August 2020

Prayer: Moves the Hand that Moves the World

Readings for the Day – I Kings 3, Jeremiah 30, Mark 4

1 Thessalonians 5v17 – ‘Pray without ceasing’ – When we look at Scripture Enoch/Noah/David/Jesus/Paul all put their trust in God through prayer.

Before the Battle of Bannockburn (23 June 1314) King Edward II rode out to survey the enemy, some 15,000 Scots, having some 25,000 English troops. When they came near the Scottish lines, he was amazed to see how few were ready to resist the initial onslaught. Then he saw bowed on one knee the main army of men ‘praying’. The general with him said “Yon men will either win or die”.

Some years later (1542-1587), Mary Queen of Scots was said to have feared John Knox in prayer more than 10,000 soldiers.

It is a common mistake to miss the fact that God’s presence is always with his people.

Jesus said “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”
Matthew 18v20.

Psalm 91v2-11:

2. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
3. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
4. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
5. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day.
6. Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
7. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
8. Only with thine eyes shalt though behold and see the reward of the wicked.
9. Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation.
10. There shall be no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
11. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in thy ways.

So
Psalm 91 speaks about destruction and fear of the ‘pestilence’, but Moses, the writer of this Psalm, knew the power of God through his angels. Psalm 34v7-8 speaks about the angel of the Lord encamping around them that fear him.

Moses knew this through experience
Exodus 23v20-21

The Lord said to Moses:

20. Behold I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.
21. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions; for my name is in him.

The angelic power being with Moses.

Just as the Lord God was with Elisha
II Kings 6v15-17. Verse 16 ‘Fear not’ Elisha prays for his servants eyes to be opened: ‘They that be with us are more than that be with them’.

So God is always at the side of the believers
Hebrews 13v5 the Lord God says ‘I will never leave nor forsake you’.

Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, said in
Matthew 26v53 he could call twelve legions of angels to his help through prayer and communication with God.

In
Mark 4v38, we find Jesus asleep in the rear of a ship resting on a pillow. Jesus trusted completely in God, his father. Philippians 4v7 speaks about “the peace of God which passes all understanding”.

So the hardened fishermen wake Jesus up, totally afraid. They say “
carest thou not that we perish”.

John 17v9 Jesus “I pray for them”.

Jesus continues:

John 17v21 ‘That they all may be one; as thou Father, art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us’.

This is the one who cared more than they knew for he gave himself for them and us!!

JD

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Everyone Likes a Paddle

(Reading 1 Thessalonians 1)

A couple of weeks ago Christina and I stayed up in Dundee for a short break. On a less than warm Sunday afternoon we went to Carnoustie for a wander and after sheltering from the rain under cover on the station platform we headed down to the beach. The tide was in so there wasn't too much sand on show but we could see that on a nice day it would be great for the grandchildren with plenty of rock pools, ideal for a paddle and "everyone loves a paddle", don't they? That particular day, there was a cold wind blowing and we didn't have a towel tucked away so it was just a very brief notion but perhaps another day.

Beach

What's so enjoyable about a paddle though? Rolled up trousers, sand between the toes, that initial excitement that makes you get straight back out the water when it first hits your feet then straight back in just waiting on that searing ankle pain until your body gets accustomed to the cold water. After that it's all good, the freedom to explore those rock pools and feel the waves lapping on your legs. You're in the sea but it's nice and safe, no danger of being swept away, the water's not even up to your knees.

We like nice and safe in all parts of our life even in our life in Christ. Too often we are happy to stay in the shallows, not get too involved.

In 1 Thessalonians 1 we read about the great example of the Brothers and Sisters there. Paul remembers their work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in the Lord Jesus, they received the Word with joy even amid much affliction. They became an example to all the believers in Macedonia, their faith in God going forth everywhere. Sounds like the Ecclesia in Thessalonica were doing pretty good, living a truly Christian life.

As we go through the letter we see Paul praying for them, praying that the Lord will make their love increase and strengthen their hearts, basically telling them they're doing a good job but they need to do better still, they need to go deeper in their life of service to the Lord.

Isn't that true for us too? Do we too need to go deeper, to leave those comfortable shallows, to challenge our comfort zone and do more? We are all different, we have different abilities, different amounts of confidence, what can we do, what do we need to do?

Paul tells us frequently to live our lives to please God, conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel, to bear fruit and grow in the knowledge of God. Why should we do this? Hopefully because we love the Lord God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

We are also called to be Holy, different from the World, to become more like the Lord Jesus. Our lives should be a song of praise to the Lord. Yes we may well make mistakes, get a word or two wrong along the way or even in some cases a whole verse. Too often we dwell on the negative side of our lives, refer to ourselves as sinners, which we are, but instead let us focus on the positive, we are chosen, friends of God and the Lord Jesus, that's something to rejoice about. We do need to strive to do better in all aspects of our lives in Christ, to go deeper, to leave those comfortable shallows where we can simply and safely paddle around.

If we remain in the shallows too, there is much more chance of being pulled back in to the world around us and all its attractions, maybe less so at the moment though! It might be a bit scary heading out into the deeper water, our faith may be tested but remember what it was like when we were learning to swim, clinging to the side, staying where our feet could still reach the bottom then as time went by and our confidence gradually increased we were soon doing "cannonballs". This is what the Lord wants, a full life in the Lord not just a safe paddle. I've said before, the Lord wants us to thrive not just survive, to be lifesavers not just someone who knows just about enough not to drown.

That's our challenge then, to stop holding back from the Lord, have the faith to step out into deeper waters or if we feel we are not confident enough to dive deeper into God's Word.

"ALL Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

DB

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