Monday, 18 May 2020

1 Kings 19: Elijah and God

I was listening to a podcast the other day which was speaking about 1 Kings 19 and it reminded me of how very relevant this passage is to our present situation as many of us struggle to cope with the ongoing Coronavirus lockdown across the world.

There are some relevant points to be applied in this passage which I hope will be a benefit to some as they were to me. There are lessons about ourselves and lessons about God which were a tremendous encouragement to me. This post is not an answer or solution to depression or anxiety, but rather intended as a help and encouragement to believers who might be struggling. 

Let us first consider the man Elijah... Elijah we are told in James 5 was a man subject to like passions as we are, so hopefully we can all  identify with Elijah in some way. Elijah wore his heart on his sleeve and experienced tremendous highs (take a look at the previous chapter on Mt Carmel) and he was used mightily for God, but he also had moments of weakness and vulnerability as well. In fact when we find Elijah in 1 Kings 19 he is despondent and is clearly at his lowest point. he even ponders death being preferable to life and I don't think hyperbole is being used here, as Jezebel certainly had a very real track record in murdering and persecuting the prophets so his anxiety was certainly understandable! In any case his feelings are recorded for us in scripture and they are for our learning I would judge. "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." 

In this passage we see 3 symptoms present with Elijah that are still found today amongst believers struggling with coping in a time of crisis.

ANXIETY - There can be no doubt that Elijah was crippled with fear, anxiety and worry at this moment. The threats of Jezebel had cut deep and coupled with a sense of isolation and lack of support or encouragement, Elijah flees and begins an emotional downward spiral. FEAR or ANXIETY as we can see, alters our perspective and changes the way we view the world and even our FAITH. It will often lead to further negative symptoms as we will go on to discuss. I heard someone say recently that "worry is a prayer to the wrong God" and I certainly take the point! When we worry we beset ourselves with the problem instead of bringing it to God. Let us couple this point with the New Testament encouragement: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

INACTIVITY - Fear and anxiety can almost always lead to a total lack of motivation and 'get up and go' as some people describe it. We become paralysed, and uncertain what to do first or what to do next as we slip further into the malaise. Here in our passage we see Elijah sitting down, then lying down and then falling asleep, in fact twice the angel tells him to "arise". I'm not saying we shouldn't lie down and have a rest but as often found in scripture I believe that in this instance they are symptomatic of a broader problem and we can make application to ourselves. Elijah was usually a busy active man and so this is atypical behaviour. Physical symptoms like this manifest themselves when we are struggling with low mood and motivation, often brought on by stress and anxiety. "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."

DESPAIR - Hear we see in Elijah's prayer what he is thinking and we can see that he has lost hope, and is deep in despair. The fear mentioned previously has changed his perspective and his mind is now filtering everything so that he now only sees the negative in the situation. In addition he has slipped into a 'victim mentality' whereby he has filtered out his tremendous experiences with God and is now left with the anxiety that he is now consumed by. He has isolated himself both physically and mentally ("I alone am left!") and this is not healthy, spiritually or mentally! " content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Let's now look at how God responds to the plight of his servant.

GOD NOTICES - Elijah's situation had not gone unnoticed. God had seen, noticed and now calls out to his servant "what are you doing here Elijah?" I don't think this question was a judgement from God but rather a prompt for Elijah to unburden himself to God. If we are struggling, let's unburden ourselves to God!
GOD LISTENS - I love how God listens to Elijah. Twice God listens carefully to Elijah as he pours out his worry without interruption or judgement! God had sent fire from heaven for Elijah, but here he listens lovingly as his servant cries out to him in despair. Perhaps there is a lesson here in listening to each other and sharing our problems, first with God and then with others who might be able to help or encourage us.
GOD SPEAKS - Not only does God listen but he speaks! Our relationship with him is a two way thing, praise God! We speak to him in prayer and he speaks to us through his Word. Sometimes our Bible reading and meditations can slip when we feel burdened by problems, and this often contributes to a downward spiral. I certainly speak from experience here, but reading his Word has often brought me fresh perspective and encouragement.
GOD MOVES - Not only does God speak to us but I believe God can move in our lives as well. God responds to Elijah and passes by the mountain on which he stood. First there is a mighty wind, then an earthquake, then a fire, all spectacular and destructive forces. But God wasn't in any of them! Rather God chose to visit him in a "still small voice". What a contrast! It was not in the spectacular or mighty but in the ordinary and everyday that God was seen and found. I take tremendous encouragement from this! Too often I look for God to do the spectacular or to change my life in a mighty way in order to deal with a particular problem or low period in my life. But this passage teaches us that God can be seen and felt in the small everyday things of life, perhaps even things that can be so easily overlooked. God can often bring us out of our despair by showing us little things, so let us look out for and notice the 'still small voices' in our life!
GOD HELPS - God also provides real solutions and helps for Elijah.
  • He gives FOOD - For those who cry out to him in distress He makes sure we have what we need spiritually when "the journey is too great for thee"... We should return to his Word for sustenance when we are low and weakened! 
  • He FORTIFIES - God encourages us through his Word. Very often he can point us to a verse or a thought that can lift us and remind us of His goodness and then we regain perspective, and realise that things are not as bad as they might seem. This was certainly Elijah's experience and I can identify with this personally as well. God gives Elijah fresh perspective and HOPE by pointing out that there were 7000 that had not bowed the knee in Israel, and Elijah was needed now more than ever!
  • He gives FOCUS FUNCTION -  God gives Elijah several important tasks to do and it would seem that this is the best thing for us when we slip into a negative spiral and feel unmotivated - to look for something positive to do for God, to meet a need and help his people! This would take the focus away from the problems and worry and help deal with things positively. We see Elisha introduced at this point, and this would give Elijah a project to put more positive energies into, and a legacy to pass on. It is always a positive thing to help encourage and help the next generation and have something positive to regain our spiritual FOCUS and FUNCTION.
  • He provides FELLOWSHIP - Not only does Elijah have fellowship with God at this time but he now has Elisha as a welcome source of fellowship. If Elijah felt isolated and alone before, having the presence and help of Elisha would be a great blessing to him. How good it is to have fellowship with the Lord's people and to surround ourselves with people who will help and encourage us! "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."
I hope these simple thoughts are of some help and encouragement to a believer in need at this time.

