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The Word became flesh and dwelt among us….

‘Gospel Freedom: A Purpose Driven Life’ Galatians 2:11-21

Nothing is more frustrating than inconsistency.

In sport, nothing is more annoying when your team can win by 100 points one week and lose the next. Or at work when a colleague or employee can one day be ultra efficient and the next be present only in body.

Inconsistency and hypocrisy are the greatest problems other people have.

We very rarely of course see these traits in ourselves, but every now again, we need reminders that anyone can make a misstep.

Even the great apostle, Peter, shows us even the strongest among us can be inconsistent when it comes to applying the gospel we say we believe to our every day lives and relationships.

Fear of the Circumcision Party v 11-13

Paul has shared about his trip to Jerusalem, and how the apostles had all united in the truth of the gospel, and had not submitted to those who had tried to force Gentile believers to become Jewish in order to be properly saved. Paul now publicly confronts Peter in Antioch because of his hypocrisy in this very matter (v11).

It wasn’t a matter of manners or rudeness on Peter’s part. This issue was much deeper than that. Peter stood condemned because of his change in behaviour towards the Gentile Christians when the Judaisers came to town (v12).

He went from eating with and fellowshipping freely with all Christians to completely withdrawing himself from the non Jewish ones. The reason given for this is put simply, fear (v12b).

Peter had a revelation from God about what was clean and unclean, or what was common and how God had declared His gospel was for all men through his meeting with Cornelius in Acts 10 and 11.

Peter also should’ve had fresh in his mind the situation with Titus in Jerusalem. He had seen the transforming power of the gospel at work in Jews and non Jews alike, and knew the truth that works cannot save.

Peter lost focus of the gospel and gave into peer pressure instead.
We all have our prejudices, and most of the time when we are giving into them, it’s because we’ve allowed ourselves to be influenced and intimidated by people we perceive as powerful. It becomes a kind of moral blackmail to say we won’t do this or that in our ministry expressions here because of what these people over here will say about us.

When we do things like this, we are trusting in men, and not in the gospel, and from that point on, all we do will be out of line with the gospel (v14) because we define ourselves by another’s opinion of us rather than who God has declared us to be.

The fear of man will always bring a snare, and the trap here is in failing to apply the gospel we say we believe.

The fear of man will always lead to hypocrisy.

Peter’s convictions hadn’t so much changed. No doubt he still believed the truth of the gospel and it’s freedom. He knew the Jewish customs in food and dress were not necessary to keep oneself holy or acceptable to God, but here, when it came to Gentiles believers, he stopped acting in accordance with his convictions. His theology hadn’t changed, but he had allowed his fear of what others thought of him override his obedience to God.

When we say the gospel is free, and any who believe in Jesus are saved and accepted in God, but act as if all Christians everywhere should say and act the exact same way we do, we are being hypocrites.

The other danger of hypocrisy, is that it spreads. It’s infectious.

The rest of the Jews started acted the same way (v13). Even Barnabas wasn’t immune to the fear of the circumcision party.

They hid behind a notion of separation and a claim of what would be most pleasing to God, but in distancing themselves from the Gentile Christians, they were distancing themselves from the Gospel. They rejected those whom God had accepted.

When we allow differences of culture, race, gender, upbringing, denomination, and social position to become more important than unity, we have missed the gospel.

“Legalism is looking to something besides Jesus Christ in order to be acceptable and clean before God. Legalism always results in pride and fear, psychologically, and exclusion and strife, socially” – Timothy Keller

Out of Step With the Gospel v 14-16

How do you know you’re out of step with the Gospel? When you add to it and judge others for nothing having the same traditions you do.

Too often we hear of other churches or Christians running events, doing outreach, and instead of praising God, we scoff, we mock and pridefully say, ‘Well, they don’t preach the Word’. When we do this we are being prejudicial and we are out of step with the Gospel.

“Every Christian group or denomination necessarily has many distinctions of belief and practice that have less to do with the core gospel beliefs and more to do with specific convictions about ethical behaviour or church policy. It is extremely easy to stress our distinctions in order to demonstrate to ourselves and others that our church is the superior or best one.” – Timothy Keller

The gospel truth is at stake anytime we turn aside from what God has instructed in order to follow a tradition of men. It breeds pride, fear and division.

Paul points out the clear contradiction of what Peter was doing. He was a Jew, living with Gentiles. He was effectively living as a Gentile on one hand, but at the same time, by his actions on the other hand, he was effectively telling Gentiles to live like Jews (v14). It didn’t make sense.

Paul also points out that although he and Peter are born Jewish, born with a blessing under covenant that Gentiles do not have, they both knew as Christians that a person is not made right with God by observing the law, but only by faith (v15-16). They knew the law could not save from sin, it only reveals it (3:19-24). What the law commands could never be the foundation for justification because no one can keep it, and every part of it must be kept. If we start picking and choosing which parts to follow while not adhering to other parts, none of it matters and we prove ourselves to be hypocrites.

We’re good at writing lists of things we don’t do. It’s easy to not do things you don’t do. What’s harder is to look at God’s list. It’s a higher standard, and surprisingly enough, usually doesn’t actually include the things we have on ours.

A Purpose Driven Life v 17-21

“The main point of this section is that right standing with God does not come from keeping the law, since everyone sins, but only through faith in Jesus Christ. All those who revert to the law only display their own sinfulness in returning to a covenant that has passed away, and hence they end up rejecting the grace of God given in the cross of Jesus Christ.” – Thomas Schreiner

The false charge is bought against the believers that if they are justified only in Jesus and are still sinners, that Christ is responsible for their sin. This is a foolish thing to suggest. On the contrary, when we restore the law as the basis of how we relate to God we automatically indict everyone as sinners, condemned without hope. The only thing reinstating the law would do for me is condemn me. The law is death to all who live by it, but to those who believe in Jesus, they have life in him because he took their condemnation!

The life we now live, as we believe in Jesus, is a life free of condemnation. It is most certainly not a life free of sin, and it is not a life free of needing to obey God’s will for us, but it is a life of purpose.Our purpose is glorify Christ in our lives.

If we think our salvation or our righteousness comes through any other means but Jesus, we are saying Jesus died for nothing.

The lessons for us from this passage are clear.

Don’t nullify the grace of God or cancel out the necessity of Christ’s death on the cross by being relying on keeping the law to be justified.

This means we should never ever give precedence to human traditions when they are in contradiction with the truth of the gospel. We should put no barriers in the way of someone coming to know Jesus and living a life pleasing to God. If we begin in the Spirit, we are to continue in the Spirit. (3:3).

