Trust in God

Psalm 62 is one of several written by David.  His psalms often describe his feelings and emotions in difficult circumstances, especially when under attack by his enemies. In Psalm 62 David affirms his trust in God, who is the ultimate source of refuge and rest. So, although life may not be easy and we struggle with our problems, we need to remember that if we believe in Him, we can find rest in God.

A pot containing bright yellow and white flowers with the text of Psalm 62v1: I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him.

Peace

John 14v27 is where Jesus tells his disciples he is leaving them with peace. This peace comes from a knowing of God. Jesus didn’t mean that our lives would be without turmoil because we believe in him. But there is a wonderful peace that comes from knowing God, and understanding the sacrifice He and Jesus made for us. We can face whatever comes our way, because of them.

A boy sitting on a hill looking across a village to the sunset with a quotation from Isaiah 26v3:
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”

Baptism

The New Testament talks a lot about baptism. We know that John the Baptist preached that people should repent of their sins (to repent means to show regret and change direction). Letting him baptise them was their way of outwardly showing that they were willing to change their ways, to follow God.

John the Baptist was the forerunner for Jesus, who was baptised by John to show to everyone that it was, and still is the right thing to do. It is a simple act of humility, willingly done by someone who has chosen to follow Jesus, to be a Christian.

There is humility in accepting that we are sinners. It’s a human trait to make mistakes, and yet God wants us to succeed where we so often fail. Accepting that we do wrong and wanting to be better is the first step in a new life. In the verse pictured here, from Acts 8, we can read about the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, who after reading from the prophecy of Isaiah in the Jewish scriptures, asked Philip to explain to him what it all meant. We’re told that after he had preached the Good News (or Gospel) of Jesus to him, both of them went into the water together so that Philip could baptise the Ethiopian.

The decision to be baptised isn’t one to be taken lightly, and the act of going under the water isn’t in itself the thing that causes us to be saved, that is only done because of the grace and mercy of God. It is, however, a powerful symbol to be washed clean from sin, and from then on that we should live a life dedicated to Jesus rather than for our own selfish aims.

The Water of Life

Kinloch River on Isle of Rum

Here in Scotland, we are very fortunate to have lovely fresh water to drink.  We certainly get plenty of rain which keeps the lochs and rivers full, but the quality of our drinking water is high and it is great to be able to drink it straight from the tap.

Other parts of the UK are not so fortunate as their water is hard and not so nice to drink.  It can be filtered, at a cost, or people can buy bottled water where necessary.  And in some parts of the world, fresh clean water can be hard or even impossible to find.

Malt whiskies

Good quality Scottish water is also used to make malt whisky, one of Scotland’s best-known products. Many distilleries highlight this important ingredient in their advertising. The term “whisky” itself derives from “water”. The Latin term for distilled alcohol is “aqua vitae”, or “water of life”, and it was originally used externally for medicinal purposes. In Gaelic, it is uisge beatha: uisge meaning water and beatha life. Over time, and through common use in Scotland, uisge beatha was shortened and ‘uisge’, pronounced “oosh-ka”, became known as ‘whisky’.

But “water of life” also occurs in the Bible and refers to the gospel message as preached by Jesus and his disciples. We are told in John’s gospel that when Jesus was thirsty and asked a woman going to a well to give him a drink of water, he said to her:

 “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”   (John 4v10-14)

Drinking clean water is something we need to do regularly to stay alive, and for some people, this is not always possible or comes at a cost.  But believing in Jesus is a way of finding eternal life, and at no cost, because as the prophet Isaiah says:

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!”  (Isaiah 55v1)

This free gift is available to anyone anywhere in the world and is surely something we should not refuse. Please take the time to read the Bible yourself to find out more about God’s wonderful offer.

God knows the Future and it is Good News!

Do you have any space in your head for prophecy? If I ask you whether or not you believe in God and, if so, that you are prepared – willing – to believe that God has a purpose with us all: will you accept that?  It’s worth reading a short excerpt from the Bible to get an idea. The content of Isaiah 11 (shown below) defies our – man’s – logic, but shows us the desire of God; the things which He will bring to pass. As a heading to the page, my Bible says “Israel is comforted”. Not something that looks like happening in the present political climate; yet it will surely come; it is God’s will!

What follows describes a future time when Jesus, descended from King David, who reigned over Israel and was the son of Jesse mentioned in verse 1 below, will return to rule the World in power and glory. We really don’t know the half of it, but we get an idea where all this is headed if we take some time to see what the Bible says of this time to come:

Isaiah 11 v1-10:

A sign outside a pub called The LAMB & LION.

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,

The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.
His delight is in the fear of the LORD,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,

And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins,
And faithfulness the belt of His waist.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
As the waters cover the sea.

And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people
.

Jesus – our peace

I have been very thankful over the past couple of weeks to be able to spend time in woodland near our home. The intensely beautiful and all too brief bluebell season is quite possibly my favourite time of year. And it has become increasingly well documented that spending time in woodland can be really good for our mental, physiological and emotional well-being. A Japanese practice you may have heard of – Shinrin Yoku – translates as “forest bathing” in English. It is the practice of experiencing the forest through all our senses, and the positive impact this can have on us. I encourage you to get into a forest environment if you are able, and give forest bathing a go!

A woodland picture, with Ephesians 2:14 – “He himself is our peace.”

When I was in the wood where this picture was taken, the words quoted came into my mind, “He himself is our peace”. And I truly did feel a wondrous peace in that moment. Being in the warm, protective environment of the forest contributed to this feeling – and even more so, the verse in Ephesians chapter 2. In Scripture, the book called Ephesians was written by Paul – an apostle of Jesus – to Christian believers in Ephesus (in modern day Turkey), likely when he was imprisoned for his beliefs and resultant broadcasting of the gospel. And yet, in the midst of that experience, he could say that, “He (Jesus) himself is our peace”.

I am still coming to understand the depth of this statement, but as far as I can possibly understand it right now, my experience is indeed that Jesus is my peace. I can say that he is my peace in the midst of difficulty, he is the peace I feel when I have come through a season of turbulence, to a green pasture.

The chapter talks about how Jesus has broken down everything which divides us from God – through the things we do, say and think. Verse 17 says:

“He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.”

Now, this letter was not written to us directly; but has been preserved for us so we can understand that this offer of reconciliation applies to us today. God wants to extend this peace to us, this salvation. He respects our choice whether to take Him up on it, or not.

Whether you feel near or far away, I hope that this message touches your heart today.

Confess your faults

We all make mistakes. Many of them. Day after day. We are, after all, human.

In his letter, James has this to say:

“Make this your common practice: confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed.” (James 5v16 from The Message)

James mentions this after he has listed the ways in which we can look after each other. It’s clear to me that if we are able to be honest and vulnerable with each other, we flourish. James puts it as living together ‘whole and healed’.

What does this look like? I think it means being honest about our doubts and fears, not having a Sunday persona that gets put on when attending a get together. It means being willing to sit with uncertainty and not trying to fix everything. It’s recognising we all come to our faith with different baggage. This baggage helps us to see things from a different perspective and should be celebrated and welcomed.

If we truly want God to mould us into who we need to be for Him, we need to be honest and vulnerable with each other. I think this song perfectly encapsulates that need.

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Everlasting Joy in Zion

Cherry blossom

“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing…And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

Isaiah 35v1-2, 10

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