Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Christ the spotless Nazarite

So this week I have been looking through Numbers chapter 6 and learning something about the vow of the Nazarite. It has been a really useful study with plenty of practical challenges about living a separated life for God and bringing him glory and pleasure through our walk and Christian life for Him.

However, from a devotional point of view I was thinking about how the Nazarite ultimately speaks of the Lord Jesus and in Him we see the perfect fulfilment of the Nazarite vow.

If we read Numbers 6 we will there realise that the ultimate purpose of the vow was to bring honour and glory to God. This was made possible by the individual following strict rules and showing tremendous discipline! It required human effort, willingness and endeavour in order to fulfil the law concerning the Nazarite.

Of course when we come to our Lord Jesus Christ we shall see that he did not need to vow the vow of the Nazarite in order to show his devotion to God. He did not need to strive from a human point of view to fulfil that Nazarite law, and there was no need for discipline or effort on his part to walk a pathway that brought pleasure and glory to God! He did this intrinsically because of who he was - the sinless, spotless Son of God. God manifest in the flesh! We love to remember that the Lord Jesus was daily his Father's delight, he did always those things that pleased the Father, and the Father was well pleased with Him. The life of the Lord Jesus brought infinite pleasure and glory to God!

However, we may remember that one of the Nazarite conditions was not to be in contact with or near any dead thing, even if it was close family that had suddenly died. This was because he would be defiled and made unclean. We recall that on several occasions the Lord Jesus was in contact with dead bodies, but praise God he could never be defiled or tainted by sin! Heb 7:26 tells us that he is "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners..." 

I looked at just this one feature of the Old Testament Nazarite and found much that touched my heart concerning our Saviour. I am thinking now in particular of those 3 occasions recorded in the gospels, let's look at them briefly here now.

Remember there was Jairus' daughter (Matt 9, Mark 5, Luke 8), that 12-year-old girl tragically struck down in her young years. Here I am struck by the power and authority of the Lord Jesus. Remember that the Saviour spoke of her as being merely asleep, and the people laughed him to scorn for saying this. But to our blessed Saviour, her dead state was to him just as if she was asleep, he could easily awake her from death such was his power! It was God that breathed life into man in the first instance, now here he could restore life again just as simply! We remember the people who had once mocked the Saviour were now overcome with amazement! This same Jesus is our Lord and Saviour, he is powerful today and mighty to save and transform lives just as he did then.

Now I turn to Luke 7 and see that tragic scene at the gates of the city of Nain. Here the only son of a widow has died and is being carried out in the funeral procession. Notice how that nobody actually tells the Saviour the facts of this sad situation, he knows all things. He knew that this was the only son of this poor woman, he knew that she had also lost her husband and so would have known much sorrow, anxiety and concern for the future. He sees her, he has compassion on her, he reassures her and he touches the coffin. He restores to that woman her only son, he brings in life where death was, he gives her back her joy, comfort and support and hope for the future with just one act! Here I marvel at his wonderful grace and compassion, and surely this has been shown and bestowed upon us as sinners saved by grace!

Finally I look at John 11 and the raising of Lazarus, the dear friend of the Lord Jesus. Here I notice his deep love, for at the tomb of his friend he wept and the Jews commented "behold how tenderly he loved him!" (Amp). How this should move us and warm our hearts to see the Saviour who is all-powerful and knows all things, moved to tears as he contemplates the sadness and sorrow that sin has brought into the world. It touches the lives of everyone, and here the Saviour stands at the grave of his friend whom he loved dearly. I am reminded of such scriptures as "the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me""he loved them unto the uttermost""greater love hath no man than this..." and "hereby perceive we the love of God..." Surely we have known, experienced and have come to appreciate the tremendous love of the Lord Jesus Christ! Praise God that he loved us and died for us at the cross of Calvary.

There at the cross we see that he "offered himself without spot to God" (Heb 9:14). The perfect example of the Nazarite - holy and sinless not only in his life, but also in his death, he offers himself as a perfect sacrifice for sin.

Let us kindle our hearts in thanks and praise for our blessed Saviour!

"A perfect path of purest grace, unblemished and complete,
was thine thou spotless Nazarite, pure even to the feet!"

Yours in Christ, Mark

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Prove, test, examine, discern

I've been looking at this word translated 'prove' in the King James Bible, and it has revealed some practical and challenging thoughts. I will share them here so that hopefully they may prove to be also beneficial to others. I have quoted below from the New King James Version for a little easier reading, and here the word is translated as prove, test and examine.


