A Refuge in the Midst of Change

We live in turbulent times.

The political landscape around the world has changed remarkably in the course of a year, causing many of us to feel unsettled and anxious about the future. Perhaps like me, you face personal changes too? Where should the Christian look for help in the face of change? Whether it’s something that we’re excitedly anticipating or an unsought sadness.

After all we are just like everyone else – subject to all the same challenges and unpredictabilities of life. And yet as followers of Christ we are to be joyfully different too; even when the changes we face possess the power to rob us of the things we value most.

Because when it comes to challenge and change, the Christian knows where to turn. Our trust isn’t found in our own resources. It’s not to be placed in our own physical or emotional strength, or in financial stability or job security. Thankfully our trust is in a far more secure location – our good and wise God.stirling-castle-scotland-stirling-castle-64287

Here are just a few of the ways that the Psalms describe him:

A shepherd (Psalm 23)

A refuge & shelter (Psalms 91& 62:8)

Our shield and hiding place (Psalm 119:114)

A deliverer (Psalm 18)

Our strength and help in trouble (Psalm 46:1-2)

How firm and secure we can be as we walk into the unknown! How blessed we are, even when difficulty surrounds us . As the words of this famous hymn remind us:

We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender;

  We go not forth alone against the foe;

Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender.

  We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go. . .

We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling,

  And needing more each day Thy grace to know:

Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing;

  We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go. . .

These resources grow even richer in light of the gospel. As Hebrews 4 reminds us, we are granted the right to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

So, whatever the nature of the changes that you face; whether you are weak and need the reminder of God’s comfort and strength, or his gentle rebuke against your self-reliance, may you have joy and know his help as you walk with him.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4

 

Nim

Growing Up

This week marked my 30th birthday, and thanks to my sister’s secret planning it was the perfect day! However, as much as I enjoy birthday celebrations, I wasn’t really looking forward to this one. Thirty seems like a significant marker. . .of something! And I’m not sure that western society gives us a lot of positive messages when it comes to getting older. Most of the adverts that we see and the messages that we hear are to do with preventing ageing, looking younger, and staying current.

However, as the big day approached, I felt the gentle rebuke of the Holy Spirit about my negativity, and resolved to think about how the Bible guides us in thinking about age.woman-street-walking-girl

Have I unquestioningly taken my attitudes from the world around me? Or am I being shaped by God’s perspective? How can I think both realistically and optimistically about ageing?

We mustn’t ignore the difficulties of ageing in a broken world. There are some very real challenges that no one looks forward to. But the Bible equips us to deal with ageing – whether you’re a teenager or student, scared about your future, or approaching mid-life and wondering whether to have a crisis, or perhaps you’re in your seventies or eighties and laughing at those of us who think that thirty is a momentous milestone!

[I asked my family and a couple of friends for their thoughts, and they had wise things to say. So here you go – my first crowd-sourced post!]

 

1) Enjoy Your Youth & Use It Well: We laughed over Ecclesiastes contributions to this subject – essentially, enjoy your youth while you can, for “youth and vigour are meaningless” and will soon be gone! But we are meant to hear in this the warning to live wisely and for more lasting things.

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth (Ecclesiastes 11:10 & 12:1)

2) True Beauty Doesn’t Fade: We fear losing our strength and beauty as we age, and we go to great lengths to preserve them. But the Bible urges us to stop swimming in such shallow waters!  True and lasting beauty is to fear the Lord, and to develop a character mellowed and shaped by faith and knowledge of God. He is the eternally beautiful one and over time his people start to share his beauty. (1 Peter 3:3-4, Proverbs 31:30) So we should focus on preserving our faith, holiness, and obedience as we age, rather than youth or physical beauty.