We make a terrible error when we ask people to believe in Christ alone for salvation and then the moment they’re in the door, hand them a list of do’s and don’ts so they are fully accepted by God and the church body. If we do this, we may as well hang a sign outside the church saying, ‘Christ died for you, but it wasn’t enough.’

When we have these practices in place we are effectively saying Christ died for no purpose.

We learn that if we are confronted with a choice between loyalty to the systems of men and standing firm in the truth of the gospel, we must side with and stand for the gospel.

You can either have a fear driven life or a purpose driven life.Christ died for a purpose. Your life has a purpose. To live the life He has given you.

“We are reminded in the text to accept correction humbly. When others correct us, we must bring the criticism before God to see if it accords with the truth or to see if there are elements of truth in the rebuke.
We must beware if we think we have a special ministry of admonishing and correcting others, while at the same time we reject any criticism of ourselves!” – Thomas Schreiner

What is the best way to get around prejudice towards other Christians?

Share a meal.

Invite someone into your home, and have someone over for a meal. You might just be surprised what you have to learn and what others have to offer. You will also see the gospel on display in ways you never imagined.

“The Christian life is about living in line with the gospel throughout the whole of life, for the whole of our lives. We must go on as Christians as we started as Christians. After all, if at any point and in any way righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!
Christ will do everything for you, or nothing…
If we realise we cannot save ourselves, Christ’s death will mean everything to us. And we will spend the life that he had given us in joyful service of Him, bringing our whole lives into line with the gospel.” – Timothy Keller

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“Free in Christ: The Distinctive & Necessity of Christian Unity” Galatians 2:1-10

If you have turned on your news this week, looked at your newsfeed or read a paper, chances are you have been exposed to conflicting opinions that create division.

It’s everywhere.Our nations, our workplaces, our families and our churches.

In this age of so much fracture and disunity in the world, the church needs more than ever to give proper attention to the emphasis the New Testament places on unity.

Paul had established the church at Galatia in the gospel of Christ, but now it was being undermined by false teachers who questioned his authority and claimed they themselves had higher authority.

Paul goes up to Jerusalem to settle once and for all that the gospel he preached was true and that the unity of the church in that gospel was vital.

1 – The Fear of Fruitless Work ( v1-2)

Paul goes to present his case for what he was proclaiming to the Gentiles to the apostles.

It seems as though he is seeking their approval, though he has already made it clear that the message he presents does not come from men and doesn’t need men’s approval, it comes from God, and that is all the authority it needs (1:10-11).

He feared his ‘having run in vain’, but not because he lacked any certainty about the Gospel he had been proclaiming.What he could not be certain of is if some of the apostles could be swayed by the false teachers.He feared that some of them might be distracted by prejudice towards the Gentiles (as happens with Peter in v11ff)  and compromise on the truth of the gospel – that it’s freely available to all.

If the apostles were to abandon the true gospel, then all of what Paul had been doing would be in vain.

The apostles though, fully accept Paul and confirm his ministry in the strongest way possible.

2 – The Threat of Slavery and the Freedom of the Gospel (v 3-5)

If we are to summarise the gospel Paul and the apostles preached, it would be that salvation is freely available to all, whether Jew or Gentile.

A summary of what the Judaisers were teaching is that all could be saved, but any saved Gentile must become Jewish in order to be properly saved.

Its often said that legalism is anything that adds works to salvation, but legalism at it’s heart is deceptive, subtle, and sometimes even attractive to those who believe. Legalism is doing something or not doing something in order to fully accepted by God, even though He has never directly spoken to that specific thing. It usually elevates a ritual, tradition, or principle that was a good thing in and of itself for a specific people, at specific time in a specific place, and makes it something that must be applied to all people at all times in every place. It teaches the doctrines of men as commandments of God, whether in application to salvation issues or holiness issues.

“Externalities are to do with our doing; internals have to do with our being; and Christianity is about who I am in Christ, not what I do for Him.” – Timothy Keller.

Paul states that gospel freedom was under threat from those who sought to bring people into the bondage of works based salvation(v.4).

It becomes a crucial point that Titus is present with Paul (v3) as he provides the perfect case study in Gentile conversion and how the apostles will respond.

We thank God that the apostles certainly did not yield to the pressure that was being placed on them. Instead, they fellowshipped freely with Titus, accepted Paul and Barnabas, and in so doing, preserved the gospel we have today. (v5b).

Division and slavery are not things we should ever submit to, and they are very real threats we face even today from different avenues, whether outside the church or even inside. 

The acceptance of Titus was public statement about the implications of the gospel. It is free to all, and an individual accepted by God by their faith in Christ, not by works.

In demanding that Titus, a Greek, should become Jewish to be properly saved, the false brethren showed a cultural prejudice. Also, they relied on fear to get their message across. It was intimidation, forceful, non-negotiable, ungracious. The clear implication was if you were not like them, you were not saved.

“If your salvation depends upon obeying the rules, then you want your rules to be very specific, do-able and clear. You don’t want: Love your neighbour as yourself, because that’s an impossibly high standard which has endless implications! 

You want: Don’t go there or Don’t drink this, or Don’t eat that.” – Timothy Keller

The freedom of the gospel cancels this kind of thinking out.

“Anyone who believes that our relationship with God is based on keeping up moral behaviour is on an endless treadmill of guilt and insecurity…Christians are not free to sin. Though we are not free of the moral law as a way to live, Christians are free from it as a system of salvation. We obey not in the fear and insecurity of hoping to earn our salvation, but in the freedom and security of knowing we are already saved in Christ. We obey in the freedom of gratitude.” – Timothy Keller 

3 – The Distinctive and Necessity of Gospel Unity ( v 4-10)

The main distinctive of gospel unity in the church of Jesus is freedom.

Christian unity takes no account of cultural, racial or ethnic differences. It takes no account of various people’s standing or influence. Even if that influence is a good one. Paul shows this clearly in that while the apostles were influential, it made no difference to him who they were – he was far more concerned with the gospel that they preached (v6).If God shows no partiality between Jew and Greek, male and female, slave or free, neither should we. ( 2:7, 3:28).

We too often place our traditions in the same authoritative place as the gospel. We make them non-negotiable, and when we do, we say to the ‘Tituses’ among us who love and follow Jesus, ‘You are not welcome here until you become like us.’ 

“ Many types of Christians add to their distinctions, such as belief in predestination, abstinence from certain practices, or speaking in tongues, to the gospel as ways we can be sure we are Christians. In other words, many churches will say that we are saved by faith alone, but we can only be sure we are real Christians if we have these distinctions.” – Timothy Keller 

Our commission is to make disciples of Jesus. Not clones of ourselves.

Christian unity means we must acknowledge we all have different callings.

Verse 7 shows us that Paul and Peter shared the same gospel, and were obeying the same commission, but both had different mission fields, so they had different ways of sharing with vastly different audiences.

