March 2023

Memories for God – Part 1

Memories are part of who we are, they greatly influence our character and how we respond to life. Good, bad, and everything in between, memories are stored and unconsciously carry enormous power over our lives. For some, painful memories are a dictator which controls with relentless determination, robbing life’s beauties found in love, joy, and peace. For others, they are blessed with sufficient pleasant memories which they catalogue ready for recalling, bringing a sense of wellbeing, security, and belonging.

As memories are an intrinsic part of being made in the image of God, it’s important that we manage them well for God’s glory, for our sanity, for our equipping, and for being instrumental in blessing others. Should we choose, all memories are able to be used for good. Some require supressing while others need promotion. Some automatically produce pleasure and seek to be shared, while others should be learned from, then filed in the category of forgetfulness.

King David, like many, had a memory vault packed with both  wonderful and disastrous memories. From the highest pleasures to the lowest and most despicable regrets, David had a past which haunted him, and he needed God’s internal cleansing and organisation. From overwhelming guilt (Psalm 51), to two of his own sons conspiring to overthrow his thrown (2 Samuel 15; 1 Kings 1-2), David’s memory bank was packed full.

In the complex and confusing mix of life’s circumstances and personal sin, David first of all came to God for forgiveness and cleansing. Psalm 51:1-2 is a sample of this. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! The Lord’s forgiveness enabled David to transfer those memories of guilt to the “forgiven and forgotten by God” column. As he states in Psalm 103:12, as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. David clung tightly to divine forgiveness which enabled him to focus his thoughts upon the Lord, on the glorious splendour of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate (Psalm 145:5). A shift in memory habit was enabled and actioned by God’s Spirit within wayward David’s heart and mind.

Malachi 3:16 tells of those who feared the LORD (who) spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed His name. Although Malachi lived in a time of great idolatry, suffering, and wickedness, those who were authentic in their faith for God made a record for good. They chose to maintain a written memorial, not of the evil people, but of the righteous ones. Obviously, this caught God’s attention with great favour as He listened to them recounting the righteous memories instead of the foul ones only. For these believers in Yahweh, this was an intentional and effective tool for expressing their love for Him through their thoughts, while robbing bad memories of undue authority. This simple tool elevated good and beneficial memories above the painful and debilitating memories of the wicked.

Memories require deliberate management, otherwise, our fleshly hearts will predominantly gravitate towards the painful records of the past with crippling repetition and false authority. May we follow David’s example of how to glorify God with our memories. As he states, I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word (Psalm 119:15-16). Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! (Psalm 103:1).

To be continued…

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Jesus Christ our Intercessor

While compromising Lot was living in Sodom, he would have had no idea that Abraham was a short distance away interceding face to face with the Lord to spare the city from imminent destruction. Abraham said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten righteous are found there. The Lord answered, For the sake of ten righteous I will not destroy it (Genesis 18:32). Well, unable to find even ten righteous people in Sodom, two angels conducted an emergency extraction of Lot, his wife, and two daughters. As far as we are aware, Lot never discovered the critical part Abraham played through intercession with the Lord.

This depicts well, the intercessory work of the glorified Lord Jesus Christ on behalf of every believer. Invisible, yet critical to every Christian, Christ’s tireless ministry goes unnoticed by the church for the most part. Every child of God should ask themselves the following question with gratitude, who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Romans 8:33-34).

Asaph the Psalmist rightly declared, “Whom have I in heaven but you?” (Psalm 73:25). Asaph realised that in heaven, there is only one who is of use to sinful mankind. Angels, Mary, dead Christian ancestors, the apostles, and even our forefathers of the faith, are of no use to us in the throne room of God Almighty. There is only One in heaven who serves and operates on behalf of sinful mankind, and that is God Himself through the second person of the trinity. God’s Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name He has inherited is more excellent than theirs (Hebrews 1:2-4).

Only Jesus Christ, who is eminent over all created beings, who alone has made purification for sins possible through His sacrificial death on the cross as our substitute, is of any use to us in pleading our case before His Holy Father. Only Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high, from where He intercedes on our behalf. Only Jesus Christ, equal with the Father (Philippians 2:6), who lived in human flesh yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15), and has satisfied the wrath of God on sinner’s behalf (Romans 3:25-26). Only Jesus Christ ministers tirelessly at God’s throne to administer and maintain the repentant sinner’s cleansed status. While God the Holy Spirit intercedes with the Father, presenting our prayers and progress of sanctification on believer’s behalf, it is Christ alone who intercedes through His own blood sacrifice for our salvation.

Job’s understanding and appreciation of God was heightened through his suffering. And he, having lost everything of earthly value, testified, as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives… (Job 19:25). Amen Job! It is Jesus Christ who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:14). This we belief and rejoice in with confidence, that Jesus Christ our Redeemer, intercedes on our behalf, securing our  salvation which He purchased at the cross.

