Sunday, 23 July 2017

Perfect peace

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You. – Isaiah 26.3


Perfect peace. That is a goal I think all of us can identify with. We would all lie to have total peace in our lives where we don’t have to worry about all the thing that trouble our minds.

God says here that those who minds are fixed on Christ and those who trust in Him will find perfect peace. Of course I think about Philippians 4 when I read this passage. Have a look:

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

The way to perfect peace is clear – it all depends on whether we are willing to go after it. Don’t let yourself be full of cares. Pray with thanksgiving and peace beyond comprehension will be yours. Think about and focus on the right things and the peace of God will be with you. Perfect peace comes when we cast our cares on Him knowing that he cares for us.

We lack peace because we are relying on ourselves instead of relying on God.

Unrest comes when we depend on us. Great peace when we leave it all up to him.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Good things come to those who wait

And it will be said in that day:
“Behold, this is our God;
We have waited for Him, and He will save us.
This is the Lord;
We have waited for Him;
We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” – Isaiah 25.9

As much as I might not understand it or ‘get it’ waiting is a good thing. God says that it is good to learn how to wait while we are young. I think part of the reason is that the older we get the harder it is to wait.

Right now it is pretty tough to live in this broken world, and wait on the Lord to come back and sort all this mess out.

Here we have an insight into what it is going to be like in that day when Jesus has come to establish His reign on earth. On that day the broken world will be fixed and we will see the wonder of seeing Christ face to face.

‘We have waited’ the people say, ‘and now we will be glad and rejoice in His final salvation.’

In other words they are saying ‘we waited and now it will be worth it all.’ The old saying ‘good things com to those who wait’ and this is the ultimate example of that adage.

The great old hymn ‘When We See Jesus’ says it perfectly.

Ofttimes the day seems long, our trials hard to bear,
We're tempted to complain, to murmur and despair;
But Christ will soon appear to catch His Bride away,
All tears forever over in God's eternal day.

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life's trials will seem so small when we see Christ;
One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Death is swallowed up

He will swallow up death forever,
And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces;
The rebuke of His people
He will take away from all the earth;
For the Lord has spoken. – Isaiah 25.8

Like a lot of Christians on of my favourite modern hymns is the Getty’s’ song ‘The Power of the Cross.’ It is a wonderful song proclaiming what Christ accomplished at the cross. One stanza says

‘Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.’

I love the line ‘death is crushed to death’ and that idea is seen way back here in Isaiah with the words ‘He will swallow up death.’ We see the results of that in 1 Corinthians where we read ‘O death where is your sting?’

Nobody likes the idea of dying. Dying is so unknown that it is natural to be anxious about it. It si scary to thing about.

That’s natural, but for the believer death has no power over is. We have nothing to be afraid of. Death has no sting – because Jesus swallowed it up. He crushed death to death. ‘He is risen’ gave hope to all generations.

But that hope is only for those who have put their faith in Him because He along had the power to conquer death.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Shade from the heat

For You have been a strength to the poor,
A strength to the needy in his distress,
A refuge from the storm,
A shade from the heat;
For the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall. – Isaiah 25.4

We have been in the South for about six weeks now and one word sticks out – HOT!  I have been able to do quite a bit of geocaching, but I can’t do all I want because it is just so hot. You step outside the house or the air conditioned car and within seconds you are drenched with sweat. I find myself looking for spots of shade for relief from the heat.

Life can be like that sometimes. There are times when we can’t seem to escape the heat of the pressures of life. The heat can seem relentless. It beats us down and we are exhausted.

The wonderful truth is that just like I can find shade and comfort from the hot sun the Lord will be our shade from the heat. The heat will still be there, but we can find rest and comfort in the shade of His protection.

When the heat just gets to hot let us run to the shade that only He can provide.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Peace in the MIddle East

In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will serve with the Assyrians. – Isaiah 19.23

The goal of peace in the Middle East is a noble one. There has never been peace there since the time of Christ, but most of us are fully aware of the current situation there. Since the modern state of Israel in 1948 there has been conflict and ensuing attempts at a resolution to the conflict. The one that sticks out the most in my mind when President Carter’s Camp David Accord. There is a famous photo of the president with the leaders of Israel and Egypt shaking hands. People thought or hoped that this was finally the answer – but it wasn’t.

Today we still see nearly daily reports of rocket attacks and suicide attacks and all sorts of violence. There is no peace in the Middle East.

And it is not going to happen. It won’t happen because wars are caused by man’s selfish lusts and desires. Nations are never going to be willing to accept what is not going to be best for them. Wars and conflicts are going to go on and on and on.

But there is a day coming when Israel and Egypt and Assyria are all going to be called God’s people and there will be unity in the land.

But that is only going to happen through the power of Christ. It is not President Carter or Reagan or Bush or Clinton or Bush or Obama or Trump or anyone else who will negotiate lasting peace. Only Christ has the power to do that.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Sing

Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
‘For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song;
He also has become my salvation.’ ”
Therefore with joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.
And in that day you will say:
“Praise the Lord, call upon His name;
Declare His deeds among the peoples,
Make mention that His name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord,
For He has done excellent things;
This is known in all the earth. – Isaiah 12.2-5

Singing is special. Singing is universal. In every culture singing plays an important role. Even in the cultures most secluded from human material progress some plays a role. We sing praises to our nation or our schools or our sports teams or even how favourite toothpaste.

But here we go again – how are we about singing praises to our God?

I love singing in church, and I have been blest to be in a lot of services where there is a real godly spirit of singing in a way that honours God.

But too often our song services our just a matter of going through the motions.

That’s not want God wants. Our singing is to honour God, edify others, and to encourage our own spirits. We are to sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord. We are encourage each other with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.

It is not just in church, but we ought to fill our lives with praiseworthy songs so that in those quiet moments songs of praise fill our hearts instead of toothpaste jingles.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Declare His deeds

Therefore with joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.
And in that day you will say:
“Praise the Lord, call upon His name;
Declare His deeds among the peoples,
Make mention that His name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord,
For He has done excellent things;
This is known in all the earth. – Isaiah 12.2-5

A lot of us like to talk. When we talk we are ready to brag about things that like. We talk about how great our country is or how great our sports teams are. We openly declare the great things they do and we are proud of our devotion to them. We don’t care what other people think.

And I guess that is okay.

But why is it so hard for us the declare the things our God does? Why don’t we brag on Him? Here in Alabama it is easy to say “Roll Tide’ but it is much harder for us to say ‘Praise God.’

But how are people going to know about our God unless we talk about Him and what He does? If we are going to brag on anything ought we not to be ‘bragging on’ our God?

How do we do that? I think we simply need to include God in our conversations. Instead of the usual answers to ‘How are you?’ We might say, ‘God is good. We facing a few challenges right now but He will get us through it’ or ‘I am really doing well, thank God.’