Our outreach can quickly become very dry, methodical and even legalistic if we can only share the gospel in one way with one audience in mind.

It is the same message for all, and in a way, yes, the audience will always be the same, as all have sinned. But without a personal burden for a particular person or people that drives us to reach them personally with the gospel, shared from a perspective that they can understand and relate to, we might instead just be imposing a system on them.

When our preferences and traditions get in the way of how we engage with people around us, we not only fail to share the gospel effectively, we’ve created stagnation. We’ll never move out of Jerusalem if church everywhere else in the world has to be done the way we do it. We will just become an exclusive community club. 

Another mark of Christian unity, and perhaps the most challenging, is that poor are to be remembered by Christians everywhere.

Peter and Paul may have had different mission fields, but they were both constrained to look after the poor.

Those who are tight with their money will be tight with the gospel. If you think your money is yours and you’ve earned it, and that others should go and do the same, you’ll be the same with salvation. If you don’t see all of God’s provision as his grace, you probably won’t practically apply the free grace of salvation either.

There is also the irony that the strictest, most legalistic of all the law enforcers, don’t adhere to ones that God has laid out.

We’ll tell people to adhere to certain guidelines, regulations and bylaws that we have created in order to provide a safe, holy, sanctified environment where God can be pleased with our efforts. All the while we have neglected the greatest commandment we have been given, to love our neighbour as ourselves.

Ensuring on extreme, extra-biblical separation from various aspects of culture so we are not ‘spotted by the world’ will ensure never will be spotted by anyone in the world.

There are of course limits on unity. The whole reason Paul shares this account is to point out there are some professing believers we cannot unite with.False brethren had infiltrated the church and Paul was not willing to fellowship with them.

If you add to the gospel, you are not contributing to gospel unity. 

The gospel is already exclusive enough. 

It’s only through Jesus.

Anyone who comes to God through Jesus is included, for us to place restrictions on God’s blessing of fellowship and membership into his church where he has not, is not just prideful, it’s deadly bondage. 

We must never exclude from Christian unity and fellowship someone whom God has included.

Instead of seeking out what differences we have with others who are in Jesus, we could instead find ways we can partner together in the gospel, extending that right hand of fellowship (v9).

Do you know anyone from outside Jerusalem?

The best way to expand your application of the gospel is to meet someone outside our sphere of influence. Both Christian and not. 

How many unsaved people do you know? What can you do to get to know some?

Bake a cake?

Offer a lift to co-worker?

Change your job?

Share a meal?

How are you studying the gospel in ways that will help you reach those who haven’t heard it?

The best way towards unity with other believers is of course to worship with them, and to share in the Lord’s Table together.

There’s not greater blessing than in sharing a simple meal.

Fellowship happens when we acknowledge a common bond. In Christ we have the strongest bond available.

“Gospel Freedom: A Story of Grace” Galatians 1:11-24

Stories are powerful things. We get caught up in our imaginations to other times, places, and possibilities that can inspire us, and even change our lives because of the truths that become real to us.

Each of us is living a story. Paul had a big story, and his story of Christian conversion and calling to be an apostle, is maybe one of the most pivotal testimonies of all of Christian history.

He shares his story with the church at Galatia, not only as a justification as to why he has the right to tell them to listen to him, but more ultimately, as a testimony to the freedom of grace and the transforming power of the gospel, which were the key issues he wanted them to know of in writing to them.
A Vessel Of Grace v. 10-16

There’s no possible way, Paul says, to preach the gospel of Jesus and please men at the same time (v10-11).

One of the marks of a true believer is that they stop looking to please men and only look to please God.

Paul’s salvation was real and the message he shared with them was true, not because he thought it up, or passed on what he had heard from others, but because both his salvation and the message of how everyone else could be saved comes only from God.

“How can we recognise the true gospel? Its marks are given here. They concern its substance (what it is) and its source (where it comes from).” – John Stott

His calling and commission were completely supernatural, so to accuse Paul of manufacturing a ‘cleverly devised fable’ ( 2 Peter 1:16) is not only to charge him with lying, but it also discounts the work and character of God.

Before his conversion, he was fully convinced against Christ. He was so convinced that he violently persecuted any who followed Jesus with the church’s destruction in mind. (v13).
To go from that, to preaching that Jesus is the Son of God and the only way to be saved, is miraculous!

Paul could testify, that in looking back over his life, God had ordained that he was who he was in order to become who God intended him to be.

God never causes anyone to sin ( James 1:13-14). No one will ever be able to stand before God and blame Him for their poor choices. We will, however, if we have believed in Jesus, be able to stand before God and glorify Him for somehow using our lives, as faulty and fallen as they were, and redeeming them for His ultimate purpose and glory.

“The gospel gives us a pair of spectacles through which we can review our own lives and see God preparing us and shaping us, even through our own failures and sins, to become vessels of His grace in the world.” – Tim Keller

From before birth, Paul knows God’s grace was doing something that he could in no way ever make up himself.

This is the amazing grace of God to all who believe in Jesus as His Son and His finished work of salvation on the Cross and His rising from the dead – God has loved us before you were born and destined you to be called to his glory.

That can be a deep theology that many would wish to argue on certain points, but the truth of Scripture is this – you cannot save yourself. God has to step in and show you Jesus so you can receive Him and be saved from the consequences of your poor choices. The only other option is we ignore the grace of God and revelation of Jesus and face the full, eternal consequences for our choices.

Paul accepted this truth of election by grace through faith, and we too, should not be afraid of it.

Paul, along with the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, know that God gave them a calling from before birth, not only of salvation, but to speak His word, and to do so without shame.

God has prepared something for all of His children to do. If we examine our lives through the lens of grace and redemption instead of the lens of works and self-righteousness, we may well be able to see what He has in mind for us. A big part of that will be telling our story of God’s love for us.

“God revealed Christ to Paul so that He could reveal Christ through Paul. This shows us a critical difference between a mere religious or moral person and a Christian. A Christian has more than an intellectual belief in Christ; they sense a personal relationship. And they know that this relationship is not given to them solely for their own personal comfort and joy. They know they have a responsibility to reveal Christ to others through what they are, do, and say.” – Tim Keller

A religious and moral person is in it for themselves and their own glory. A Christian denies themselves to point others to Jesus.

2. A True, Accepted Apostle v. 16-2:10

Paul spends some time elaborating on his early years as a believer in order to again reiterate that his message was not made up, or an elaborate public relations stunt by the apostles.

When he was first converted and called, he doesn’t consult with any person, and he actually has no contact with the apostles for three years. (v16-17).

Even when he did go to meet them, he only spent time with Peter and then saw James very briefly. It was fourteen more years before he met the rest of the apostles (2:1-10).

