Tag Archives: bible

As sticks and stones

Sticks and stones. Three words that are used to denote teasing as a supposedly lighter option to physical harm. But this blog post isn’t about these playground nuances. Instead, this is about God’s purpose for your life and how being called to be as “sticks and stones” gives a more powerful and spiritual meaning.

I say sticks, but the bible says branches. In John 15:5, Jesus speaks to His disciples on the night of the last supper; “I am the vine, ye are the  branches he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without Me ye can do nothing.”

Thus if Jesus is the vine, He is then the life source, from which all sustenance flows and keeps the branches (sticks) alive. And if we have Him as our life provider, then His fruits will be evident in our lives.

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.

These are like aspects of God’s character, and how beautiful they all are individually, but even more so – all together.

In Matthew 7, Jesus explains that you cannot receive good fruit from a bad tree, nor bad fruit from a good tree. Therefore, how important it is that we choose the right life source, for our foundations will be shown in our character (our fruits).

Isaiah 51:1,2

"Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were hewn and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain; When he was but one I called him, Then I blessed him and multiplied him."

To be a stone is to be cut from a larger rock. To be carefully hewn out of something larger and greater, inherently imparts the characteristics and features that the original piece possessed. As in Isaiah, he referred to Abraham as the rock of which all the descendants – the Israelite people – were cut from. He pleaded with the people to not forget who their ancestor was, and who he was blessed by, God.

Stones were used in biblical times to build homes, but also altars. Elijah rebuilt the Altar of the Lord using 12 stones that represented the 12 tribes of Israel. Each upholding a life of sacrifice that pointed towards Jesus. Do our lives do the same? Or have we fallen into the same trap that Peter did when he was called a stumbling stone? Placing our own agendas, and our own precepts before God’s will.

As stones cut from the Rock of Ages, we are to live as altars to God. Living a life of sacrifice that just over spills with love that flows from our Heavenly Father.

As newborns, our parents would earnestly study our facial features, seeking any resemblance of their own traits. The same eye colour, shape of ears, dimples, the same nose and eyebrows. Anything that proves their ownership of this child that they have long awaited to meet. As growing children, reflections of behaviour and attitudes start to come through.

And while parents hope that their offspring receive all of their good features and desirable habits, their main priority should be that their children’s character will reflect God’s character. That their fruits will be His, and that they are hewn from His rock.

As sticks and stones, we are called to glow. Not of our own light, but the light that God shines upon our face (Numbers 6:23-27).

 

Thus in everything we do, and with every inch of our being, we are called to reflect God's love and light to others, as sticks and stones.

Jacob’s faith

Hebrews 11:21
By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.

 Genesis 48:13-20
Before he blessed Ephraim and Manasseh, he adopted them Genesis 48:1-6. God wants to adopt us into His family and bless us as His children. We are not to be so enamoured with the offers of this world, that we lose sight of the bigger picture, and the bigger family that we are called to be a part of. 

He adopted them so they fully receive their blessing, as they had an Egyptian mother, and were born in Egypt, they may not have been considered viable options. But as adopted sons, they were eligible to receive all that he had to give through the promises of God.

“A patriarch’s final blessing was important in biblical times as a practical matter of inheritance rights. In addition, some final blessings included prophetic statements that reveal God’s supernatural power through the men of His choosing.” {Got questions}
Jacob adopted two rich princes into his lowly shepherd estate. He then blessed them with a dry desert land that he didn’t even own (Acts 7:5), except for a burial cave. There was no inkling of evidence that God would fulfil His promises, (consider Abraham who did not allow a Canaanite wife for his son, which would have provided a family connection to the land), and yet by faith Jacob gave both Ephraim and Manasseh a full and complete portion of blessings. 

How fortunate, for the two boys, that they had a grandfather that saw past the great and highly esteemed Egyptian abundance; but rather he valued Abraham’s spiritual blessing above worldly fame. That is faith, to not fall for all the world has to offer, however present it may be, and to fully believe that God will provide a way, though you cannot see it. 

Psalm 27:14 

Wait on the Lord : be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord .

Being on the cusp of death is hardly a reason to be joyful. It is notably a time of sadness and of questioning. But Jacob worshipped God. With every last beat of his weak pulsing heart, and his physically failing body, his need and desire to worship his Creator, and Merciful Forgiver, grew immeasurably. 
How often do we let our circumstances dictate our relationship with God? He is ever patient with us, waiting on us to commune with Him. In every situation, God wants us to worship and praise Him. This allows us to be free to receive the blessings and provisions He is longing to give us. 
Though we have faith our whole lives, or at least endeavour to, perhaps the most vital of times to express this faith is on our deathbed. It is how we finish, whether we die believing in God’s promises, that speaks volumes to those that catch us in our last moments. And the best way we can show this, is by singing the praises of the One who brought us through, and by blessing the generations that succeed. It takes great courage to die in faith, but when we honour Him with our patience, our hope, and our joy, God ensures that the promised blessings are sure to be fulfilled.
It was not by his own strength by which he gave his blessing, but rather God’s strength, and Jacob’s faithfulness to Him. 
Exodus 14:15-16 

 And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.