"do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Romans 12:2

In other words what the Apostle is saying is that we shouldn't copy or imitate the ways of this world. There is nothing more sad than a worldly Christian! The Apostle John could say "Do not love the world or the things in the world." (1 John 2:15) and the end result of such an attitude was known only too well to the Apostle Paul - "Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world" (2 Tim 4:10) how solemn! We should continually guard against becoming more and more like the world, how do we expect to have a testimony for Christ if we look, sound, act and behave exactly like the world around us? The answer to the danger of worldliness is given in our headline verse - we should let God continually renew our mind and change the way we think so we are more like His Son. Only then may we learn, know and discern God's will for our lives and the Apostle says this is good, pleasing and perfect. If we want to know God's will and his design and purpose for our lives then surely we need to be 'renewing our mind' by continually reading his Word, learning more about Him and letting this impact and affect our lives.


"Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified." " Cor 13:5

Here is a solemn passage. Sadly there were obstinate, continual sinners at Corinth who claimed to be Christians. Paul challenged them directly and severely, to examine themselves to see whether they were in the faith. God does not envisage that a believer should lead a sinful life, Romans 6 teaches us that: "How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" If there is continual and unrepentant sin in our lives this is most unusual and we should examine ourselves and see if we understand this truth of Christ dwelling in us and the Holy Spirit possessing our bodies. Of course we cannot be sinless, and so IF we sin the scriptures declares that Christ lives to make intercession for us and if we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us. Let us be challenged and exhorted to live holy lives for Him!


"Test all things; hold fast what is good." 1 Thess 5:21

So if we truly are believers on the Lord Jesus Christ and wish to know him and live according to his desire and will, then we must be vigilant and test everything that is said and make sure that we hold on to the good things. As a Christian you will encounter many different teachings and doctrines, and we must test them according to what the scriptures say, if we are to hold fast to what is good and be profited and built up in our most holy faith. John in his epistle told the believers "do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God" We should therefore be very wary when new teaching comes our way! Our spirit should be that of the Bereans in Acts 17 who "received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so."


"But let each one examine his own work..." Galatians 6:4

As we live for Christ in this world we are also exhorted to carefully scrutinize our own work, service and motives. This is very challenging as the passage assumes that we should all HAVE our own work! What about us today? Do we have a work we are doing for Christ? Is there a ministry that we are particularly exercised and burdened about? What are we doing personally for our Lord? On the other hand, the verse challenges us that we should not get carried away in our zeal and enthusiasm and lose focus or confuse our reason for the work in the first place! Our motives and our service will be reviewed in a coming day, we know this as believers and the scriptures say "each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is." 1 Cor 3:13 Let us be encouraged to examine carefully our own work for the Lord so that there may be more glory and honour brought to Him both down here, and up there in a coming day!


"I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others." 2 Cor 8:8

Here is another practical challenge from the Apostle Paul. The Corinthian believers seemed to excel in so many things - their faith, their gifted speakers, their knowledge and enthusiasm (v7) but there was an area in which they were previously well exercised in but had now forgotten about and that was the practical matter of giving of their substance to meet the need so evident in the churches round about.The Apostle reminds them of their previous exercise and brings to mind the generous grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (the perfect example of one who gave all for others), and that by giving in this way it would be a practical way of showing the sincere and genuine love that should characterize every child of God. Other churches were proving to be eager and diligent in this matter (v8) but the Corinthians needed a timely reminder to give as God had enriched them. We challenge ourselves, how is our giving? Not just donating money randomly to the Lord's work, but do we identify need (in whatever form that may be) and do we feel an exercise and seek to meet that need? There are many ways in which this can be done, but let us be challenged about helping and encouraging our fellow believers in whichever way we can!

We trust these simple thoughts will be for our mutual blessing and encouragement.

Yours in Christ, Mark.

Friday, 11 January 2013

My new acquisition - Two Version Bible from Crimond House Publications (Ards Bookshop)

Let me say at the outset - I love this Bible. It is without a shadow of a doubt the finest quality Bible that I have ever owned or even handled and I find this is important, to me anyway having owned other Bibles in the past that have fallen apart! I should say at this stage that there is an excellent review of this Bible on the Bible Design Blog, I would also recommend that you bookmark that site in your favourites! I have a link for that site and also a link to Ards Evangelical Bookshop where you can buy this Bible from in my links section in the sidebar. Anyway back to my review...

