Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Scratch the Surface

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,  and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1:18-19

What makes a person a Christian? You’ve made a commitment to Christ. You’ve said the sinner’s prayer and been baptised. You attend church every Sunday.  You play Christian songs on your CD. You can recite several Bible verses by heart. Is that all?

There are lots of things about the Christian life which can be deeply indicative of a person’s relationship with Christ, yet at the same time can be superficial artifices if not accompanied by the heart. The Pharisees and Sadducees play an important role in the gospels. We are aware of how hypocritical it is possible to become within a religious community. Christ had harsh criticism for those who had all the trappings of office and respectability but no comprehension of who Jesus was. Pride and judgement crept in and destroyed them. Lord, save us from this, we pray.

In the past few days I’ve been reading through the book of Ephesians. Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus is one which reminds us how much God values each of us – individually and as part of His church. His church are the men and women throughout this world who have committed their lives in faith to Jesus Christ, receiving Him as their Saviour, believing that He is the Son of God, our only possible way of being saved, forgiven and in restored relationship with our Heavenly Father. The church is not a building, or denomination, although these can be part of the outworking of God’s people. The church is people.

Such is the relationship between God and His church that the Bible tells us that
“His [God’s] 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 according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ephesians 3:10). Angels and demons will marvel at what God reveals to and through His church.

This is why the church itself is such a target for satanic attack and throughout the centuries has been plagued with rifts and dissent. The most powerful tool on earth for benefitting mankind – individuals, communities and nations can only be effective if it maintains unity, integrity and love. The final chapter of Ephesians includes the well-known passage regarding the spiritual armour of God needed to withstand the attacks of the enemy.

God has really laid two points on my heart here. We should never be critical of church communities which are very large and growing in numbers rapidly. When we reach Heaven, God’s church will be praising Him throughout eternity, thousands upon thousands. Also, we should be concerned about the many Christians who no longer attend church at all, for whatever reason.  It was never part of God’s plan that Christians should be so hurt or so distracted that they discontinue meeting together. Church communities and they as individuals are the poorer without them.

So what’s the whole reason for the church? What’s the reason to be a Christian? First and foremost, it’s to glorify God. God made the heavens and the earth and everything in it to display His glory. Secondly, it’s all about relationship – a love relationship between the Trinity – God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, which has now been expanded, as is written in Ephesians chapter 1, to include God’s adopted children – us! Other chapters in Ephesians describe how this love of God is to be reflected in our relationships with others.

How do we change from superficial church attendance once a week and lip service to God to deeply committed Christians who try their utmost to live a life pleasing to the One who has given us everything? How do we grow in faith and relationship?

In chapter 1 of Ephesians, verses 15-23, Paul prays for the church, outlining attributes which assist both personal and corporate growth. The church at Ephesus was reputed to be faithful to Jesus and loving to all the church there. To begin with, they have an overseer in Paul who is praying over them and giving thanks for them. We need to be responsible and thankful for those whom Jesus has trusted us with.

Paul asks God to grant them wisdom and revelation to know God better.
He wants them to be aware of the hope that they have.
He wants them to know of the riches that they have in Jesus.
He wants them to understand the power that they have at their disposal, through Jesus Christ.

These are just as much available to individuals and communities today as they were at the time that Paul wrote those words.

We were all once dead in sin, unable to make things right with God. The devil still tempts us and lies to us, trying to convince us that we will never be able to be right with God. Jesus alone makes it possible to change our status before God, and our lives here on earth, and our relationships with others. The chronic drunkard becomes sober. The hopeless depressive becomes joyful. Marriages are healed. Broken lives are restored. These things in themselves are cause for celebration, but there is a deeper, everlasting joy that underpins it all, because a new found relationship with God means more than any earthly happiness.

In one of David Wilkerson’s sermons, he makes the point that when a bride is ready for her wedding ceremony, she looks at her best, beautifully clothed and radiantly anticipating her new life with her greatest love. David postulates that when Christ returns to this earth to take His bride, His church, to Heaven to be with Him, He will not be collecting a scruffy, ragtag remnant. I believe, with David, that there will be a great revival in the church before Christ returns, and many saints will be added to congregations throughout the world. The book of Revelation tells us that there will be great tribulation in this world before Christ comes again. It is the role of the church to be God’s witnesses throughout the nations. In a world which seems to be becoming increasingly dark, God’s light will shine out, a beacon of love and hope.

Dear Heavenly Father God,
I come to You in prayer, with praise and thanks for who You are, almighty and wonderful Father. Thank You for the privilege of prayer. Thank You for the gift of Your Son, Jesus, who honoured You in all He did, and who paid the price for my sins, that I could come to You in faith through Jesus. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit who is with us in this life as Comforter and Counselor. Father I pray for Your church in this world, that You would equip us as communities and individuals for ministry in the many and varied places and tasks that we are called to. Give your church wisdom, power, love and unity I pray.
I pray in particular for those Christians who are holding fast to their faith in countries where they do not have the freedom to practice it openly, and in situations where they are being persecuted, imprisoned and suffering. May they know the fellowship of prayer which is being offered for them and may Your mighty presence, power and provision be their comfort and strength.
Thank You for this opportunity to reach out to others over the internet and I pray Father for anyone reading this who does not yet have a relationship with You through Jesus Christ, that they would be encouraged to know You through talking directly to a Christian minister and by reading Your word, the Bible.  
Lord, we love You and long for the day when You will be known throughout this fallen world, and when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all.
Father we give You all the praise and honour which is so rightly yours.
We come to You in the precious name of Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015