They then confirmed his ministry, salvation and calling, but in no way did they force or coerce him into being converted or coach him in what to say.

The men that had spent the most time with Jesus while he was on earth, who knew him better than anyone else, confirmed that all that Paul said about Jesus was true.

They also had no interest in forcing Christian converts to adhere to Jewish law (2:3-5), which again, gives Paul more credibility to speak to the issue he is writing about.

Those accusing him literally had no case at all. Paul and his message were accepted by the apostles. If you reject him, you reject them.

3. A Blameless Man Under the Law v. 13-14

Why is Paul stressing this supernatural Providence in the gospel message – both in receiving salvation and the calling to share it?

We must remember that the key issue that Paul is addressing in all of this is the traditions of men that had been given more authority than the gospel of Christ.

The Judaizers were ironically trying to pit themselves against the greatest Judaizer that ever lived. They were trying to argue the law against the man who was the most preeminent law keeper and enforcer of his generation. If anyone had a reason to be confident of his law keeping abilities, it was Paul ( Philippians 3:4-6).

His record was impeccable, his pedigree was undeniable, his zeal and self-righteousness were beyond compare. To say he was an expert in these matters would be a gross understatement. He was qualified to speak to this topic of salvation by law and works or salvation by grace and divine revelation.

We learn much about Paul here in what he shares about his journey from zealous law keeping for salvation to being zealous for God’s grace and holiness because of his salvation.

Paul’s story shows us also that are two faces to repentance.

We rightly think of repentance as being when we turn to God in faith, and in so doing, we see Him as being far more attractive and desirable than anything else this world offers, so we seek His goodness and beauty by turning away more and more from lifestyles and choices that do not please God, and seek the fruits of the Spirit rather than the temporal pleasures of the flesh.

There is another side to repentance where we not only are called to repent of the wrong things we do, but also of the right things we have done for the wrong reasons. Paul’s law keeping of God’s law was not wrong. His motives for doing so were though. We so often seek repentance of our ‘bad works’ but every now again we need to examine the motives of our ‘good works’. If we are doing them for ourselves, to promote our reputation and glory in comparison to others, our motives are wrong. If we do good works to bring glory to God, and aren’t worried if we never get any recognition for them, we’re on a far better path.

“Paul’s experience proves vividly that the gospel is not simply ‘religion’ as it is generally understood. The gospel calls us out of religion as much as it calls us out of irreligion. No one is so good that they don’t need the grace of the gospel, nor so bad that they can’t receive the grace of the gospel.” – Tim Keller

We can become zealous for things that lead us to persecute others of a differing opinion or conviction and seek their destruction, when ultimately, we are destroying ourselves because we are trusting in something other than Jesus for our salvation or holiness.

Paul shows us that no one is beyond the need for or reach of grace.

What we learn more than anything else from this passage is that the gospel is not come from human beings, but from God.

“The gospel represents a transcendent word from God – a word from above that speaks authoritatively and infallibly to human beings. Hence, the rejection of the gospel amounts to a repudiation of what God himself has communicated.” – Thomas Schreiner

Do you have a story to tell?

“ Paul is a good example to us here. He shows us that we must have the courage to be vulnerable and speak personally about what the gospel means to us…he gets personal to make the gospel clear.” – Tim Keller

Is your journey one that ,on reflection, you can see redemption’s threads weaving through?

Or are you more concerned with discounting God’s work so you can more clearly show your own?

When people look at us, and all we have accomplished in our life and message that we share, who do they give the glory to? ( v24).

We need to tell our story so well, that the only person people have in mind at the end is Jesus.

A Long Obedience In The Same Direction. 1 Timothy 4

Stepping up in life to new challenges and endeavours can be daunting, even overwhelming.

A new job, a new place to live, a new study environment are life changing events, and should never be approached lightly, as these kind of decisions can shape your life, and even your eternity.

Timothy had been left in Ephesus by Paul and faced a big task, to make sure the faith and doctrine that Paul had founded the church on remained unchanged.( 1 Timothy 1:3-5).There are many challenges that faced Timothy because of this role, not the least was a perception about his age (4:12).

The encouragement Paul gives here instructs any who are seeking to be a good servant of Christ ( 4:6) and what true knowledge really is, and the importance of living godly when life is still ahead of you.

1 – Guard the Deposit v 1-5, 6:20-21, 2 Timothy 1:13-14

Paul makes it clear to Timothy, there are devilish teachings which he will have to guard himself, and those in his charge, against.

It’s not always the outright, blatant denial of the person, deity, and work of Jesus Christ that is the leading point of these devilish false teachers. It’s usually something far more subtle. Something that deceives, tricks, that sounds right, looks right, even feels right, but ends up being purely demonic. It’s falsely called “knowledge”. (6:20).

Paul gives the example of legalism. It’s teaching that adds works to salvation that is the greatest trap for every believer.

With convincing arguments, the teachers that Paul was warning of, had taken the command for purity to extents far beyond what God ever intended, making marriage a forbidden thing. They had called good things made by God evil things, demanding abstinence from things that Jesus had declared clean, and could be made holy by closer examination of God’s Word and prayerful consideration ( 4:5).

Alarm bells should ring every time we hear a call for abstinence that cannot be found in scripture.

These false things, Paul, says, must be avoided, and the true things must be taught, reiterated, and firmly guarded.

The devil loves it when people get distracted by false teachings. Anything that takes one’s eyes off of Jesus, whether it’s morality or vice, pleases the devil. He can use guilt just as much as he can use a seared conscience to his ends. He will always appeal to the flesh. Don’t become proud in your knowledge and don’t be tricked into following foolishness.
2 – Train Yourself For Godliness v. 6-10

The answer to this that Paul gives Timothy is give himself more and more over to training in what he has already received.

The words of the faith and the good doctrine (4:6b) are the antidote to lies and deception. He will remain a faithful servant of Jesus, so long as his focus stays on Jesus (4:6).

What are these ‘silly myths’ that Timothy is being warned against? (4:7)

Paul is building from what he has already stated in 1:4. Things that promote speculation, conspiracies rather than truth are things that distract us from training ourselves in the faith, or exercising our gifts.

We become poor stewards when we use our time, our resources, or other people’s time and resources to endlessly talk about things that have absolutely no bearing on eternity or the advancing of the Gospel.

Paul says that we should have nothing to do with these things, but rather, focus our energy, our time, our hearts, minds, and strength on Godliness.

The example he gives of physical exercise (v8a) is often quoted by unfit people out of context, but he proves a valid point, don’t get caught up in foolishness. The only thing that gets a workout when we exercise our flesh is our flesh. Get into arguments on social media. Berate everyone you come in contact with because they don’t think the way you do. Find the negative in every sermon, every person, every event, every point. Your flesh will be strong, and your love will be absent, and you will not have a hint of Godliness.

