Here in Australia we are all used to hearing about alerts. We have alerts for fire season, heat waves, strong wind warnings, and now with COVID we are on alert for updates and restrictions that need to be in place.
As Ecclesiastes 1:9 says “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
In other words, Jesus, over 2,000 years ago, also gave warnings, and told us to be alert.
As Christians being prepared and being alert go hand in hand together. Aaron spoke last Sunday about us needing to be ready and prepared, like the wise virgins and their lamps.
We need to be ready and watching, that is, to be alert. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us to ‘be alert and of sober mind’. Various versions of this Scripture use different words to help us in our understanding.
We are called to be vigilant, self controlled, watchful, disciplined and keep a cool head.
So what are we alert to?
1 Peter 5:8 goes on to say that ‘Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’.
This is a very descriptive picture. Lions stalk their prey and they wait until their prey is either facing away or distracted and then they pounce.
Here is why we need to be alert. As soon as we look away from Jesus and His purpose for us, or when we are distracted and thinking only about ourselves, these are the very times when we are susceptible.
This is why it is so important to be alert to what the Word says. How can we defend the devils attempts if we have no ammunition?
Remember Jesus, when He was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights and the Devil came along and tried to tempt Jesus?
Jesus was alert to the tricks and temptations of the devil and He was prepared to combat them. You know how? He quoted Scripture. He fought with the power of Gods Words. The devil had no show—he simply can’t stand up to the power of God. But we need to remember the devil is a ‘try hard’. He keeps trying to knock us over, to send us into a spin and move our focus away from Jesus.
So here is our challenge. We need to be prepared and armed with God’s Word and His Holy Spirit and be ready and on alert to what God has in store for us to do. How we can serve others. What we can say to speak truth into the lives of those we meet. Do we have locked in our hearts the reason for the hope we have in Jesus? And are we on the lookout for when we can share that hope?
Let’s be alert. Let’s be vigilant in our faith journey.
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.
“Be Imitators” - 1 Corinthians 11:1
‘Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.’
Paul calls us to imitate him as he imitates Christ. It seems like such a simple idea when we first read this verse, but it has many layers. Imitation is an important concept taught in several places in the New Testament.
We are told to imitate
· God, as His beloved children—Eph 5:1
· Jesus—-’I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you’ John 13:15
· Mature believers— ‘Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith’ Hebrews 13:7
There are also a number of other references in the Word. We are also warned to be careful not to imitate evil, 3 John 1:11 and to avoid even the appearance of evil. 1 Thes 5:22. We are counselled to shun evil companionship because it will corrupt good morals. 1 Corinthians 15:32-34
Paul was a leader and was calling believers everywhere to also become leaders. A leader is someone who knows where they are going and is able to take others with them. There are both good and bad leaders. A good leader takes others to a good place. Bad leaders also take others to a place, but it is not good. In Matthew 15:14 Jesus warned, “They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.” God called Paul, and us, to intentionally be an example to others; the question is what kind of example are we being?
Whether we like it or not, someone is watching each and every one of us, and our lives are influencing them. Are we leading others closer to Jesus by what we say and do or farther away? There was a bumper sticker on a car that read… “Follow me to So-and-So Church.” It begs the question, “If someone follows you, will they end up at Jesus Christ?”
One thing that is clear is we can’t imitate someone we don’t know.
Horatius Bonar is quoted as saying:
‘Be much alone with God, and take time to get thoroughly acquainted. Converse over everything with Him. Unburden yourself wholly-every thought, feeling, wish, plan doubt to Him...He wants not merely to be on good terms with you, but to be intimate.
Let us be intimate with God, so that we can imitate Him and help others to follow and experience Him, His love and Salvation.
Lord and Heavenly Father, thank You that You are perfect and offer safe and wise counsel. Your ways are faultless and loving and we long to be more like You. Would You please help us to know You better, so that You can direct us further and show us how to live a life that is rich in generosity, compassion, love and grace? We thank You for Jesus who shows us the way, may we draw nearer to Him each day. Amen.
