This is the text of the sermon delivered at my Mom’s Memorial Service on 28 June 2013. It was delivered by my son, Marcus, a Theology student. It was also the first “real” sermon he preached!It summarises our salvation.

You can look up the Biblical references by clicking on them.

 
The Battle Won: Standing by grace in the holy place

 
Reading from Psalm 24. http://biblehub.com/niv/psalms/24.htm
New Testament reading from Hebrews 12:18-29. http://biblehub.com/niv/hebrews/12.htm

 
[Prayer before sermon]
Father of mercies and God of all comfort, help us today to comprehend that we have a strong and certain hope in the midst of grief.  Lord, you have the words of eternal life [Jn 6:68]; where else shall we go?  We ask that your Holy Spirit who inspired these words of Scripture would give us understanding, that according to your great mercy we might know the living hope kept in heaven: imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.  In the name of Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life, Amen.

 
Dear friends and family, thank you for this opportunity to remember my grandmother with you and to take encouragement with you in a few precious truths from the Scriptures.  It is the paradox of a Christian’s death that ours is a joyful grief; for, as the Apostle Paul says, though we do grieve, we do not grieve as those who have no hope [1Thes 4:13].

 
The passage we read from the letter to the Hebrews speaks vividly of our great hope and comfort: Lilian Collins, my Gran, has come to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the assembly of all who are enrolled in heaven.  Her name, together with the names of all who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, has been written there for all eternity.  She stands now, together with a great cloud of witnesses [Heb 12:1], in the very presence of the Father, God Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth and judge of all; and her standing place there has been secured by the blood of the victorious Lord Jesus Christ, who endured the scorn of the cross [Heb 12:2] to redeem all who would trust wholly in him, to the praise of his glorious grace.  That is why I have titled this message “The battle won: Standing by grace in the holy place.”  Yes, friends, the battle has been won, and she stands by grace in the holy place.

 
My Gran desired that Psalm 24 be the text for her memorial, and I invite you to turn there with me, while keeping in mind this magnificent picture in Hebrews 12 of true worship of the true and living God.  Psalm 24 asks us two very direct questions.   This morning we will consider primarily the first question, which is at the heart of this psalm: “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  Who shall stand in his holy place?” [Psa 24:3]  I pray that we will receive further hope, comfort, and encouragement from the Lord as we understand the basis for our confidence that, more alive now than ever before, my Gran now experiences unending and unhindered joy in the very presence of God.  As the English minister and poet John Donne said, “No man ever saw God and lived.  And yet, I shall not live till I see God; and when I have seen him, I shall never die.”[John Donne, sermon XCV, on Job 19:26.]

 
Now, to give you just a little background, Psalm 24 is a song composed by King David, who was king of Israel around 3000 years ago.  It is a triumphant song which David wrote to commemorate the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant at Mount Zion in Jerusalem.[2 Sam 6]  This Ark of the Covenant (or promise) was a gold-plated wooden box, a little over a metre long, containing the Ten Commandments and other reminders of God’s just and providential care and guidance of his people, the Israelites.  Most importantly, it symbolised God himself dwelling among his people, his glory resting with them – even as in the Exodus God had rescued his people from Egypt and his presence and protection were symbolised by the pillar of cloud and of fire.  And when Israel went into battle, the Ark went before them, a picture that God himself was leading them and winning the victory for them.  So the arrival of the Ark at Mount Zion in Jerusalem was a momentous occasion – one of the highlights of the Old Testament – for it symbolised the very presence of God with his people, and his faithfulness to the promises he had made to them.

 
Psalm 24 begins by recognising God as the sovereign creator, ruler, and sustainer of all the universe, and especially of us, the people dwelling therein, whom he has created as distinct from the rest of creation to be in special relationship with him.  Therefore he alone is worthy of worship, worthy of praise and glory and honour.  It is the question of how we ought to worship God, of how we may enjoy his presence, which concerns us in this Psalm; and answering that question will give us confidence in our comfort today.

