“the hope that you have”

Gaelic is a notoriously difficult language to learn, this is partly due to it’s grammatical structures, take, for example,  this common phrase:
“Alba gu bràth” = Scotland forever
That’s all well and good, if not a bit cheesy, but countless times I have seen it written as:
“Alba gu brath” = Scotland (for) spy/ Scotland (for) treachery

More than a slight difference!

And its all down to that little stroke above the à. That little stroke is called a grave and it appears above the vowels in various words of the same spelling, it’s appearance can drastically change the meaning of the word, and indeed the meaning of the whole sentence or text.
It’s a very easy mistake to make, and in a glance it makes no real difference to the phrase, it still pretty much reads the same. Only  on more careful inspection do you notice the difference, and only once engaged in a deeper study do you see the massive difference it has made to the text.

Countless times in Scripture we are told to carefully study the word of God, the study of this word guides our steps (Psalm 119:105), it helps to keep us from sin (Psalm 119:11), it is a weapon that can outperform any other (Hebrews 4:12),  it nourishes us (Luke 4:5) and it is part of the armor of the Christian (Ephesians 6:10-18). Not just part of the armor but it is our only form of attack – it is our sword. And like a fighter with his word, if we are not well practiced in it’s use then we will not fight effectively with it.

Since  bible is our sword, our  form of attack, this makes it a prime target for our enemy. The enemy is expert at trying to twist the and turn the sword so much that it becomes of no use to us.

We can see this right back when our first parents fell into sin, what tempted them to sin ?
Well it was of course Satan twisting God’s words, “Did God actually say…”, iIn Genesis 3:1-5 we see the first time the enemy twists the words of God for his own ends, we see it again when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness –  Satan came to him with parts of scripture, attempting to make Jesus sin. How did Jesus stop Satan ? He answered his twisted scripture with Scripture.

It’s no different in our world today, there are plenty groups willing to twist the word of God to their own ends. If we don’t know  One example is to be found in the New world Translation, this is the scripture used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, if you take a brief glance through it it looks just the same as any other Bible translation, but like our Gaelic phrase, on closer inspection there some small changes that in the text that completely shift the meaning and purpose of the Gospel. A subtle, but incredibly important, difference is to be found in their translation of John 1:1 :

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.

One extra letter and Christ is robbed of his divinity, his special place at the right hand of the Father is gone. He is now just one god among many. One letter changes all that we believe Christ to be, and if he was not who he claimed to be, he was a liar, and if he was a liar then we have no hope for salvation.
By that small twist in the word of God we see the whole plan of salvation collapsing down. There are plenty of examples of this throughout the book.

Our reading and study of the Bible cannot just be glancing or superficial, if we are to grow and if we are to stand strong and be able to defend our faith, we need to know and understand what Scripture says.
If someone challenges or asks us why isn’t the New world Translation right, why not the Qur’an why not the book of Mormon?

We have to be, as Peter wrote, “prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”(1 Peter 3:15). And as Paul wrote to Timothy, “be ready in season and out of season; [to] reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.“(2 Timothy 4:2)

What is this hope that the Christian has?
It is the sure hope that we are not our own, we were bought with a price (1Cor6:20), that we worship a saviour who knows our afflictions and weakness yet is himself sinless (Heb4:15), that we worship the King who came down out of Glory to die at the hands of his own creations(Col1:16), we worship a saviour who promises to one day come back and collect his church to be with him for all eternity.(Matt24:31)

That is our hope.

Without Scripture, without the word of God, we would know none of this. So since we do have access to the very words of God we should take more care in the study of them.
Of course we wont understand everything we read, in fact, if in our reading we have no questions at all then maybe our reading isn’t going very deep.
We have to pray that the Spirit would open our eyes to what is being read, after all he inspired the writers on the first place. This is also one of the reasons that we have the Church, so we can, as brothers and sisters, discuss these passages with one another, and together grow stronger in the use of our only weapon.

“The more you read the Bible; and the more you meditate on it, the more you will be astonished with it.
– Charles Spurgeon

 

 

“Don’t forget to breathe”

Not all things should be shared with the wider world, there are plenty of issues that should remain personal and many more topics that no-one really cares to read about.
I’ve spent most of my (almost) adult life trying to hide the fact I’m overweight, so the thought of blogging about it is not something I do lightly, so why write about it now ?