Yours in Christ,


Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Criticism of the Lord Jesus in Mark 2

I want to look at 4 questions posed by the Pharisees as they criticised the Lord Jesus in Mark chapter 2. Of course the Lord Jesus was criticised regularly by the Pharisees as they observed him and sought to discredit Him, trap Him and take Him. However in these confrontations there is much we can learn about the character of the Lord Jesus and apply to ourselves. The last two questions form a couple so there are 3 main points that I want to make from these thoughts, that will hopefully encourage us in our Christian lives as we make application.

Who can forgive sins but God only?

Found in verse 7 the Pharisees reason and murmur in their hearts, outraged at the 'blasphemy' from this Jesus of Nazareth! Of course, their question was accurate - only God can forgive sins, but they failed to appreciate that the man standing in their midst was God manifest in the flesh, their  Immanuel (God with us)! We are eternally grateful that we know a Saviour and a God who forgives sins, made possible through the work of Calvary. The point we realise here is that as God, He rewards FAITH with FORGIVENESS. Verse 5 says - "when Jesus saw their FAITH... Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." Praise God for the joy of sins forgiven! (Psa 32:1)

How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?

Again the observation of the Pharisees was correct! We are ever thankful that our Saviour was known as the friend of publicans and sinners (Matt 11:9), all who came to him were never cast out, our Saviour was approachable and the common people heard him gladly (Mark 12:37). Here we learn that our Lord rewards FOLLOWERS with FELLOWSHIP. We see this in the preceding verses when he asks Levi the tax collector to follow Him, and then he is found sat at meat in Levi's house much to the consternation of the scribes and Pharisees! We thank God that we have a Saviour who not only FORGIVES but blesses us with His presence and FELLOWSHIP! (Matt 28:20, Matt 18:20)

Why do thy disciples fast not? Why do they on the sabbath that which is not lawful?

In verse 18 the criticism was about fasting, or depriving oneself of food. The Lord Jesus points out that his disciples (friends) had the Son of God in their presence, and they were enjoying their privileged position with their Lord, why should they fast? The Christian life is to be enjoyed, unfortunately sometimes we think it is a life of restriction or denial! We have so many spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph 1:3) our life should be one of Christian liberty, free from the power and dominion of sin (that can so easily beset us! Heb 12:1)
In verse 24 the question also was concerning food and restrictions! This was characteristic of the Pharisees who thought that such empty ritual legality made them right with God, whereas their hearts were far from Him. In these two criticisms we learn that God also rewards FRIENDS with FOOD. The Lord Jesus wants to see us happy and growing as believers! He doesn't want us to be weighed down with restrictions and denial but rather to be feeding on the Word (lots of scriptures for this) and to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:18) Our Saviour can meet all our need (Heb 4:16) and desires to feed us and sustain us through our lives, what a wonderful Saviour He is!

Yours in Him,

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Coronavirus and the Tribulation?

Introduction – A warning against false prophets!

Lots of crazy theories are circulating at the moment regarding the Coronavirus and some people are telling us that this proves that we are going through the Tribulation period, and that we can see the Mark of the Beast coming (connected to a microchip implant or something) and the Judgement of God currently starting to be poured out upon the world. I believe this is incorrect and in this short article I hope to lay out why I believe this is not the case and encourage my fellow Christians.

1 John 4:1 tells us “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test (try or prove) the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Caution must be exercised! We should not believe everything we are told by people who are usually either very eccentric or very confused people (sometimes professing believers) who are only contributing to the confusion and current crisis with their false teaching.