Often times in a teaching meeting or Bible study group I will hear fellow believers quote the Revised Version, especially at our church where the King James Version, or AV is commonly read. For what it is worth I grew up with the AV and happen to love it, although I frequently use other versions for alternative renderings such as the Amplified or indeed the Revised version. This Bible contains the Authorised text with the differences from the Revised version in the margin. Genius! This Bible therefore, is extremely useful for people like me who use the AV all the time in meetings, but like to 'refer' to an alternative version where perhaps better renderings of words or phrases can be found. So without further ado, here are some of my thoughts about this new Bible of mine.

Compact dimensions but thicker, no doubt due to the heavier paper weight being used...
The Bible comes in a not unattractive burgundy coloured cardboard box, and this feels like it should take a beating, should you decide to store and carry it in there as I have done. Once out of the box the quality of this Bible immediately strikes you: the grain and superb smell of the supple calfskin leather, the stitching around the edge of the cover, the way it flexes in your hands, all indicating that this is a quality product and will almost certainly outlast me. The dimensions are compact at 21cm x 14cm (page size) yet the Bible is deeper or thicker, whichever you prefer. This isn't down to an abundance of study helps (for there aren't really any at all!) but must be down to the better quality, heavier paper that the publisher has decided to use.

I am all for this as it means that you can potentially mark the Bible (using the appropriate pens or pencils) and it means there is less bleed-through or ghosting from the other side, making it nice and easy to read. Plus the pages turn better and last longer than these Bibles with poor bindings, bonded leather covers and see through paper that creases and folds with the slightest bit of heat/moisture from your hands! I would happily pay a few extra few pounds for this, there seems little point in cutting costs in this area when a proper study Bible is there to be read a lot and possibly marked as well.

The paper used here is first class. As you can see the light is shining through the paper, but hardly any ghosting from the reverse side.
The calfskin leather is beautiful. Below left you can see the grain and the stitching around the edge for added strength. A nice touch as most Bible makers just glue the yapp down.

The cover and binding in general of this Bible deserves special mention, as it is top quality, and unlike any other Bible I own. It smells great (yes this is a mark of a great Bible!) and it has a lovely matt finish to it, with the grain of the leather fully visible - lovely! It is worth mentioning as well that this cover is so soft and supple, my other Bibles are nothing like this! I've tried to show you in one of my poorly taken pictures but the cover just folds open without any weight and the cover is truly limp meaning that this Bible is ready to fold to the shape of your hand.

The super-limp, beautiful leather cover of the two version Bible from Crimond House.
All of these features not only make for a beautiful and long-lasting Bible but a nicely usable one as well. This Bible will sit comfortably in the hand, on the lap, on the table or anywhere, it just folds and flexes to suit!

Now what about the text? Is it readable? Well this is the other good bit of news for the print is of a good size, not too big or too small (in fact usually it is smaller on a Bible this size, certainly on my Thompson chain reference) and is clear and well-printed, albeit in an older style. This means our eyes aren't straining to read passages and makes it a good Bible to read aloud from in public. I find the text clear and well-printed and of a good size too. This helped by the weightier, opaque paper of course!

The margin references are very good, pretty much the same on my other Bibles but the real value comes from the two version system which we will come onto now.

Having the Revised renderings in the OUTSIDE margin is very helpful. For the most part I read the Authorised text as normal, and then either have a brief scan of the Revised notes, or refer to them only if puzzled with the AV. Often times this can she light on the passage and help with my understanding and study. So not only is this Bible fantastic quality and very good to read (in terms of a physical book, I fully realise as a believer that the Word of God is ALWAYS good to read!) but it is also bringing something extra to the table, as those Revised differences are extremely handy to have in a Bible class!

Close up of the Two Version Bible text, taken from John's Gospel.
In the close-up above you can see for yourself how the system works. If I'd had more time I could have found some good examples of where this system has been really helpful. I will jot these down as I notice them and post some of these in the near future.

So all in all I can thoroughly recommend this Bible to any believer who predominantly uses the King James or Authorised version and doesn't want to give that up, but would like some alternative renderings close at hand. This Bible is not cheap (£90 currently from Ards Evangelical Bookshop in Northern Ireland), but I think having a good quality Bible is well worth it in the long run, and is not an investment that you will regret!