Whilst thinking over the verse in 1 Corinthians 10:
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
I started to think about how we, in our daily lives, twist these things so that the glory does not go to God.
I started thinking of how Christians who smoke are not giving God the glory for the clean air he has given us. Christians who are lazy ,but able, in their studies are not giving God the glory for the incredible chance of education that has been given to them e.t.c.
This could just as easily be applied  to Christians who do not use the talents that God has plainly given them.

Whilst I was thinking of all these things, it hit me, Christians who are overweight are abusing the great gift of health, the gift that allows us to physically serve our Lord.

In previous attempts to loose weight it was always for pure vanity, it was because I didn’t want to look fat anymore. It had never occurred to me that me being overweight was not giving glory to God for his great gift to me.

Along with not appreciating his gifts to me, being overweight has an impact on my witness. An obscure, but at the same time horribly apparent, example of this was last summer inn Hungary whilst climbing up a hill just outside of our camp. It was a great chance to talk and share with the campers, I spent most of the walk trying to breathe. What conversations were missed in that time ?
There are plenty more normal everyday examples, but the hill walk stuck in my mind.

As brothers and sisters we are to teach and admonish/counsel one another in the faith (Colossians 3:16), we are to help build one another up to live and serve as best as we can. I cannot tell anyone else how to live out the private sections of their walk, but I do encourage you all to look at your life and see which gifts and blessings you are not making any use of.

We know that our call is to share the Gospel, to share the wonderful news that there is eternal life and hope on offer to all who cry out for salvation, there is a God who is control of all things, a great king who cares for them. We should do all that we can to ensure that nothing hinders us in sharing the Gospel, or hinders those with whom we share it with.

We should fully appreciate the bodies and minds that God has given to us, and since they are a gift from God, should we not use them to give him glory and praise ?

So what am I going to do about it ?
Well I’m not going to do the Daniel Diet (this exists, no really, it’s real), I am going to start going for walks/ jogs (NOT RUNS), with the eventual goal of talking part in the Couch to 5K challenge.
Along with all the obvious health benefits, these morning and evening walks are also a great time for prayer, praise and reflection, allowing for both body and soul to be exercised.

So if, late at night, you catch sight of a glowing red object making strange noises and talking to itself, don’t fear, don’t lock the doors. Just shout some encouragement and possibly chuck me an apple.

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Hejce

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The time has come again for a blog post that is a month four months too late, in early July a group of brave Scottish British leaders arrived in a small village, called Hejce, in north-eastern Hungary, just a mile or two shy of the Slovakian border.

Why were we here ?
How do you pronounce the name of the village ?
How far can a large  man  walk up a hill in 30 degree heat ?
… all these questions and more will hopefully be answered in this post.

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The EEFC logo

The Scottish British team  were certainly a mixed bunch, two who were completely new to any E.E.F.C. camp, three who were well seasoned EEFC’ers and myself, who was excited just to spend a night opposite Edinburgh zoo, never mind halfway up a mountain in Hungary.

After spending a few lovely days in Budapest, with team assembled, spirits soaring and humidity rising, we set off on the train.

Rather than a blow by blow account of the camp (like last year’s blog post) this time I thought it might be interesting to zoom in on just one day of camp and try to share what it’s like to be involved with a camp such as this.

What follows is the daily timetable as was laid out for the campers (which was also the timetable we worked around) :

7.00 Wake up
There were 10 male leaders in the dorm, not that I ever saw much of the Hungarian half of the team , most days they had all showered and were ready for the day, well before I had any clue where I was. The leaders had our own area, with two dorms, a hall and a kitchen area. It was quite a luxury to have that sort of space to plan and organise the day. The campers stayed in a separate area, every night two leaders stayed in the campers area. After the daily “shower now or tonight” dilemma (with two showers available, and with the female leaders often stealing our hot water,  a dilemma it was), we were ready to head up for breakfast.

8.00 Breakfast
We sat for all of our meals(and most of our gatherings) in an outdoor annex with a corrugated perspex roof and with one open side, we all sat together as we shared our breakfast. Our breakfasts consisted of fruit tea, and bread with a variety of toppings, ranging from ham right up to Nutella.

8.30 Morning Devotion
Straight after breakfast we had our morning devotion, this time of morning fellowship included a talk by Papa Viktor (minister, leader, village celebrity and grandfather of Abrahamic proportions ) and some 10409270_867069163308114_3602346570768157848_nprayer and praise. The week’s Bible study program walked us through the book of Philippians. Papa Viktor, with help from Bence, a translator and leader from  the Hungarian team, lead us through Philippians chapter 2 verses 5-11. This time of morning fellowship prepared us for the day, and it was a daily reminder of what Christ did and became in order to provide us with salvation.