All the way back in Deuteronomy 13:1-3 the people of God were told to be very cautious about prophets, particularly those telling them things which did not marry up with previous God-revealed teaching and principals. We also see in Deut 18 that the acid test of any prophet was if the thing prophesied actually came to pass or not. If not, then they were clearly false and not of God. We can see this principle with Micaiah the prophet in 1 Kings 22:28. A lot of these scaremongers are asking us to forsake our Bible teaching and believe them despite these ideas being contrary (I believe) to well-established Biblical principles and truth. Ultimately have not been proven to be correct, neither will they!

Let’s remember that many theories and claims regarding future events and prophecy have come and gone, there is nothing new under the sun regarding this. We can all remember hype surrounding Identity Cards, EU Passports, Photo Driving Licenses, the ‘millennium bug’, previous financial crises, epidemics, natural disasters and military conflicts etc… all things proclaimed to be the ‘End of the World’ or ‘Apocalyptic’ type events.

Therefore, the scriptures are teaching us to be cautious and if we hold these new claims up to the light of the rest of scripture and see them in the correct context, we will realise that these things cannot be so. Acts 17:11 gives us the example to follow as the Berean believers searched the scriptures daily to see ‘whether these things were so’.

A Simple but Sound Starting Point

We must have a sound framework in which to view future events and a simple but firm understanding of the bigger picture as found in the Bible.

Right at the outset we stand by the simple yet firm conviction that the next prophetic event we are going to see as revealed in the Bible is what is known as the ‘Rapture’ or ‘snatching away’ of all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ from the earth. We see this promised by the Lord himself in John 14 (“If I go I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye may be also”) and the details further given in 1 Thess 4. Both passages incidentally are recorded in the context of comforting the believers! I think that is quite important as this truth is something that should encourage and comfort us not cause us to be worried about future events.

Critically therefore, the rest of the prophetic calendar - events such as the Great Tribulation, the appearance of the Man of Sin (or the Beast) and also the seal, trumpet and bowl judgements that are poured out by God upon the world, will all occur AFTER the Church is taken out of the world.

I firmly believe that “God has not appointed us (the Church) for wrath” (1 Thess 5:9) but rather for glory! Romans 5 says “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God… since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.” Later on in this epistle we will read “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”(chapter 8:1) I would judge this to be a simple promise of God, we will NEVER fall under his condemnation, his wrath or judgement. If this were true, surely it would take away from God’s ‘so great’ salvation and the work of Christ on the cross!

In short, the Church will NOT be here for the terrible times that will befall the earth as prophesied in Revelations (and other passages).

A Right Understanding of Revelation

Let us just briefly understand something about Revelation as it is this book that people are misunderstanding and misappropriating when spreading their conspiracy theories…

At the beginning the Apostle John is told by the angel “Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.” There are clearly 3 groups of events mentioned here and I believe they form the framework and outline to this book.

Things that you have seen – this is HISTORY and refer to the first 2 chapters of Revelation as these are events which are past (Church history if you like)

Things that are – this is PRESENT and can be seen in the third chapter of Revelation where the churches Sardis and Laodicea are presented to us, both speaking of the Church in present times. We read about ‘strengthening the things that remain’ (an instruction for us today), we also read about the warning to the Laodiceans in a materialistic consumer age and we read about the Lord coming quickly. All pertinent and relevant points for us today.

Things that are to take place thereafter – this is all FUTURE and refers to the remaining chapters of Revelation. The key phrase is in verse 1 where the angel says to John “Come up here” and John is transported into Heaven to see the remaining visions and events from God’s perspective. This is very much a picture of the rapture, and everything therefore that follows is prophecy that will be fulfilled AFTER believers are caught up to Heaven to be with the Lord. The fact that the final chapter of Revelation has the phrase “I come quickly” repeated 3x is very telling, and we should take note!

Pictures that Prove a Point

Here are 3 simple ways the Church is referred to in the New Testament, and each of them reinforce the idea that we will NOT be subject to God’s judgements upon the earth, neither will we be on Earth to see those future events unfold. With each of these well-known pictures we can ask ourselves – “with this in mind, do we believe that God would subject us to the Tribulation?”

The Church as the Bride of Christ

The scriptures tell us; “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it”. The beautiful relationship between us and our Saviour is described as that of a bride and her bridegroom who clearly has a deep and unconditional love for his bride. We must then ask ourselves, if this is clearly the relationship presented to us in the New Testament, would the Lord Jesus subject his bride, the love of his life that he sacrificed himself for so we could be saved, to wrath and judgement? This is inconsistent with what we know to be true and supported by the Word of God.

The Church as His Flock

This is also a lovely picture, found throughout the Bible from Psalm 23 to Luke 10. The Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd who gives his life for the sheep, he loves us and cares for us and sought us when we were lost and in danger of destruction! No one can pluck us from his hand. If this is so, why would he subject his flock, who so need his love, care and protection to God-sent wrath and judgement? This is inconsistent with what we know to be true and supported by the Word of God.