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Tiredness and refreshment in Jesus

Few people, if any, have never thought or spoken the words “I’m tired.” It’s a universal part of being human, tiredness creeps up on us all at some time or another. Many things can cause it, and tiredness can manifest itself in different ways and to different extents. Likewise, we all have different ways of addressing tiredness and with differing measures of success. Whether caused by lack of sleep, illness, stress, grief, malnutrition, overworked, depression, medication, or inactivity, tiredness can wear us down. 

Similarly, spiritual tiredness can be very real, and often caused by multiple factors which require attention before refreshment can occur. Isaiah considered this condition and provided simple suggestions which can help. The LORD is an eternal God, the creator of the whole earth. He does not get tired or weary; there is no limit to his wisdom. He gives strength to those who are tired; to the ones who lack power, he gives renewed energy. Even youths get tired and weary; even strong young men clumsily stumble. But those who wait for the LORDʼs help find renewed strength; they rise up as if they had eaglesʼ wings, they run without growing weary, they walk without getting tired (Isaiah 40:28-31 NET).

Isaiah’s point is this, the Lord is infinitely able and willing to meet our needs caused by exhaustion. As always, our right response to God, who is always within our circumstances, makes blessing possible. When fatigued, our senses and reasoning often become dulled, which can cause us to forget our spiritual resources and disciplines in Christ. As with many spiritual difficulties, we simply want tiredness to go away, but it never seems to work out that way.

Isaiah’s central remedy is that those who wait for the LORDʼs help find renewed strength. Some readers may think, “I don’t have time to hang around waiting while there’s so much needing to be done.” But waiting for the LORD is much more than inactively standing idle. Waiting begins with attitude, creating the space in our thoughts to pause and give attention to the Lord’s presence in the moment, in the day, and in the week. Waiting says, I’m ready to align my heart with yours’ Lord. Waiting recognises that we are the tired ones, not God. Waiting acknowledges that Yahweh has the resources we so desperately need, and we can’t take them by force. Waiting exhales independence and inhales awareness of Christ’s sufficiency to meet our needs. Waiting steps aside from the self-imposed pressures and says, I give up pushing, I’m going to lean on the Saviour. Waiting says NO to the things which don’t make it onto the biblical priority list. And waiting says, Lord I’m ready for you to take over everything. Now, and only now, can rest begin the process of refreshment.

Waiting is a decision believers’ need to make every morning, and possibly many times during each day. It’s the core intentional attitude that begins rectifying tiredness. Next, is the simple discipline of considering Jesus, who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted (Hebrews 12:3). Christian, plan Jesus’ thoughts into every day and evening. Read God’s Word. Talk to Him while driving, while on the bus, while in the shower etc. During your breaks at work, read a Christian book, text or call another believer and talk about Christ. Tell a non-believer about the love and salvation of Jesus Christ. Whatever it takes, put Jesus into your thought life. Rectifying spiritual tiredness takes just a little effort, but the refreshing blessing is transformative.

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Words of hope for backsliders

Spiritual backsliders are a reality in the Christian community. While some abandon all thoughts and expressions of faith in Christ, proving they were never genuinely born again in the first place, others fall short of abandonment. Some backslide in their faith by becoming lethargic and disconnected from the physical body of Christ which causes spiritual paralysis. Others, well, they turn their back on the LORD Jesus by pursuing sin. The fact is, anything which becomes a higher priority than the LORD  is sin and initiates a believer’s backsliding (Mark 12:30). Priorities are the truest tell-tale of faithfulness or not. Priorities can quickly identify idolatry at any level, and therefore, exist as an effective self-diagnostic tool. After all, evaluating the true condition of our heart is difficult due to our propensity for self-deception (Jeremiah 17:9).

No group of people have experienced spiritual backsliding more often and more severely than Israel. So, learning how the LORD responds is of great interest, as backsliding is a two sided story that rarely gives God the opportunity to speak. 2 Chronicles 30:8-9 speaks of Yahweh’s invitation to backslidden Israel. Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the LORD and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the LORD your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you. For if you return to the LORD, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.”

No matter what the condition, mercy is waiting to be dispensed. The ear of our loving God is inclined, listening, prepared, and desiring to apply forgiveness and restoration. For all who repent, mercy is greater than judgement. Grace always prevails in heaven’s courtroom when sin is confessed and turned away from. Rejection by the Lord is not an option, He will not turn away his face from you.

Returning to the LORD requires a right understanding of the way forward. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22). Abandon whatever took priority in your heart which led you away from obedience to the LORD. There can be no compromise as you yield to Christ as your God.

For the believers who welcome a restored believer back, it should be remembered that it takes a community of God’s people, as together they pursue righteous living. Open-hearted and united forgiveness that lives with patient and compassionate perseverance is essential for longevity of faith. Paul exhorts us in this endeavour, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1).

Recovery from backsliding is rarely easy, and it can be lonely if not surrounded by Christlike support and fuelled by a healthy diet of God’s Word, prayer, and worship. There should be no  delay, as cleansing and refreshment are readily available from the LORD. Return, seek the LORD to create in you a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within you (Psalm 51:10). Invite the Saviour to infuse His love for righteousness into you so that your desires and motives change to become His. Ask that His determination for faithfulness becomes your determination, for this is the will of God, your sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

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