9.00 Tidy up
This is where the leader’s schedule deviated from that of the campers, whilst the campers did the tidying up (woo!) the leaders retired to practice our well planned and set out English lessons … well close enough … In reality at this time we panicked over what we would teach, worried that it would be too easy/hard, worrying about our own teaching ability etc.
Even though these worries were a daily occurrence, we were also faced daily with how God helped us prepare for, and carried us through, the lessons.

9.30 English 1
Clare and myself taught the intermediate 1 class, our class was held outside,under the trees and in front of the Church, this tranquil atmosphere disturbed only by questions about haggis and tenses. We were joined by two able and patient translators. Each day in the classes we covered a different topic, ranging from school and employment to family and hobbies – with plenty of haggis and Gaelic confusion/horror thrown in.
In our first English session of the day we had a conversation class about the topic of the day.
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10.15 Break
In this break we prepared for the next lesson and we may have shared a relived high-five or two.

10.30 English 2
ttyOur second English lesson of the day was writing practice, we used worksheets and had the class learn new vocabulary and then use it in sentences. Not exactly exhilarating stuff, but our class was great and they were more than capable of the exercises we gave them. Every day they had finished the exercises a good 20 minutes before the end of the class.

11.15 Break
In this break time we prepared for our Bible study. Like I said before, we spent the week looking at the book of Philippians, and we used a modified version of the Discipleship explored course.

11.30 Bible Study
As we went through the incredible test of Philippians we used the book more as a base than a strict study guide. Just as it was last year, the campers were deep thinkers – and were to happy to ask whatever question was on their mind. Throughout the week we discussed a whole range of topics and issues, using the talk from the previous evening as our starting point.
Through talking to the campers we were faced with plenty of tough questions, including asking about other faiths, predestination and election.
We also shared times of great blessing in these studies, it’s hard to express the joy we had in sharing the simple Gospel message and seeing it quite literally having an impact on the one who heard it.
Not that it’s easy preparing daily lessons, we really had to pray about it, work hard on it and with God’s leading we found ourselves sharing the incredible message with the campers.

13.00 Lunch

Lunch time is the biggest meal in Hungary, it usually consisted of two courses (some days we even had three !) It was usually goulash (it’s like a soup), followed by a meat or pasta course. As it is all over the world, the days we had a pudding were the best days, for pudding we had doughnut’y type things, rice-pudding’y type things and the renowned macaroni and jam ( hard to imagine, harder still to imagine the taste.)

13.45 Free time
In this time we met together as leaders to have our daily devotions (led by the British team), we also discussed our lessons and any ideas/plans that we had.
We also prepared for our third English lesson.

14.30 English 3
This was a much more relaxed lesson, we played some word games that were tied in the day’s topic and we did some practicing for the camp concert which we had on the last night. Some days we also carried on some conversations from our Bible study.

 

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At the bottom of the hill

 

15.15 Active free time
I feel puffed out even thinking back about these times ! Our activities ranged from a hike up a hill, with beautiful view at the top (well three quarters of the way up!) We also took part in a village wide puzzle/assault course challenge, we even taught some good old ceilidh dancing to some confused Hungarians

(and one or two confused British leaders). This time was great to get to know the campers, nothing quite breaks down barriers better than a fat, sunburnt, wheezing Scottish guy, walking up a mountain trying to speak Hungarian.

18.00 Testimony/ Evening devotion
After som10511348_867069256641438_3394886698789739604_ne beautiful worship, in both Hungarian and English, we shared in a time of fellowship. We had testimonies shared from both of the teams, and from Christians in all stages of their walk. Following these testimonies members from the British talked from a passage of Scripture, the campers are incredible at listening – they miss nothing, and have no problems in asking the hard questions !

19.00 Group Discussion
This part of the day was purely in Hungarian, instead of having to stop and translate for the British team, they could talk freely with the Hungarian leaders. The British leaders took this time to have a debrief of the day’s events and have a wee rest/ cup of tea ( For my Hungarian readers TEA NEEDS MILK !)