 
David asks, “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  Who shall stand in his holy place?”  To ascend and stand before the Lord is to be in his holy, pure, perfect presence, to enjoy the fellowship with God for which we were created – that fellowship which Adam and Eve enjoyed in the Garden of Eden before they rebelled [Gen 3] against God’s good and just rule and sought to usurp his perfect moral authority; that fellowship which was broken because of their rebellion.  To be in God’s holy presence, worshipping him, is the highest privilege and the deepest joy of all, and the fulfilment of our most ardent longings.  As David exclaimed in another Psalm, “In your presence is fullness of joy”[Psa 16:11; cf. Psa 21:6.].  And we learn elsewhere that it was on this occasion commemorated in Psalm 24 that David danced before the Lord with all his might [2 Sam 6:14.], so great was his rejoicing at the prospect of being in the presence of the Lord.  That is the same joy we see in the celebration of Hebrews 12.  And that, dear friends, is the fullness of joy which my Gran now experiences, and this gives us comfort in the midst of our grief.

 
But the question, “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  Who shall stand in his holy place?” is no matter of mere formality.  This is not a simple question of etiquette, about how to approach a state president or the Queen, of what to wear, what to say, when to bow or curtsey.  This is far more weighty, as the passage in Hebrews reminds us: “Our God is a consuming fire.”  And we will find unshakeable confidence for our comfort as we answer the question, “Who shall stand in his holy place?”

 
David answers this question, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart.”  But think for a moment of the implications of this.  The great King David himself committed adultery with Bathsheba, tried to cover up the resulting pregnancy, and finally had Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, murdered.  He is hardly the kind of person of whom we might say, “He had clean hands.”  But to take it further, the Lord Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew [Mat 5:27-30; 21-22.] taught that adultery and murder were not simply matters committed by the hand.  Jesus said, if you’ll pardon the paraphrase, that adultery was not jumping into bed with the wrong woman: that was the result of adultery, which we have already committed in our hearts in every lustful glance.  Likewise, murder was not taking a stick and bashing someone over the head: that was the result of murder, which we have already committed in our hearts in every malicious thought.  Jesus’ teaching revealed that we are all at heart adulterers and murderers.  Not one of us has a pure heart, even if we might claim to have clean hands.  Who, then, shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  Who shall stand in his holy place?  Psalm 24 anticipates the answer that not one of us can qualify by virtue of our own righteousness, yet it holds out hope to all who acknowledge they have dirty hands and defiled hearts.

 
You have heard how my Gran did not want a eulogy at her memorial.  She did not presume to come to the table of our merciful Lord – nor, finally, to his throne in glory – trusting in her own righteousness, but in his manifold and great mercies.  Righteousness – that is, the ability to stand in the presence of the holy, holy, holy God without fear of judgement and condemnation – this righteousness is not earned, but rather received.  There are no good deeds we could ever do to merit the favour of God and so restore fellowship with him, because at the end of the day all our attempts at self-righteousness are like filthy rags [Isa 64:6.] before the holiness, the moral perfection, of God.  No, friends, the righteousness that saves is, as verse 5 says, “righteousness from the God of [our] salvation”.  It is righteousness not of our own doing, but of God’s gracious giving.

 
This is why we can be confident in this great comfort, friends, which we can have today that my Gran is in the joyous presence of the Lord.  We must not ask, “Was she enough of a saint to enter heaven and stand before God, the holy God of all the world?” – for she appears before the throne of God not clothed in her own good works, but in the righteousness that God has given to all who put their trust wholly in what Christ Jesus has done.

 
In the New Testament letter of James, which was one of my Gran’s favourites, James writes that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”[Jam 4:6.]  The proud are those who trust in their own resources for their salvation (their good works, rituals, a legacy, etc.), rather than trusting in God; they will be opposed and condemned by God as rebels against his just and perfect rule.  But the humble are those who realise that the project of self-salvation is futile. They acknowledge that they are indeed rebels against God and deserve his judgement, and they humbly cast themselves on his mercy, trusting wholly in what Christ has done.  God gives grace to the humble.

 
Think again of that Ark of the Covenant, whose arrival at Mount Zion in Jerusalem marked the occasion for this Psalm.  On top of the Ark was fashioned what was called the “mercy seat” or “atonement cover”, and it was there that God had said he would meet with Moses, Aaron, and the high priests [Exo 25:21-22].  They could come into the presence of God only if he were merciful to them, and only if their sins were atoned for, that is, paid for; otherwise, their own sinfulness would render them liable to his just judgement.  They could not approach trusting in their own righteousness, but only trusting in his faithfulness and mercy.  They did have to come in perfect righteousness – but that righteousness was not of themselves.  Instead, it was a righteousness given to them by God, by virtue of their trust in his promises, rather than their merits, and on the basis of the blood of a sacrifice sprinkled on the mercy seat to signify that another had died in their place, to atone for their sin [Lev16; Heb 9:5.].
Friends, in the letter to the Hebrews, from which we read earlier, we are also told that the Ark of the Covenant, all the temple furnishings, its sacrificial system, and its high priests, were a picture pointing prophetically forward to the coming Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He indeed manifested the presence of God, as the Gospel of John tells us: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”[Joh 1:14.]  He alone came with clean hands and a pure heart, not only to Mount Zion, but also to the Mount of Golgotha, to Calvary, to the cross.  There he was crucified as a perfect sacrifice in the place of all those who would trust in him.  By his death he paid the penalty for their sins, and by his resurrection he secured their eternal life with him in glory.

