chron 16:8,24). Indeed among the psalms there are many references to the Lord being revealed to the nations.

  Example to the rest of the world was at its peak in Solomon when he received wisdom from the Lord: “And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. ….. Men of all nations  came to listen to Solomon's wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.” (1 Kings 4:29-34) Oh yes, very clearly the wonder of the Lord's presence and blessing spread across the world through Solomon and through what he did. When Solomon prayed at the dedication of the Temple, he declared these amazing words: “As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name -- for men will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm --when he comes and prays toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that  all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name”.( 1 Kings 8:41-43). There it is, so clearly, this understanding that Israel were to be an instrument to reveal the Lord to the rest of the world.

  This understanding continued right through the prophets. Isaiah is particularly clear about it, for example, “Many peoples   will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from  Zion, the word of the LORD from   Jerusalem . He will judge between   the nations   and will settle disputes  for many peoples.” (Isa 2:3,4). We could continue on and on with examples.

So there we have it: throughout the whole Old Testament period, God's intent is clearly revealed, His intention that Israel should be His instrument to reveal Him to the rest of the world, part of His whole strategy to draw men and women back to Himself. Soon we'll look at the Messiah, the other interpretation of the Isaiah Servant Songs, and see the Son of God as the primary instrument in the hand of the Lord. 








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Meditation No. 19

Meditation Title: We reveal the Lord's goodness


Mt 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.


In the previous meditation No.17 we considered how God brings righteousness to this world through us, through the way we live, through the way we use our bodies. We return to that same idea through this simple verse from the Sermon on the Mount. In that previous meditation we focused on righteousness – living according to God's design. In this present verse we focus on simple goodness. How sad it is that if you speak about being good or about bringing goodness, in certain company you will be mocked for being twee or for being a ‘goody-two-shoes'. That is simply an expression of Sin in the world that mocks goodness. Which would you prefer to live in, a community where goodness prevails or where badness prevails?

God's intention is to restore goodness to His world through His people, hence the reference here to our ‘good deeds'. Goodness is expressed in good deeds. Goodness, like love, will always express itself. Goodness will be seen. Goodness is like light and it should be seen. We the Church should be expressing goodness and it should be seen. It should not be seen as some pious act but as a natural expression of Jesus through us.

Jesus was good to be around, which is why crowds flocked to be with him. They knew that when they were with him, stuff happened! People got healed, people got cleansed, people got raised from the dead, people got forgiven, people got fed! All those things were good things and almost by definition, good things are good to be around! Good things are pleasing and pleasant and enjoyable. When we do good, someone else is blessed. That, very simply, is how God has designed the world to be, how He wants it to be. He wants the human experience to be pleasant,. to be enjoyable – but we don't believe that, for Sin and Satan have conned us into believing it's got to be a hard, difficult world. Actually, no! God wants it to be good! Thus here He talks about doing good things.

Actually it is not rocket science, this is not difficult to understand. If I said to you, “Go and do something that is good for someone else in your family”, you wouldn't have a problem about that; you know the sort of thing that would constitute ‘good'. It would be something that blesses them, something that makes them feel good. You might praise or thank them, or you might help them with something or do something for them. How simple that is!

I always find myself linking this verse with that other key one that speaks about action: “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10). That is an amazing verse. God has designed, created and formed us so that we will be people who do good things. That was His purpose from the outset when the Godhead planned Creation and all that would follow it. But it is more that that; it also refers to me and the abilities that God has given me, so that I will express goodness in ways that are unique to me and so God knows what He wants to lead me into doing. He knows the things that I will be good at doing, the things that are ‘natural' to me, that fit my abilities, and which, therefore, I will enjoy doing and which will bring greatest blessing to others.

There is God's intent clearly revealed: it is to inspire and empower us to be those who bring goodness to His world to overcome the evil that is here. That is why Paul said, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:21 ). That's what goodness does, it overcomes badness. Surely one of our targets as church should be to bring as much goodness into our world as possible for in so doing we will drown out the badness.

Listen to God's word to Israel in the face of their evil and the impending Exile: “I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them , and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.” (Jer 32:40,41) Wow! That is amazing! The Exile may come but God's overall intention is to do good for His people – always! Zechariah prophesied similarly, recognizing that the time of the Exile was hard but it was to bring about a time that would follow that could be good: “now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah . Do not be afraid.” (Zech 8:15) and the result would be that, “In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, `Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.” (Zech 8:23) i.e. the world would want to be with the people of God – to encounter God – because they knew God brought good!

So here it is: God uses us, His people, to restore goodness to this sinful world and in so doing, to bring transformation to it. May He find us available to Him to do that!