3) We Have a Renewable Source Of Strength! In a world where our strength can be taken by age, illness, or accident, we need the promises of God:

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:30-31

Enduring strength is given to those who trust in the Lord, for his provision never fails. (Psalm 18, Exodus 15:2)

4) We Grow in Wisdom & Influence: A great part of getting older is the opportunity to grow in wisdom and experience, and to enjoy the fruit of this in our work, relationships, and discipleship. We can serve more effectively, counsel and bless those who are younger, and experience new stages and opportunities that won’t have been open to us before. As my Dad pointed out: “The woman in Proverbs 31 is not a young woman, her influence and opportunities have grown as she has aged, and now she has the respect of her family and community, and the means and wisdom to bless many in ways she couldn’t have before.”

5) Ageing Should Remind Us What is Truly Important: Ageing is good for our discipleship(!) It forces us to grow in dependence on God, as we face the challenges of different ages and new stages. The fact that we are followers of Christ should govern our whole perspective on this – who cares what age we are as long as we continue to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness”.(Matthew 6:33)  

Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4

So where is my focus? On Christ and the joys of walking with him until my hair is grey . . . or on those grey hairs alone?

6) We Have a Hope That Grows as We Age: My Mum says that she never feels negative about birthdays because “Each one represents a whole year of God’s sustenance and work in me.” As Christians we have unshakeable, certain hopes in the face of the trials of ageing – hopes that go beyond this life. One day we will be resurrected with gloriously redeemed bodies – but we won’t much care about how we look in comparison to the wonder of knowing and seeing Jesus Christ face to face!

 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

There is so much more we could say, but I hope you find it as helpful as I have to think through some of these areas. Let me know in the comments if you have other perspectives to add!

Nim

The Right Way to Give Up

Pessimistic. Weary. Frustrated. Cynical. Depressed.

I’m encountering lots of people feeling an assortment of these emotions, and I confess to feeling more than one of the above myself as winter nights, gloomy days, end of year deadlines and the Christmas rush combine into a toxic gloom!

When we feel like this we can be tempted into giving up.

  • Giving up on  serving God and others.
  • Giving up on seeking holiness, obedience, and spiritual maturity.
  • Giving in to laziness, self-pity, and irritation with others.

Christians should give up when the going gets tough.

But NOT in any of the ways I’ve just listed! The reality is that we do get tired, overworked, and overwrought. We are finite, flawed individuals, and exhaustion and stress strip away the layers that we use to disguise this most of the time!pexels-photo-253208

Yet the Bible calls Christians to give up in a different sense:

  • We are to give up on our own strength and resources being sufficient.
  • We are to give up on trying to please God by our own merits alone.
  • We are to give up on self-made productivity and achievement.

 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

Instead when we our insufficiency is exposed, we are to rejoice in the sufficiency of our God! We are to rest in his provisions and his power.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Our weakness should remind us of our desperate need for a saviour, one who is our Lord, Master and friend. We should give up on ourselves and draw close to our God. In him are new stores of help . . . but he sometimes waits to bestow them until we are humbly conscious of our need.

Like Martha, Jesus’ harried hostess in Luke 10, we often need the reminder to stop rushing around and ‘choose what is better’ – to sit at Jesus’ feet. (Maybe never more so than at Christmas!)

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:22-6

Even though our challenges may continue and our worries remain, the Bible promises us that God’s mercies are new every morning, and that he is steadfast and faithful. He is our living water that never runs dry and the bread from heaven that ever sustains!

Have a joyful, peaceful Christmas!

 

Nim

 

Flabby or Fit?

Don’t worry; this isn’t a post about pre-Christmas physical fitness!

If you know me well, then you’ve probably learned not to get me talking about the gym. I love it and I will bore you with all kinds of talk about it! However, the Bible includes a few exercise analogies, and so I hope you’ll forgive me if I use one today too.

As with previous posts (here and here) I’m still thinking through the subject of faith. Specifically growing in faith, and living it out day to day.

Living by faith can feel like something I do once in a while when I’m out of other options, rather than an everyday habit.