 
The letter to the Hebrews tells us again, “Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf….  He has appeared once for all … to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”[Heb 9:24-26.]  Because Christ stood in the place of judgement on our behalf, all who trust in him receive the righteousness of the God of their salvation, and may stand in the holy place, in the presence of God.  As the Apostle Paul puts it, “For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”[2 Cor 5:21.]  Those who trust in him are forgiven their sins, clothed in the righteousness of God, and reconciled to God, and will experience the fullness of joy in the presence of God for all eternity.  This is the basis of our confidence for our great comfort and joy today: not that my Gran was a good person, but that she trusted in the only good Saviour.

 
We have not asked the second question Psalm 24 poses, though we’ve already seen the answer to it: “Who is this King of glory?”  Just as the Ark of the Covenant went before the nation of Israel to show that it was God himself who was mighty in battle on their behalf to conquer their enemies, so it is Christ Jesus who has fought on our behalf to conquer the great enemy, sin, and has risen victorious from the grave to show that death, too, is ultimately conquered.

 
The King of Glory is, indeed, none other than the risen and ascended Christ, the Lord, strong and mighty, mighty in battle over sin and death, who has ascended and entered into heaven itself – the only One with clean hands and a pure heart qualified to do so.  For him the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem are flung wide open to admit their King.  But this King of Glory, strong and mighty, will also carry all who trust in him, rather than in their own efforts, up the hill of the Lord, to stand in the holy place.  Our confidence, our comfort, our joy and encouragement rest in Christ alone, the King of Glory.  The battle is won, friends: stand (with my Gran) by grace in the holy place.

I went to the vet the other day. In fact just three weeks after my Mom died, I had to put my beloved cat down. The vet said Mr Tiggles was suffering and would not get better, and putting him down was the right thing to do.

Now we know this vet, and when other vets had given up with a previous problem, he had persisted until Tigger came right. I don’t class myself as an animal lover, but Tig has taught me a great deal: in fact he had previously taught me some things about God as well (which I intend to repost later); now in his death (as my wife, my daughter and I sobbed our hearts out) he was teaching me something again.

When a day or so later I was expressing some doubts about having The Tig put down, I was told, “D__ (the vet) knows him, and loves animals; you should rely on his judgement.” And here was the lesson. God knows when we should die.

Have you ever wondered why some people who are prayed for do not get visible healing? I have. And only recently have I begun to get the glimmer of an understanding about this.

Some years back our church had a lady who was a leader of a woman’s group, and was really loved and respected. She went down with an incurable disease relating to her nervous system, which led to a slow, progressive death. She was prayed for, and prayed for, and prayed for. I recall at one service the assistant minister said that we weren’t even going to pray for healing “if it was God’s will” because we knew it was God’s will for her to be healed, and so she WOULD be. I felt really uncomfortable about this, but at the time couldn’t articulate even mentally why I felt that way. Was I just in revolt because (according to the minister in charge) I did not speak in tongues and therefore did not have the Holy Spirit?

Both my wife and I had also been prayed for; been told; “You are healed: now walk in your healing;” and certainly still suffered. Because we weren’t healed, the blame (i.e. guilt) for that was plonked on us: not enough faith.

I belong to a kind of email-based intercession group. Some of the people we’ve prayed for have had healing (disease, injury, financial circumstances), and some (outstanding people in their churches) have not been healed as we know it, and have died. Did we not have enough faith? Did we not put in enough effort? Did we not twist God’s arm enough?

Whose healing is it anyway?

A close friend of mine has a very dear friend who has cancer. This has spread to various organs, including the brain. We have obviously been praying for healing; but, medically speaking, the outlook is gloomy. My friend was “tackled” for considering the possibility that her friend would die, the argument implying: if you admit to the possibility that your friend could die, you lack the faith required for him to be healed.

