Past Times

Past Times

In the wisdom books of the Bible there is tremendous truth, yet that wisdom is often simply stated and does not always follow a line of reasoning or argument. Therefore, due to the lack of context, we find the need to meditate on its words and thoughts to uncover and understand its messages. Ecclesiastes 7:10 speaks of the folly of saying that the former days were better than the days we live in. This is a truth that speaks to those who take a general look at the past through rose tinted spectacles, thinking the former days were better than the days we live in (or that the men and women of the past were supermen and superwoman, made of different stuff). Yet even worldly wisdom would help us here and it only takes a meager look at history to show that each age had its own special evils and its own special goods. But this is a call to a wisdom that deals with a mindset that goes much deeper than this. Even as the world moves towards the Lord’s return, this wrong worship of the past has at its root to question God and His methods and how He rules over the world today, and to question where and when He has placed us. This verse reminds us that, while we live in different days, we must recognise that God is sovereign over today and tomorrow just as much as He was over yesterday or the past. This understanding that God is in control today should bring us present comfort not concern, and should lead us towards trust. To say the former days were better is not only to question God’s rule but also reveals a faith and a trust that needs to change. Looking and learning from the past (and remembering) can be a necessary exercise but we need to trust God as to where He has placed each of us as we serve Him together. Our opinions about the past should not be used to dictate our expectations, our attitude, or our activity in the present, except to encourage us and spur us on. Undoubtedly there were saints of God in the past who we can learn from but we are called to be saints in the days in which we live; not setting low standards or expectations for ourselves or not trusting God. We need to continue to cultivate the art of being thankful in prayer in whatever circumstance we find ourselves, of being busy in the work of God in the day we find ourselves in, and trusting a great God wherever we find ourselves. We are called to live and serve and worship in the present and not in the past. The reality is, the God of the Bible is our God, the God of the past is our God, and the God that the saints of old trusted and served is the God that we must trust and serve in our own generation; no matter what that is like. He has a plan, and we are part of it, so as we pass through trials and troubles, as we work and witness, let us trust the God who reigns over all history; including today.

For the God on the mountain, is still God in the valley
When things go wrong, He’ll make them right
And the God of the good times, is still God in the bad times
The God of the day is still God in the night!

We have been given the gift of a little time let us use it wisely, redeeming it, and trusting the Alpha and the Omega, the God who holds all our days, and us, in His sovereign hand.

Weeds

Weeds

Sanctification is that process of working out our salvation with fear and trembling because it is God who works in us. In these days of ‘lockdown’ there are those, myself included, who have taken the opportunity of reduced schedules that have been imposed upon us to be involved in a bit of gardening (well at least on my part cutting the grass) and all the many other tasks gardening entails. Many following the ‘work’ given to Adam and Eve before the fall (Gen 2v15). As with all aspects of creation even the plant life points us to the Creator (indeed a witness that is to be perfected again in the future, Isaiah 55v12-13). The garden and plant life can picture to us many important truths. As I look at a untidy garden an activity that is on my mind is that of weeding (perhaps next week!). The weeding process reminds us of the presence of thorns and weeds and toil that the fall and sin brought into this world, it reminds us that this world is not as it once was, nor as it should be, or one day will be remade into. However, it also challenges me that even as we use this ‘free’ time to tend the physical garden that we should also use this appointed time to look after and to tend a more important garden; the garden of our souls. To survey the garden of our lives, to look for the pockets of weeds, of sin, and with God’s help, to root them out. Due to our nature (and certainly in the gardening realm my inability at times to tell weed from flower) we need to use the word of God to show us the many and varied weeds that can subtly grow, unchecked, and even admired in our lives. But not only do we need to remove what is invasive, and that which chokes other life, stealing nutrient and energy that could be better used, we need to tend the flowers and the plants, water them, feed them, plant new seeds, that they might produce beauty in our lives and fruit for the good of others. While there are many different types of weeds (sins) there is only one solution that can deal with them and it is the blood of Jesus, to place them in confession and repentance under the blood. There is much work to be done, and to be doing, both in the garden of our lives and in the field of the world. Take this time, these days God has appointed, and make it a sanctifying time in our lives. A time of tending to our souls, a spiritual spring clean. Praying for wisdom and insight from God, to reveal things to us that we ought to confess and dig up. For Him to show us other things that are withered and need to be nourished. Prepare the ground with the plough of prayer, plant the good seed, apply the water of the Word, pull up the weeds and burn them, so that we might have fruitful lives for God’s glory.

Helper

Helper

1 Samuel 23v15-18 – David, the anointed future King, had his back to the wall; alone, under pressure, and facing real danger, but in these trying circumstances we learn a few lessons about the power of true Christian fellowship. Recognising David’s predicament and physical isolation Jonathan rises to action in order to strengthen his anointed leader in the Lord.

Firstly, in seeing David’s circumstances we recognise that even great men and women need God’s helpers. Prayerful, practical, and in person help. David was in a wood, a place that was necessary for his safety but also as a consequence a place of separation and isolation (how relevant to the times we live in).

Secondly, David the shepherd was Jonathan’s anointed leader but this fact did not prevent him from acting to minister to his future king. David gladly accepts that help in the Lord, and the two men go on to make a covenant together, strengthening a bond, and to share a future vision together.

Thirdly, this was not accidental help, this was intentional help. It says Jonathan arose and acted. Sometimes we help others by ‘accident’ (divine appointment), but this was Jonathan’s active intention to help his future King. He saw a need, and he intentionally acted. He purposed in his heart to be useful and usable.

Fourthly, David received a special kind of help, (to be strengthened in the Lord). Jonathan did not only act to build up David’s confidence in himself, but Jonathan strengthened David’s confidence in the Lord. He reminded David of the promise of God, that he would be king, that what he was going through was not going to thwart God’s plans. He reminded him that God is not slack concerning His promises, he strengthened David’s confidence in God at a difficult time. It was vital this anointed leader of the nation knew the care and help and love of God expressed to him through his friends.

Fifthly, in the help Jonathan provided, there is always a part of that, or any other, ministry, that can only be accomplished by God. It is recorded, that after Jonathan met with David he then left, but David remained in the wood! This is a great difficulty in seeking to help others that, even against our desires to help, we can only enter into their situation to a point but no further. (Not so our Lord who fully and completely took on our burden, and now lives by His Spirit within us! That one who is always with us through every circumstance of life.). Jonathan was unable to change much about the circumstances but he did comfort the man in his circumstances. Jonathan was the willing instrument God used to strengthen David. His action is recorded in Scripture for us as an example to act with intent to help others – As God leads, to yield ourselves as a channel of encouragement, help, and even at times to challenge or rebuke that God can use and work through.

I would encourage you, as you have been doing, over the coming days and weeks, to help, pray and encourage one another. This example of true Christian fellowship, between David and Jonathan, is one we can seek to emulate as we not only take but also make opportunity to minister to others. Like Johathan’s, ours is a ministry that should spring from a genuine love and compassion for our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and our Love of God. We read in 1 Samuel 18v1 that Jonathan loved David’s soul as his own. What a challenging example and indeed high standard of love expressed that we find between these two Old Testament characters. I don’t know about you, but as I finish my thought I find myself challenged by such a shining example. To esteem others as better than ourselves.

Jonathan strengthened David’s hand in the Lord… …because he loved his soul!