Pleasant Surprise

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 NIV

I always appreciate a little encouragement along the way, and somehow I don’t think I am alone in that, because we all need to be encouraged from time to time. Where do you find your support, or does it fall by surprise into your lap? It can be either or both!

Only after reading and applying the Word of God from the Bible which must always come first, if you are like me you might use some online devotionals from well known, reliable and respected church leaders. There are so many out there, but not all you find are good for you. Some peddle error, especially for the younger mind.

Imagine my surprise to come across a young teenager whose thoughts are set out in a clear, Bible based, sincere manner. For me it was an even more pleasant surprise because it transpires that I know this young Christian, but what I didn’t know was just how well she passes on the Word of God in her own simple, yet profound way. Now I watch for her next posting. I won’t embarrass her by giving her name, but once again I am reminded of the truth of our verse today. Just because you are young does NOT mean your thoughts are less important or profound than any other person of more mature years, and I place myself in the ‘more mature years’ category.

We are each given gifts, and I am glad to see this particular gift being used for the Kingdom. You know who you are, and I for one want to publicly thank, and encourage you to carry on. I hope your friends, family, and even those you don’t know (yet) will find you and be encouraged by your heart. After all, it’s important to ‘spreadthegdnews’!

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Discernment, Gift or Curse?

One of God’s greatest ambassadors left this earth destined for his heavenly home on Wednesday 21st February, aged 99 years. His legacy is unparalleled in the past century, and through his faith and ministry many millions around the world found Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Fittingly, there have been many tributes paid on TV, radio, and online.

 

But not everyone is convinced of his sincerity and this troubles me. Not because it comes from the unchristian unbeliever, but the very opposite. There are some who set themselves up as having a better understanding and the gift of discernment to the point that humility is lost, and pride has been replaced by elitism. Oh, they say they are speaking in love, but the least of us know that if those words have to be used at all, it’s because there is little if any love involved.

 

I use a couple of blogging sites to record my rambling thoughts, and I know there are many diverse points of view expressed out there. There can be great encouragement, but I had to read the views of a blogger who suggested that the great evangelist was seriously misguided. But what great sin has Billy Graham committed? Apparently he had the temerity to suggest a prayer outline for the seeking sinner to pray. That’s not on because the so called “sinner’s prayer” if not said just right, with the correct attitude and content, may have ended up with that sinner being bound for hell not heaven. In other words this evangelist is not so great after all because he couldn’t see the harm he was causing, but what I read was, you should ​trust me, I have read the Bible, and ​I can keep you right! All spoken or written from the safety and comfort of the computer keyboard and nowhere near the front line of the preaching ministry or outreach. How shallow, but then our God given free will and freedom of speech is ours to use, whether wisely or otherwise.

1955

Rev Billy Graham, died 21 Feb 2018 aged 99 years.

Our home life changed forever in 1955 when I was a boy in Primary School. My mum went to Kelvin Hall in Glasgow to hear Billy Graham along with some ladies in the church who had the foresight to make the invitation. She had never heard him speak before, but when the ‘invitation’ was made to ‘get up out of your seat, and come to the front to accept Jesus as Saviour’ that’s exactly what she did. Mum was saved, converted, changed from the inside out and was never the same again. Dad had already been saved under the preaching ministry of the great Irish evangelist J P Nicholson. What a change in our house. It was now a Christian home, and as I look back, I see myself as being blessed to have had a Godly upbringing. I wonder what my life would have been like if Dad and Mum hadn’t got saved?

 

We don’t talk much about experiences like ‘being saved’, ‘repenting’, ‘getting converted’, or taking a public stand by walking to the altar at the front of the church to show you mean business with God. Somehow we have accepted the lie that these are old fashioned things and unnecessary. To a degree that’s true, after all these actions don’t save us, but they are a clear and unmistakable sign that we acknowledge our sin needs to be dealt with and we are doing something about it. It isn’t a secret after all, is it?

 

I fear that our churches and leaders are stepping back from these old fashioned ideas, in the hope and belief that people will make their own decisions in their own time, and at their own private place. Maybe so, but can we afford to drop the clear preaching of the convicting  Word of God to salvation? Billy Graham was called by God and of that there can be no doubt. He took the Gospel Message round the world to princes and presidents, and in some folks’ eyes he was a celebrity, but he remained humble even after being God’s man in the pulpit who brought millions under the sound of the gospel and into the Kingdom. When his son, Franklin, asked what he wanted inscribed on his gravestone, after a moments thought he replied ‘just put Preacher’. What a testimony, and there are many households that were changed just like mine, when a mum and dad took the long walk to the front of the church or stadium, to accept Jesus as their Saviour. How simple, but how profound, even after 60 years.