Again, as far as I am concerned, we have the heresy that faith implies that we can say there will definitely be a healing, and we usually mean of the physical sort.

To assert this is the same (I think) as saying Naghmeh Abedini’s pastor-husband, Saeed, is still in gaol in Iran because she doesn’t have enough faith that he’ll be released. If you believe that, you haven’t heard Naghmeh’s testimony.

If everyone were healed, we’d have people who were centuries old in their “current” physical bodies. It’s a fallen world: everyone has to die: “… people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,.” wrote Paul [Hebrews 9:27]. Under these natural (fallen) circumstances I have no wish at all to invite you to my 5304th birthday tea!

Of course, if all suffering is illogical and random, the only thing that matters is what makes us feel good.

Moreover, whose Sovereignty is it anyway? Is there any purpose in suffering? If our suffering has a purpose, then (firstly) it’s not all pointless and (second) it will stop only when that purpose has been achieved. If we hold that God is sovereign, then He has a right to choose, and that probably won’t sit too well with our quasi-democratic – and definitely self-centred – notions; but we don’t call the shots: God does.

Let’s go back to Naghmeh and Saeed: since he’s been imprisoned in Evin he has brought at least 30 people to know Jesus. Given that he is an evangelist, this means he is accomplishing his purpose while suffering in gaol: his life and suffering have themselves become a testimony. Naghmeh has addressed the issue at the UN – so those people have heard the Gospel. She’s been on US and BBC programmes in the Farsi language during prime viewing time in Iran, and has testified to Jesus; so thousands of Iranians have now heard the Gospel. Of course we all pray for his release, and that of all the others who are imprisoned or persecuted for their faith in Jesus.

My wife spent 3 weeks suffering in hospital because of a totally smashed ankle: during those three weeks, I learned the meaning of Grace. My friend went through suffering in her marriage; our prayers for her husband weren’t answered according to our wishes; but, having seen her suffering and tested, I know her faith is real, and that she’s not just some perennial optimist. And so she has been a massive blessing to me and my whole family – because of her suffering.

Let’s return to her friend’s suffering. Can her friend’s suffering have any purpose, and, if so, what would that be? As Christians our main purpose is to glorify God. While we can see that a healing would glorify God, could his suffering also not glorify God? I look at their rock-solid faith and I’m amazed (I know I shouldn’t be) at it and Who it’s inspired by; I see evidence of God’s Holy Spirit in him and in my friend as they go through this. I know theirs is not an airy-fairy feel-good, warms-the-cockles-of-my-heart kind of faith. It’s not the kind of faith that wheel-spins in vain in the mud: it’s got traction; it pulls them through because it’s engaged with God. It glorifies Him because God’s strength is shown in their “weakness” of suffering.

When my friend’s friend dies, I have no doubt that he’ll go to heaven and be with the God he has served so faithfully for decades, because he is in a right relationship with God. He’s getting promotion from this world to a world of glory. He’ll be no longer susceptible to suffering, pain and death. His promotion will depend on the Boss. What right have we to demand that God should heal him? Whose sovereignty is it anyway?

Does this mean I’m callous? I don’t think so: I’ve literally cried over their pain and because the happiness of their friendship will be cut short, and I still pray for healing.

I pray God will heal him and that, if it is not God’s will to heal him, that He will grant him:

1    unshakable CONFIDENCE is his salvation;
2    CONTENTMENT with his life;
3    the CONSOLATION that his salvation and God’s Grace afford in this life;
4    physical COMFORT in his suffering;
5    COURAGE to live each day trusting God.

Am I demonstrating a lack of faith? Am I hedging my bets? I don’t think so.

I do not doubt God’s ability to heal him physically; I don’t know if that is God’s will: there is a difference.

The leper in Matthew 8:2 illustrates what I mean: “A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean’.” He exercised faith in Jesus and recognised the supremacy of God’s will in this.

Are we going to accuse Paul of a lack of faith because he was not healed from whatever it was (some think, malaria) that he suffered from?

” Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. T.hat is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” [2Cor12:7] He wasn’t healed the way he would have wanted to be; and note the reason for the suffering: to keep him dependent on God and to glorify God.

Did Daniel say “Chuck me into the furnace and God WILL rescue me from it”?