Instead, exercise yourself in Godliness. You are not working in the flesh so you can have notoriety in this life. You are doing what you can, with what you have, so long as God gives you breath, to build a legacy of Godliness that bears fruit for eternity.

Our hope is not found in what we can do to be noticed by others, or in what they say of us. It is found in the Saviour of the world ( 4:10).

Godliness should be the sole ambition of the good servant of Christ. Anything that distracts us from that shows that our hopes and loves are out of order. A hope set on the living God, leads to a life of value, and one that matters for eternity.

3 – Practice The Long Obedience In The Same Direction v. 11-16

This kind of lifestyle is a lifelong process. There are no shortcuts. There is only grace, and a lifelong ambition to become more like Jesus, every single day.

This a difficult thing to accept in our fast paced, instant society where if we have to wait more than five minutes for a takeaway meal, we feel put out. We want instant gratification, instant success.

Church can be the same.We demand instant help, instant inspiration, instant maturity, but true discipleship is none of these. It is a ‘long obedience in the same direction’.

“There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.” – Eugene Peterson

A life of consistency, integrity, maturity is never achieved overnight, and perfection is never achieved in this lifetime.

This commitment to lifelong repentance is something that is best fostered in a community that encourages youthful energy rather than despising anything new or different.

Timothy faced opposition not just because the message he had was the opposite of what many wanted, but because of his age.

Too often, there is awful lot of despising of youth and not enough encouragement of the progress they are making in godliness (4:15b).

Timothy’s lack of life experience should not be an obstacle, Paul points out, because Timothy is setting such an example in so many areas of his life, anyone who dismisses him based on his age, is wrong to do so, and he should press on into the living his life and doing what God has called him to do.

There is a culture of despising of youth in some churches that goes directly against Paul’s explicit commands here. We are far quicker to criticise and even heckle than we are to encourage, come alongside and commit to seeing Christ being formed in another. We are sin hunters far more than we are grace hunters.

1 Timothy 5:1 will point out that I can’t rebuke someone older. But I can encourage them.So,I strongly encourage the older Christians of our churches to not despise the youth.

If you want to influence them, live Godly,humble, and consistent lives that bring honour to God. Don’t seek opportunities to condemn, or be cynical, but seek opportunity to encourage, and above all, let them know you are praying for them.

I have learnt far more from Godly older Christians who show me how to live rather than telling me how to live. Young people never learn to be godly by being despised. They learn Godliness by example. They don’t look for perfection, but they do see faithfulness and they will honour that.

We as a church have mastered the art of criticism. It’s time to start mastering discipleship instead.

All of this is not to say there is not an explicit call to purity of life and doctrine that young people should be exhorted to.

There is this delicate balance of Godliness. We are required to trust fully in God, and rely completely on the work of Jesus for our salvation and sanctification, but we are,nonetheless, called to works. It is a great privilege to have this calling.

There are five key areas that Paul points out that are specific for Timothy in his young adulthood that will negate the condemnation he was facing because of his age. If he can be an example in these, his youth will not be a hinderance to those who which to make it one.

speech

What you say matters. The tongue is powerful. James tells us that in his epistle. It can bring life or death. Are your words offering the Word of Life?

conduct

What you do, matters. We abuse grace when we live for ourselves. In our actions, our lifestyle, who is revealed to be in charge? Us, or Jesus?

love

Who and what you love, and in what order you love them, matters. Love is first and foremost self-sacrificing. Our love must reflect the love of Christ, otherwise it’s only self-serving.

faith

What you believe, matters. People may hear what we believe, but do they see it in action? Our faith is not intellectual only, but reaches to every part of our lives. A legacy of faithfulness is the ultimate fruit of a sure faith.

purity

Your sexuality, your thought life matters. This begins in our hearts.

Restrictions and regulations don’t necessarily lead to purity. Boundaries are vital to ensure intimacy is approached with the right God-honouring attitude, but ultimately, purity is a matter of the heart. If our hearts are not holy, our minds certainly won’t be, and will be on the fast track to sexual, emotional and spiritual ruin. The chance of impurity is greatly removed when we see members of the opposite sex as siblings in the Lord ( 1 Timothy 5:2).

“There is no struggle for purity so intense that Jesus’ grace cannot win the battle.” – Heath Lambert

Paul tells Timothy to immerse himself in these things ( 4:15), to be captivated with pleasing God is an honourable calling, and it is something every believer is called to.
The call of this passage is not to be like Timothy, or even like Paul. The point is that we are called to be good servants of Christ, and we would all do well to heed Paul’s advice.

Don’t be fooled by the traps of works-based salvation or sanctification. Be immersed in the Gospel, and in pleasing God with your life.

Don’t pay attention to those who would seek to distract you, either by foolish arguments and silly myths or by being negative about your chances of success. Focus on your calling, your gift, and do all you do for God’s glory.

Set your hopes, loves, and total focus on Him, and He will bless you with the fruit of faithfulness.

“Looking for the King: The Friend of The True King” – 1 Samuel

Friendships are something we value and treasure. Finding friends can be hard. Being one can be even harder.But lifelong friendships, forged in the fires of mutual suffering, without personal agendas, show the great possibility of peace and joy in this life.

The friendship of David and Jonathan is one that comes out of incredibly unique circumstances. These two men should have been bitter rivals, but instead, they have one of the most intimate and touching relationships recorded in all of Scripture.

1 The Friendship of Jonathan 18:1-5

Jonathan was royalty, but David was a shepherd boy. Jonathan also would’ve been much older than David, but yet their friendship was closer than brotherhood.

That their souls were ‘knit together’ (18:1) and that they made vows regarding their friendship and bond, shows us that these two men loved each other without pretence.

It wasn’t a strategic or coercive alliance.

Jonathan had everything to lose, and David had little to offer, but Jonathan is aware that God’s anointing was on David.

It wasn’t a ‘I’ll be your best friend if you give me all your lollies’ or ‘I’ll be your best friend if you act exactly like I do’ , kind of promise. It was a total commitment to the other for the sake of the other.

His giving over of his robes, armour and weapons (18:4) is an acknowledgement of the fact that he was not going to inherit his father’s throne.David had been anointed, and Jonathan was willing to submit to the will of God, which meant resigning his own rights.

Like Jonathan, we are meant to give over our right to reign in our lives. There can only be one king, and only the King that God has provided will be enough for a life of sure integrity and uncompromising conviction in the face of great hostility.