 

In the eternal interests of our children and grandchildren, can we afford to keep using the lesser methods of psychology, pulpit conversations, the inoffensive homily, and epilogue, or should we return to the unapologetic preaching of the Word of God in convicting power to salvation that changes lives?

 

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

Romans 10:14 NKJV

 

Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favourable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. 2 Timothy 4:2 NLT

Giving (Up) for Lent?

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” Luke 6:38 NLT – Jesus

 

Every year, around this time, the question is the same. “What are you giving up for Lent?”, as if it is some kind of formula to make us right with God as we prepare for Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It’s not a bad thing to give something up if it is harmful, but that is true and important at any time of year, not just Lent.

 

How about taking a different approach this year? Instead of giving up something for the 40 days of lent, how about we just “give” for the whole year? There is something nice about being kind, or saying hello to a stranger, or visiting a sick friend, or dropping a card to a recent widow/er, or making that overdue phone call to the old friend you lost contact with, and the list could go on.

 

So, how about it? How about giving up on the “giving up” this lenten season, and instead be positive and decide to GIVE in its place? I think it would be more rewarding, but don’t take my word for it, try for yourself and see. Maybe next lent, you won’t be giving anything up!

Downcast?

For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. 2 Corinthians 5-7

 

Being depressed is a dreadful medical condition, and not to be confused with feeling low or downcast. I think I would be right in believing that we all go through a period of darkness, or some would describe it as a wilderness. In any case it’s not a good place to be even when it can be understandable, and not to be compared with clinical depression.

 

When you or I feel down or very low in spirit, where do we go? Who would we turn to on a human level? For those who have a life partner, he or she will naturally be your go to person, but what if you are on your own, or for a reason best known to yourself you cannot share something with your life partner? The verse makes it clear that in the final analysis, it is “God who comforts the downcast”, but I believe it is a big help to be able to talk to a trusted friend. Not a casual acquaintance, but someone you can trust who will not spill your deepest cares to a third party. Paul’s earthly help came in the form of Titus, his trusted friend.

 

Never underestimate the strength and importance of your trusted friend. We all need one at some point in our life, and maybe more than once. They are not a substitute for God and His unconditional love, but important nonetheless. I love the way the Psalmist expresses it in Psalm 23:4 when he says: “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me”. He is with us “through the valley of the shadow” and I know we can all identify with being in a deep valley with no one else to lean on but God.

 

No one suffered loneliness like Jesus when He hung on the cross and His Father God had forsaken Him for a period. So, take heart my friend, your low time will pass eventually. Lean on Jesus who understands completely, and your trusted friend if you are fortunate enough to have one.

PC Brigade

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offence at him. Mark 6:3

 

Jesus was in His home town, and had a real problem being accepted there as a prophet, let alone the promised Messiah. It wasn’t the Pharisees speaking, these were the ordinary folks in the town, the men and women who knew him from boyhood. They had seen Him perform miracles, and still they did not believe. The text says they were offended!

 

How often do we hear those words today? It seems that just about every minority group shout the words, “I’m offended” and it can be about anything. It gets attention, and is the easy way out, but as Jesus followers, we should not be too concerned about the Politically Correct brigade, after all Jesus wasn’t.

 

Instead, let us be a different PC group of our own as we Present Christ by our lifestyle in thought, word and deed. We should not be surprised that some of our friends and peers will be offended, just as it was in Jesus’ day, but take encouragement from the wonderful words spoken and written by the Apostle Peter, after all he knew what he was talking about!

 

Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, the stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone, and a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

1 Peter 2:7-10

The Journey – Detour

I hate it. You get onto a familiar and well known road, put your mind into neutral, and start thinking of all the things you want and need to do for the day. It’s easy to take this road, because you have taken it a hundred times. And then you see the sign ‘Detour Ahead’! Now you have to start to rethink your route and fast!

 

You are in uncharted territory, and in an unknown place. Even with a compass and map it is hard to find your bearings. It’s so easy to miss the way back onto the road that leads to our destination. Our earthly detours are no different from our spiritual ones. We get muddled in our thinking so easily, and sometimes wonder why we were brought down this way. What’s your detour? Illness, finances, death of a friend or family member, even doubts of church and faith? There are more, but you can insert your own spiritual detour.

 

One thing is certain, to get back onto the right road for our eternal destination, we must follow the signs. In our case those signs can be from good trusted friends, a pastor, the small voice of conscience, but mostly God’s Word which will get you home every time! And by the way, you’re not the only one who has ever suffered the wilderness of a detour!!

 

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 16:25