Let’s give God the credit he is due and brag on Him a bit.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

With joy

Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
‘For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song;
He also has become my salvation.’ ”
Therefore with joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation. – Isaiah 12.2-3

I love these two verses kind of tucked into Isaiah’s prophecy here. The image here reminds me of the story of the woman at the well and Jesus offered here eternal life from the ‘well of salvation.’

But it is not just eternal life, as good as that it. Jesus says that we can draw for the well but that we can do so with great joy.

I think we Christians can at times forget about the importance of joy. Sometimes we can act like life is a drudgery. We can almost make it sound like we are extra spiritual if we are suffering for Jesus. Christians walk around downcast and dark and living a life that on one could possibly desire for themselves.

Sure, we are going to have bad days. News is going to shake us and make us sad and we are going to get depressed.

That’s why we are reminded to draw water from the wells of salvation with joy. At the end of the day we can always rejoice in the knowledge that we are truly saved and that no matter what storm we are going through we have the joy of the Lord as our strength.

No matter what storm we face there ought to be that deep, abiding, eternal joy drawn from the well. There ought to be that ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory.’

Saturday, 15 July 2017

The delight of the Branch

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. – Isaiah 11.3-5

What does our Branch delight in? What does our ruler take joy in?

Most of our earthly rulers love the exact opposite of the kinds of things we read about here. Human rulers delight is power and prestige and personality and popularity. They delight is doing what is best for them.

But this Branch of Jesse delights in the fear of the Lord and because of that He will judge in righteousness and decide with evenness for the meek and will punish the guilty and be dressed in righteousness and faithfulness.

I am so looking forward to righteous rule. One day all of the wicked rulers we deal with today will be dead and gone and we can live in the way of true righteousness. Until then we strive for righteousness and holiness and faithfulness in our own lives.

Our day will come.

Friday, 14 July 2017

The spirt of the Branch

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
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. – Isaiah 11.1-2

The ‘Branch from the stem of Jesse’ is a clear allusion to the coming Messiah, who we now know is Jesus Christ. It describes His character and we can immediately see the contrast between His character and those in power today. It gives us something to look forward to during His reign on earth, but it also comforts us in who are true Master is today.

He has the Spirit of the Lord
He has a spirit of wisdom and understanding
He has a spirit of counsel
He has a spirit of might
He has a spirit of knowledge
He has a spirit of the fear of the Lord

That us certainly the kind of spirit that I want to follow and it is the kind of spirit that I want in my own life.

The great thing is that we have that Spirit dwelling in us. When we were saved we received the Spirit of the Lord in the person of the Holy Spirit.The only thing that keeps us from manifesting those traits is our flesh. We have the power to walk in that kind of spirit because we have the Holy Spirit living in us.

I am afraid that my spirit doesn’t always reflect the fact that the Holy Spirit lives in me. I am afraid that too often it is my flesh that wins out.

Lord help me today to walk in that Spirit instead of my flesh.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Tools

Shall the ax boast itself against him who chops with it?
Or shall the saw exalt itself against him who saws with it?
As if a rod could wield itself against those who lift it up,
Or as if a staff could lift up, as if it were not wood! – Isaiah 10.15

I like tools. Well, I love the idea of tools. I like the feel of them and what they do and the potential they have to do. I have a toolbox full of tools.

The problem is that I am not much of a DIY guy and my toolset has, through the years, scattered and partly disappeared. The tools I have left don’t do much unless somebody uses them.

This is the illustration Isaiah uses to talk about us. Unless the Lord is using us we aren’t going to get much accomplished. Unless we depend on Him we are working in vain.

But in the hands of the Master we find our usefulness. A good workman can get a job done even with flawed tools. In the same way God can use us even with the nicks and chips and rust spots and all the other flaws. All we need to do is to be wiling, not perfect tools.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

The zeal of the Lord

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. – Isaiah 9.6-7

Zeal is a great thing. Zeal, even human zeal, can get a lot accomplished. Zeal is even praised by God a we are called to live of Christian lives with zeal. We are told to be zealous of good works.

The problem is that our zeal will always flag and weaken. Our zeal will always let us down and at times or zeal will fail. If it were up to us to establish the kingdom of God we would tire and fail.

But the Kingdom of God does not depend on us. It will all be done because ‘the zeal of the Lord will do this.’

It is hard for us to imagine a zeal that does not wear out, this is God’s zeal. His is zealous in all that He does. He is zealous about his Wonder. He is zealous about His Might and His Fatherhood and His peace. And He is zealous about His governance.

It is of great comfort that it is God’s zeal that we count on, not mine or any other man’s. His is the only zeal we can trust completely. His zeal alone will cary us through.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Forever

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. – Isaiah 9.6-7

There is not a whole lot we can really depend on. Part of the reason for that is that everything is temporary. The greatest nations on earth rise and fall. Great churches rise and fall. Great men and women rise and fall. Even the things that we feel like we can really depend on are going to end eventually.

But in this blessed messianic promise we find hope that will not fail. Jesus will order His kingdom in judgement and justice forever.

One day He is coming to establish His kingdom and His literal reign on earth. All else will be taken away and there will be no corruption or failings will exist because King Jesus will be in control and He will reign forever.

Although the passage speaks of His earthly reign we now know that His reign doesn’t have to wait until then. We can begin to enjoy the reign of our King while we are here. King Jesus is already at the head of His kingdom and we live under his reign.

The most wonderful thing about King Jesus reign is that it is forever and forever He will be Wonderful, Counsellor, Almighty God, my Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.

Monday, 10 July 2017

His name

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. – Isaiah 9.6-7

A name is an important thing. We are told for ourselves that a good name is more important than riches. Our name becomes associated with our character.

Even naming a child can be a big choice. These days in our cultures names most often are just family names or names that we think sounds good or just because we like the name.

I like my name. Roger is derived from the old Norse/Germanic name Hroogar. It means ‘a mighty spearman or warrior.’

But, back to our topic. The Son who is given for us has a name, or several of them. Here we read that His name will be called

Wonderful
Counsellor
Mighty God
Everlasting Father
Prince of Peace

That’s a lot of names and that’s a lot of meaning. Every one of those names has an impact. His blessed names give us hope for the future. He is the one who is truly full of wonder, the One who can give counsel in every situation, the Almighty God who can do all, the eternal Father who will never stop loving, and the One who along can bring peace to this troubled world and to my troubled life.

His names ought to give me all the comfort I need to survive this troubled world. Let me rest in His names.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Unto us

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. – Isaiah 9.6-7

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.

Unto us – you and me
Unto us – unworthy sinners
Unto us – fleshly beings deserving of the wrath of God
Unto us

When I think of the ways God could have given us the truth using a child doesn’t make much sense. I would think He would split the skies and have His Son appear in the heavens and proclaim His truth.