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up’.”[Daniel 3:16]

Daniel considered the possibility that God might NOT rescue him, but he still demonstrated faith: “God CAN rescue me IF He wants to; but EVEN IF He doesn’t I’ll still listen to Him rather than to you.” Our faith must be an EVEN IF faith as well as a BECAUSE faith. Our faith must be in God and not in our own faith (which I have just learned is called “fideism”).

So, if someone who has had prayer for healing is not healed outwardly/physically (which is what we tend to mean – and God understands that), we mustn’t think it’s due to a lack of faith and heap guilt onto that person or on those who are praying for him or her. Who made us the judge? It’s God’s decision whether He will heal, not ours. It’s His agenda, not ours that must count; if we don’t respect that we are denying His sovereignty.

Like the vet, God knows when it’s our time to die. God is the loving, almighty, sovereign Lord – not a genie in a bottle.

 

To read the quoted Scriptures in their context, click on the links below:

Hebrews 9:7
http://biblehub.com/niv/hebrews/9.htm

Matthew 8:2
http://biblehub.com/niv/matthew/8.htm

2 Corinthians 12:7
http://biblehub.com/niv/2_corinthians/12.htm

Daniel 3:16
http://biblehub.com/niv/daniel/3.htm

This is rather different from my usual postings.

Ever since just before Resurrection Sunday (Easter) my Mom had been in and out of hospital. She had water on the lungs and shrunken heart valves; so she had a bad circulation of badly oxygenated blood, and so felt she could not breathe. Because of her age, her frail condition and the state of her blood vessels she could not go through with the five operations that would have prolonged her life, or at least enabled her to be more active.

She had always been very independent and fairly active, doing her own housework past the age of 90. We all knew, when she turned down the operations, that she would have little time left, maybe two years at most . In simple faith she accepted that. However, none of us realised she would go so quickly.

Seeing her suffer, struggling to breathe, even though she was on oxygen, was very hard.

In church one or two Sundays before she died I had a vision (although I’m not a “vision person”. Mom was on the left bank of a river. On the other side was a grassy field. On the upper right was an “empty” cross; between the cross and the river was Jesus beckoning to her and calling, “Come”.

On the day she died it was so bad seeing her suffer, and the vision had given me such assurance; so that night I prayed for Jesus to come and fetch her.

About an hour later we were called to the hospital. By the time we had got there, she had gone. I smsed (texted) my God-sister to give her the news. She replied:

“Farewell to her, amazing lady. Present with God breathing [the] fresh air of heaven.”

The next morning I woke up with this short poem:

 

I cried –

Until you died.

O what pain

That we should gain

The green fields of eternity!

 

John 11:25

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

To read ths excerpt in context go to: http://biblehub.com/niv/john/11.htm

[This is a prayer by a small group of people on 3 continents who keep in contact via email to intercede.]

Single women
Father, I pray for all single women and ask that they may turn to You for love, acceptance, affirmation and affection. I ask Father, that You show them Your love and Your goodness. Please open their eyes to see how much You love them. Help each one of them to find fulfilment in You. Allow each of those who have accepted Jesus as their Saviour, to obey Your word and to put You first in their lives. Help each one of them to repent of any ungodly relationships. Please heal and restore them, in Jesus’ name. Help those who have a desire to be married to find the marriage partners that You have for them. Help them not to accept second best. Help them, Lord, to find security, significance and self worth in You, and NOT in anything else.

Single/divorced/widowed women who raise their families on their own, often with little or no help.
Father I pray that You would encourage and strengthen these women; many of them do an incredible job without much help. Please, Lord, help them to rely on Your goodness in faith rather than in anxiety. Please reassure them of Your love for them, and give them resources and support, and the wisdom, not only to cope but to be “more than conquerors”.

Women whose husbands are away from home working in other places.
Father, I commit to You women whose husbands work far away from home and so are absent for extended periods. I pray that those women will be given the strength to manage their homes and all that this entails: working, bringing up their children with possibly little help, being both mother and father. I pray that they would find in You a source of love, encouragement, inspiration and patience. I pray You will keep them and their from a loneliness that encourages or makes them susceptible to infidelity. Please give them the strength to resist temptations. I pray that their children, especially boys, will have good and Godly role models in their fathers’ absence.