The Church as His Body

1 Corinthians 12 makes it clear that we as believers are the body of Christ, a truth also mentioned and supported by passages in Ephesians 4 and 5, and Colossians 1:24. If the Church is the body of Christ, then once again why would God pour out judgement and wrath upon the body of His blessed Son again? Christ has suffered ONCE, his suffering accomplished salvation and blessing at Calvary and that work is done, finished and perfect. It is therefore inconceivable to think that his blood-bought saints (His Body in picture form) would be subject to the wrath and judgement of God. We have been saved FROM this! This too, is inconsistent with what we know to be true and supported by the Word of God.

A Quick Proviso

With all this said however, the scriptures do make it clear that we will be able to see and feel signs of those last days drawing close… For example 2 Peter 3 speaks about the last days and some of the signs we will be able to see, as does the Lord Jesus himself in Matthew 24 where he speaks about that list of troublesome signs being ‘birth pangs’, the picture being of a precursor to end times and that the rapture therefore must surely be close!

What should we be doing?

So, in conclusion let us think positively and ask ourselves what we as Christians should be doing in the present situation.

Waiting and Watching

2 Pet 3, Rev 1:3 and Titus 2:13 all speak about believers as waiting and watching in hope, expectation and obedience for the appearing of the Lord Jesus from Heaven. 1 Thess 1:10 says we are to “…wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” Take note of the last phrase of this verse! Remember that we have a heavenly hope (Col 1:5) and the comfort and reassurance of a soon returning Saviour! (John 14, 1 Thess 4, Rev 22)

Working and Witnessing

We are exhorted to live godly and holy lives, busy in the Lord’s service especially considering future events (2 Pet 3:11). We have a Master to serve with reward in view - the Judgement Seat of Christ occurs after the rapture where believers will stand before Christ and our service will be reviewed, and reward given. We have plenty of scriptural support for this (2 Cor 5, Rom 14, 1 Cor 3 to name 3 main passages) We must remember that right now there is a gospel to preach, a Saviour to worship and fellow believers to help! We must be faithful and diligent in these things as the Lord Jesus is coming soon.

Not Worrying (about the Tribulation) but Resting in the Word!

This is easier said then done of course as these are troubling times, but I believe we as believers have been given the Word of God to rest in and to be reassured by, not threatened or worried by it! We must remember what we know about our God, he is sovereign and in control, and although we will have ‘troubles’ in this world and we are certainly not immune from persecution, suffering and hardship (in fact God’s Word prepares us for this!), God has not appointed us for His wrath and judgement but rather for blessing and glory. Let us encourage ourselves with the words of comfort concerning the future and prospect for the believer! God’s holy wrath and judgement is only ever reserved against an unrepentant world that has rejected Him.

A Word for the Unsaved…

Of course, the unrepentant sinner is in a very different position and should repent (see their sin as God sees it and turn away from it!) and trust Christ for their own eternal salvation. This is salvation from the wrath to come as mentioned previously (1 Thess 1:10 and Rom 5:9). 2 Peter 3:8-9 states the solemn warning; “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” We are still living in the day of grace, the ‘accepted time’ when mankind can respond to God’s mercy and grace and be saved!

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” John 5:24

“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Cor 6:2

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Pictures of the Lord Jesus from Genesis 37

Just a few skeleton thoughts from this interesting and well-known chapter, let's look for comparisons and contrasts with our Lord Jesus.
  • v2 - Shepherd character - John ch 10 - "I am the Good Shepherd..."
  • v3 - Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children... - "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased..."
  • v3 - The timing of Joseph's birth (Jacob was in old age and Rachel had been barren!) - Think of the Lord Jesus - "When the fullness of the time was come..." Christ came at the right time, according  to God's schedule!
  • v3 - The coat of many colours - The Saviour had a distinctive coat too, woven from the top throughout, and without seam. Really his coat speaks of his lovely seamless character, no gaps, flaws or joins and of course without sin! This is what made the Lord so distinctive amongst men, not so much a coat of many colours.
  • v4 - His brethren hated him - Psa 69 - "Those that hate me without cause are more than the hairs of my head"
  • v5 - Joseph brought a vision/message from God - Christ fully told out the Father, He was the message! The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us...
  • v13 - Sent by the Father, a willing servant - Lo I come... The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world...
  • v14 - Sought his brethren's welfare - Concerning Christ - "He came unto his own..."
  • v15 - He was found wandering - This could never be said of the Saviour! Every step was purposeful and planned, always in the right place at the right time.
  • v20 - Come now therefore and let us slay him - Think of Mk 12 - "this is the heir, come let us kill him..."
  • v22 - Reuben hoped to deliver him once again to his father - Think of the Lord Jesus, of him it is said that "God spared not his Son but delivered Him up for us all..."
  • v23 - They stripped him of his coat - We spoke earlier about that distinctive coat of the Lord's speaking of his lovely character. Although he was stripped of his coat at Calvary (they cast lots for his garments) they could not divest him of his beautiful sinless character, neither could they tarnish it! In fact his flawless character is only enhanced and seen in it's fullest glory at Calvary.
  • v24 - They cast him into a pit, there was no water in it - Interesting that the scriptures make specific mention of the lack of water. When we think of the Saviour we think of the depths of his suffering at Calvary, both at the hands of men and bearing the judgement for our sin there. There were waters for Him there - Psa 69 for example: "Waters are come in unto my soul, I sink in deep mire where there is no standing. I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me..." We remember the words found in Genesis chapter 1, God gathered the waters unto one place... and that was Calvary. "All thy waves and thy billows have passed over me..."
  • v25 - They sat down to eat bread - Calvary - "sitting down they watched him there..."
  • Gen 42:21 - We saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear... Interesting detail here found a few chapters later. We think of Pilate when he brought forth the Saviour arrayed in mockery and disdain - "Behold the man!" They saw and looked upon him... Concerning the soul - Isaiah says he "poured out his soul unto death... he shall see of the travail of his soul..." Unlike Joseph however, I don't think the Saviour 'besought' or pleaded with his tormentors... Surely he suffered as the willing victim! We are told exactly what was said from the cross, there were no protestations or remonstrations.
  • v28 - Both were sold for a pittance - Give me my price, so they weighed for my price 30 pieces of silver...
  • v33 - The father looked upon the blood - Of course Jacob was deceived by the blood of the kid of the goats, it wasn't his son's blood. Think of God the Father when he looked down upon Calvary, that mercy seat where the Saviour shed his precious blood to atone for sin once and for all! "When I see the blood, I will pass over you" We are told that Christ is our Passover! We are justified by his blood, it cleanses us from all sin, and makes peace by the blood of His cross!
I trust these simple thoughts will be a blessing and encourage others to add to and develop these thoughts.