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Series Theme: Instruments of God

Meditation No. 20

Meditation Title: The Son


Heb 10:5-7 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, `Here I am--it is written about me in the scroll-- I have come to do your will, O God.'


The subject of this meditation is really so obvious that I almost never included it in this series. Jesus is THE instrument of the Father. As this prophetic word in Hebrews indicates, the Son was given a body through which he would do the will of God. It is clear from his words that he existed in heaven beforehand (see Jn 6:33 “he who comes down from heaven,” 6:38 “I have come down from heaven,” etc.., 8:23 “I am from above”, 8:25 “he who sent me…”, 8:38 “what I have seen in the Father's presence.”) But then he was given a human body, conceived within the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit. This body he used to speak God's words and do God's bidding and, eventually, offer as a sacrifice for sin.

We first see Jesus as God's instrument in Creation. The writer to the Hebrews declared, “in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.” (Heb 1:2) Note that reference to Creation. John declared, Through him all things were made.” (Jn 1:3) In Proverbs we get an early glimpse of this as wisdom personified: “I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep…. Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” (Prov 8:27,30,31). The Son was there with the Father bringing all things into being, is the testimony of the Scripture. This wasn't an occasional thing it was a repeated powerful truth: “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” (Col 1:16)

But it is more than simply him being there at the beginning; Jesus is God's instrument to keep the world going. The writer to the Hebrews continued, “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (Heb 1:3) The Son keeps the whole world going. We take it for granted that it keeps going, but Scripture testifies that it only does so because of the Son, God's instrument fulfilling His will. The apostle Peter referred to Jesus as, “the author of life.” (Acts 3:15). There is more to him that we realise! Paul said, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col 1:17)

But Jesus is also God's instrument to bring His love and blessing to the world. So then the Son comes, and at about the age of thirty we start to observe the things he does: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” (Mt 11:5) On the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter summed it up: “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him.” (Acts 2:22)

In his life and ministry, the Son came as God's instrument to reveal the Father, as he himself said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father….I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me.” (Jn 14:9,10). As Paul said, “He is the image of the invisible God,” (Col 1:15) and “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.” (Col 1:19)

But then there is crucially the fact that Jesus is God's instrument to bring salvation to the world by his sacrificial death: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (Jn 3:16,17) The Biblical quotes for this could almost be endless!

But that is not the end for Jesus is also God's instrument to rule and execute the will of God to the end. Today Jesus is seated at his Father's right hand ruling: “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:24,25) He is reigning, working to bring an end to everything that resists the Father. Today he does that by the work of his Spirit bringing people to the Father. He also works and weaves his purposes into the midst of the affairs of mankind.

One day he will return as a conquering king, at a time of the Father's choosing: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war…. his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter….his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” (Rev 19:11-16) Hallelujah!








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Series Theme: Instruments of God

Meditation No. 21

Meditation Title: The Spirit


Jn 16:13,14 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.


Any series about how God works must be incomplete without reference to His Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity. The ‘activity' of the Godhead is often (but not always) seen as the activity of the Holy Spirit. From the beginning of Creation the Spirit is there: “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (Gen 1:2) The implication is that He is there about to be the arm of the Godhead bringing about what the Father speaks.

His creative ‘flair' is next seen when it comes to the making of the Tabernacle: “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah , and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts.” (Ex 31:2,3) He is the one who enables this man to design and make the Tabernacle, the house of God.

His ability to produce something that was not there before is also seen in the realm of prophecy: “Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again.” (Num 11:25) For that one time he enabled these elders to prophesy; there was unity and a new sense of the presence of God among them. A similar thing occurs in respect of Balaam: “When Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God came upon him and he uttered his oracle.” (Num 24:2,3). Until then he had used occult means to try to conjure up things for his employer but this time the Lord stepped in and produced a profound and beautiful word about His people.

When we move into the book of Judges, we find again and again the Holy Spirit comes on a person to move them into a new dimension of life with abilities to lead, whether that was and emotional thing, a mind thing or simply a power thing, for example, “The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, so that he became Israel's judge and went to war.” ( 3:10 – a general stirring), “Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him.” ( 6:34 – boldness), “Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead , and from there he advanced against the Ammonites.” ( 11:29 – boldness), “The Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands.” (14:6 – great strength), Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power. He went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men,” (14:9 – boldness, courage and strength). In all of these cases, when the Spirit comes, the individual is emboldened, stirred and strengthened. First there was nothing, then there was ability to change and bring about the purposes of God. This is repeated in many ways.