But He sent a Child – His Son.

God became one of us. He became a living human being subject to tiredness and hunger and pain. Unto us He became one of us. God so loved this world that He gave His only begotten son. When He was born the angels proclaimed ‘unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour.’ ‘Unto you’ the angels said.

In God’s love, despite our sin and rebellion and rejection, He sent His Son to us.

Praise God for the words 'unto us.'

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Broken the yoke

The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation
And increased its joy;
They rejoice before You
According to the joy of harvest,
As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
For You have broken the yoke of his burden
And the staff of his shoulder,
The rod of his oppressor,
As in the day of Midian. – Isaiah 9.2-4

There are a couple of kinds of yokes. One kind of yoke is the kind a person might use to carry a load. It goes over the shoulders and has hooks or some kind of devices to attach a load to both sides so that the weight is balanced. The other is a device used to attach animals together to pull a load.

I think this yoke is the first kind. The people of Israel were under the yoke of the Midianites. Over and over God had delivered the nation from the oppressive yoke of various nations.

But we know now in retrospect that this ‘lifting of a yoke’ also pictures the yoke of sin or the yoke of the Law that was lifted on the cross. We are all born with a great sin burden. Nothing we could do had any power to break that burden. Jesus said ‘don’t use that yoke that you are carrying by yourself, join up to my yoke, for it is a light burden.’

Israel could rejoice that their yoke of oppression was broken. We an rejoice that Jesus broke our yoke of sin on the cross.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Woe is me

Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. – Isaiah 6.5-8

I’ve been thinking about this passage, and though I talked about it a few days ago I had to go back and mention it again. I skipped right over and important aspect of theses words – ‘woe is me.’

Isaiah’s response is the only response we can have to the holiness of God – He was literally awestruck. In the presence of a thrice holy God Isaiah is fully confronted with his sin.

I am afraid that sometimes I don’t take my sin that seriously. I can make a light thing of it even when I am acting spiritual. It is way to easy to take sin way too lightly.

When I see my sin, my sin in particular, my only response should be that of Isaiah. When I am confronted with my sin I should fall on my face before God and say ‘woe is me.’

When I see my sin that way I see the joy that Christ brings. Woe is me as a Christian because when I see I am making light of what Jesus did for me on the cross. My sin ought to break my heart whenever I sin. It ought to put me on my face before my holy, holy, holy God.

This is one of the reasons I am thankful for a weekly opportunity to go to the Lord’s Table and examine my own heart. It doesnt give me a chance to get complacent in my sin.

Lord, give me a heart to view my sin the way that Isaiah saw his.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

I will wait

Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.
And I will wait upon the Lord,
that hideth his face from the house of Jacob,
and I will look for him.
Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me
are for signs and for wonders in Israel
from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion. - Isaiah 8:16-18

It sometimes looks like the tests and trials that we go through are going to go on forever, doesn’t it. Sometimes it feels like we can’t buy a break. Trouble is followed by problem which is followed by testing which is followed by more bad news.

That must be how it felt to Isaiah during this time. It felt like God was hiding from them and it seemed like the enemy was going to win.

Isaiah had the right perspective though – ‘I will wait for the Lord…I will look for Him.’

That reminds me of the words of Micah when he was in a similar situation. ‘I will look to the Lord. I will wait. And my God will hear me.’

We go through those same kinds of things today. As the world gets worse and worse we need to keep looking to our God. As our trials and testings come and it even seems like God is not listening we need to remember that He is still there.

Like Isaiah we need to say ‘I will wait on Him’ and while I am waiting ‘I will look to Him.’

Wait on God. Look to Him. And He will answer.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

A conspiracy?

For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand,
and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying,
Say ye not, A confederacy,
to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy;
neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.
Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself;
and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
And he shall be for a sanctuary;
but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel,
for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken,
and be snared, and be taken. – Isaiah 8.11-15

I love a good conspiracy story. I think everyone does. At one point back in the 70s I joined the John Birch Society which is a hyper right wing conservative group dedicated to exposing all the conspiracies and groups and organisations in the world and how it is all being done to destroy our lives. Two of my favourite writers, Agatha Christie and Taylor Caldwell, were believers in the world conspiracy to control all the nations of the world. Just look through any list of television programmes on various cable channels and you will see that conspiracies are still big business. I don’t know for sure, but I would not be surprised if there was a ‘conspiracy channel’ out there somewhere.

The problem with all of these conspiracies is that once we get past the intriguing titillation they are all based on stirring up fear. They are based on the notion that some vast international conspiracy is so powerful that it is in control of our lives and it is what is going to determine our future.

But here God says ‘don’t you worry about conspiracies or confederations that may seem to endanger you. Instead set the Lord apart from all that in your lives. He will be your protection and your safety even when those things happen.’

So we need not be too concerned and the Illuminati or any other supposed vast world-wide conspiracy. They can’t win out anyway. Instead let us keep our focus on the high and lifted up thrice holy God that Isaiah saw in the vision that called Him to service.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

God is with us

Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces;
and give ear, all ye of far countries:
gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces;
gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.
Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought;
speak the word, and it shall not stand:
for God is with us. – Isaiah 8.9-10

I am in America for the Fourth of July this year. It is my first time to be here for the Fourth since 1997. Things have changed in the last twenty years. There is still, at least in the South where I am, a great show of religion. Right now I am in the buckle of the Bible Belt.

It is kind of nice the be a Christian in comfort.

But that doesn’t mean that we are no longer strangers in a strange land or pilgrims passing through until we get to our real homes. We even find ourselves right now in a land which is being friendly to Christians.

But we need to be careful that we never put our hope in a friendly government. The danger of this kind of comfort is that we can get, well, comfortable. And then comfort makes us lazy and lethargic. Then we are in danger when things turn on us.

But Isaiah had that covered.  He wrote 'God is with us.'

Our total reliance must be on the Lord even when things see okay. Things an turn on a dime was we need to remember that no matter what happens God’s always already given us the ultimate victory.

Our faith cannot be in politicians or leaders. They are prone to be pragmatic and do whatever works for them, but God is with is. Let our faith be in that turn, not in laws and leaders.

Monday, 3 July 2017

How long?

Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered,
Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant,
and the houses without man,
and the land be utterly desolate,
And the Lord have removed men far away,
and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.
But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten:
as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves:
so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof. – Isaiah 6.11-13

God showed me this verse years ago when I was in one of my cycles of being discouraged about the ministry. It seemed like for every success there were two failures. I was in the shower one morning and was really upset. I remember saying to God as I was getting dressed ‘how long do you expect me to keep doing this?’

As I walked into the office I turned on the computer and checked my email. A friend and I were sharing devotions at the time. The email he sent that morning started with this passage!

