Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts.
[Proverbs 21:2 NKJV]
We all like to feel that we are right; that we did the right thing; behaved well in difficult circumstances; made the right choices in life. We all want to hear “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”
The reality is often very different. Maybe we cover our inadequacies with a veneer of righteousness, or maybe we are blind to them, or perhaps they overwhelm us. Solomon in his Proverbs tells us the every way of a man is right in his own eyes, so if you are bold and ambitious that is the right way to be; if you are weak and faltering, that too is correct.
We look around us and see examples of people on the world stage who each believe that they have right on their side. They will all fall on their faces — their pride, arrogance, self-righteousness will be their undoing ... and ours also, unless we choose wisely.
We all have that choice: serve ourselves or serve God. It always comes down to that; death or life; me or Jesus, who will prevail in my life?
The Lord who weighs your hearts, knows the answer.
Do we “follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth”? He will take us through the strange dark things — we must follow Him “whithersoever He goeth.” “For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and He shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17)
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.
[1Peter 4:12-14 NKJV]
When Glasgow School of Art was destroyed by fire for the second time in 2018, just as it was nearing full restoration after a fire four years earlier, it seemed like it was the death knell for the iconic Charles Rennie Mackintosh building; much to the despair of many in the Art World. Yet, two years on, work is progressing to rebuild and improve the infrastructure of the building; even with a global pandemic halting everything in March.
There are likely to be many obstacles yet to be overcome before it can return to any sort of normal; but the will is there to make it happen. This is an obvious and recent example of the devastation fire brings. It changes the nature of the thing burned; producing lifeless ash and rubble where there once was vitality and purpose. But hope remains; and there are four references in The Bible that give substance to that hope, showing that God is a consuming fire ... He burns up the lifeless remains and in so doing re-animates what seemed lost; but more than that, the life He restores is changed into something altogether new. This is from Deuteronomy...
Hear, O Israel: You are to cross over the Jordan today, and go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourself, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the descendants of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the descendants of Anak?’
Therefore understand today that the LORD your God is He who goes over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and bring them down before you; so you shall drive them out and destroy them quickly, as the LORD has said to you.
[Deuteronomy 9:1-3 NKJV]
In these verses we see the reality of the changes His consuming fire purposes in our fiery trials. Mention is made here of the nations greater and mightier than yourself, meaning those spirits which possess us —like fear, anxiety, pride, selfishness and others — and we will dispossess them, and we will understand why He is as a consuming fire, for He will destroy them; making us anew. It gives a whole new meaning to fighting fire with fire. Fighting a destroying fire with The Lord’s holy fire brings resurrection life instead of loss.
We can see now, surely, that resurrection life is ours to possess now, not just in the hereafter; such is the love and care and mercy of our amazing God.
“Ye are the light of the world.” We have the idea that we are going to shine in heaven, but we are to shine down here, “In the midst of a crooked and perverse nation” (Philippians 2:15). We are to shine as the light of the world in squalid places, and it cannot be done by putting on a brazen smile, the light must be there all the time.
Our 200th Post
Now David came to the two hundred men who had been so weary that they could not follow David, whom they also had made to stay at the Brook Besor. So they went out to meet David and to meet the people who were with him. And when David came near the people, he greeted them.
[1 Samuel 30:21 NKJV]
Are we there yet? The two hundred men so weary that they stayed at the Brook Besor (the cheerful river), seemed to have given up on the journey. They preferred the comfort of not making the effort to follow David; perhaps they wanted the easy way out.