20.00 Supper
For supper we all, once again, gathered together in our open sided seating area. Supper usually consisted of the leftovers from lunch with a few extra bits and pieces thrown in.
It’s hard to describe the beauty of sharing a meal together whilst the sun sets in front of us accompanied by a cool breeze and the half English half Hungarian chatter going on at the tables.

22.00 Camp Diary
There is a highly treasured tradition in Hejce camp, that is the reading of the camp diary. During the day, in extreme secrecy, the diary is given to on of the campers or leaders and they simply have to fill in then details of their day, sound easy right ?
Well as well as being incredibly deep thinking, the Hungarian people are also really funny – they are quite possibly the wittiest people I’ve ever met. The camp diaries provided our nightly comedy show.

22.30 Bedtime
After a tiring but thoroughly incredible day, after some more tea and biccies, we all settled in to our (surprisingly comfy)  bunk-beds, all ready to start the next day !
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So why should you come to an EEFC camp ?
1. It will give you the chance to take part in a meaningful  mission, whilst still being supported by an experienced team.
2. It will take you out of your comfort zones and lead you to put your life in God’s hands.
3. It’s a humbling and encouraging experience to see brothers and sisters that live and witness in a different language and to a different culture.
4. You can travel off the tourist track, and explore the real heart of a beautiful country, all the same price of a cheap holiday to some over crowded beach in Spain.
5. It will show you how God can and does work, despite any language or cultural problems. You will see how the will see how the Gospel message can touch hearts regardless of the situation.

If you are interested in coming along next year to any of the EEFC camps keep your eyes on their website, once it comes out, they will post the camps brochure on it.

If you have any questions or comments please do use the comment section of the blog.

To all my Hungarian friends:
boldog Karácsonyt !

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Photos from Clare Macleod, Boda Bence and Balogh Gergo.

The day of preparation

As we, down in Pairc, look forward to the Lord’s day and his supper, we think of how our Saviour stepped down into this world.
With Saturday traditionally being the day of preparation, (Thursday and Friday traditionally seek to prepare our heart and soul),it prepares us for the Lord’s supper by encouraging us to look to Christ, who he is, what he has done for us and what he promises still to do for us.
Below there are some Bible passages and other bits and pieces which I hope will help us to prepare our hearts for the Supper, for the table that he has prepared for us :
(Even if it’s not your communion, then there is never a reason not think what Christ has done for you)

“He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love.
– Song of Solomon 2:4

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
– Philippians 2: 5-11

He was despised and rejected by men;
    a man of sorrows,and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
    and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
    and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;

    he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.
– Isaiah 53: 1-12

Sing Scripture –  “The Suffering Servant” v 7+8

“But surely he took up our pains,
our sorrows he has borne;
Yet we esteemed him cursed by God,
afflicted, pierced and torn.

But for our sins he was condemned,
for our
transgressions bruised;
He brought us healing, peace with God,
though wounded and abused.”

“The blood of Jesus! Sin dies in its presence, death ceases to be death: heaven’s gates ore opened. The blood of Jesus! We shall march on conquering to conquer, so long as we trust its power!
I can never express that thought better than by using those oft-repeated words: it seemed as if Hell were put into His cup; He seized it, and, “At one tremendous draught of love, He drank damnation dry.”
– Spurgeon
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:46
“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. “
– John 19:30″You are the most handsome of the sons of men;
grace is poured upon your lips;
therefore God has blessed you forever
Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one,
in your splendor and majesty!
In your majesty ride out victoriously
for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;

let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies;
the peoples fall under you.
-Psalm 45 : 2-5
Hope these few verses are a true blessing to you.

 


The Symptoms of a sick soul

If we are Christians then we will know fine well what means for us to feel far from the presence of God, to feel that our souls are not at ease and that something is wrong, we can be comforted in knowing that this is nothing new to the people of God. In fact,  throughout the Scriptures, and particularly in the Psalms, we see the people of God expressing these feelings to God in prayer.