Women who suffer from abusive husbands/partners/boyfriends.
Jesus said: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Father, it was never Your plan for women to be abused and oppressed. I plead with You on their behalf. I ask You to give them strength and wisdom. I ask You to open the eyes of those who don’t know that they are abused and think their treatment is normal; to open the eyes of those who willingly let themselves be abused because they think it’s love. Please protect these women (and often children), Lord, and give them the insight to know when to leave their abusers and the courage and means to do so. Please free them from self-destructive bitterness, which is itself a prison. They are precious because they are made in Your image. Thank You for those whom You have rescued from such situations.

Women who have to cope with husbands/partners/boyfriends/children who abuse drugs/alcohol.
Father, I commit these heroic women to Your faithful care and protection. I ask You to bless them with abundant wisdom. I ask You to strengthen them; to enable them to give tough love (even if it goes against their natural instincts) and help them to stand firm. Please reassure them of Your love for them. And please give them the insight, courage and means to leave when they have to, without guilt and feelings of failure. Thank You for those whom You have removed from these situations.

Women abandoned by their husbands/partners/etc.
Father, You never abandon us. I ask You to be especially loving to those who have been abandoned by faithless husbands/partners. I ask You to protect and care for them (and their children), to encourage them, to see that they have people to support them; to be able to see themselves as people worthy of love. I thank You, Father, for those women who, in spite of their husbands’ unfaithfulness have chosen to be faithful as they show us Your faithfulness to us in spite of our faithlessness.

Women who have been raped or sexually assaulted.
Father, You know that I can have very little idea of how deeply these women must feel, and I’m really too scared to ask You to show me in case I couldn’t cope with those feelings. I pray for them to be released from fear and terror; I pray that they will be able to feel the love I ask You to pour out over them; reassure them of their worth in You; protect them from pregnancies and diseases and judgementalism and other injuries; help them to be able to love themselves.

Women who live in oppressive cultures
Father, I bring to You women who live in oppressive cultures, where they can be forced into marriages, have no rights as regards their own children, are victims of so-called honour killings. where female babies are allowed to die or where mothers of female babies are forced to undergo abortions or even abandon their babies; where women can be easily forced into prostitution. I pray that You will bring these women comfort, strength, hope and the liberation that faith in Jesus’s Resurrection brings. I pray that You would enable them to escape from places where they may be held as virtual or real prisoners. I pray that You would free the males in these societies from the slavery of these ideas so that all may have justice.

Men & Husbands
Father, I pray that You will enlighten the minds of those who scorn women and treat them with contempt and disrespect. Please help them to see that we all have worth because You have made us in Your image. Please help them to understand their own worth in You so that they don’t have to compensate by putting women down.

Father, Your Word to us as husbands is: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” (Ephesians 5:22) [To se passage click: http://niv.scripturetext.com/ephesians/5.htm] Please help us to practise this. Sometimes it is so difficult to put this into practice as our male egos get in the way. I ask You to give us grace, not so that we are grudgingly manipulated, but so that we willingly give and give way, and love sacrificially as You do.

[Thank you, Mary Decker, for this poem. The cost of a living faith is a daily battle. (If there are others who would like to contribute encouraging Christian poems/writings, please feel free to contact me via the comments.)]

Hard is the battle and long is the war.
Steep is the hill, very narrow the road.
Tired is the soldier, his feet they are sore.
Hungry is he and so heavy his load.

Sure is the victory, doomed is the foe.
Priceless the prize, and most glorious the King.
Though we may struggle, yet certain’s our hope:
Ever, with angels, His praises we’ll sing.

John 16:33: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
To see this verse in context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/john/16.htm

Matthew 5:6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
To see this verse in context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/matthew/5.htm

Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
To see this verse in context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/matthew/7.htm

Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
To see this verse in context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/matthew/11.htm

Matthew 13:45-46: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
To see these verses in context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/matthew/13.htm

Ephesians 6:10-18: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
To see this verse in context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/ephesians/6.htm

Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
To see this verse in context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/hebrews/11.htm

See also: Revelation 19:11-21 (The first battle). To see this in context click the following link:
http://niv.scripturetext.com/revelation/19.htm

Revelation 20: 7-10 (The second battle/Satan’s doom). To see this in context click the following link:
http://niv.scripturetext.com/revelation/20.htm

Revelation 22:1-5. To see this in context click the following link:
http://niv.scripturetext.com/revelation/22.htm

Revelation 4: To see this in context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/revelation/4.htm

[Parody: Electric Light Orchestra (ELO): Hold on tight to your dream]

Hold on tight to God’s Word
Hold on tight to His Word
When you feel that your soul is ailing
When you’re down and your strength is failing –
Hold on tight to His Word.