How long? Until these cities lie empty and a wasteland. In other words, when we go for God we go. Whether is to to our neighbour next door or someone on the far side of the world – we go and we keep going and going and going. We don’t give up. We don’t get weary in well doing. We don’t lose heart. We are stedfast. We are immovable. We are always abounding. We will reap in His time. Our labour is not in vain. God’s word will accomplish that which He desires.

How long? God will let us now when we are done.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Here I am

Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. – Isaiah 6.5-8

When God revealed Himself to Isaiah he was stunned. All he could was to fall on His face in worship and confess His sin.

In the midst of that we see God Himself calling out ‘Who will I send? Who will go for us?’

It is an amazing fact that God has chosen men to do His work. We can all say ‘woe is me’ and must recognise that we too are men of unclean lips in a land full of the same kind of people, but it is to that land that God says ;who will go for us?’

Then we see Isaiah responding ‘here I am, send me.’

Such simple but powerful words from a man of unclean lips. Isaiah knew he was not worthy to go – but still he said he would go.

Isn’t that a lot like us? God is still looking for people to go and do His work He is still looking for someone who will go for Him.

Who will it be? Are you and I willing to say ‘Here I am Lord, send me?’ Are we willing to say ‘send me to that hurting neighbour or that troubled co-worker or that family member or needs Christ or that town character that everyone laughs at or that refugee fleeing oppression or that foreign land where vast numbers don’t know Christ?

None of us a ‘good enough’ to go – God will take care of that, but are we ready to say ‘here I am!’

Saturday, 1 July 2017

High and lifted up

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said,
Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts:
the whole earth is full of his glory. – Isaiah 6.1-3

The nation needed something. It was a mess and it was only getting messier and messier. The people had totally forgotten God and were living lives only for themselves. 

But all was not lost, there was a prophet named Isaiah in he land. When King Uzziah died Isaiah saw vision that would start a great change. 

Isaiah saw God. 

Isaiah saw God high and lifted up. He saw the Lord on a throne and God’s apparel filled the temple. He saw angels surrounding God and they cried out ‘holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.’ And they cried out ‘the whole earth is full of His glory.’ 

We are certainly not going to find much holiness around us. It’s a word where holiness is mocked and ridiculed. 

But the holiness of God is our hope. God is separate from all sin. He is the only One who is so He sees things from the outside in a sense. He sees with unmuddled vision because His nature is not tainted by our sin. So He sees the answer and way through all of this. 

That’s why it is so important to pursue holiness in our sin cursed world today. We need to see this world from God’s perspective and we can only do that as we see Him high and lifted up in our lives. Instead of being drawn away by the wickedness of this broken world we ought to be looking at God in His holiness and putting our faith in Him. 

Friday, 30 June 2017

Calling evil good

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil;
that put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! – Isaiah 5.20

I am still not that old, but I certainly am amazed at how much this world has turned since I was younger. I have been saved for 43 years now. Looking at life from a Christian perspective has been an amazing experience. The are loads of things that everyone ‘knew’ were wrong back then that now are seen as a normal part of life.

We can expect that out of the world, but the sad thing is that things that we once knew were sin have become accepted and now are even seen as laudatory and good and positive.

While we are called to be loving and compassionate and caring and kind despite the sins of the world at the same time sin is still sin and we still must pronounce it as such. We still need to recognise wrong as wrong and evil as evil. We can and should be loving in the way we deal with it, but sin is the enemy, not the sinner. We must never get to the point where we tolerate sin just because it is popular or ‘normal.’

Evil is never going to become good. We can sugar coat it and call it by different names and make excuses, but evil is evil, was evil, and always will be evil. We dare not call evil good.

In all of this, let us remember that the enemy is evil, not the people that are caught up in that evil.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Walk in the light

O house of Jacob, come ye,
and let us walk in the light of the Lord. – Isaiah 2.5

There can be no doubt that we live in a world of darkness. There are times and places and situations where the darkness is nearly palpable. In places like Ireland, where there has never been a genuine revival the darkness can be overwhelming. All of man’s attempts at creating light eventually fail.

Part of the problem is that men tend to love darkness more than they love light. Darkness hides their sin. Nobody can see what we do in the darkness. The bad thing about darkness though is that we all stumble in the darkness and man doesn’t even know why he is stumbling.

Things are so dark and so bad that even we Christians can find ourselves ignoring the light and trying to muck about in the darkness.

The thing is that Jesus came as the Light of the world, to lead the way out of that darkness, but He was rejected by the world because they love darkness so much.

But there is no excuse for God’s children to walk in darkness. We have the light and we must not allow ourselves to get trapped in darkness and spending our days walking in it.

Not only that, but because we have the light we are to shine that light to the world. When we walk in the light we will draw others to walk in that light. We are instruments of light to show the world the Light that is found in Christ.

May my light shine so brightly before the world that they will see my goods works and that God might be lifted up and glorified in this dark world.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Swords into ploughshares





And he shall judge among the nations,
and shall rebuke many people:
and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruninghooks:
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.  - Isaiah 2.4

In 1959, at the very centre of the Cold War, the Soviet Union gifted the UN with the iconic image of a man beating a sword onto the cutting edge of a plough. The image is not only iconic, but also ironic since the USSR at that moment was on the verge of a potentially cataclysmic war against the US.

But still, the image and the notion was a good one. That war never came. Despite the hard talk and the rhetoric and a few near misses somehow that war was avoided.

Sadly though the image hopes for an impossibility. Man’s wars have continues to rage since 1959. We just can’t seem to get along despite of laudable goal of turning our weapons of war in to tools for peace and the betterment of mankind.

We can’t do it because man is always going to want what is best for himself. Nations want to take care of themselves and the cost to others really doesn’t matter. The goal is noble and man should all he can to achieve it. But, at the end of the day man’s peace will always fail.

That’s the context of this verse. Despite man’s conflict and despite the raging battle and all that the day is coming when God will send His Son back to earth to put an end to all war. The day is coming when He will reign and war will be no more.

That is only possible when man’s broken relationship with God is restored. That’s what the angel’s meant when the promised ‘peace on earth’ and that’s what Jesus meant when He said ‘My peace I leave with you.’

So lets take great hope in the image of swords being beaten into ploughshares. We have a great and mighty God who is going to bring it to pass and let us put our trust in Him to see it accomplished. 

And lets be busy bringing the message of His peace to a world that surely needs it. 

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Whiter than snow

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord:
though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
But if ye refuse and rebel,
ye shall be devoured with the sword:
for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. - Isaiah 1:18-20

We could hardly blame God if He just decided to wipe it all out and start again. The whole Bible is a record of God’s people walking in rebellion against Him and turning from Him. No matter what God does for us, we seem to turn from Him.

Why not just give up on us?

Israel in Isaiah’s time was like that. They didn’t really care about God or His way or His desires. They were all about satisfying self. God had been dealing with this since He chose Israel.