“This David – Jonathan sort of friendship is a love that sets the other free to be himself or herself – a commitment with no demands. In a culture like ours in which there is widespread avoidance of commitment because they are confining, this story of a love commitment that is freeing is a breath of fresh air. Healthy relationships do not restrict our lives; they expand our lives.” – Eugene Peterson

We look at their friendship and see it as extraordinary. But there is no supernatural power you need in order to have a close friendship with another person. Just complete openness, honesty, and accountability, all of which go both ways.

There is place for bonds of friendship, ties that can’t be broken, not matter what lies ahead in life, a unity of mind, heart and spirit to one single goal.

It’s not just marriage that serves this end. Friendship, when done in a God-honouring way, can be a vital tool to our holiness and sanctification.

You will never achieve any level of satisfactory growth in the Christian life while living isolated from everyone else around you.

In a world that’s more ‘social’ than ever, we are in need of friendships that build another up in Christ, where we can serve others with no other ambition but to see them become who God intends them to be.
2 The Jealousy of Saul 18:6-20:42

When we think of our ‘social’ culture that grounds most connections through media, we are all too aware of the seriousness of being ‘unfriended’, or worse, ‘blocked’.If Saul had a FaceBook, his activity would provide much cause for concern. Singing the praises of his friends and family one day, plotting their death and insulting them with vile language ( 20:30) the next.

It started very soon after Goliath’s defeat (18:6-10), with the songs women sang about the thousands and tens of thousands. ( 18:6-9).

Why all this was happening is clear to us – God was with David, and was no longer with Saul (18:12). David’s successes were due God’s clear blessing on his life.

Jonathan loves David. Michal loves David. The people love David. God clearly loves David. Saul cannot love him, and refuses to accept God’s plan for David, and becomes insanely jealous and fearful of David.

This is something we see all around us in a culture gone mad with self-absorption and pride, but jealousy is not limited to the world. We find it our homes, our churches, ourselves.

“Jealousy is a terrible emotion. Jealousy is the scab you keep picking only to have the wound fester. Jealousy is a hunger you simply cannot satisfy; the more you eat, the emptier you feel, and it forces you to feed it once again. Jealousy is a pain that will not abate; it persists and pounds us until we are pushed to the point of no return. Jealousy is a terrible and harsh master.” – JD Greear and Heath Thomas.

“Envy is mother of malice and gives birth to murder.” – Tim Chester

When we are envious of someone to the extent we long to see them fail we are not only committing murder in our hearts ( Matthew 5:21-22) but we are saying we know better than God. We are convinced that God is not Sovereign and is not concerned with our ultimate good.

Saul thinks he can use Michal’s love for David to his advantage and David’s destruction.(18:20-21)

When we start manipulating others peoples affections and emotions so we can accomplish our own agenda, we have exalted ourselves to a dangerous and destructive position.

Families are divided and relationships destroyed when jealousy and bitterness get a foothold. Destruction follows when selfishness rules hearts.

This whole story shows the important distinction between those who embrace God and His Messiah, and those who reject Him.

Saul, in the end, stands alone. Which is where jealousy, spite, pride, manipulation and selfishness always end. Alone. Separated from God and all the good things that He has in store for those who submit to Him and His plan.

The answer to jealousy is the same as it is for shame, which was another emotion that Saul struggled with. To find your identity in Christ as your Saviour, not in comparing yourself to others or always obsessing over what they say about you.
3 The Interceding Son 19:1 – 20:42

Saul plots several different ways to kill David, and all backfire on him, and only add to David’s renown.

He thinks having him for a son-in-law will give him a further level of control over his life, and sets an outrageous dowry ( 18:25) which David goes above and beyond in (18:27).

Next time,Jonathan intercedes for David, and reasons Saul out of it. ( 19:1-7).

Saul then tried to spear David again, who barely escaped ( 19:10).

He sent assassins, who had some scruples, as they did want to murder a sick man ( 19:11-17) and Michal goes directly against her father by protecting David, and helping him escape again.

History repeats as Saul comes looking for Samuel at Ramah. In chapter 9, Saul first meets Samuel while trying to find his donkeys. He ends up being anointed as king, much to his shock and he reacts with great humility, and as sign of this being of God, Saul prophesies and people marvel, and the Spirit of God comes upon him with power and authority (11:6).

This time he is looking for David and come to Samuel, but here there is great reversal. He is again overcome by the power of God and prophesies, but this time, it humiliates him rather than exalts him (19:22-24).

When anyone goes against the Word of God, there can only be one outcome. Saul had set himself against David, and in doing so, had set himself against what God had declared. If you think you can outmanoeuvre the Will of God, you will end up humiliated and bearing a testimony to His greatness by your smallness.

It doesn’t take long for Saul’s anger towards David to rear it’s ugly head again when David doesn’t show up to the feast and Saul sees through the story Jonathan had made up to defend him for not attending the feast. Jonathan ends up on the end of another failed spear attack, as Saul’s tryouts for StormTrooper continue.

The two friends part in peace. David is the most upset ( 20:41), as he well knows what it has cost Jonathan to save his life.

They again make a vow, not just that will cover their own lives, but also their future generations (20:42). Saul would not be the determining factor to their friendship and bond. They would not be defined by what drives them apart. They would seek peace for one another, even in spite of difficult barriers. What God has declared will be what they cling to. No “BFFs” bracelets were needed.

David makes good on all his promises with Jonathan many years later by caring for Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth ( 2 Samuel 9).

4 – The Friend of the King

David acts with integrity in the face of hatred and personal vendetta.

“David’s integrity before God was his strongest weapon during the years of persecution from Saul. You cannot control what people do to you, but you can control what you do with God.” – Warren Wiersbe

Jonathan was faced with a choice. He had to chose between having peace with God’s anointed, or accomodating compromise and evil.

“To side with Jesus will always mean difficult decisions.” – Tim Chester

When we choose to trust the Word of God rather than be fearful of men, we face hard choices.

Saul chose to be spiteful, bitter, angry, self-righteous. He did not need the Word of God, and refused to accept it. He turned on anyone who got in his way.

Jonathan chose to believe the Word of God, and that lead him to form a friendship with David that even death could not break.

To trust in God’s anointed is the call of every human being who has ever lived.

To be interceded for by the Son of the Great King, who is willing to bear the wrath of the father for the sake of saving others, is the great blessing of any who chose to believe on the Son.

If you believe on the Son, you have life.

Jesus was the Son who bore the full righteous wrath, and actually did die, but not for the sins of the father, but for the sins of the whole world, and for the glory of the Father.

He also gave up His crown to gain glory.

Oh, to be a Jonathan, a be a ‘forever friend’ of the true King!

“Looking for the King: The Giant Slayer” 1 Samuel 17

What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

Killed a spider? Made a political joke on FB? Asked a father for his daughter’s hand in marriage? Asked that girl to marry you?