In order to see this clearly we can look at Psalm 42, in this Psalm we can clearly see a man that is under extreme stress, he is exhausted, he is crying out to God, he is under attack from those around him, he is being mocked and derided, he feels utterly abandoned.
What we have here is a man with a sick soul, a soul that is unwell and is in desperate need of care, his soul is not perishing, he obviously knows God and in fact worships him as his Rock.
This is not the cries of the pained unsaved and dying soul, it is the cries of a soul that is in need of restoration and healing. This feeling of a sick soul is something that we have all experienced, in one way or another we have all had to echo the Psalmists question to his soul:
“Why are you disquieted within me ? OR EVEN “Why are you in turmoil within me ?”
We all know just how desperate we can feel at these times, times when God feels so far and when times of blessing and joyful serving seem far gone in the past.
The Psalm does not address why the Psalmist is undergoing these trials, as we know ourselves, sometimes it can be a trial from God and other time it can be a chastisement from our loving father.
This Psalm sums up all these feelings and situations for us , it shows us plainly the symptoms of a sick soul :

THE SYMPTOMS

1. The sick soul is a thirsty one (v.1 + 2)
We know that God breathed life into us and from that he gave us our soul, the further we are from God the more our soul longs to be satisfied, we see that and we know that from our own experience , before we were saved our souls were distant from God , they were thirsting and we tried so hard to fill them with something, anything to stop and abate the thirst that was in us. It is different for the Christian, our souls can never really run empty because we are fed from the one who gives eternal drink, Christ who promised the woman of Samaria “ if you drink form this water you will never thirst again”.
So how can we then say the Christian is thirsty ? The Christians soul will never run empty, but it will feel as though it is dry – as we have it in Psalm 63:1 :
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water”
God will never go back on his promises , the living water never leaves the soul of the saved one , it cannot – but God will remove our sense of its filling, the Puritans called this ‘God’s Desertions’, those moments when your soul feels dry, it feels as if it is lifeless and has lost all of its vitality.
The Psalmist uses the illustration of the deer looking for a a river to drink from, we must always remember nothing from God’s word is accidental, the deer is not jut looking for a drink of water, even for a drink of water from a pool, but the deer is looking for a drink of water from a flowing stream, most translations use the word flowing instead of just water brooks – Christ promises a spring of eternal water , and just like a deer is searching for this flowing water, the soul that is sick looks again for this stream it used to know and drink from regularly.
Although we may not be looking deeply at the cause of the symptoms it might be good to note that a well that is not often used will soon become clogged and almost unusable, the water is still there but the well soon becomes stagnant.

2. It is a longing soul (v.4+6)
In verse 4 we see a  heart wrenching phrase from the Psalmist:
“When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me”
The is the  pain of the Psalmist as he laments where he used to be and the roles he had performed with joy,with a voice of praise, they are now just a memory to him.
It does not necessary mean that he does not still preform these same roles , but it does mean that they are no longer done with a voice of praise and joy – it done out of plain duty, done to keep up appearances – the desire to serve God has gone.
When our souls are sick we do not necessarily fall away from Church, from the prayer meetings or from our duties in the Church, but we no longer do these things to praise God, but instead just to put on a good face, to show people we are doing okay – even though the truth may be quite the opposite.
The sick soul will also often think back to times of past blessing, there is of course nothing wrong with doing this – it is a joy to see how God has dealt with us , but the sick soul does this because it can find no current pleasure in God.
In verse 6 we find the Psalmist writing :
“O my God, my soul is cast down within me;
Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan,
And from the heights of Hermon,
From the Hill Mizar.”
The Psalmist looks back to three occurrences where God dealt with the people of Israel:
1. The land of Jordan, the promised land which God gave to his people.
2. The heights of Hermon, where Israel defeated many of their enemies, as we have it in Joshua 12:1-2:
“”Now these are the kings of the land, which the children of Israel smote, and possessed their land on the other side Jordan toward the rising of the sun, from the river Arnon unto Mount Hermon.””
3. Lastly the Psalmist mentions the hill of Mizar, there is debate about where this hill his – most commentators believe that it s a smaller hill from which you can clearly see mount Sinai, where God Met with Moses, and where the law was delivered.

3. It is a soul that has shrunk away, it feels utterly overwhelmed. (v.7)
The psalmist is drowning, he describes his soul to be attacked by the very waterfalls of God, it is interesting here that the word waterfall can also be used for the word ‘waterspout’ – a waterspout is like a tornado that occurs at sea, the water is lifted up and spirals round, as the wind picks up the water spout only grows more and more until it collapses with a roar. These were and are still common along the Mediterranean sea.
The psalmist proclaims that deep calls unto deep, the sky is thundering as the sea is roaring , there are great columns of water, he is using this image to show us the state of his soul, it is overwhelmed, and he is in fear.
He declares that the waves of God have broken over him.
This feeling of an overwhelmed soul may be very familiar to us, we may know what it is to have it feel as though even nature itself is against us, that the waves of God have indeed broken over us.
In all this we must read carefully what the text says, it does not just say THE waves and billows have gone over me, it say’s YOUR waves and billows. God is still in control and he will never inflict this type of struggle on his children for no good reason, God is still in control,  full control.