In His strength you can be strong
When your own strength is gone
When it feels your whole world ‘s crashing
Fire and brimstone, lightning flashing
Hold on tight to His Word

CHORUS
At the end of your rope when there seems no hope,
He will help you on and keep you strong
You know that you’re going where He’s gone before
And after all this, yes,you know that there’s more

Klou styf vas aan Sy Woord
Hou styf vas aan Sy Woord
As die storms rondom jou woed
As die dinge lyk nie so goed
Nie, klou styf vas aan Sy Woord

REPEAT CHORUS:

Guard your faith in His Word
Guard your faith in His Word
When you see the mountains tumble
When you see this whole earth crumble
Hold on tight to His Word

Hold on tight to His Word

 

[23 January 2012]

 If you are unfamiliar with the original song, you can click the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TLmpL2AzLs

 

Matthew 24:35

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

To read the verse in its context, click:

http://niv.scripturetext.com/matthew/24.htm

See also:

http://niv.scripturetext.com/mark/13.htm

http://niv.scripturetext.com/luke/21.htm

[Many people tend to skim over Jesus’ prophecies concerning Jerusalem. Because of my background in Classics, I find them interesting — and frightening.

The prophecies surrounding the temple were fulfilled as a result of the Jewish rebellion which broke out against Rome in AD66. This and the preceding period were characterised by “bloody sectarian strife between Sadducces and Pharisees … Jews and Greeks were fierce enemies. ..the Christian population … was anathema to the Jews.” (E.T. Salmon: A History of the Roman World 30BC to 138AD Methuen 1968 pp 194 -197). The dissention was so bad that, even while the Romans were beieging Jerusalem, the Jews were killing each other.

The Romanised Jew Josephus (who had been a Jewish leader in this war) paints a terrible picture of conditions during the Roman siege (Josephus: The Jewish War Penguin classics chapter 19). Eventually the Temple and most of the city were either burnt to the ground or demolished. The Romans sacrificed where the Temple had stood and it became a place of worship to Jupiter and the Emperor. Josephus puts Jewish casualties at over one million (his numbers are prone to exaggeration, but this was during the time of a major feast). Survivors faced slavery or mass execution later. For them it was the end of the age.

In AD 130 the city was still in ruins and no Jew was allowed to enter the area. (Salmon, op.cit. P307)

This was certainly a time to “hold on tight to the Word.”]

[This is a parody of Immortality which I heard sung by Celine Dion on a Bee Gees album. Many people have been disappointed and hurt by people who have abandoned them – a husband, a father, a mother, etc. God’s love for us is an absolute; it’s undeserved; it’s unconditional: it doesn’t matter who I am, what I’ve done, what I haven’t done: He won’t say Goodbye. (Read Philip Yancey’s What’s so amazing about Grace?) Sometimes I get angry with God and it seems He goes away; usually I have to admit (very sheepishly) He’s giving me space to calm down from my tantrum. He hasn’t said Goodbye, and He’ll never say Goodbye. That’s His promise; that’s His nature; that’s my only hope.

C141 SV55  6 March 2010]

Yes, this is who I am
And yet You love me still
And I must choose to live
The life that You will give
It’s Grace that keeps me going

And I will stand for You, alone, I will,
Stand firm in my faith in the great I AM
For You’re my soul’s hope

And I will follow on your path that lies ahead
I will let myself by You be led
For you’re my soul’s hope

You won’t say goodbye
You won’t say goodbye
No matter what I have done

In Your Grace I stand
I make my journey through this desert land
You keep a firm hold on my hand
Till the end

You died and rose for me
You died to make me free
Though storms may never end
Through all You are my Friend
King of Kings
My Saviour

And You won’t say goodbye
You won’t say goodbye
No matter what I may do

And I’ll follow Your path that lies ahead
I will let myself by You be led
For You’re my soul’s hope

I’m sorry, Lord, for all the times I’ve gone astray,
Hand over my heart to Your own Way
For You give me Grace to live

In Your Grace I stand
I make my journey to the Promised Land
You keep a firm hold on my hand
Till then

You won’t say goodbye
You won’t say goodbye

No matter what I may do
It’s Your Love pulls me through

You won’t say goodbye

Hos 11:8  “How can I give you up, Israel? How can I abandon you? Could I ever destroy you as I did Admah, or treat you as I did Zeboiim? My heart will not let me do it! My love for you is too strong.