But God still loved His people. He continued to reach out to them. He wanted them to come to Him. God reached out with an offer because man had not power to reach out to God. ‘Come to me with your sins’ God says and I will taken the darkness of sin and make you whiter than snow.

Our only hope to have our slates washed clean is through the blood of Christ. It is the only thing that makes sense. I know I am not perfect and I know that I cannot rectify my sins on my own. I can be made white as snow because Christ’s righteousness covers me and God sees only His perfection when it is imputed on me.

I may not always feel whiter than snow – but that is how God sees me because of Christ.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Tired of your religion

Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth:
they are a trouble unto me;
I am weary to bear them.
And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you:
yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear:
your hands are full of blood.
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
Learn to do well;
seek judgment, relieve the oppressed,
judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. - Isaiah 1:14-17

Even while Israel was in a mess they still maintained their semblance of religion. They did the sacrifices and observed the holy days. The surface religion was still there. But there was no reality to it.

So God told them what they needed to do:

Cleanse yourselves of your sin
Get rid of the evil in your lives. Stop doing it.
Learn how to do well.
Seek just judgement.
Take care of the poor.
Care for the fatherless and the widows.

Obviously, the first though that comes to mind is how James defined true religious – ‘to care for the fatherless and the widows in their affliction and to keep yourself unspotted by the world.’

I wonder how God feels about my ‘religion?’ Is my religion the kind of thing Isaiah talks about or James writes about, or my religion mostly a show that makes me feel good about myself. Am I content with my religion, or am I striving to live out my faith by dealing with my sin and by caring for others?

Sunday, 25 June 2017

A very small remnant

Your country is desolate,
your cities are burned with fire:
your land, strangers devour it in your presence,
and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard,
as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers,
as a besieged city.
Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant,
we should have been as Sodom,
and we should have been like unto Gomorrah. – Isaiah 1.7-9

It seems like we are in days of overwhelming opposition. The world grows more and more wicked by the day. Christians seem to be shunted more and more to the touchlines and the shadows of our world. There is still plenty of religion, but the question is how much true faith is left? There are pockets where Christians still have some semblance of power in society, like this pocket of North Carolina, but we have to ask ourselves how many dedicated followers of Christ are there left?

In Isaiah’s day Israel found herself in a similar situation. The country was in a shambles and it was all doom and gloom.

But God left hope there. In the midst of all the disaster God had left ‘a very small remnant’ of His own true people who were carrying on faithfully for Him. That remnant gave hope.

Though we are not Israel I think we can learn from this truth of a very small remnant. In our culture, where it is even difficult to find truth in the churches, there still exists a very small remnant who hold true to the word of God and who will not be turned away by the lies and deceptions and the draws of this present age. That remnant is the hope for our churches and the hope of people caught in the horrors of this present.

That is why the remnant cannot give up. We can’t quit because we are tired. We can’t be moved. We must be steadfast. We must remember that our labour is not in vain in time we will reap if we don’t lose heart.

May that remnant be always faithful.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Arise and come away

My beloved spake, and said unto me,
Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For, lo, the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs,
and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. - Song of Songs 2:10-13

These words of the bridegroom were exciting words for the bride to look forward to. After all the celebration the bridegroom would say something like ‘the time as come, arise and come away with me. It is time to go home.

And those are words that we can look forward to as well. One day our Jesus is going to come to us and say ‘Arise, my beloved, it is time to go home.’ All of the waiting is going to be worth it all when we hear those wonderful words.

I get really tired of this broken world. It is sad to see a world full of broken people. And it even sadder when I let that broken world full of broken people get the best of me.

But, He will return. The bridegroom is coming to catch us away. He is coming to take us home to the place He has prepared for us. We are going to go home with the One who gave His life for us and spend eternity with Him in the perfect place He has made just for us.

What a day that will be when He says, ‘Arise, come away.’

Friday, 23 June 2017

The love banner

As the apple tree among the trees of the wood,
so is my beloved among the sons.
I sat down under his shadow with great delight,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love. - Song of Songs 2:3-4

The bride here is rejoicing over the marvellous provision of her groom. She speaks of the things he does for her and also of the great love that flies over everything.

He brought me to the banquet house and his banner over me is love.

Here again I think we see a picture of the wonderful relation that Jesus has with us, the church, His bride. We look forward to His great provision of eternity with Him, but we also see daily provision that He provides.

But what sticks out to me is His motive. The thing that overrides everything else is that His banner over me is love. The flag that flies over my relationship with the Savour is love.

It is His love that sent Him to earth to live amongst men. It is His love that motivated Him to go to the cross in my stead. It is His love that drives Him to be with me today. It is love that allows Him to be my advocate before the Father. And it is His love that will have Him one day come and say ‘arise and come away.’

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Let us hear the conclusion

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. – Ecclesiastes 12.13-14

Whoops, I jumped ahead of my self there and didn’t finish Ecclesiastes before I jumped into the Song of Songs, but how can I leave out the ‘conclusion of the whole matter?’

After all of Solomon’s searching and trying things out and finding only vanity he comes to the end of his search. He had tried power and pleasure and possessions and people and found everything wanting and stated ‘vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’

The conclusion of the whole matter?

Fear God and keep His commandments

Why?

This is the whole duty of man.

It is only in fearing God and keeping His commandments that we can find peace and contentment and satisfaction and the meaning on life. If that is our goal the circumstances we face can’t destroy us. Our lives are based not on what we can get out of them but on how we can serve Him.

When we do that all the stuff that Solomon sought to find peace don’t matter – our peace is the peace that Jesus left behind that the world can never provide.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

How can I turn aside?

Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth,
where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon:
for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions? - Song of Songs 1:7

Well, here we go into the Song of Songs. To me personally this is the most difficult book from which to glean spiritual truth. It is a beautiful love song full of love and intimacy where I often can’t make sense of why we are privy to such an intimacy. But, I know this is God’s word and that it is there for a purpose, so here goes.

The first thing to jump out at me was chapter 1 verse 7. The bride is speaking of her love and says ‘I love you and you provide for me. Why then should I be turned aside by anyone else.’ (A little bit of parrowphrase there)

But I love the picture that this conjures up. They tell us the the Song of Songs is a love story that illustrates the love that Christ, the bridegroom, has for us, His church. That being the case we have an image of the Christ that provides for us. Since we claim to love Him and He meets our needs how can we be turned aside by everything else out there? Why should we go anywhere else? It reminds of when Peter, I think it was, said ‘Where else would we go Lord?’

We have all we need in Him. How can we be turned aside by the passing baubles that the world offers us? All the other things are passing away. Only Christ is for eternity. The visible things of this world are tempting, but temporary. He is invisible, but eternal.

So let us follow the bride's example here and ask ourselves ‘how can we be turned away?’