4. It is a soul that still sings and gives praise to God (v. 8)
Like we said , the sick soul is not a dying soul, it is regenerate, it has been cleansed, it is not dead. And because of that it will and must still praise God.
We see an odd phrase from the Psalmist, he says that:
“God will command his loving kindness in the daytime”
with all the turmoil that the Psalmist is going through, it may seem odd  that he says that he is in the midst of God’s loving kindness . The Psalmist can only say this because he knows that God is still God, regardless of what he may be experiencing.
Now the Psalmist himself knew whether this was a visitation of God’s chastisement or a time of testing, either way he knows it is from God and therefore it can be endured.
Surgeon points out that God never leaves his beloved, he is is  his “loving kindness in daytime and his song at night”. In all his trails the Psalmist can still say that God is “The God of his life”.

5. It is a soul that is attacked (v.9 + 10)
Lastly we can say that the sick soul is a soul that is more easily attacked, the attackers will never prevail but they can and will do damage.
The Psalmist likens the attacks to the breaking of bones (v.10), with  the enemy continually asking “where is your God ?”
Is this not a question that we know well, when we are at our lowest ebb does this question not creep into our mind ?
“Where is our God ? Does he not care ? Has he taken you this far to just leave you here ?” e.t.c.
It is a thought planted by the enemy and it is one of his best attacks. It makes us question God’s care for us, his love for us and his control over the situation that we are in.

THE CURE

It would be a very dire message if that was the end of it, if the Psalm only described the symptoms but gave no cure.
But we do OF COURSE have the cure provided to us !
In God’s wonderful workings, as the palmist poured out his heart on the page he was led by the Spirit to twice include the cure for his sick soul, whilst he is crying out for help he is already writing down the answer that God gives him.
Verses 5 and 11 reveal the simple cure to us:
HOPE IN GOD
Although his trials were many and he was going through a time of extreme testing,  he knew that his only hope was still God, like we said before he still praised God, he still knew that God would look after him.
He looks to the future, “for I shall yet praise him”.
W
hom else will he praise even though the current situation is not good , he looks forward to the future where he knows he will again be able to praise God with a heart full of Joy.
He will not do this by his own efforts, only God can heal the soul, and only God can reveal his presence again to the one who feels far from him.
Because God himself is the very definition of truth, he keep his promises, and he promises to never abandon his children. We may go through great trials and testings, our souls may be in great turmoil , but we can know that God will help us. Then we can conclude as the Psalmist concluded:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

Walk before you run

The other day as I was meant to be starting an essay, I started thinking about my own upcoming communions. I went forward three years ago and I have been a Christian for around six years. I know that in the bigger picture that I’m only still just a child in the faith. But in these six years God has taught me many things, mostly through me getting things completely wrong, but also through his Word and  his people.

Whilst I was staring at my blank screen, waiting for 2500 words worth of reasonably coherent essay’n to appear, I started thinking what advice I would give to a 13 year old me as I began my life as a servant of the Lord:

 

1.
You do not know it all.
As a new Christian, you are like a new born child. And as a new born child you need to be fed on milk and be looked after by others. In his first letter Peter words it like this:

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1Peter2:2)

By spiritual milk he means the basics of the Christian faith,  you have to know the basics of what you believe, and know why you believe it. Only then will your spiritual bones grow strong and you will be ready to have some solid food. Don’t run before you can walk, in this case don’t even walk until you can crawl properly! But how do you get this spiritual milk and food, how do you grow?

2.
Read your Bible.
One of the ways you will grow up into an older and more mature Christian is by reading the Bible. And no, don’t just flick through and see where you land. And really don’t just read Jeremiah 29:11 or John 3:16. The Bible contains a theme, a narrative that runs right from Genesis through to Revelation. That theme is God working through people and situations and eventually sending Jesus down, all so that you would be saved from eternal death and Hell.  If you jump around random chapters, you won’t see the way that God worked throughout the Old and New Testament, you wont see how all his promise to Adam and to Abraham came true, you won’t understand correctly  all the things and people that pointed towards the coming Saviour, you won’t see to the full extent the love and care and example of Jesus in his all that he did , you won’t learn well from the carefully laid out instructions in all the letters of the early Church and finally you won’t see properly  how it all culminates in an eternity with your saviour. Use a reading plan, the Murray Mc’Cheyne one is especially good, makes notes of verses that stand out to you and ones that you don’t understand. Don’t just ignore the hard bits, ask another Christian about them and ask your minister, that’s what he’s there for! And don’t forget to pray, before you even touch the Bible ask God to reveal himself and his will  to you as you read.