By faith Moses obeyed God and used a rod, an inanimate object made of wood, to part the red sea into two. Generations before, Jacob divided Joseph’s inheritance blessing into two, and gave it to Manasseh and Ephraim, whilst leaning on top of his staff. 

It’s not the stick that parts the seas and it’s not the stick that holds us up to give us strength. It’s our faith in God that He will make a way. Just like the serpent on the rod that cured the Israelites from their snake bites. The wood did not save them, it was their faith. It’s God asking us to be obedient, even when it seems crazy and beyond understanding. God is saying “Trust Me!”
Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith and hope are interlinked. You cannot have one without the other. 
Even though Jacob was sick and harbouring a physically failing body, he still leant all that he had onto his staff and worshipped God. And even though Moses was drowning in the inches of the Red Sea water of which he dared to dip his feet into, and although the prospect of a multitude of deaths was but a gentle wave away, he still trusted God. 

The same faith that portioned a double blessing to two Egyptian royalties, is the same faith that lead Moses on that great exodus expedition, that did eventually see the results of God’s promise to Jacob in the land of Canaan (Genesis 28:13).

Jacob’s eye sight was nearing blindness, thus Joseph was troubled when he realised the swapped positioning of his father’s hands. But Jacob let God lead, and knew what he was doing (Genesis 48:19).

The positioning wasn’t convenient, it was purposeful. Sometimes we like to make provisions for God to bless us, in the way that we see fit. But God knows better, and we must allow Him to bless us, in His way.

 
According to Jewish Sages, growing up, Ephraim was solely focused on doing God’s will. While Manasseh did go according to God’s will, he also concerned himself with the matters of the world. He balanced both, while Ephraim was solely God’s. Much like Jacob and Esau. Jacob was more interested in being a spiritual leader, and Esau was clearly not (as he sold his birthright). Jacob wanted that position as patriarchal leader and a strong pillar for God, and attained it through means of deceit. By blessing Ephraim, he showed God that he had come full circle and that he allowed the younger brother to become the spiritual leader through an honest practice. Jacob had bought his birthright, and Joseph earned it. 
Jacob had faith that the blessings would fall upon Ephraim and Manasseh, and not to Reuben. This was against tradition, but it wasn’t against God’s will. 

Jacob vs Israel
 

{why was the name Jacob used in Hebrews 11:21, and not Israel?}
Jacob represents his timid and passive self. As we can see when Jacob wanted to keep Benjamin back with him in their home, rather than save the family from starvation. But it was Israel that eventually let him go to Egypt (Genesis 42:36-43:13). 

It was Israel that allowed for the destruction of Shechem; and it was Israel that sent Joseph to find his brothers, though he knew that they hated him. Jacob would have kept him home, and hoped from afar that his sons would be ok. But Israel was determined and put it into action. 

So it was Israel that sent Joseph away, but it was Jacob that called him back. In his timidness and frailty, Jacob knew the time had come to pass on his blessings.   

In the first 17 years of Joseph’s life, his father raised him to be a God fearing man and equipped him with strong values that saw him succeed in Pharaoh’s command, which saved the people from the famine. In the last 17 years of Jacob’s life, Joseph cared for him and provided for his needs. Their last 17 years together was a testament of their faith in God that had brought them back together, it was this faith that paved the way for Joseph and his two sons to be blessed. 

He died a poor man in a foreign land, but he died in the faith of God’s promises {Dying faith}. 

A worthy investment

As a former business studies student, the idea of investing in something (i.e. a new venture, shares, partnership, etc.) appeals to me. Or I should say, investing with a guaranteed prosperous return. No one wants to lose when they put in. No one wants to waste their time, energy, and money (life savings), on investments that never pay out.

But what if there is an investment, that is guaranteed to create a return that will be a million times more than what was put in? 

A deal like that can not possibly be fashioned up by mere humans, but rather it takes a powerful and almighty God to make an offer of such proportions.

God wants us to invest in Him. To wisely spend our time, energy, and faithfulness, in seeking Him diligently.

Hebrews 11:6 

But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. 

2 Chronicles 31:20-21

And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered. 

This investment requires a dedication that only gets stronger with every day. With Him, the “dollar” never weakens, it never dips, and will never lose value. There’s no risk of the bank going belly-up, and you can be assured that your investment is in the safest hands ever possible. 