(By ‘living by faith’ I mean: following Christ and living out the gospel boldly, obediently, and sacrificially within the contexts and opportunities that God has provided, even when we feel weak, afraid, and ill-equipped.)

One of the problems with this is that trusting God bears some similarities to exercise. The more often you work a muscle, the stronger it gets and the easier and less painful it is. But if you only exercise occasionally you’re in for a lot of discomfort!

I wonder sometimes if trusting God can feel so uncomfortable because I’ve let it become an occasional thing rather than a daily part of my life. And just like sporadic gym attendance, it doesn’t feel very natural, I’m anxious, and my enjoyment of the process is ruined!

pexels-photo-gymPerhaps like me you need some reminders of why living by faith is so good, and why it should be an everyday thing instead of the final option we choose when our resources run out:

1) God is utterly trustworthy and wise. As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. Ps18:30

2) Fear and worry are cruel and fruitless masters. Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matt 6:27

3) God loves to be good to his children. For your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matt 6:8  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matt 7:11

4) Trusting in God is a privelege. In contrast to him, we are unreliable, short sighted, sinful, and weak, with many circumstances outside of our control. It should give us great peace of mind to trust in someone greater in every respect than ourselves!

5) God is weaving us into his story. As his people, by faith we get to be part of something greater and much more meaningful than we can imagine. (See Hebrews 11!)

6) As disciples we are followers. Having to trust in God’s leading and to wait for his help or resources protects this dynamic, lest we stride too far ahead on our own without his guidance.

7) Trusting God daily preserves his kingdom priorities: He is the King, we are his servants, we are to live for his glory and to further his kingdom.  31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’. . .  33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matt 6:31, 33

8) Living by faith makes us distinctive and attractive witnesses in a world where it’s ‘every man for himself’. By this we model to friends and family a better way to live – as loved and satisfied people cared for by a faithful God. For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. Matt 6:32

9) It’s a protection for us against wilful independence, idolatry, and self centredness. When we experience questions, doubts, or need, we necessarily draw near to God.

10) And as I’ve hinted with my exercise analogy, living by faith causes us to grow – in faith, in Christian maturity, in hope, and in love for our God. As we see him guide and provide for us we are humbled and blessed, and our faith is reinforced.

So the challenge for me (and I hope for you) is:

Am I growing strong in faith? Do I daily rely on God’s power and provision? Or do I think “Phew! Glad that’s over, hopefully I can relax for a while before I need to flex those faith muscles again.”

 

Why does God want us to be in constant attendance at the gym of faith? It’s part of growing in trust-filled relationship , walking with him more and more intimately, and enjoying seeing him work according to his will. Ultimately and unsurprisingly it’s for our blessing.

Join me in praying to our good God with the honesty of the man in Mark 9: “I believe; help my unbelief!”

 

Nim

 

Manna For Today

The more I read about the adventures (and misadventures) of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, the more I see myself reflected in their attitudes and actions! Actually this is supposed to happen; 1 Corinthians 10:11 tells us that “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us“.

One episode in particular has made a real  impression upon me – the story of the manna in Exodus 16 (Here is a quick summary in case it’s not familiar to you.)

The Israelites are travelling through the wilderness on a lengthy journey to their new home. God has demonstrated his power repeatedly and promised to provide for them and lead them. But they remain suspicious of God’s power and motivations, and quickly lose faith in the face of hardship. They panic because they don’t know where they will get food from in the desert. They grumble:

“If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. Exodus 16:3-4a

So God graciously provides mysterious bread that appears on the ground each morning. They are instructed to collect as much as they need one day at a time. . .

But many of them do not trust that God will continue to provide bread, and so they try to store extra manna for the future. Unsurprisingly this doesn’t go well. God is explicit about his provision. His people need to trust him day by day to provide. And he does. Every day. They will have all the food that they need for what turns out to be 40 years in the desert. sandals-flip-flops-footwear-beach-40737

Manna, Day By Day

I am often just like the Israelites. I want to trust in God’s provision, but I also want to hedge my bets by trying to provide for myself as well. I want God to provide all the resources I need for the future instantly  (so that I can stop trusting him and start trusting in visible tangible resources.)