Here is a link to the Bible at Ards:

Opening pages of the two version Bible. Crimond House, Nigel Lynn, Jongbloed - take a bow, this Bible is beautiful.
So in summary, this Bible has quickly established itself as my favoured Bible for taking to any type of church gathering due to its handy size, good print and helpful margins. I think I just need to find a suitable Bible case/bag for it now, to keep it in good condition! So if you have seen this Bible advertised and wondered if it was any good, then I hope this post has been useful and informative.

Yours in Christ, Mark

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

We have received a gift from God... use it for His glory!

"As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." 1 Pet 4:10

If you are a believer on the Lord Jesus Christ then you have been given a gift from God to be used for the benefit of fellow believers and for the glory of God. A gift is a gracious divine endowment, it is something that has nothing to do with any natural ability we may have but is a work that God has enabled us to do through the Holy Spirit. We are not going into the specifics of spiritual gifts here, but we will do a fuller more expansive post in the near future.

Paul encouraged Timothy in the matter of his gift - "therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you". It is important that as believers we look to understand the gift God has given us, and stir it up, use it and develop it - we should not be lazy Christians content to coast along in our spiritual lives! Paul exhorts us to be good stewards in this respect. A steward means a manager, governor or chamberlain, so we are to be busy, wise and resourceful as we seek to serve God using the gift he has given us. The idea is put across by the Lord Jesus in Luke 12:42 when there were faithful and wise stewards who served him well in their master's absence and received due reward at his coming again. This similar idea is put across in Luke 19 and Matt 25, although we haven't the time to go into these scriptures in detail. Suffice to say that the lesson is clear; we need to use the divine gifts God has given us and be active in the employment of them in His service so that God will be glorified and that we as good and faithful servants will be blessed both here now and in a future day of review as well.

As we close we should remember that the exercise of spiritual gifts should always be with the glory of God in view, and for the profit, or benefit of all (1 Cor 12:7). It is not for our own glory, or our own personal advancement, neither should it draw attention to ourselves, for this would be of the flesh. Later on in verse  of 1 Peter 4 Paul says concerning gifts "...that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ..." I can think of no stronger motivation for serving God than this! What a privilege that we should ever be involved in the service of God!

We pray that we may be challenged and encouraged by these things, and that each may seek God's face concerning our spiritual gift and how we may use it for the glory of God.

Yours in Christ, Mark

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Onwards and upwards in 2013

I've been challenged recently by Phil 3:14 about pressing on and making spiritual progress in 2013. The verse reads "I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upwards" Amplified Version. I trust that the challenge is something for all of us, no matter what stage we are at in our Christian pathway.

The Apostle has in mind here in this verse a future day of reward, what the Bible calls the Judgement Seat of Christ (Rom 14:10, 2 Cor 5:10). The Authorized Version is slightly misleading here, as the prize that Paul speaks of is not the 'heavenly' calling itself but rather the prize associated with that upward calling. In other words, there is reward in store for faithful servants of Christ at his Judgement Seat! Here every believer will stand before Christ and "receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor 5:10).

The Judgement Seat of Christ is to be viewed as a positive thing, yet it was clearly something that weighed heavy on the Apostle's mind for he revisits it in some of his last writings in 2 Tim 4:8 "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." Let us all be encouraged and motivated by what we read here, for there can be no doubt from scripture that every believer on the Lord Jesus is destined for heaven and glory, and also that place of reward, where our lives of service will be reviewed.

In Philippians 3 the Apostle Paul uses the phrase "I press on toward the goal" the Apostle is keen, hungry and motivated! His life of service had been hard, and he had endured much for the preaching of the Gospel but here he was, zealous as ever and encouraging other saints to be like-minded! He wanted to continue to make progress, to press on and to have goals and aims in his spiritual life. There is nothing wrong with this motivation about our spiritual life! Granted we should not treat it as a profession or a career, but we should seek to make progress and grow, that much we can see from the scriptures "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" 2 Pet 3:18 

As we begin a new year wouldn't it be great to take stock of our lives and make some spiritual goals or aims for 2013? It could be something like "I'm going to ensure that I have a time for reading the Word and praying every day" or "I'm going to start taking part publicly at a Church gathering" or perhaps "I'm going to talk to someone about the Saviour and the message of salvation each day". What a beneficial impact this would have on our lives and on the lives of our friends and colleagues, both saved and unsaved. Let us be encouraged together and press onwards and upwards in 2013, for there is a prize to be had at the finish!

Yours in Christ, Mark

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...