FRIDAY, APRIL 6
Tests of true believers
Exodus 14:10-30, 15:20-21 – The test of faith for the impossible
Psalm 133 – The test of togetherness
John 20:19-31 – The test of believing without seeing
1 John 1:1-2:2 – The test of those who are walking in relationship with God
How ordinary Christians’ faith changed the course of history
The first passage, Monday, April 2 – Exodus 14:10ff, told how Moses and his large and at times opinionated and difficult group faced a test of faith in a situation that looked hopeless – although God had spoken previously, and given them a clear promise of passage to the Promised Land to hold on to.
The lesson about the power of unity (Ps. 133) also bears on this story; so does Thomas’s lesson, after he declared “Unless I see…” He followed the old adage that seeing is believing, but faith turns that on its head to say that believing, is seeing.
A generation or two ago the future of this country was in the praying hands of ordinary but true, believing Christians – the ones who were too young or too old to be called up for war service. And we can assume that the majority were women.
Like the Israelites at the Red Sea there was a pursuing army and a strategic stretch of water. This is about the two dramatic and otherwise inexplicable reversals that took place in 1940 following a national call to prayer.
May 1940 was a desperate time; the entire retreating British Army was trapped at Dunkirk. King George VI (who, like Moses, found public speaking difficult) called the nation to turn back to God in a spirit of repentance, and plead for Divine help.
On the day appointed by the King, which was Sunday May 26, the country responded. Millions of people flocked into churches. A memorable photograph of the time shows a long queue outside Westminster Abbey; church bells were rung and others filled churches across the UK, and also in the Commonwealth nations.
There were two immediate results: a violent storm arose over northern France, grounding the Luftwaffe which had been attacking the troops on the beaches. And then a flat calm, a calm that had not been seen for a generation, descended on the Channel, allowing hundreds of tiny pleasure boats to cross and enter the shallows to allow men to board. Rather than the anticipated 20-30,000 hoped for, 335,000 were rescued.
Another National Day of Prayer was called on Sunday, September 8, 1940, while the Battle of Britain was being fought out in the skies. RAF fighter command was close to being wiped out and its airfields destroyed; preparations for the invasion could be seen, looking across the channel from the Dover cliffs. Inexplicably the Luftwaffe suddenly switched tactics to bombing London, giving time for fighter squadrons to re-group and re-equip, and the invasion plans were finally abandoned.
True believers, acting together, can bring godly change, to the wonder of politicians.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 26
The emerging message
Reviewing again the four readings for Sunday, January 28:
One day, God says, He will raise up another prophet who will speak truths from the heart – His heart.
The Lord’s precepts are not just trustworthy, but His heart is constancy and covenant – “for ever and ever”.
Mark 1: 21-28
Jesus taught from the heart rather than from the mind, and impure spirits recognised the authority of the heart of the Father in Him.
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Mere knowledge can be arrogant and putting down of others, while the love that is at the heart of life in Jesus builds people up.
The heart of God changes our hearts
Moses was someone who had a very close walk with God. Not so close that he didn’t make mistakes and not so protected that he didn’t make God angry on occasion. But close enough to learn, and listen, and to be able to speak to the Israelites out of the heart of God which had captured his heart.
Jesus was, on one level, another prophet or spokeman for God, whose character and call had similarities to Moses. This was what Moses saw in the Spirit and spoke about. Of course, Jesus Christ was more than that – He was the only and unique Son of God, involved in the original creation, part of the godhead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so close in relationship that they are not three gods but joined as One, although presenting three points of access for us. Whether we come to the immense and all-encompassing love of the Father’s heart, or encounter the love of Jesus as One who has lived our life and overcome, or received the loving encouragement of the Holy Spirit’s leading and prompting and empowering – our heart is transformed once we catch God’s heart.
That heart connection is what He desires from us in praise and in more intimate worship. As we draw close, we find that God has a very different character value from our human way of being. We blow hot and cold, quickly ‘move on’ and forget, and make promises which are situational. They might be quite sincere at the time but as situations and relationships change, the heart of the promise or intention… kind of fades. And we think that is normal.
With God, His heart and promise never changes or faces. He sees situations with us change and our relationship with Him draws close and veers off wider again, however His intention, His covenant undertaking to love us, does not change at all. And He says, that is His ‘normal’!
Jesus came into the world as the Son of God but born or man, to live a human life but also a perfect life, and as one in whom was no sin, to pray the complete price for all our revellion and selfishness and independence. Along the way, He “taught as One with authority” and everything spiritual, whether dark or light, knew that. Why? Because what Jesus said came from the heart, and it wasn’t just any old heart – His heart was also the heart of the Father. He gave up His divine identity to live on earth as one of us, but He was also doing that living as one fully and perfectly filled with the Holy Spirit – so no wonder His heart was so closely connected to the Father’s heart. However perfectly or, more likely, imperfectly filled with the Spirit we think we are, Jesus modelled a relationship and way of being that we can grow into. And we, too, can speak and serve with the authority that comes from the Father’s heart by the same connection, the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.
The outworking of this comes in the witness we give to others who may not be at our place of faith. They may be some way off, spiritually – but they see us and watch us, how we are and how we handle life. They recognise something of the life of God in us, and that is a hallmark, a holiness or setting apart. They watch to see how our interactions with the unholy and unseparated ways of the world play out. Are we so separated and strict that they feel judged, or religiously obligated to be the same? Or are we so good at being accommodating to people of different values, that we are not actually very different or godly? Paul goes to what is in our hearts – is it a pride in knowing who we are in Jesus, so we can do what we want without fear of God’s judgment? Or is it the love that is in Jesus, that gets alongside others wherever they are on the journey, with His encouragement and understanding even though we personally have had an encounter with Him that has changed our hearts?