 

3.
Pray, pray and pray again!
Another way you will grow up into a stronger Christian is by praying. As a Christian you now have a mediator between you and God, that mediator is of course Jesus, as it says in first Timothy:

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5)

In other words because you are now a brother/ sister with Jesus, you can now offer up your prayers to God. Jesus is called the eternal high priest, in the Old Testament days the priest would sacrifice and pray for the people. But because Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us we can pray any time we want, and we can know that with Jesus taking all our prayers to the Father, God will hear all the prayers of his children. Our ability to pray to the creator of the universe is incredible, and it’s a privilege that we should make the most of.  I guess the next thing is  how should you pray?

In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus taught the disciples the famous Lord’s Prayer. Jesus says to use this prayer, I was taught by an old lady in the congregation to use the prayer as a template:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Start off by praising God for what he done for you and for who he is. When times are tough it is hard to do this, but that is when we need to give God the most praise.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Pray that God’s will would be accomplished, that he would prepare you to be used for his purposes and that people both near and far would also come to love him as their Saviour.
Give us this day our daily bread,
Give thanks for all that God has provided and ask that he would provide physically and spiritually for those around you  and yourself. Remember those who are not as fortunate as you, and especially the persecuted brothers and sisters across the world.
 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Admit our own sins to God, remember that through Christ we can always offer our prayers to God. Ask for help in forgiving everyone who does us wrong.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
Ask God to help us in our daily life and help us with the war against sin.

Of course this is just an idea of a template, but it is a good starting point. It is also a good practice to pray (and read the Bible)  first thing when you get up in the morning , as John Bunyan said:
” He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day”
In reality we must spend our day in prayer to God, Paul tells us to “pray ceaselessly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), of course we couldn’t function if we spent all day with our hands folded and eyes closed! But John Piper provides three ways of understanding this command:
1. In all things we should depend on and trust God.
2. Pray repeatedly and often.
3. We should never give up on prayer.
The Christian must pray, without prayer we live a life on our own strength, and if we try and live on in  our own power then we will faint and fail, as Murray Mc’ Cheyne put it:
“A man is what he is on his knees before God, and nothing more.”

4.
Times will be hard.
At the beginning of your Christian life you are entering into a whole new world, and it is incredible, it is beautiful and it is a whole new beginning for you. But the truth is that this initial wonder will wear off, and you will be faced with sin, both in your own life and in the world around you. But God has not left the Christian unprepared, in Ephesians 6: 10-18 we find out about the armour and the weaponry that God has provided to the Christian.
As a Christian you will be tempted, remember to be tempted is not sin, but to give way at all to temptation is to sin. Even at the slightest inkling  of temptation you must remember again the last phrase that is found in the Lord’s prayer, without God’s help and guidance we stand no chance against sin.  We must us our shield of faith, we must believe that God is more than capable of protecting his children.
You will go through tough times, sad times and times of great trial. But always remember that Christ suffered all things, and is able to help  us through all things, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5: 6-7)

This post will be added to, and the list will grow. All the  things in the list are facts which apply to me as much as the new Christian, they are things which will apply to all of the family, no matter how far along in the walk they are.

Here are some pearls of wisdom from some brothers who are older  more experienced in their walk:

” Two essentials of discipleship – from the outset, adopt a disciplined personal bible reading plan for everyday in life and, secondly – pray. Spend time in prayer every morning in particular. Commit each day to God”
– Calum Iain Macleod, Back Free Church

“If you are a new Christian welcome to the family! My advice as someone who has been in it for a number of years? – get to know your brothers and sisters, make sure you eat the food of Gods word (be a doer as well as hearer), and talk often to your Father. With Jesus as your elder brother and the Holy Spirit as your counsellor, even though you face many enemies, you cannot lose. “
– David Andrew Robertson, St Peters Free Church Dundee, Solas centre.

“Submit your life entirely over to God; Make him Lord of ALL. Read the word, pray the word, study the word and LIVE the word then you will do great things for the Lord and his kingdom.”
– Malcolm Macleod, Steadfast Global