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

One sinner does great harm



Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good. - Ecclesiastes 9:18

The first thing I think about here is the story of Achan and the battle of Ai. In that account the nation of Israel had just had a great victory at Jericho, but were defeated at the battle of Ai which they should have won easily.

Hw could they lose such an easy battle? Achan, one of the men of Israel has sinned by taking some of the loot for himself.

The picture is pretty clear. One sinner can make a mess of things for everyone else.

We are primarily talk about something dealing with God’s people. Achan sets the example in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament we have an example of the truth in the church at Corinth.

A man in the church there was have sexual relations with his mother-in-law. The church has tried to get him to confess and repent and lay aside his sin. Still he continued, but something had to be done.

So Paul told the church to ‘put him out’ until he repented.

That sounds harsh, but it worked. The man was restored.

It is important that the church deal with sin in her ranks. Tolerating a little sin does a lot of damage. It is never to be done in a haughty, arrogant, or punishing way. The goal is always to restore the erring member.

But one sinner can do a lat of harm, to himself and to the church. Our task is to admonish and help get him on the right path.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Quiet words of wisdom

The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. - Ecclesiastes 9:17

I realise that Ecclesiastes 9 comes before Ecclesiastes 12, but I was looking back and spotted a couple of things from last week, that just need to be talked about.

For one thing, I can’t imagine more needed words in today’s climate than ‘the words of wise men are heard in quiet.’ ’

We live in a day of great loudness. Everyone has an opinion, which is fine, but it seems like a lot of folks think that their opinion must be heard and that if no one will listen the best thing to do is to just say it more loudly. The quiet voice that tries to speak out is far too often shouted into silence.

Any fool can shout with a loud voice.

But still, there are those quiet words being spoken in the midst of all the shouting. Those wise words are being said, and all we have to do is to listen.

But there is something even more important that we can do – we can strive to be that quiet voice of wisdom in this world of screaming.

Lord, help me to be one that has that has that quiet voice of wisdom.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Remember in your youth

Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; - Ecclesiastes 11:9 - 12:1

In all that rejoicing of the life we are to have there is something. There is a ‘big but,’ if you will.

‘Remember now your Creator…’ Solomon writes. Enjoy your life but don’t leave God out of it. The next few verses are kind of depressing in their description of getting old with things like our teeth wearing our and our eyes going bad. I remember way back to about 2002 when my arches collapsed and I first need varifocals and thought that was bad. Since then I am sensing the changes, and though I am still in relative good health and trying to stay active I am not the man I was forty years ago. The reality of this passage is starting to sink in.

Remembering God is the counterweight to rejoicing in youth. It is the thing that keeps everything in check. Remembering God is what. Gives me the ability to really enjoy life in a way that does not cause destruction or make me do things I will regret later.

While the youth, and all of us, enjoy life we must also put away evil. ‘Remove sorrow, but put away evil’ Solomon says. We need not do evil to rejoice in our lives. In fact they ought to go hand in hand.

The balance requires the right perspective – and that comes when we focus on remembering God as we go from day to day.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Rejoice in your youth

Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity. - Ecclesiastes 11:9-10

Though we live in a terribly broken world God did not intend for us to live a life of drudgery. This passage is a reminder to enjoy the life we have while we can,

That’s a wonderful truth for all of us. God wants us to enjoy the time He gives us. Here He specifically says ‘rejoice O young man in your youth’ and that is something young people need to remember. But I think the principle is true for us all. Enjoy the time we have because the years are passing by and soon they will be done. Don’t put things off until tomorrow. Use the time we have.

But enjoying is only half of the story. That is not the important things here. There is something to remember while we enjoy. More anon.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Cast your bread

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth. If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be. He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap. As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all. In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good. - Ecclesiastes 11:1-6

‘Cast your bread upon the waters’ is an interesting phrase. I don’t understand how the idiom came to be, but the idea is that we are to do good without any regard as to how we might be rewarded or recompensed.

That is a beautiful idea, isn’t it? We ought to just be doing good no matter what. This casting bread could be as simple as being a kind and helpful person. It could be meeting the needs of those less fortunate. Or it could be something as profound as sharing Christ with people we meet.

It does seem at times like that last thing is done without any sign that it is doing any good. Solomon writes that we don’t understand how the spirit moves or the bones grow in the womb. We can know more hope to understand how God is using us or how He is going to work.

So we just keep casting our bread on the waters and leave the rest up to God. Keep on loving, keep on doing good deeds, keep on caring, keep on caring for others, keep on sharing your faith, keep talking about Jesus. We don’t know if it is going to prosper or not – God does, so lets trust Him.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Yielding pacifies

If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences. - Ecclesiastes 10:4

Before I get started let me assure you all that I understand the need to stand and fight and not be moved and never to yield to wrong or sin or the forces of evil.

But, there are times in our every day lives when we need to acknowledge that there is a place to yield and watch yielding bring about peace. Don’t get too excited, Solomon says, when you have problems with the government. Giving in can pacify great offences.

Sometimes the best thing we can do when people treat us unfairly is just to let it go. Here it is the light of a ruler rises up to oppose the people, but I think the application is that we need to carefully choose our battles. We don’t need to fight about everything. That concept seems to be forgotten in 2017 when people, including God’s people, seem to be ready to fight at the drop of a hat over sports or politics or smartphone choices or what kind of tea to drink (though I don’t understand anyone who doesn’t think Lyons Gold is the best tea in the world).

Sometimes we just need to choice not to take offence or be bothered and yield so that there will peace and we can move on to more important things.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Wisdom is better than strength

Then I said:
“Wisdom is better than strength.
Nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised,
And his words are not heard.
Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard
Rather than the shout of a ruler of fools. - Ecclesiastes 9:16-17

We have all heard the old saying that ‘might makes right.’ And, it certainly seems to ring true. The stronger you are the better chance you have of winning whatever you are doing. Might always overcomes weakness.

But even in a worldly secular context that’s not the way it always works. “Wisdom is better than strength’ we read here. There are times when a David defeats a Goliath out of wisdom. I think of sporting events where a vastly superior team with far more skill and far more talent and much stronger players was out played and out strategied by a wiser coach and smarter players.

Sometimes, even in a practical sense wisdom is greater than strength. That being the case it is even more obvious that when we exercise God’s wisdom we can defeat even the strongest foe.

Nobody is going to outsmart God or outpower Him or outthink Him. He has the perfect plan that is going to always win out over the best man can throw at Him.

So we need to rely on His wisdom working in us as we leave our lives today. God’s wisdom may seem like foolishness to the world, but it will always win out over the world’s might.