Courage though,is not primarily found in our actions. The best kinds of courage are seen in those that have simple faith in an extraordinary God Who acts on their behalf.
1 – The Fearful King v.1-11, 31-39.

We know Saul has fallen from grace, become petulant, moody (16:14-23), and suspicious.

He has faced the Philistines before, but his forcing the people to make foolish promise to eat no meat until they had won the battle, ended in his own humiliation and the escape, instead of destruction of the Philistines (14:24-46).

Here, the Philistines have come up against Israel again.

While the Philistines gathered ‘for battle’, Saul and his army, merely ‘gathered’. (v1-2). Saul and his army for forty days, drew up in their battle lines against the Philistines, but they are only spectators.

The cause for their concern was a single man, Goliath, a giant in size and in attitude. They were thoroughly intimidated.

King Saul, the leader of the Israelites whom they had chosen that would go out and fight their battles for them ( 1 Samuel 8:19), the one who was taller than anyone else in all of Israel ( 1 Samuel 9:2), failed to be the king they asked for.

Many years earlier, Israel had failed to enter the Promised Land out of fear of giants ( Numbers 13,14). They wandered after that in the wilderness for forty years. Here, they had been in fear of giant for forty days. Nothing much had changed. God promised deliverance, but Israel still chose to walk by sight rather than by faith.

David convinces Saul to let him go and fight Goliath by giving his resume of previous kills. A lion and bear have already met their end with David ( v34-37), and David sees this giant as being no different. God had helped him with those, He will help him with this (v37).

Saul thinks that weapons and armour are what win battles. When David came to fight the giant that Saul should have been fighting, the only thing Saul can think to give him is his own armour ( 17:38-39).

A fearful person makes a terribly impractical leader.
They micro manage.
They fail to work alongside those they lead.
They fail to acknowledge any mistake, and are quick to take the easy way out as soon as it presents itself.
They lead not from humility or integrity, but from pride and fear of losing the power they cling to as their own sense of worth.

When it came down to it, Saul did not face Goliath himself because his own fear was even bigger than Goliath was.

Saul’s parting words to David were for God to be with him. God certainly wasn’t with Saul ( 16:14), and Saul seems to know it.

2 – The Cynical Brother v. 12-30

Saul, of course, is not the only one present who is fearful (17:11). There is a whole army of ‘brave’ men that have stood for forty days, listening to Goliath.

David’s brothers are also there. The ones that Samuel initially thought were also ‘kingly’ material ( 16:6-13).David is sent to check on his brothers in the ‘battle’, and the history of Israel takes another pivotal turn because of what he does.

As had happened for the forty days previous, Goliath issues his challenge (17:8-9). The only difference this time is that David hears it (17:23) but instead of being afraid of this giant and his boasting, he is emboldened, intrigued, and starts asking questions about the reward on offer (17:26).

His eldest brother Eliab, however, has a dose of ‘reality’ for his young, upstart brother. He attempts to put him back in his place, reminding him that he just the little one, just the shepherd boy (17:28).

Eliab looks at all that is happening and is overcome with the reality that no man can defeat Goliath. He is overwhelmed with the might and power of men. He has a “Goliath-saturated” mind, and is cynical about David’s motives as a result. He sees Davids passion and mocks him, despises his youth, yet he’s not prepared to act himself.

David, on the other hand, sees only what God can do, and what He has promised He will do. David’s reality was far greater and deeper than Eliab’s cynical reality. David believed that God could act, and would act if someone would only believe. He has a “God-saturated” mind.

“It is a tragic irony that some of the most discouraging opposition Christians face comes from the people who should be on God’s side. Confronting an enemy like Goliath is frightening enough as it is, but often added to that are the supposed believers who do everything in their power to prevent sincere young Christians from stepping out in bold faith. The cowardly people of God are always the biggest obstacle to the mission of God.” – Heath Thomas & JD Greear

“Goliath is not really the problem here. A leather strap and a little rock can fix him. The real menacing giant in this story is the unbelief that dominates the hearts of God’s people. The obstacle is not found in God; it is not found in God’s opponents; it is found in God’s own people.” – Heath Thomas & JD Greear.

How different would our churches, families, communities be if, instead of responding with Eliab’s cynical spirit, we assumed with David, that God is poised to work powerfully, if only we would get on His side?

3 – The Giant Slayer v 40-50

David steps up, ready for action. What motivates him, although he is most certainly interested in the reward ( it was this interest that drew him to the attention Saul v31), is that a heathen man is defying God by defying God’s people ( v26b,36b).

Goliath mocks David, the same way Eliab had. He is young, he is little, he is nothing and nobody.

To Goliath, this is a joke, an insult. But to David, this is a matter not of fear of man, but of the fear of God.

It’s defiance of God that David takes issue with, not the defiance of his people, or even of himself. He does not take offence for his own sake, but for God’s name that is being blasphemed.

The punishment for blasphemy is stoning…

Armour is not going to equip David for this battle. Weapons are not going to help him. If he had taken armour and weapons, he would be relying on men’s might and power, pitted against another man’s might and power. He doesn’t come WITH weapons, but comes IN the name of the Lord, trusting God will use what he has to His glory. The anointed messenger who comes with the Word of God is what does the damage in the end.

David was going to have victory, not because he was battle wise, or more skilled in fighting, but because he knew from the very beginning, this was not his fight, but God’s. ( v45, 47).

Saul didn’t think the battle was his. The rest of the army didn’t think the battle was their’s either. They had all forgotten that their God was a God who delivers and rescues. David had not.

All throughout 1 Samuel we have seen that while people are concerned with size, looks, physical attributes, God is concerned only with hearts.

It is not by strength that man prevails. ( 1 Samuel 2:9b).
God will give strength to His king, and exalt the power of His anointed ( 2:10b).

The point of the story is not that we can overcome any odds – that we can be like David, defeat all the ‘giants’ that come across our path.

This isn’t about the little guy winning.

The interpretative problem we have with this story usually is that we identify with David. We want to be like him, standing up to the heathen, calling them out and shouting them down, before knocking off their heads. Some of us like confrontational evangelism a little too much. We forget grace, and we forget love of neighbour.

But in this story, we are not David. We are not the Saviour.

We’re the Israelite army. We need a Saviour.

David fights as the representative for all of Israel, and wins victory for all of Israel, even though they have done nothing to earn it themselves. They have been fearful, impotent in the face of Goliath. They could do nothing to save themselves. They needed someone to come in and rescue them. Someone to stand between them and certain destruction, take on the full face of death, be willing to die, and in the end, conquer.

They needed God’s anointed one to deliver them.