Yours in Christ, Mark

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Whom do men say that I am?

Matthew 16:13-17

I was thinking recently about these verses and it led to a satisfying mini-study, which I am always pleased to engage in! I was thinking about each of the parties mentioned here and what comparisons and contrasts there are in relation to the Saviour.

John the Baptist - John of course bore direct witness to the Lord Jesus and 'prepared the way' for him. Maybe the clear and authoritative preaching of Jesus reminded the people of John? John very much came with the message "Repent and be cleansed!" and so did the Saviour as he came into Galilee with the message "Repent and believe the gospel"

Elijah - Elijah was also a man marked by clear and powerful preaching, but maybe here the emphasis  might be upon his miraculous power, and prophecies which could only come from a direct and regular dialogue with God. Elijah could call down fire from heaven, and on several occasions predict and prophesy events that indeed came to pass (James 5:17, also his prophecies against Ahab and Jezebel etc) 

Certainly we remember that the Lord Jesus could call upon his Father God and he would answer him, as Father to a Son, nothing was denied him! Time and again we read of the Saviour departing to be alone in prayer, often to a mountain or desert place. Surely here was one who had an unbroken fellowship and dialogue with the Father. As far as miraculous power is concerned, we surely can agree that this was witnessed time and time again, just look at Matt 14:14, 36 - so many were healed and blessed by him! 

I find it interesting however as we think about these things, that we read in Matt 26:53 "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?" Surely an Elijah would have done this, the prophet of fire and thunder?! The Saviour could have, but did not. His face was set to go to Calvary and there accomplish the Father's will.

Finally I think there is a final nice contrast between that great man Elijah and the perfect man, our Lord Jesus. Remember in James 5:17 we read that "Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are..." and we also read a similar phrase regarding the Saviour in Hebrews 4:15 "...was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Yes there is the difference, Elijah was as much and such a a man as we are, including his sinful nature, but our Lord Jesus was entirely different - a man tested in all things in like manner as JND puts it, but sin apart!