How foolish and how insulting! This amounts to a refusal to live by faith. And when I live this way I exchange all the calm and rest that could be mine, for peering worriedly at my dwindling resources (of strength, wisdom, finances etc.) when I could simply trust that when I wake up tomorrow there will be fresh manna, just like there was this morning.

To get this into my head and heart I’ve started praying in these terms when I’m worried or stressed. “Lord, I don’t know where I’m going to get the resources for X tomorrow, please provide the manna that I need, just as you have graciously provided today.

This is what it means to trust in our good God, to believe that he will provide for us.

I wanted to stop writing here – but there is another vital angle that I mustn’t neglect. . .

When Hunger Strikes

God is our King and not our servant, and his plans for us are not always in line with our plans for ourselves. Moses reminds the Israelites (and us) of this in Deuteronomy 8,   when he reflects on their wilderness experience, saying:

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna. . . to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.”

I mention this because it’s important for us to understand that sometimes there is a purpose in our hunger or lack.  God may allow us to ‘hunger for bread’ for a time, to train us, to test us, that we might grow in faith and likeness to Christ. He wants us to hunger for more than our immediate needs. He wants us to long for him because he is ultimately who and what we truly need! [I write more fully about this passage here]

I don’t say this lightly,I know that an acute need for anything can be terrifying when God seems silent!

Yet the Bible illustrates powerfully and repeatedly that we can trust the God who is sovereign over our wants and needs. As I often quote on this blog: He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32

Let’s trust him for manna, both physical and spiritual.

Nim

Faith is Rest

I’ve been continuing to think about the things I explored in my previous post on fear and faith. [Read it here]

I was particularly struck by something my Mum said recently as I related a worry to her.  After a flood of anxious words from me about “trying to trust God in the situation”, she looked at me calmly and said “Naomi, faith is rest.”

This stopped me mid-rant, because Mum had pinpointed a key thing that I had failed to recognise! Although I was talking the talk, when it came to faith and trusting God my anxious striving demonstrated that I hadn’t fully grasped the concept. To trust God is to rest from anxious striving,  because we know that he is in control and that he is good and worthy of our complete confidence. We can rest, because he is at work.

What a simple powerful truth, yet how difficult it can be to put it into practice!

Unbelief Disguised As Efficiency

Fear and worry bring out the control freak in me. I like to tell myself that “I’m just being organised”, but if I look at my heart I know that often what lies behind is unbelief disguised as efficiency.

I  replace trusting God with tangible human action, as though I’m wiser or more capable than God himself! And while careful control of all the variables might get me through a situation, or allow me to feel ‘in control’, I know that I’ve traded list-making and relentless action for the peace and rest that come from faith.

Of course it’s not really either/or.  We can be both trusting and organised, resting in God and active!

 baby- psalm 130

A Child with its Mother

Faith is rest.

Yet this is not about inaction so much as right attitude. Psalm 131 provides a helpful model:

My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

We’ve all seen sleepy toddlers snuggled contentedly with their mothers. They have no troubles because she provides all that they need, making them feel safe and loved.  Any need will quickly and trustingly be communicated to she who is constantly engaged in loving, protecting, and guiding her child.

What an astounding truth that our powerful, eternal God is willing and able to give us that same security and provision, causing the psalm writer to say “I have calmed and quieted myself like a weaned child with its mother.”

We, like Israel, would do well to humbly put our hope in the Lord and rest in him instead of proudly trusting in our own abilities or worrying when we know they aren’t sufficient.

Join me in cultivating this attitude towards our faithful God in pursuit of his rest!

Cast your cares on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken.
Psalm 55:22

 

Nim

Rocking the Boat

Do you ever let fear or worry stop you from taking bold steps of faith?