In the New Testament He is seen to be the means of Mary conceiving Jesus, “she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit …. do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit .” (Mt 1:18,20). Luke records, “The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Lk 1:35). Again, where there is nothing, He creates something.

When Jesus was an adult about to start his ministry, we find it is the Spirit who leads him: “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” (Mt 4:1). Now mostly His activity is simply expressed within Jesus and He is not referred to in his ministry. His revealing or guiding activity is beautifully revealed in an old man waiting for Jesus: “Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel , and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit , he went into the temple courts.” (Lk 2:25-27)

When Jesus taught his disciples, he specifically described the ministry of the Spirit as He would continue to work in them after Jesus has gone: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- the Spirit of truth .. he lives with you and will be in you.” (Jn 14:16,17) and “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you .” (Jn 14:26) and “When the Counselor comes… he will testify about me.” (Jn 15:26) and “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (Jn 16:13)

Obviously there is much more we could say about His activities – He baptizes people in Himself and He gifts them with Jesus' abilities to be servants of God to bless, build and expand the Church. In all of these ways, the Holy Spirit is the executive arm or the instrument of the Godhead as He brings about the Father's business.









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Series Theme: Instruments of God

Meditation No. 22

Meditation Title: Purposes Achieved


Gen 50:20   You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives


Over what are now many years of reading the Bible, I have become amazed at the wonder of the Lord's presence and activity in the world. I am convinced, however, that it is like the proverbial iceberg, we only see a tip of it. I am convinced that most of the time most of us see very little of God's activity but He is there and He is active!

I suspect that it is not only do we not have eyes to see but our minds are closed to His activity, either because really we aren't looking (out of unbelief) or when we do look we just don't understand. Through Isaiah the Lord was to declare: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD . "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa 55:8,9) The simple truth is that our thoughts are just not big enough to see the scope of the Lord's activity. He does things, on a long term basis, and we just remain blissfully ignorant! We may quibble on occasion about what is happening or, indeed, why He doesn't seem to be turning up, without realising that this was Him and what was going on was His activity.

In the Old Testament, the story of Joseph is perhaps the best example of the Lord moving to fulfil His purposes. The Lord, of course, always knows the future, so He knows what the activities of the world, or of Satan, are going to cause in the years to come. He sees the outworking (consequences) of all of our acts and so at that time He knew that in about thirty years time there was going come a terrible famine in the Middle East, which would threaten even the lives of the family He has chosen to work in and through. So, thirty years before the event, He starts moving. Nothing would have happened and the crisis would arrive and kill millions, if He didn't speak to a spoilt brat of a young man. What a choice for a saviour!

That was Joseph, favourite son of Jacob and hated by eleven brothers because of the favouritism. God knows human beings and He knows how they will act. He knows how a spoilt brat of a boy will act and He knows how jealous brothers will act – and He also knows when He looks into him, the potential of this spoilt brat! All it needs is a little nudge to set off a chain of events that will result in the world being saved. So He gives Joseph a couple of prophetic dreams because He knows that this foolish boy will blurt them out and upset the brothers so much that eventually they will take action and sell him to slavers who will sell him into Egypt. It is there, the Lord sees, that is the future potential to counter the coming famine, to save that part of the world and the chosen family.

But there's even more to this strategy, for this spoilt brat needs his self-centredness knocked out of him and a sensitivity to the Lord developed in him, and that, the Lord sees, can only come about through the harsh trials of life, of being sold as a slave and then being imprisoned unfairly for fourteen years. When the time is ripe, the Lord will move, again by dreams, and the transformed Joseph will be revealed to the world as the mouthpiece of God and he will put into action a process by which to save the world.

At the end of the story when he is the second most powerful man in the region, his brothers fearfully approach him, fearing he will exact revenge upon them for selling him to slavers, and it is then we find these famous words of wisdom and insight: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Yes, the Lord had used the sinful intentions of men to bring about His purposes of saving the world from themselves.

In the New Testament, of course, the story of Jesus is a parallel. On the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter summed it all up: “This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (Acts 2:23 ) Yes, Jesus death, to take the sin of the world and open the door of salvation, was clearly God's plan from before the foundation of the world. But note how He did it: He used the sinful actions of men, who rose up in jealousy and spite against Jesus to kill him. He wasn't going to put His own Son to death, but the world would, not realising that by so doing they would be inadvertently offering an eternal sacrifice for sin, the Lamb of God.

The two stories show us the Lord who is working for the salvation of the world, to save people from their own stupidity. We cannot save ourselves, but He can, and He does. That is what He is working for on this world. Being God He may be working on a million other things across Creation, but here He is working to draw sinful and stupid men and women back to Himself, and that is where you and I come in. Wonderful isn't it!