One of the prophets - This is an interesting phrase, and really got me thinking. Here are a few brief and simple thoughts regarding the prophets that we could consider, and indeed study further in order to put more 'flesh on the bones' so to speak:
  • Nathan - the prophet who could put his finger right on the problem, remember he boldly proclaimed to King David "thou art the man!" Surely we can recall the incisive wisdom and perception of the Lord Jesus, who knew as soon as he beheld someone just exactly what they were thinking and what the problem was. 
  • Isaiah - the most quoted prophet by the Lord Jesus. It was Isaiah of course that the Lord read from in Luke 4. Surely then we are reminded of the Word of God? Here was the Word made flesh, dwelling amongst men! 
  • Jeremiah - the tender prophet with the human touch - surely this speaks to us of our Saviour? He was indeed a man of compassion, grace and mercy, who wept at the graveside of Lazarus, truly 'a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.'
  • Ezekiel - the prophet who could speak much about sheep and shepherds! Think of John 10 just as one example; the Good Shepherd speaking about the sheep.
  • Daniel - the prophet who would not be defiled by the heathen king's food and drink. Remember our Lord Jesus COULD NOT be defiled! He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" we could bring other scriptures regarding his spotless sinless character to mind also!
  • Hosea - that prophet who was obedient to a fault, no matter what God asked him to do! Surely we think of the perfect obedience of our Saviour, who was daily God's delight, "in whom I am well pleased". We recall concerning Him "...becoming obedient even unto death, and that the death of the cross." JND.
  • Joel - his name means 'Jehovah is God' and spoke much of the need for national repentance and the blessings this will bring. Our Lord Jesus pointed men to God, he was God with us! "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." John 1:18 The message of the Saviour was very much, repent and be converted! He could weep over Jerusalem, and sought the repentance of the nation, but sadly we recall that "he came unto his own, and his own received him not." John 1:11
  • Amos - his name means 'burden bearer' thus giving us straightaway a direct picture of the Lord Jesus - Isaiah 53 springs to mind, as does Matthew 11:28-30 and 1 Pet 2:24. Also Amos was the humble herdsman of Tekoa, we can think of scriptures regarding the humility of our Saviour and the lowly place he took! Philippians 2, Matt 11:29, Zech 9:9
  • Jonah - Of course Jonah speaks loudly of the Saviour, as he was 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the deep! Matt 12:40-41 He too was a sign to his generation, as was the Saviour to every generation! However we can see contrasts as well between the two. The word of the Lord never needed to come to our Lord Jesus a second time, he was ever the perfect servant.
  • Micah - His name means 'who is like Jehovah?'. He could speak prophetically of the Lord of course, with his proclamation of Bethlehem being the birth place of the Messiah (5:2) He could say "But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the Lord". We remember that the Saviour was led by the Spirit, driven by the Spirit and full of the Spirit... 
  • Nahum - His name means 'compassion' - time does not permit us to mention all the occasions when the Saviour was moved with compassion!
  • Habakkuk - The prophet who could say "the just shall live by his faith." How lovely to think of the Lord Jesus where it says "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God..."
  • Zephaniah - A descendant of King Hezekiah, the king who was remarkable in that he lived when he should have died! (2 Kings 20:1-6) We think of our Lord Jesus, who (humanly speaking) died when he should have lived. Isaiah says he was 'cut off' and indeed the Lord Jesus himself said regarding his life "No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." Jn 10:18. The Lord Jesus came from the kingly line of Judah, and he is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! "Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever." Isa 9:7
  • Haggai - The man with a message and burden for the house of God. Remember the Lord Jesus could purge the temple - "make not my Father's house a house of merchandise". The disciples remembered the word (Psa 69:9) where it says "the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up" He too could speak of his Father's House, a place he has gone ahead to prepare for you and for me! Jn 14:2-3
  • Malachi - This prophet could speak wonderful words such as "I am the Lord, I change not" - surely we're reminded of Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." We also have several little pictures of the Church I believe in Malachi. 
    • We have a dialogue between God and his people, as there is a repetition of "ye say" versus "thus saith Jehovah". Surely we are encouraged to enjoy a dialogue with our God as we think of the exhortations to prayer - "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." Heb 4:16
    • We have a collection of people described for us in Malachi who fear the Lord and speak often of him. "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name." (3:16) I realise I am taking this out of context as the verses really speak about the Second Coming of the Lord to the earth, and the godly remnant in that future day, but surely we see a picture of ourselves, as this is our present privilege as we gather as companies of the Lord's people to 'speak often of Him'! 
    • The following verse also says "And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels" - again I realise I am perhaps taking this out of context (see note above) but I think an application is permissible, for surely the scriptures speak much of a glorious prospect ahead for the believer with Him in heaven? I remember the words of the Lord Jesus in John 17: "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me..."
I hope that these few simple and largely undeveloped thoughts will be a blessing and encouragement. Please remember that these simple devotionals are always a good spring board into further study!

Yours in Christ,


Monday, 16 July 2018

Announcing Burton Bibles!

Hi guys, just a quick post to let you know that something I have been working on for the past few weeks has now gone live! After years of frustration at not being able to find decent Bible shops in the UK I have decided to set up my own, yikes! 

In partnership with Cambridge University Press I have set up a webshop and I have also launched an accompanying YouTube channel with Bible overviews and other useful Bible related content, as well as an Instagram account with lots of lovely Bible pictures and overviews which can be found here

It is early days but I'm hoping that I can help fellow believers find their next lovely Bible that they will treasure, read and study, but moreover a Bible that is RIGHT for them in terms of size, print and binding.

Please give the channels and site a look, and I will appreciate your support and prayers over the coming months as we get things going.

Yours in Christ,


Saturday, 26 May 2018

Three Men at the Pool of Bethesda

Just some simple thoughts from John 5, the man healed at the pool of Bethesda. Bethesda means 'House of Mercy, or Kindness' and so is it not fitting and entirely appropriate that into this place steps the Saviour, the perfect embodiment of all kindness and mercy! Does Psalm 117:2 not say "For his merciful kindness is great toward us..."