“Be of good cheer/courageous”
50 because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” NIV Mark 6:50
This Sunday we launch a new preaching series—another aspect of restoration for our souls. We are looking at the ’Be’ series; starting with Be of good cheer / courageous.
Are you anxious? Do you worry? If you say yes, you are not alone. The world is filled with anxious and fearful people and there are many reasons for people to feel this way.
COVID for one is causing change—change in peoples freedom, employment, finances and health. All these and many other things are valid for people to be concerned about.
However, there is good news: As we look at this Bible Verse we can see Jesus, reassuring his friends, the disciples. He is saying don’t worry, don’t be afraid. I am here!
James 4:8 assures us with these words. ‘Come near to God and He will come near to you.’
When we have times when we feel like the disciples and feel we are sinking, our world is crashing about us and we want to yell ‘stop the world, I want to get off!’ we can simply draw near to God. Our loving and faithful God is not an absent, far away, impersonal God. He is a caring, courage giving and assuring God. One who gives His peace which surpasses all understanding.
How do we get this? We simply get close to Him. Invite Him in to our space. He is not pushy and will only come if we invite Him.
So our invitation is to draw close to the One True God who offers His love, care, peace and comfort. What are you waiting for? Ask Him today.
Lord, I draw closer to You because You have promised to draw closer to me. Thank You for Your precious promises that give me comfort, courage and strength. Show me the way to everlasting life. Purify my heart that I may hear You clearly and obey Your commands . Help me remove the distractions that get in the way of giving my heart to You in its entirety. Show me I ask, how to walk with You daily and to follow Your leading and feel Your comforting presence.
In Jesus name, I thank You. Amen.
“To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul.” NKJV and
“Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You.” NKJV
This Sunday will conclude our Restored Soul in Psalms series, and what great words to finish on.
Here David is declaring very succinctly a number of factors:
Firstly David references God as Lord and makes it very clear who he is addressing. Then he says he lifts up his soul or offers it up to God, or some translations say I turn to You. It is not a once off thing, it is not past tense—I have lifted up my soul. This shows us it is a conscious and deliberate and regular action—In Psalm 143:8 David asks for God to show him His lovingkindness in the morning. Again it is a daily process.
David also makes it very clear that God is someone who is trustworthy. He is confident that the Lord would not let him down or let his enemies overcome him. David lifted up his soul to the Lord in trust. He believed no one who put their hope in God would suffer disappointment. When we read of David’s life, we know that David experienced firsthand the treachery that the world offered.
Today let us too remember to lift up our heart, our soul, our very life to the Lord. Like David, let us express our trust and confidence in the Lord, and tell Him how much we appreciate being able to rely on Him as our faithful God.
Today, let us make that concerted effort to ‘lift up’ God—praise Him up, shout out His love we experience each day—tell everyone who will stand still long enough just how good your Lord is to you and how He can be for everyone, they only need to invite Him in.
As we do this, we can be attentive to our God and allow Him to show us His path for us as individuals, as a family and as a church.
Just as these verses begin and end with lifting up our soul, let us rise to the challenge for today and everyday hereinafter to lift up our soul to God at the beginning and at the end of each day.
In fact let’s start right now!
Father Lord God, I thank You today for the gift of praise. Thank you for revealing Yourself to me through Your Word, by Your Spirit, and in Your creation, that I might stand in awe of You. I lift up my soul in adoration to You. You alone are worthy of praise and glory and honour, for You have created all things, that in all things You might be preeminent. For every request that I offer, every supplication that I raise, and every intercession I make, let me never neglect to render the praise You are due. In the name of my Saviour, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
“Applying the ‘Prayer’ Principle”
Psalm 138:3 “When I pray, you answer me and encourage me by giving me the strength I need.” TLB
What a great summation of prayer is this verse! Scripture is filled with many prayers and for many occasions and needs. As we read the accounts of all different people, in all different ways who seek the Lord in prayer, we can learn and gain a deeper understanding of God and His character. We also see the benefit for their soul.