However, your desire to seek God first, needs to immeasurably outweigh your need to seek a reward. Meeting God is the ultimate prize, and everything else falls afterwards. 

Genesis 15:1

After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision saying, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward.” 

Matthew 5:12

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad for great is your reward in Heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. 

Dedicating your life to seeking Him, is the most worthy investment that could ever exist. 

So sign me up!

Hold on

A verse was shown to me today. It’s a verse I have read before, but never really took the time to try and understand. But I’m glad I did, for I feel that it’s message has become clearer and I have since realised its importance.

Hebrews 12:3 

For consider Him that endures such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest Ye be wearied and faint in your minds. 

When you start to feel tired and exhausted in your walk, consider Jesus who, the sinless one, bore our sins. Who had every right to give up. Who has every understanding if He chose to not go through with the great sacrifice.

Yet He endured, He conquered, and He won.

All to save us… you and I. All with the weight of everyone’s sin and guilt on His shoulders.

So don’t give up, though the world seems against you, remember that the world was against Him. When you feel broken and battered, that’s how Jesus felt; and when you feel like letting go of Him, remember that He clung on, for His life and for ours.

So don’t lose hope, just remember that our life here is “but a stepping stone”, life in Heaven is eternal, and anything we endure here will be rewarded more than ten-fold in Heaven.

Endurance is not easy, but the reward is far greater than anything suffered here on Earth. So hold on and remember Him.

Jacob wrestles 

Based on Genesis 32-33, and The Story of Redemption, Chapter 13 by Ellen G. White 

In a sleepless night, Jacob spent time on his own, and prayed. He prayed for the overdue meeting with Esau and the wrath he was sure to meet. He prayed for the sins of his past and repentance. The answer to his earnest prayers came under the guise of an angel, but it was Jesus Himself, who wrestled with Jacob all night. 

As the morning rays were forcing its way into the abyss of the desert night, an exhausted Jacob realised his true need. When the sun peeked over the horizon to illuminate the land, clarity was brought to his mind. “Let me go, for the day breaketh!” the angel pleaded, but Jacob matched Him with a request of his own, “I will not let thee go except thou bless me.” Then he asked his name, and this time it was his Heavenly Father asking, and Jacob knew why. Before, Isaac asked his name and he answered “Esau” in order to deceptively receive the blessing, but this time Jacob was honest and full of repentance so Jesus blessed him with a new name, Israel. 

Jacob wanted the assurance that God really had forgiven him for his sins of deception. It was only then that he could pursue on with his journey to reunite with his brother Esau and encounter his army of 400 men. His fear had caused him to doubt that the God of his father Abraham and Isaac had the power to truly forgive and bless him. When he was saved from the wrath of his father in law, Laban, it was still not proof enough that God loved him so dearly, despite his wrong doings. 

So God had to wrestle with him on a personal one on one level, to finally cause Jacob to realise that he had not forgiven himself, and how this placement of power on his behalf had caused a 20 year gulf between he and his home. 

When we pray and ask for forgiveness, Jesus places the petitions before His Father, and for our sake He pleads for our case. It’s His eternal love for us that paves the way for this most special and kind act of grace. Yet, despite this, we are unable to forgive ourselves, thus planting us firmly in a stronghold of regrets and transgressions. 

However, we often become comfortable in this destitution, we adapt to the situation and we let it put limitations on our relationship with God. 

It becomes such a problem that Jesus Himself comes down to pull us out and we wrestle with Him, not knowing why, until the light comes on and we realise that we need to let go in order to earnestly and sincerely ask God to bless us. 

Satisfied 

A little nugget to think on today…

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hind’s feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments. 

We should be so satisfied and spiritually filled, with just the presence of God, that any blessings He bestows are the cherries on top. Our faith, and relationship with God cannot be dependent on how blessed we are, but solely dependent on whether we have humbled ourselves enough so that we can allow God to fulfil our spiritual desires, and grace us with His presence. 

So no matter if our ventures fail, if our health gives way, if our loved ones go, and our finances plummet; our praises to Him should never cease. Easier said than done, I know, but try, every day, to be satisfied with His presence alone. 

In Good Company

John 15:17-20

“These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hate you. Remember the word that I said unto you, ‘The servant is not greater than his lord’ if they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.”

There will be those who accept the truth you present, and there will be those who don’t. They will hate us for it, but we are in good company, because Jesus was also despised for presenting the truth, and shedding light that exposes sin.

Colossians 4:5-6

“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

But we need to strive to make the most of every opportunity that God gives us. It is by no accident that we come across the people that we do. Be kind and loving in your conversations, so that others can see that you are different to everyone else.

We are to be in, but not of the world.