In this scene we read of three men referred to:

  • "A certain man" - An infirmed man, impotent and helpless who had lay stricken for 38 years. It is interesting that this man had been in this state for longer than the Lord Jesus had been upon the earth as a man! I think it is lovely to think therefore that even before he came into this world, his eye was upon this man, knowing one day they would meet and he would be blessed as a result. Surely we think of ourselves in this regard; "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world..." Eph 1:4
  • "I have no man..." - This man had no man to help him in his despair, his situation was hopeless! His plight is touching; "While I am coming into it myself, somebody else steps down ahead of me..." How typical of men and of this world! This 'me first' attitude, the survival of the fittest, illustrating the selfish cruelty of men. How unfair, how this poor man was disadvantaged! Thank God that the Saviour steps in to redress the balance, here is mercy and compassion, here is one who will help! We thank God that our God is not the God who only blesses those who get there first, those who step ahead of others and cut in! Praise God that he looked on us in our helpless state - "For by grace are ye saved, through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works lest any man should boast." Eph 2:8-9
  • "...what man is that..." - The outraged Jews enquired of the healed man. Of course they discovered it was the blessed man of Galilee! Son of Man, yet Son of God, here we see the two met together beautifully, just as they did at the tomb of Lazarus, his compassion and care for his fellow man, and yet his omnipotence to heal and bless. Empowered after 38 years of weakness and wretchedness... "He healed me and gave me back my strength..." Christ put others first, despite the Sabbath, this was far from the Jewish way, they were outraged! He would later go to the cross of Calvary to die for others, and there they would mock him again - "He saved others, himself he cannot save." We notice that their cold-hearted hypocrisy would surface again even at Calvary, as it is John who records; "The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away." They would not even let him alone then, as he died on the cross! Well might we sing - "Hallelujah! What a Saviour!" We thank God that Christ put others first, he thought of us and came to our aid in our deep need.
We trust these simple thoughts will be a blessing to all.


Wednesday, 16 May 2018

King Saul - A Brief Devotional

I was thinking recently about Christ as the rejected king that the Jews didn't want - "we will not have this to reign over us!" It put me in mind of the king that God rejected, the man Saul. There is a lovely comparison between the two.
  • Saul was the king who was very much the people's choice, although God put him there. Our Lord Jesus Christ was ever God's choice - ('behold my Servant'... 'this is my beloved Son')
  • Saul was a man physically that the people desired, and would look up to (literally for he was head and shoulders above them). Think of the Lord; "There is no beauty that we should desire him" "He hath no form nor comeliness..." Although the Lord Jesus was head and shoulders above them all morally! Perfect and sinless He was.
  • Saul was marked by disobedience to the word of the LORD, his disobedience in 1 Sam 13 in acting as a priest and offering burnt offerings instead of waiting for Samuel to come, and his disobedience in ch 15 in not annihilating the Amalekites left God no option but to reject Saul from continuing and prospering as king of Israel. None of this could be said of our blessed Lord as his 'meat was to do the will of him that sent him'... ('I delight to do thy will'... 'I do always those things that please the Father')
  • Remember that there was a time when Saul showed an astonishing lack of compassion for his people, when he enforced a fast upon them. I can't help but think of the time our Saviour looked out upon the people and saw them as sheep not having a shepherd, and moved with compassion he fed them miraculously in the wilderness! He would not send them away faint and hungry.
  • Saul was also marked by a lack of self-control and often lost his temper. The Lord Jesus was always in control, and was marked by meekness and was gracious even in the face of extreme provocation - ('I am meek and lowly'... 'when he was reviled he reviled not again, and when he suffered he threatened not.')
  • Saul was an extremely jealous man, wanting something that was not his, and driven by bitter envy. Of our Lord Jesus it is said that the earth is His and the fullness thereof, there was nothing he desired that was not his already by right. Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor - what a contrast! Our blessed Lord humbled himself, and made himself of no reputation, while Saul raged and clung onto power with everything he had.
  • We read that an evil spirit came upon Saul and tormented him, sent from God. I can't help but think of the Lord Jesus, who was full of the Holy Spirit, led by the Spirit, and driven by the Spirit.
  • Saul was the man who wouldn't go down into the valley to face the giant. Driven by self-preservation he would let a teenage David go down instead to claim the victory for God. Think of our Saviour who would say "Here am I, send me", who willingly went down into the depths, and of whom it could be said "I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me... all thy waves and billows have passed over me..."
  • Think of Saul's end - his death was one of shame, failure and defeat on Mt Gilboa. Now think of our blessed Saviour, who died on Mt Calvary. Yes it was a death of shame ('cursed is every man who hangeth upon a tree') but his death was one of victory, not defeat! He triumphed over death, hell and the grave, a death which brought many sons to glory!
  • Saul had his kingdom taken away from him, it would not endure forever. I am reminded of our Lord Jesus - "he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." 
"Jesus shall reign where'er the sun doth his successive journey's run, his kingdom spread from shore to shore, till moons shall wax and wane no more." 

Praise be to his name! Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
We trust that these simple thoughts and meditations will be a blessing to us.


Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Christ and the Judges

I was thinking about some contrasts and comparisons between our Lord Jesus and the Judges of the Old Testament, and I think there are some interesting points to note. This is very much a work in progress and I expect to add to this in the coming days as appropriate.