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

A snare

For man also does not know his time:
Like fish taken in a cruel net,
Like birds caught in a snare,
So the sons of men are snared in an evil time,
When it falls suddenly upon them. - Ecclesiastes 9:12

We never know what is around the corner. We are like fish swimming in a net filled sea. We are like birds in a field of snares. We never know where the nest trap might bet or even what it might look like.

This is why we believers are told to be sober and be vigilant because our adversary the devil walks about seeking whom he might devour. It is why we are told to walk circumspectly. Eve had no idea she was going to be caught out by Satan when she went for her stroll though the garden.

We can have the same problem. We don’t know what is there to catch us out. So we must be ever vigilant as we go from day to day so that we are not caught in the snare of the evil day.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Time and chance happen to all


I returned and saw under the sun that—
The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all. - Ecclesiastes 9:11

The race is not always to the swift and the battle is not always to the strong. Bread does always come to the wise or riches to those who understand. Favour does not always go to the skilled.

Generally these things so happen, but sometimes the weaker win the fight and he slower win the race and the foolish prosper and so on.

Because sometimes strange things just happen. Sometimes things don’t go the way they ‘should.’

Solomon seems almost obsessed with the fact that life just goes on.

God is in control, but at the same time life does just go on. It is not always going to seem fair. We can’t always figure it out.

What is the lesson for us? As life goes on we are just continue on, stedfast, unmovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Whatever you do

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going. – Ecclesiastes 9.10

When we are young we think we have all the time in the world. Our future lies ahead of us, We have plenty of time to do what we need to do. Life is full of potential.

But when we get a little older we realise how short life really is. We realise that time is fleeting and we only have so much to do what we are going to do. The time is coming when we are not going to be able to do any more.

That is why the Bible says, on a pretty regular basis, that we need to be busy and diligent in the tasks set before us. We can’t afford to be lax or lethargic or lackadaisical about the work we need to do.

Solomon writes that we are to do our work with all our might. Paul says we are to do all we do to the glory of God. Paul also writes that we should we should be working while it is day because the night is coming when no one can work. We are told to be about redeeming the times.

I know that we have to come apart and rest a while, but if we are not careful that coming apart can be our routine.  That is not part of God’s plan.

We ought to serve our Lord with all our might. We ought to take care of our families with all our might. We ought to do our jobs with all our might. We ought to love God and love each other with all our might. We ought to serve others with all our might.

And we ought to do them all for the glory of God.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

We are all in the same boat

For I considered all this in my heart, so that I could declare it all: that the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God. People know neither love nor hatred by anything they see before them. All things come alike to all:
One event happens to the righteous and the wicked;
To the good, the clean, and the unclean;
To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice.
As is the good, so is the sinner;
He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath. – Ecclesiastes 9.1-2

I hear folks, on a somewhat regular basis, trying to figure God out after a disaster strikes. The big one I hear, after an earthquake or hurricane or tornado or a flood or something like that, is that God is judging this or that group of people. That storm hit because that (insert chosen group of sinners here) was there.

Things happen to both the righteous and the wicked.
The rain falls on both the evil and the good.

Stuff just happens. Good stuff happens to the just and the unjust and bad stuff happens to the wicked and the righteous. We can’t presume on God’s behalf why things happen. We can’t expect that just because we are saved we are going to avoid disaster and storms and fires and sickness and death and financial woes and anything else.

We all live in the same world. We all enjoy the good parts of our world and we are deal with the bad parts. The difference is that we have to presence of almighty God to carry us through the good times and the bad. Life is life – but we have the strength to carry us through.

Friday, 9 June 2017

I don't get it

When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth, even though one sees no sleep day or night, then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labours to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it. - Ecclesiastes 8:16-17

‘When I see all the works that God does I realise that I can’t always figure it out.’

I can certainly understand that. I don’t ‘get God’ all the time. I don’t understand why some of the stuff that happens happens. It doesn’t makes sense. It doesn’t match my plans and goals and my wonderful ideas about what should be done. Solomon, much wiser than I am, says ‘even if a wise man tries to figure it out, he won’t be able to.’

Okay, lets think about it for a minute. Our grand daughter Amy just had her first birthday. She loves to play in Grammy’s kitchen. She like to get in the press and pull out kitchen tools and play with them. Let’s say that somehow a knife gets left out someplace where Amy can get and she sees it. ‘Oh, a new toy’ she thinks and reaches for it. I see her take it and I carefully take it away from her and she can’t figure out why. ‘Why would Grampy take that away from me? That would be fun! Doesn’t he love me anymore?’ She really can’t reason why.

That is something of a picture about what it is like for us to try and figure out God. When God says no or allows things into our lives that we don’t like we may not get it – but God, who does love us, does know the whole scheme of things. I can’t see the whole picture, He can. His way is not my way. His thoughts are not my thoughts. His ways and His thoughts are far above mine.

I may not get it – this is where faith is put to the test. Do I trust Him the way I expect Amy to trust me?

Thursday, 8 June 2017

The good old days

Do not say,
“Why were the former days better than these?”
For you do not inquire wisely concerning this. - Ecclesiastes 7:10

We see a lot about the ‘good old days.’ We always have, but in this day of social media it seems like we see it all the time. Some of these are fun and bring up warm nostalgic memories while some brag about how we survived all kinds of childhood activities that are now supposed to be bad for us. At the very best, these memes have a way on only focusing on the positives. While there are lot of good things, the 50s and 60s were also the days of polio and diphtheria and measles and ‘coloured only’ water fountains and obvious sexism and all sorts of things we don’t like to remember.

The truth is that the ‘good old days’ are hardly ever that good. Every age has its problems and always and has. The good old days were also the ‘bad old days.’

That’s what Solomon is saying here. Don’t say ‘the former days are better than these, because you don’t know what you were talking about.

This a side of ‘forgetting those things which are behind’ we don’t often think about. Even if those days were as great as we would like them to be, they are gone and we can’t get them back.

What’s done is done. Sure, we can learn some lessons from history, but we can’t focus on the past. We need to keep pressing on in the world we live in today. We can’t live in those marvellous wonder years even when we can enjoy the memories of them.

Instead of focusing on the good old days, maybe we are ought to look at the great days to come.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Rebuke

It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise Than for a man to hear the song of fools. - Ecclesiastes 7:5

Who likes to be rebuked? You? Me? Anybody?
Who likes to hear his praises sung? You? Me? Everybody?

It is naturally much easier to hear praise than rebuke.

But is that always the best thing to hear? What good does praise do us in the long run? It may makes us feel better or give us a little boost or lift our spirits, but it does nothing to fix any flaws or problems in our lives.

So it is better to hear the rebuke of a wise man. Kind wise rebuke is our only hope for improvements.

I think that is part of the reason we have each other. We have friends who we ought to depend on when we need rebuke or correction. False praise only leads to destruction. True rebuke, even when it hurts, is better than any false praise.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

A good name

A good name is better than precious ointment, And the day of death than the day of one's birth; - Ecclesiastes 7.1

God puts a lot of importance in a good name. In the Proverbs we are told that having a good name is more important than great riches. Here we read that it is better than a precious ointment.