Things have been settled in my life for a while, and somewhere along the way I have become a bit boring and safe and…faithless.

Of course in some ways I continue to be faithful – In the sense of being constant, striving for holiness, and seeking to please God. But I rarely make big steps that require faith in God. Instead I scale everything down to my personal achievement level. I don’t take risks.  I am happy with no great extremes of emotion and nothing unexpected, and I avoid anything that might upset the status quo.

I’d rather he didn’t rock my boat by doing anything too exciting. . .

pexels boat

In 2 Corinthians 5:7 Paul summarises the attitude which every follower of Jesus should cultivate, saying: “For we live by faith, not by sight.”

But I’ve allowed myself to dispense with living by faith and instead I live almost entirely by sight every day. Things happen as I plan them, and so I don’t expect God to act in significant ways. In fact I’d rather he didn’t rock my boat by doing anything too exciting.

And yet I am his servant to do good works – by faith! I’m meant to be constant in prayerful reliance upon him. I’m meant to be led by his Spirit.

Please don’t misunderstand me, it’s a great blessing when life is good and we have peace and security. In a world like ours, many don’t have this luxury! But I’ve allowed my settled life to make me spiritually complacent. I find myself making decisions based on how something will impact my comfort levels instead of according to God’s glory and will, and I assess things according to my personal resources, instead of God’s unlimited supply. I am a spiritual control freak and a back seat driver!

But we’ve been studying Hebrews in my small group recently and it supplies some helpful correctives:

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Things not seen”? I don’t like the sound of that. I like concrete evidence, precise plans, and a detailed road map of where God is leading me at all times!

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

As a follower of God, I must live by faith in order to please him! Real, active faith must spring from my trust in God, even when I don’t know where he is leading me or why. I insult my good and wise God when I reject his authority and act as though he is not worthy of my complete trust.

So what is the solution?

Acknowledging the problem is important, and repenting of my wrong attitudes. Yet reminding myself of  God’s character is hugely helpful too. How much easier it is to trust someone with the unknown when you know that they are infinitely wise, sacrificially loving, and eternally faithful!

Romans 8:32 reasons: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

 

A growing excitement for the good and faithful plans of God

I was also greatly encouraged as I read the rest of Hebrews 11 and saw the amazing things that people of faith achieved by following God into the unknown. It made me long for God to do exciting and significant things in and through me too! I want to know more of God’s power and sufficiency in my life. I want to live for his glory, instead of for my own comfort.  I need to let him rock the boat if that is what it will take to call me to authentic faith and service.

Yet God also assures us repeatedly that as well as being faithful to those who trust in him, he is also GOOD! One such verse is Psalm 84:11:

“The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favour and honour. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

It is promises like these that give me the courage to step out in faith when God calls me away from the comfort zones that so easily disguise my unbelief and idolatry.  With God’s help (ultimately faith comes from him!) I will continue to trust in his wisdom and goodness as he leads me.

 

Nim

 

So Much More Than We Know

What is sin?

We tend to talk more in terms of sins – things that we do that break God’s moral standards. And this is biblical and helpful.

Yet we also need to understand and feel that sin goes much deeper than our actions. Behind our behaviours there are attitudes of the mind and heart that are deeply insulting to God. Some of which we’re oblivious to.  It’s also not just about what we do, but about what we withhold.black-and-white-person-woman-girl

Yet I don’t say this to condemn myself, or you, because realising the seriousness of sin makes the forgiveness of Jesus Christ much more beautiful and precious to us!

And so I want to share some words by John Piper that powerfully capture why sin is so serious, by showing us how we rob God of what is rightly his:

What is sin?
The glory of God not honored.
The holiness of God not reverenced.
The greatness of God not admired.
The power of God not praised.
The truth of God not sought.
The wisdom of God not esteemed.
The beauty of God not treasured.
The goodness of God not savored.
The faithfulness of God not trusted.
The promises of God not relied upon.
The commandments of God not obeyed.
The justice of God not respected.
The wrath of God not feared.
The grace of God not cherished.
The presence of God not prized.
The person of God not loved.
That is sin!
John Piper , from “All Consuming Fire” by Shai Linne.