Here are just a few prayers recorded in the Bible, but there are many more:
· The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:5-15) Probably the most well known, Jesus taught this to His disciples. It is a great pattern for our own prayers.
· Abraham’s prayer for Sodom (Genesis 18:16-33) An example of intercessory prayer which finds its basis in God’s Character
· David’s prayer for pardon and confession of sin (Psalm 51). When we sin against God, we need to restore our friendship with God. This prayer is a classic prayer of repentance.
· Jesus’ prayer of Submission at Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46) Jesus asks for the cup (Crucifixion) to be taken away, for another way, but then prays for the Father’s will to be done most of all.
· Nehemiah’s prayer for success (Nehemiah 1:1-2:9) Nehemiah hears of the suffering of the returned exiles. After grieving in fasting and prayer, Nehemiah prays for success — and commits himself to God’s will for his life
· Paul’s prayers for the Ephesian believers (Ephesians 1:15-23; 3:14-21) Here are Paul’s prayers for Christians, then and now, to really understand the heights and depths of Christ’s love for us.
This snapshot shows us that when God says in Philippians 4:6 to pray about everything He means it. He is attentive, He hears, and will answer according to His will and for our best. We only need to believe. What’s more, prayer is good for our souls. If you are not praying regularly, be encouraged, start today, even now!
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ‘Phil 4:6 NIV
Wherever you are today, God is there for you, He will answer your prayers, He will make you bold, and He will provide you with strength for your soul!
Prayer: O loving Lord, give me the desire and will to pray more. Break down the barriers in my heart that tell me I don’t need you. Instead please show me how your love nourishes me. You bring me peace, and Your Spirit gives me clarity. Guide me and teach me, O Lord, to be faithful in my prayer life. May I be transformed to be more like Christ, my Lord. In Jesus name, Amen.
“Applying the ‘Still’ Principle”
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.” NKJV
Psalm 23 is probably one of the most well known. It paints a poetic picture of giving praise to God as the ‘Good Shepherd’. It is full of assurances, even in the face of trials.
This Psalm is so helpful to help us reflect on being still before God and quietening our soul.
The Passion Translation puts the first few verses this way….
1 Yahweh is my best friend and my shepherd.
I always have more than enough.
2 He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love.
His tracks take me to an oasis of peace near the quiet brook of bliss.
3 That’s where he restores and revives my life.
He opens before me the right path
and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness
so that I can bring honour to his name.
When was the last time that you were still before God and simply allowed Him to minister to your soul, by being quiet and open to hear Him?
It is so easy, in our often fast paced life, to just keep going from one thing to the next like a bee buzzing to each flower.
God knowing us so well, as He created us, knows we need to take time and be still. It is not just a good thing to do, our souls require it and benefit from it.
Psalm 46:10 is a great one to read to help your mind to stop. It is a simple method but an effective one— break it down as below, taking a deep breath after each line and experience how it can allow God in to your soul to bless you...
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know that I.
Be still and know.
Loving God, please grant me the peace of mind and calm my busy soul. Give me the strength and clarity of mind to be still and allow You to show me the path you have laid out for me. I trust Your love God, and know that You are everything that I need. I give You thanks and praise for being my God and personal Saviour,
“Applying the ‘Preserve’ Principle”
“The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.”
I hope you, like me, have been enjoying looking at Psalms over the past few months. There is just so much in the Psalms—when we take all the Psalms together, in the context of Scripture, we can begin to grasp the full truth of who God is and how He relates to us.
Today we are looking at the ‘preserve’ principle. When we read this verse as a stand alone—it can be taken out of perspective and misunderstood. To think that because I am a Christian God is going to save me from every problem is only going to lead to disappointment.
The tense of verb used here is to be applied to the present and future. It is right to understand that at every moment, God is watching over us. God is with us, caring for us, even in times of hardship and suffering. God is ’keeping’ us from going under during our times of difficulties. Furthermore, God will ultimately take away from us all suffering and sorrow. As Psalm 71:30 affirms “though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter, You will restore my life.” This restoration happens, however partially in this life, and fully in the next.