Remember that the the days when the Judges were raised up were dark days spiritually speaking for the people of God. Joshua had died and they had rebelled, doing evil in the sight of the Lord, and disobeying his voice (Judges 2:2, 11). Out of his love and compassion, God raised up Judges or Deliverers to save them (2:16) This certainly reminds us of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, as he came into the world at a time when the people had wandered far from God, saying the right things with their lips but their hearts were far from Him (Matt 15:8). Into the darkness came a Light, the Light of the world! "And the darkness comprehended it not" (John 1:5)

Just think of some of these 'saviours' and their characteristics in relation to the true and perfect Saviour!

  • Othniel - of him it is recorded that "the Spirit of God came upon him" - when we think of the Lord Jesus we remember that he was LED by the Spirit (Matt 4:1), he was DRIVEN by the Spirit (Mark 1:12) and he was FULL OF the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1) how lovely to think that the Saviour was ever guided and led by the Spirit, in sync with the Father's will. He was driven from within by the Spirit, ever moving with purpose and conviction. He was full of or 'full up' with the Holy Spirit, meaning he was controlled and directed by it!
  • Ehud - God;s left-handed right-hand man! The stand out feature of this Judge was his 'homemade' double-edged sword, surely speaking to us of that Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God (Eph 6:17, Heb 4:12).Surely we cannot help but think of the Lord Jesus of whom it is said "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us..." (John 1) He was the very Word of God, he embodied it and fully told it out!
  • Gideon - we are reminded of the few that fought against the many, described in that Midianite dream as - "a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it". I cannot help but think of one who took those humble small barley loaves, and multiplied them to the blessing of many! Remember they said on that occasion "but what are these among so many?" (John 6:9). Just as in Gideon's day, they were vastly outnumbered. But as is so often the case God uses "the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty" (1 Cor 1:27)
  • Think of Jepththah - Here was a man marked by speaking unwisely. He made a foolish and rash vow, to his great cost! Think of the Lord Jesus, a man who confounded and amazed men with the wisdom and grace of his speech! Satan was defeated by his words, men marvelled at wisdom, remember the words of the Proverb; "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." (25:11) surely an appropriate application to our Saviour.
  • Finally think of Samson - God's mighty but weak strong-man! Here was a Nazarite from birth, who failed and was defiled. We remember that the Lord Jesus was the perfect fulfilment of a Nazarite, he was wholly separated and consecrated to God! We also remember that he could not fail, or be defiled, he was "without sin", he did no sin, he knew no sin and in Him is no sin!
Samson had a triumphant end, and there are some lovely pictures of the Lord Jesus;
  • Remember he was betrayed by a close one
  • He was humiliated and suffered many things at the hands of wicked men
  • He was led out to the place of death, as our Lord was (Mark 15:20)
  • Both cried out to God, one was answered, but for the other the heavens remained silent (Matt 27:46)
  • We remember that their deaths fulfilled their life work, or purpose. Of Samson it is said "So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life." (Judges 16:30) When we think of the death of the Lord Jesus we are reminded that "...he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again." (2 Cor 5:15) He died that we might live! "Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him." (1 Thess 5:10)

I hope that this provides some food for thought and encourages us to look closer at these things, this is just a start of what could be a nice study, given more time and application.

God bless!

Saturday, 13 January 2018

A New Beginning To A New Year!

Joshua 1:1-17

Joshua is facing a new beginning now that his predecessor Moses is gone. He faces a future full of uncertainties perhaps, but rather than dwell on this he is exhorted by God to look back and reflect. The same is true for us as we look forwards to 2018 with all it's uncertainties and potential problems and challenges for us as Christians, but we do well to reflect on God's goodness to us and be encouraged as we go forwards with Him!

Joshua could look back on a history of God's tremendous goodness. In fact God had reminded them previously "Ye have lacked nothing" (Deut 2:7).
Yes the way had been hard at times, but the Lord had always been there for his people - "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee" - Note that neither his ability nor his presence are in doubt here!

There are TWO exhortations from the LORD for Joshua:

  1. Be Strong and Courageous - this is repeated several times in these verses. God reminds us that the Christian pathway is not a cake-walk but requires us to respond to the challenge and be strong and of good courage! Paul offers similar words to Timothy to embolden him and encourage him to stand fast and be ready for the challenges and responsibilities ahead. As we enter a new year we need similar exhortation, God asks us to be strong and courageous in 2018!
  2. Love and Live God's Word - The encouragement is to meditate upon it night and day, to depart not from it... that God's Word should be upon our minds and our mouths continually! If we do this in 2018 we are assured of "good success wherever you go". We are reminded of the similar words of Psalm 1 -
"Blessed is the man... his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper."

Surely as we look towards 2018, we can be encouraged by remembering and recalling God's goodness previously and rise to the challenge of a new year by being strong and courageous in our Christian lives, and loving and living God's Word.

I can't think of a better mindset with which to embark on another year! :0)

1 Kings 19: Elijah and God

I was listening to a podcast the other day which was speaking about 1 Kings 19 and it reminded me of how very relevant this passage is to ou...