We have been reading a few times about how temporary all the present stuff we have really is. We can’t take it with us, but making a good name is something that will and does carry on. It is something we can leave behind that benefits us and our children and grandchildren forever.

We can leave a good name behind. I hope and I pray that by this stage of my life the name ‘Roger Parrow’ in generally considered a good name. I hope I have lived a life seeking to honour my Lord and serve others that people think positively when they hear my name.

A good name has a lot of practical advantages as well. A good name allows people to trust you and favour you and even be a help to you. A good name is backed by good character and even today people appreciate a man or woman of good character. We only get a good name by doing good.

But most of all, a good name allows us to honour the Lord and live a life that draws men to our Saviour. A good name for a believer reflects His good name in our lives. 

Monday, 5 June 2017

You can't take it with you

There is a severe evil which I have seen under the sun: Riches kept for their owner to his hurt. But those riches perish through misfortune; When he begets a son, there is nothing in his hand. As he came from his mother's womb, naked shall he return, To go as he came; And he shall take nothing from his labour Which he may carry away in his hand.  - Ecclesiastes 5:13-15

It doesn’t take long for humans to begin exerting self will and make demands. We sta are born needing, but it doesn’t take too long to start wanting. You can watch very young children reaching out to get what they want when they want it. All through childhood you watch children and they want what they other kids have even when their hands are full already. Then we grow into adulthood and we are still out to get more of what we want.

And I guess there is nothing working with gathering stuff and filling our wants. But we must keep one thing in mind. When it is all said and done and they lower us in the grave we will leave this world with exactly what we had when we arrived. Nothing. When we die we take nothing with us. Our family may gain – but we get nothing.

We must always keep in mind that as we gather our good and build our storehouses to store more goods that tomorrow is the day we may very well be held accountable for our souls – and all we have gathered will mean nothing.

We can’t keep our hearts and minds and focus and on these earthly, visible, temporary things, for they are all passing away. We can’t take a single thing with us. But our soul will go with us. It is eternal. What we do with it is forever.

Be careful not to be caught up in all the stuff that is so important now. It will all be gone one day.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

The sleep of a labouring man

The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much; But the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep. – Ecclesiastes 5.12

The Bible says plenty about the importance of good, honest, hard work. Hard work is an honourable thing. It is, of course, the way to provide for family. It is good for a society to be a society if hard workers. It keeps us out of mischief. Work is to be done with diligence. All our work is to be done ‘unto the Lord.’ Work is a mark of our character.

And the sleep of a labouring man will be sweet. The best solution for sleep is a good hard day’s work. The more stuff we have and the more responsibilities we have the more we have to cause us to fret and rob us of our sleep.

There is no better rest than after well used day. It is wonderful to lay your head on the pillow and know that you have spent the day redeeming the time and accomplishing the tasks of the day.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

He who loves silver

He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity. When goods increase, They increase who eat them; So what profit have the owners Except to see them with their eyes?  - Ecclesiastes 5:10-11

He who loves silver will never be satisfied with silver. Anyone who seeks abundance and increase will always find it falling short. It’s all vanity. With riches come those who will take it away.

So it is with riches. No one who wants to be rich will ever be satisfied, they will always want more. If we seek more riches we will never find contentment.

The solution is that contentment must come first. Godliness, accompanied with contentment, is the only way to find true gain that last. Even if you keep your riches your whole life time it won’t do any good at the end of our short lives.  Contentment lasts forever.

Solomon says that all his riches only give him something to look at. They can never really satisfy. It only brings a desire to have more.

There is nothing wrong with silver and  gold. They can sure be helpful. But beware of always wanting more.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Too many words

Do not be rash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes through much activity, And a fool's voice is known by his many words. - Ecclesiastes 5:2-3

Not too long ago I wrote a problem I had with hasty words. But hasty words are not the only problem. Here Solomon mentions hasty words, but goes on to say ‘a fool’s voice is known by his many words.’

Too many words is as bad as too hasty words. Even if I can slow my mouth down enough to not respond hastily I still to often reply with too many words or with putting in my words where they are not really wanted.

There are all kinds of problems with too many words. They give you too many chances to speak foolish words. Too many words often involve wasted words. Too many words make you miss somebody else’s important words. Too many words can make you look like an idiot.

Hasty words can make you look like a fool. Many words can make you look like a fool. Let’s strive to be slow and careful and thrifty with our words.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

A threefold cord

Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4.9-12

I am certainly NOT a loner. I know people who are and frankly I don’t know how they do it. I can go, and sometimes ever appreciate,  a couple of hours alone, but must more than that and I get antsy.

So this passage appeals to me. Two are better than one (of course)…and a threefold cord is not easily broken.

My favourite (and only) hobby is geocaching. It is a massive worldwide ‘treasure hunt’ game. More than three millions caches are hidden all over the world, and one on the ISS. Someone hides a small container, sometimes with only a logbook, and logs the coordinates online. The player goes to www.geocaching.com and searches for nearby caches, then using a GPS device or phone app, seeks them out. When you find it you sign a log book and then log it online. I have only found about 600, but have been led to many fascinating places and sites playing the game.

But I don’t enjoy it alone. I do look for caches on occasion, but I don’t go out of my way unless someone goes with me. Why, mostly because I like the company, but also because two pairs of eyes are better than one and three pairs of eyes almost always work. And if I really get stuck I will drag Mary out because she ‘always’ spots the cache.

This is my picture of this great truth. We really do need each other. One alone may be weak, another helps, but it is hard to break a threefold cord. If we have a couple of friends around we can handle almost anything.


I think that is part of the reason why God gave us the church. There is strength in numbers. Part of the reason we go to church is so they we can support and help and strengthen each other.

No need to stand alone – we have each other.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

What God does is done

I know that whatever God does, It shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, And nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him. That which is has already been, And what is to be has already been; And God requires an account of what is past. - Ecclesiastes 3:14-15

Man thinks he is pretty important. He always has. He tried to build a huge monument to make a name for himself at Babel and he still tries to make those monuments.

The sad thing is that the works of men eventually end. The monuments eventually fall. All that man does is temporal.

But when God does it it is done. What God does lasts forever. Man can’t add to or take away from the work of God. Everything we see today has been seen and everything coming has been seen. There is indeed nothing new under the sun. Because God’s work lasts forever men ought to stand in awe of His power.

This is why we read ‘don’t look at the visible things of this world, but the invisible. The visible things are temporary but the invisible forever’ and ‘set your affection on things above, not on things below.’

We have to live in this world. But it is important that we emphasise the eternal – for those things are going to last forever.


What God does is done – what man does will eventually fail.