Consequently, when we hear the good news that God keeps (preserves) us from all harm, we can celebrate all the ways God does protect us right now. We are invited to rejoice in the fact that, no matter how difficult our lives might be today, God is with us now and forever. Our future is secure in God’s strong, gracious hands.
Loving God, thank You for Your Word, that shows us who You are and what our relationship with You can be. Will You please help me to not fear the future but to boldly trust that You are in control when my emotions plunge me down, and when I am in despair. And times when I can’t talk and don’t have the words to express, please help be to ‘be still and know that You are God. Be my Preserver, Comforter, Healer and bring me peace, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
““Applying the ‘Remember’ Principle”
Psalm 103: 1-6 I bless the holy name of God with all my heart. 2 Yes, I will bless the Lord and not forget the glorious things he does for me.
3 He forgives all my sins. He heals me. 4 He ransoms me from hell. He surrounds me with loving-kindness and tender mercies. 5 He fills my life with good things! My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! 6 He gives justice to all who are treated unfairly.
This week we are looking at the remember principle. Some of us are better at remembering than others, but we all have our moments, don’t we?!
We are going to be exploring Psalm 103:1-5 with Pastor Bill on Sunday. In looking at these words, written by David we see that David took the time to reflect and remember God. He writes his immediate response is to Bless God and His Holy name.
I wonder is that always our response?
David continues, to make a declaration that he wants to be intentional in remembering what God has done, that he describes as ‘glorious’.
I wonder is that our response also?
David doesn't stop there, he records the wonderful things that God has done for him, but also for all of us who accept Jesus as Lord and God as our loving Father.
I encourage you to read the whole Psalm it is a long list of what the Lord has done for each and everyone of us. Here are just a few things David lists, that we too can bless God for:
¨ Ransoms us
¨ Surrounds us with loving kindness and tender mercies
¨ He gives us good things
¨ Merciful, tender even when we don’t’ deserve it
¨ Slow to anger
¨ Full of kindness and love
¨ Not grudge bearing or continually angry
¨ Remover of our sins
¨ A tender and sympathetic Father
¨ Lord of angels
This list is not exhaustive, but gives us a glimpse into who God is. He is for us, He loves and cares for us. We were reminded of His comfort for us last week. He is all we can ever need. He is worthy of our thanks and praise.
Let us remember to bless our glorious God and never forget all He has done, does now and has promised to do for all eternity. Amen!
“Applying the ‘Comfort’ Principle”
If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
When I thought, “My foot is slipping,”
your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul.
Life can be really stressful sometimes. There are many daily issues we have to deal with that often have the potential to bring stress into your life. Then there are those times when we have to face difficult and challenging issues that can even be life changing. So how do you handle those situations where the stress of life can easily feel overwhelming?
One of the things to remember is that in the midst of trouble, you’re never alone. God is always there to walk with you through the situation. And while the trouble may not go away, God’s peace is there to comfort you. So even when things get really tough and really crazy, God’s comfort is still there to see you through any and every situation.
How does God do this? He may comfort you through a friend speaking an encouraging word to you. He might guide you as to how to help relieve some stress in your life.
He also provided someone to be our comforter. Jesus told His disciples in John 14:7: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” KJV
The Amplified version of this verse describes Holy Spirit as our Helper, Advocate, Intercessor-Counsellor, Strengthener, Standby.
Whatever it is, God will help bring you comfort when things get tough.
So today be encouraged. As crazy as life seems at times, you’re not walking it alone. You’ve got God to walk through it with you, to comfort you and to help you find joy in the midst of trouble.
We simply have to be willing to receive. It is a conscious decision to be seeking with our heart, soul and mind the leading of the Lord, through Holy Spirit. We do this by prayer; reading and meditating on Scripture and inviting Holy Spirit to minister to us.
2 Cor 1:3 tells us that we are comforted so that we too may be a comfort to others. Let us not forget that and be ready with joy to give God praise for comforting us, and then equipping us to be God’s comfort to someone else.