1Peter 2:9

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light” 

We are not called to blend in, and neither did Jesus blend in and conform to worldly ways when He was here on Earth; and if we are persecuted for this, we are in good company.

Letter: Part 3

And welcome back! If you haven’t already, you will need to read A letter to fishermen, Simon and Andrew and Letter: Part 2 to understand what this post is about.

However, when we don’t see God working in our lives, we can become discouraged, and the pull and attraction to go back to former ways grows stronger. It is in these moments that God is testing our strength and faithfulness to Him.

In Matthew 4:19, Jesus finds Simon and Andrew fishing, which is when He asks them to follow Him. Then for three years they witness Jesus working miracles, and blessing others. When Jesus was crucified and resurrected the absence of Jesus’ physical presence left Simon Peter at a loss. And in the time that Jesus wanted them to be strong for the Lord, and spread the gospel, Simon Peter succumbed to his old life of being a fisherman.

John 21:3

Simon Peter saith unto them, I go afishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

When we act without God in our hearts (see 1Corinthians 13) and when knowing the truth, our actions are fruitless. In a rebellion of sorts against the three years of following Jesus, he reverted back to his old life, he thought that on his own he could satisfy his needs, but alas their fishing trip proved unsuccessful.

It was then that Jesus appeared to them for the third time and asked them yet again to do something out of the ordinary, something that a carpenter wouldn’t do:

John 21:6

And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

With Jesus, life can be an abundance of blessings. But when we leave the fold, He will search endlessly for us. He has a plan for our lives, more than we could imagine, to make us into fishers of men. The mission field is His specialty, and there is no hiding from Him.

 

Thanks for reading, and God bless x

 

Letter: Part 2

If you haven’t already, you will need to read this blog post first, and then come back here. Stay tuned for Part 3 coming next.

John 10:4,5

And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow but will flee from Him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

Maybe they didn’t have to know that Jesus wasn’t a fisherman. They didn’t have to question his reasoning. Something within them resonated when Jesus spoke. Every inch of their being that was so learned in the way of life at sea, became a single drop in the ocean. Its importance diminished and became obsolete.

Sometimes when God calls us to do something for Him, we may not know how or why, but God wants us to do what we have been so tuned into on our christian walk – trust Him. If He asked me to drop everything and follow Him, all I can do is love Him more than my fishing net and go.

When Jesus asked the fishermen to come and follow Him, they dropped their nets and became His disciples.

When you’re catching fish, you need a net to capture, to yield the load, and keep them captive. But when you become a fisher of men, there is no need for a net, because catching souls for Christ means to set them free.

We fish to make ends meet, but God wants us to fish for men who are at their “ends”, so they can meet Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

A letter to fishermen, Simon and Andrew

I wrote this letter for one of my prayer group studies last year. It gives a bit of context into where their lives were when Jesus called them. It’s written from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know God, and was around at their time. There will be follow up blog posts to this letter, so do keep reading!

Matthew 4:19, 20 KJV
And He saith unto them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed Him.  


Catching fish is a hard and labour intensive job. It was never your parent’s hope for you to become one. The standards in the synagogues are so high, and difficult to attain. Your childhood spent trying to memorise the Mosaic law, in all its detail, has escaped you, and all that is left is this promise of a Messiah.

You work the night shift, and your hope is woven into every fibre of every net that is cast out and drawn back in. With watchful eyes you study the changes in season, the direction of the wind, and you obsessively know the movement of the water currents. Every inch of your being is dedicated to perfecting this craft, yet it is a means to an end.

You catch the fish to satisfy hunger, to make a living, and provide the needs of those around you.

This is your life every day, or night I should say. A change in tidal movement and the possibility of no catch lays heavy on your heart. There are families relying on your yield. The catch of the day is at the base of the local economy.

As in most things in life there can be a hierarchical order in whom you take direction from. In school it is your teachers, in the synagogue it is the rabbi, parents and grandparents at home. At work it is your boss, in the country it is the tetrarch government, and the Roman soldiers.

These are all recognisable and respected figures. Their credibility is built on their authority to change your experiences in life, for better or for worse. If you misbehave they make it known to you that it’s not the right way. They are often seen as wise and well experienced in their profession and position.

So when a carpenter comes up to you in your fishing boat asking you to leave and follow Him, what do you say? My first thought is to question who He is, and why is He asking me to do anything? What is His credibility or authority?

With all the nights spent under the stars trying to make a livelihood, all the aching bones, broken nets, and fish scales that have become part of the uniform, what right does a carpenter have to ask me to drop everything and follow Him? He does not know the responsibility I have, the families who are depending on my catch, the local economy that is determined by the moon’s tidal pull, in none of these things does He have any experience in, so why should His request be respected?