Sunday, 22 April 2018

Walking by faith and not by sight

We walk by faith, not by sight. v7
Those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. v12
That those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. v15
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. v16
(2 Corinthians 5)

What does it mean to walk by faith and not by sight? In the context of 2 Corinthians 5, Paul is talking about individuals who are impressed and try to impress by outward appearances and the trappings of faith. But we know that, "The LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart." (1Sa 16:7)
While it is true that what is inside will be shown by what is outside. It is possible for dissemblers to display an outward appearance of faith they do not walk in. This was Jesus' main point of contention with the Pharisees.
To walk by faith and not by sight in this context means we do not judge ourselves or others by external measures. Whatever might seem impressive to worldly men. Rather we are to recognise that what really counts is a sincere heart that is right before God. We make it our ambition to be pleasing to God rather than impressive to men!
So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 2 Corinthians 5:9

Friday, 13 April 2018

Endurance and Encouragement

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4 ESV
There is a symmetry between endurance and encouragement. Endurance is the voice from within that says, "Don't give up." and "I'm not going to quit!" Encouragement is the voice from without which says, "Keep going!" and "You can do this!"
As a runner (in recovery) I know the value of both. I particularly think of the county road relay races. A relay is different from an ordinary race in that your team mates rather than running at the same time as you, if they have finished their race, stand at the sides of the course and cheer for you as you run past. Coming round the last bend of the course you dig deep into your reserves of endurance for a last kick for the line, and at the same time receive the encouragement from those who have finished their race who shout at you to finish strong!
It is like that for those who are running the good race of faith. Everything that happened in the past serves for our instruction and encouragement. All those who have finished their race are now part of the great cloud of witnesses who silently cheer us on as we run our own race of faith.
The best way to honour those who have finished their race is to pick up the baton and to run ours.

[Originally posted to Facebook 19/03/18]

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Two kinds of testimony

Endurance produces character Romans 5:4
It seems to me that there are two kinds of testimonies. There are the accounts of the times when faced with trial or difficulty God miraculously steps in and saves us from having to go through them. The diagnosis that turned out to be false. The financial need that was met with a cheque in the post. These are the testimonies we are most comfortable sharing, because we think they best display the goodness of our loving and merciful heavenly father.
But if this is the only kind testimony we know how will we reach maturity? Does a loving father always protect his sons from difficult situations? Does he not desire that they learn how to face and overcome them? To reach maturity we need to move beyond believing that God is good because he does what fits with our narrow definition of what is "good" and reach a point of conviction in the nature and character of God that he is always good even when the circumstances do not meet our expectation.
This is the second kind of testimony. The one we are less comfortable sharing. It is our confession of the goodness of God in the times where he does not save us from facing the trial. It is the maturity that comes from the cross. An understanding that God is still good even in the situations that are evil. It is the maturity that comes from walking in the footsteps of Christ. He who did not shrink from the time of trial but fixed his sights on the glory that would follow.
Endurance produces... No trial is pointless. There is a glory to follow that outweighs the afliction. This is our testimony. Not just that God has done good. But that he IS good, all the time and in every situation!
[Originally posted to Facebook 07/03/18]

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Increasing in strength

and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Acts 9:19 NIV
But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. Acts 9:22 ESV
Again there is so much in this chapter. There are five accounts of God taking a bad situation and turning it around for good. Saul, from foe to faith, and from blind to baptised. The believers in Jerusalem, from fear to fellowship. And the raising up of two of the believers. One from eight years of paralysis and the other from death!
But once again it was a small detail rather than the broad brushstrokes that caught my attention. Saul recovered his strength by eating food, but grew in strength by doing the will of God!
It reminds me of what Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work." (John 4:34)
We are strengthened by food, but strengthened "all the more" by living in the will of God.

[Originally posted to Facebook 11/02/18]

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Faithful faith

"But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." Daniel 3:18
You cannot separate faith from faithfulness. An integral part of "having faith" is remaining faithful!
Some see this statement of Daniel's friends as a step down in faith, because they are entertaining the possibility that God may not do the thing they are hoping and trusting for. However, to my mind it is the greatest statement of faith! Their faith is in God not in what he can do for them, and this is a profession of unconditional loyalty even at the cost of their lives!
True faith is not the refusal to consider the alternative, but the refusal to compromise or yield.

[Originally posted on Facebook 10/02/18]

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Favour and Afflictions

God was with him and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favour and wisdom. Acts 7:9b-10a
If you need any more evidence that being full of the Holy Spirit makes you speak take a look at Acts 7! Talk about a long answer to a short question! 
There is so much in this chapter I feel I shall have to return to it again to give it more attention. Stephen was a man full of the Holy Spirit, full of grace and power, and clearly full of the word of God. There is a strong implication made at the end of this chapter that the end of Stephen's earthly ministry was a catalyst for the beginning of the apostle Paul's.
But, to the verse I selected...
Afflictions and the favour of God. Not two things we often put together. Yet in the scriptures we find them together all the time! Not least in this very passage, where Stephen sees the glory of the risen Christ and is stoned to death in the space of six verses!
It is a mistake ever to equate the presence of afflictions as the absence of God's favour!

[Originally posted to Facebook 09/02/18]

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Worthy of dishonour

Then they went out from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be dishonoured on behalf of the Name. Acts 5:41 HCSB
"Worthy of dishonour"
Think about that for a while. The kingdom we are a part of works on very different principles to the world! When we are consumed for the honour of his holy name we will be less preoccupied with our own promotion and recognition. There is glory to be found for God's name even in the most humbling of circumstances.

[Originally posted to Facebook 08/02/18]