I hope that these words help you like they are helping me, to humble myself before God again, crying out for his forgiveness and joyfully embracing the grace and help that he freely offers us in Christ.

How merciful he is, when we wrong him so greatly!

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world . . . gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:1-5

[WordPress informs me that this is my 100th post on the blog! Thank you to all my faithful readers and encouragers, and all glory to God for continuing to work in and through me via this blog. Please keep your comments coming if there are ways it could improve!]

Nim

Ebenezer

I’m a little stressed right now. My postgrad theology dissertation looms, work is busy, and my diary is full … But I’ve been studying the Bible book of 1 Samuel with a friend and it has provided a helpful reminder:

In chapter 7 after a dangerous battle between God’s people and the Philistines we read:  Then Samuel [God’s prophet] took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” (1 Sam 7:12)

Ebenezer means ‘stone of help’, and whenever the Israelites saw the stone they would remember God’s rescue during this battle. It was a monument to God’s power, steadfast love, and willingness to help his people, and a call for them to trust in him in the future.  What a great antidote to fear, worry, and trusting in the wrong things!journalling

Till now the Lord has helped us.

Remembrance of God’s past help and faithfulness helps us to trust him in the present when life is stressful and we don’t necessarily know how things will work out. Satan loves to attack God’s character and goodness, and to fill us with doubt and unbelief. Yet remembering God’s past faithfulness to us is a great shield against this.

Whether it’s spiritual or physical blessings that we recall, it’s so helpful to our hearts and minds to be reminded of what our God is like, and his willingness to help and provide for us despite our sin and failure.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-3

The Bible is filled with concrete promises like this for us to trust in, but I think there is a place for active remembrance like Samuel’s too. When was the last time you sat down and reminded yourself of God’s particular help towards you in the past? Perhaps you keep a journal and can look back at answered prayers and unexpected blessings, or maybe it’s a case of making time to think through months and years gone by to identify the ways that God has helped you so far? You may even have a literal symbol of God’s provision that you can look at.

Let’s not be forgetful and anxious Christians. Till now the Lord has helped us.

Nim

Shipwrecked

A question that I’ve been asked a lot in recent weeks is this:

Why should Christians bother to resist sinning, if they are saved by God’s grace?

When Christians act as though Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross gives us a free pass to sin, we fail to recognise the cost of the sacrifice, the divine identity of the giver, and the depths of the love which motivated Him! Yet we also fail to understand the destructive nature of sin itself. So I love the vivid example that John Owen gives in answer to this question:

“Is it not a madness for a man willingly to suffer the ship wherein he is, to split itself on a rock – to the irrecoverable loss of his merchandise, because he supposes he shall in his own person swim safely to shore on a plank? Is this less in him who will hazard the shipwreck of all his comfort, peace, joy, and so much of the glory of God, and the honour of the gospel as he is entrusted with, merely on supposition that his soul shall yet escape?”

(Overcoming Sin & Temptation, John Owen, pg 184)

drowningIf Owen’s antiquated language is off putting – here is my humble paraphrase:

Continuing in deliberate sin once we are followers of Christ is as stupid as saying that we’d happily endure the pain, terror, and loss of being shipwrecked and losing every possession that we have, because we’re guaranteed not to die in the process!

Any sane person would take precautions not to be shipwrecked in the first place because, given the choice, who would willingly choose the loss of everything but life, when you could arrive safely ashore with great possessions, peace, and comfort, and to great glory and honour?

What a powerful picture to show us the bizarre and foolish risk we embrace when we use salvation as an excuse to sin without punishment, instead of resisting it with Christ’s help, avoiding destruction and enjoying all the blessings of his wisdom, help, and goodness towards us!

Nim