David’s mighty men at this point numbered six hundred — which might be considered ‘a double portion’ of the three hundred that Gideon was granted to gain victory over the Midianites. However, a third part of David’s force were ‘so weary’ that they could not follow David any longer. The four hundred were contemptuous of those who stayed and would not share the spoils, but David greeted the two hundred so weary and said:
“My brethren, you shall not do so [refuse to share the spoil] with what the LORD has given us, who has preserved us and delivered into our hand the troop that came against us.” [1Samuel 30:23 NKJV]
There is a beautiful lesson to be seen in this story, which is that we should not judge harshly those who weary in the fight. Not all of us have the vigour to push through against all adversity. Some recognise their limitations — or maybe ... just maybe ... they have conserved or recovered their strength in a time of rest to make the difference in the final stages of the conflict. Certainly, David refused to condemn their insufficiency; instead offering equal shares of the gains to all. All had played a part when the end of the matter was resolved.
For who will heed you in this matter? But as his part is who goes down to the battle, so shall his part be who stays by the supplies; they shall share alike.”
[1 Samuel 30:24 NKJV]
Each has a part to play and not one is greater than another. What the King has allowed shall not be gainsaid by his subordinates. Sometimes the incomplete picture has more to say than a finished work. Only The Lord can say, and if anyone else tries to intervene, we can truly state who will heed you in this matter!
Thank you, Lord — you see the bigger picture; the greater good; the completeness that we cannot. Help us to hear only Your voice and ignore the scoffing and protesting thoughts that would threaten Your peace.
In the New Testament, “world” means the system of things which has been built on God’s earth, the system of religion or of society or of civilisation that never takes Jesus Christ into account.
Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret—it only causes harm.
[Psalm 37:7-8 NKJV]
Do not fret — it only causes harm, says the Psalmist. To fret is to be anxious and continually worry over a problem or a situation. And it causes harm; not only to our own health and well-being, but also to those around us. It is said that bad news travels faster; and so it is with fretfulness — we only have to see the dramatic rise in mental health issues during this plague year to understand that the pandemic affects not only those who have contracted the virus but many of us who have not.
In Psalm 37 the word is used to denote anger, literally to burn, or to melt. This is often a response to fear-inducing circumstances. When startled or frightened our first reaction is often an angry one.
But Psalm 37 encourages us to rest in The Lord and wait patiently for Him. Not always an easy thing to do — impossible maybe by our own efforts, but with patience (because you have kept My command to persevere - Revelation 3:10 NKJV) and understanding ... and The Holy Spirit’s help, resting in Him becomes easier — retraining our fears into spiritual rest. He will do it.
Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ [Isaiah 41:10 NKJV]
“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
How much evil has begun to threaten you today?
What kind of mean little imps have been looking in and saying; “Now what are you going to do next month — this summer?” “Be anxious for nothing,” Jesus says. Look again and think. Keep your mind on the “Much more of your Heavenly Father.
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
[2 Timothy 3:12-17 NKJV]
Yesterday morning as I prepared to walk our small excitable Jack Russell terrier, I felt that the top of my head needed protecting from the increasing cold as Winter approaches, so I put on my favourite head-warming hat and went out on the walk. All during the walk and up until now, the expression ‘wearing Horace’s hat’ has recurred with an insistence that I can only attribute to the Holy Spirit.
In a sense it is a second-hand (or second-head) hat, as it originally belonged to a dear man of God, who we were more than blessed to know for some years until The Lord took him home. His story is an amazing one — too long for a short meditation like this — but it is one that should be told in time. It is an inspiring testimony and tells of a man who found a deep abiding faith, overcame many obstacles (not the least of which was being unable to read), pastored a church in Cambridge and went on to be a mainstay in a Christian community in Ireland, where he was known locally and with respect and affection as “The Horace”.
He was, without doubt, a man of God, and someone who, by his example and advice helped deepen my own faith and those of any who knew him. He had a quality that is essential in any man of God; that of always pointing away from himself and towards Jesus Christ.
The scripture reading today seems so relevant to this dear saint. He continued in the things which he had learned and been assured of; and he was most emphatic about the one from whom he had learned. To me, he seemed ‘thoroughly equipped for every good work’
He is not alone among those who have been guides and mentors in this walk of faith; there have been ‘a fair few’ over the years, but I am always glad when I bring him to mind, and proud to be ‘wearing Horace’s hat’.