Once when I was a little girl my family went on a picnic in the Yorkshire Moors. We were on holiday at that time. My brother and sister suggested we play hide and seek, and I was to hide my eyes first and count to a hundred. After counting, I searched for them among the surrounding heather, to no avail. After a while I realised that they had used the opportunity to take off without me.
Whilst I’ve experienced many and worse rejections throughout my life, that one incident stands out for me as a time when I learned that other people are not always kind, or fair, or truthful, or inclusive. Unfortunately it was also one of the many incidents throughout my childhood which caused me to believe, erroneously, that I was not as likeable or as worthy of friendship as other people. Living on the edges of social groups became a pattern that I was to repeat for decades.
I believe now that a spirit of rejection entered my life at a young age, one that has been dealt with, but still hangs around every now and again, hoping to re-establish its ugly presence. It brings with it all the lies of Satan – you’re no good, nobody likes you, you will never fit in, etc. etc.
Many people struggle with rejection that batters their self-esteem. People who have been adopted wonder why they were given up at birth. Children may feel rejected by a parent as the result of divorce. Sibling rivalry may cause children to feel rejected by a parent. Abuse, bullying, interactions within social media, breakdown of friendships all cause anxiety and isolation. The end of a relationship can cause feelings of rejection, as does unfaithfulness within marriage. Failure to gain employment or a promotion may also cause feelings of rejection. 

Derek Prince, who has written and spoken on the subject of spiritual strongholds and warfare, asserts that there is a strong spirit of rejection connected with Australia. The indigenous peoples have felt rejected by the European society which replaced that in which they lived. The first European settlers were transported convicts, unwanted by a society in which they lived in dreadful conditions. People who feel rejected often reject others, and may find it difficult to believe that God loves them. The first church built in Australia was burned down by convicts, and a great harvest of faith is yet to be experienced in this nation.
Even churches can cause feelings of rejection. A pastor or ministry leader can give great love, time, effort and resources to a church only to have his or her ministry undermined or attacked. The Bible tells us “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10) Rejection accomplishes all of these. It steals our peace and sense of self-worth. It establishes strongholds which can be difficult to penetrate. It destroys families, churches and our Christian witness. Sometimes it can tempt the person who feels rejected to hurt themselves. Feelings of rejection can keep us from living the life that God intended we should live, with purposeful and vibrant relationships.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus showed compassion and love to those who were made outcasts by the society in which they lived - tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, the sick and old, those of a different people group such as Samaritans.
Jesus knew what it was like to be rejected. He was betrayed by a friend. He was deserted by others. He was mocked and scorned and finally killed by those whom He came to save. He wept over the hardness of hearts of those He encountered in Jerusalem. He could have become angry over His treatment, He could have retaliated, yet He chose to forgive. He understands how we feel and is our comforter and strength. The Bible tells us

" For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:15,16)
Praise God, rejection was part of His plan for our redemption. When Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit stood before the Sanhedrin, he proclaimed what was prophesied in scripture:

"Jesus is "'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.' (Acts 4:11)

In the second part of the verse of John 10:10, Jesus says “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” We have an abundant life in Jesus. The Bible is full of verses which remind us that He came to save us and bring us into relationship with God, through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross. We are of such great importance to Him that He died for each one of us. He longs to include everyone in His family. The angels rejoice when a sinner repents and turns to Jesus. His concern for us was so great that when He ascended to heaven, He sent His Holy Spirit, the Parakletos, the One who comes alongside, to be with us throughout this earthly life.
At times we all feel rejected and hurt by other people, and knowingly or unknowingly have caused others to feel isolated or rejected. Be aware that as Christians, we will at times be rejected by others in the world which does not honour God, simply because we have different values and lifestyles which challenge what is accepted or popular. We need never feel rejected by God however, because we can believe His promises in the Bible. Here are just a few examples and by regularly reading God’s word, you will be fortified against feelings of rejection and filled with His love and peace.

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” John 6:37

“You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts and said to you, 'You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'” Isaiah 41:9.10

"Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.” Isaiah 49:15.16
“The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God..... Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,  says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”  (Isaiah 54: 6 and 10)
“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24
“May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.” Psalm 119:76
“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19
"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16,17)

Sunday, 8 March 2015


As I travel in my work throughout the day, I meet many different people. It’s my prayer that everyone I encounter will be blessed and encouraged by God. We who are Christians do not need other people as our primary source of strength, as God has given His presence and sent His Holy Spirit to be with us always until we return to Him in Heaven, yet we still enjoy the presence of others. We were created to be in relationships, for God Himself is in the triune relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
When I meet other Christians, there is a sense of belonging, even when we meet as strangers. With God there is something more than just chance encounters. At times I believe He organises circumstances so that we meet people who need a touch from Him. The gospels are full of encounters where Jesus was waiting to talk to someone who needed Him, or was approached by someone who had a need . If you commit in prayer to have the Holy Spirit direct your steps, then encounters will happen.
Sometimes I meet other Christians that I know out and about, or pass them on the roads as I drive, and there is always a sense of blessing and encouragement to know that God is at work in our world, with us and through us, to bless each other and be a witness to others who do not yet know His love.