“What I tell you in darkness” — watch where God puts you in darkness, and when you are there, keep your mouth shut.
When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a precious message for someone else when you get into the light.
Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.
Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive.
For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.
[2 Corinthians 2:8-11 NKJV]
This is what I read this morning from Oswald Chambers’ “Devotions For A Deeper Life” :
Let me share a very puzzling situation. You have all had experiences, I’m sure, in which people listened to clear Bible teaching, but failed to enter the kingdom of God. Yet, before that same congregation, a speaker gets up and shares a rambling testimony and—to your astonishment—people are born again.
I have attended the City Mission in New York City several times, for example, and I have never once heard correct biblical teaching there. But recently, I heard a man who had been wonderfully saved get up and tell what he was and what he had been. Then four or five others did this too. The Spirit of God got hold of the people in the congregation. Before I knew it, people went to the altar.
These rough men knelt down and prayed with them, and the seekers “struck something,” as they say there. Something struck them!
I have been ‘much exercised’ as we sometimes say, in what Our Lord is doing in this hour — in this time of testing and trial. It occurred to me that it is always a time of testing; life is a continual struggle. It has it’s joys and sadnesses, triumphs and tragedies for sure, but that is not in the centre of us. What is our core and character? Some preachers have talked of having “a Jesus-shaped hole” in that centre, something which can still be there, even if we purport to be believers. There can be a block in letting Jesus fill us with His heavenly presence, and the block can be needing to ‘empty ourselves of ourselves’ first.
How is that accomplished? Paul suggests the way, and that is to reaffirm your love to Jesus. All flows from that one basic premise. But that love needs to be tested — tried in the fire of adversity and struggle, to eliminate the block. That love and passion for Jesus must be backed by obedience to Him in the spirit of forgiveness.
What this comes down to in the end — and where Oswald Chambers found a very puzzling situation — is a deep abiding relationship with Jesus. It is not about teaching, or learning how to follow a set of rules; it is being obedient in all things.
The first thing to do in examining the power that dominates me is to take hold of the unwelcome fact that I am responsible for being this dominated because I have yielded.
If I am a slave to myself, I am to blame for it because at a point, away back, I yielded myself to myself. Likewise, if I obey God, I do so because I have yielded myself to Him.
And he said, “Open the east window”; and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot”; and he shot. And he said, “The arrow of the LORD'S deliverance and the arrow of deliverance from Syria; for you must strike the Syrians at Aphek till you have destroyed them.”
[2 Kings 13:17 NKJV]
This is another of these Bible phrases that grabs my attention — the arrow of the Lord’s deliverance. This whole passage in 2 Kings is about the death of Elisha and his final message to the King of Israel.
An arrow is an instrument of conflict which pierces the body and wounds or kills. It requires a skilled archer to wield it effectively. Elisha in his last moments proclaims that it brings deliverance — salvation. The Lord’s deliverance — in this case — from Syria, which from its name represents an exalted place, and furthermore, at Aphek, meaning a self-contained fortress.
This would suggest that in his final pronouncement, Elisha was raging (for he was angry) against pride and arrogance — self-exaltation.
Then he said, “Take the arrows”; so he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground”; so he struck three times, and stopped.
And the man of God was angry with him, and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times.”
[2 Kings 13:18-19 NKJV]
Elisha knew that our pride is likely the last thing in us to go — if at all! We must persevere in our dedication work to ensure that we destroy pride completely. We cannot stop until the job is done — without being half-hearted about it.
This leaves us with Elisha’s command to “Open the east window.” A window is an opening in a wall that lets in the light — and a window to the east reveals the sunrise; the light of a new day dawning. Only when the light of The Lord shines can we see salvation.
The greatest note of triumph that ever sounded in the ears of a startled universe was that sounded on the cross of Christ — “It is finished.” That is the last word in the redemption of man.
GEORGE and GILL STEWART
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