We are in a similar position. Our greatest problem/giant in our lives is not resolving that health issue we have. It’s not our job we need. It’s not our fragile friendships. It’s us. It’s our sin.

In the face of all my sin, and all the consequences of my sin, I cannot stand. I cannot fight. I cannot save myself.

Jesus was our representative before God. He faced that great and terrible wrath that we could not, and He conquered it. He killed death, and He killed our death.

(He was a Son Who obeyed His Father’s will fully.He was abandoned, betrayed by his brethren. He was misunderstood. He was the unexpected anointed one that saved God’s people from certain destruction.)

Because Jesus did all that, I am then freed from any other fears I have also. If He has defeated death, what is there left fear?

If God has given us all things in Christ, why would He hold anything back?

We can have courage that comes not from the absence of pain or struggle, or the absence of fear, but from having a treasure that strife and fear cannot threaten. Christ Himself.

If you want to ‘face all the giants’ in your life, there’s some bad news. You cannot save yourself. If you long to see victory in all the battles of your life, here’s some good news. There is a Saviour you can fully trust in. He has conquered the final enemy, and all who trust in Him, come eternity, will see all the sad things come untrue and all the battles we have faced work out for His glory and our good.

“I Did Not Think The Grinch Lived Here!”

Little Sammy J went shopping with his mummy and daddy one day

So much to do, many things to get, as Christmas was not far away!

He had a little Christmas suit to wear, and he went around spreading Christmas cheer

Because he really did think Christmas was the most wonderful time of year.

He smiled at this person, and that one too, laughing at any that looked his way

He rocked his head in time to the music and his head, back and forth would sway

He went along,  and everywhere he went, he spread some Christmas cheer

He had not a care in the world, not a fear

Until…the grouchy old man with a nose out of shape,

Who looked like he had eaten a gazillon mouthfuls of sour grape,

Said with a scowl, “Why do you sway?”

“You’ll get a crook neck, dancing that way!”

Sammy J stopped for a moment, then waved at the man

And smiled again, thinking he was a fan

The scowling old man shook his head and scoffed out loud

And walking away mocking, quite tall and quite proud

Little Sammy J kept smiling away, spreading Christmas cheer,

All the while thinking, “I did not think the Grinch lived here!”

Little Sammy J went to church with his mummy and daddy one day

There was many things to do, as Christmas was not far away

He had his Christmas suit on, and everything he did, he was spreading Christmas cheer

Because he really did think Christmas was a most wonderful time of the year.

He sang all the songs, and danced merrily along while playing with his friend

He stared at the people, and hoped that this joyous time would not end

He really enjoyed watching all the people, and spreading his Christmas cheer

He had not a care in the world, not a fear

Until…the grouchy old lady with an ear out of joint

Who looked like she had heard too many a sermon point

Said with gruff tone in her voice,

“Quiet, you boy, we’re trying to rejoice!”

Sammy J stopped for a moment, then waved at the lady

And smiled again, thinking her a little crazy

The gruff little old lady shook her head and “Hmpfed” out loud

Then turned around, sitting quite tall and quite proud

Little Sammy J kept smiling away, spreading his Christmas cheer,

All the while thinking, “I did not know the Grinch lived here!”

Little Sammy went to the pageant with his mummy and daddy one day

There were many things to see, and Christmas was not far away.

He had on his Christmas suit, and smiled at all, spreading his Christmas cheer

Because Christmas really was the most wonderful time of the year

He smiled at the floats, so big and tall, the clowns and their wigs

With some other people dressed up as elves, dancing silly jigs

He smiled and laughed and clapped his hands, spreading his Christmas cheer

He had not a care in the world, not a single fear

Until…a grumpy little man with a mouth bigger than his belly

Said with a sour note, “This is all a bit smelly”

Sammy J stopped for a moment, and knew he was right

But smiled anyway, and gave the grumpy little man a fright

He turned on his heel, saying, “Phew” and holding his nose

And poor Little Sammy J’s mummy had to change all his clothes

All the while, Little Sammy J went on spreading his Christmas cheer,

At the same time he was thinking, “I did not know the Grinch lived here!”

Little Sammy J went driving with his mummy and daddy to see some lights one day

There were many places to see, as Christmas was really not far away

He had on his Christmas PJ’s and was spreading his Christmas cheer

Because Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year

He stared at all the pretty trees, with bright and flashing lights

His daddy held him in his arms as he took in all the sights

He smiled, and “Awwed” and spread his Christmas cheer

He had not a care in the world, not a single fear

Until…a grouchy little person, whose eyes seemed too cross

Said with an intruding tone, “It’s all pagan, you see, it’s heresy, and all is loss!”

Sammy J stopped for a moment, looked up at his dad

Who was looking at the man who looked quite mad

Then said with a flash, “And Merry Christmas to you, you silly mug”

To which the man replied as he walked away, “Bah!Humbug”

And Sammy J smiled again, and started spreading more of his Christmas cheer

All the while thinking, “I did not think the Grinch lived here!”

Little Sammy J sat on his daddy’s lap one Christmas eve night

There were many things to hear, as Christmas Day was now in sight

He had on his Christmas PJ’s, and was wrapped in Christmas cheer

As now his daddy told him why Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year.

He listened as he heard about the baby born to Mary

The part about Herod was really quite scary

But he now knew even better the reason to have Christmas cheer

Because Jesus had come to earth, and God has come near

So…there really is nothing to fear, or worry about

God has come down to sort it all out

Sammy J stopped for a moment, then looked at his dad,

And realised he felt quite glad

Because his mummy and daddy who loved him so dear

Had told him the best news he could ever hear

Jesus had come for him, so all who saw Sammy J’s Christmas cheer could see

That He had come to die for the Grinch that lives in you and in me

Elusive Rest…

By Rachel K. Watts

 

I am a mum.

I am exhausted.

I am confused.

My heart and mind seem like they are in a constant argument with each other. Much of the ‘helpful’ information i have read on the internet and in books and been told seems to go against my God given instinct as a mother.

My body screams for rest, for my little one to sleep through the night, yet my heart says give him the food and comfort he wants.

He doesn’t know any different. He is helpless, completely reliant on his mum and dad and his only way of communication is to cry.

He craves human attention just like us adults do.

I watch him play on his mat, yes he likes his toys, but they are no replacement for time spent with mum and dad.

I told myself it wont be forever, maybe three months, that sounds reasonable, but one week has turned into one month into five months attending to my little one for an hour at a time, several times a night, every night and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.

Other mums babies sleep through the night, why doesn’t mine?

What am i doing wrong?

’They’ say “Don’t feed to sleep”

“Don’t respond to their cries at night if they aren’t hungry”

“They have to learn to self settle”

“Don’t pick them up if they only want attention – it will teach them bad habits”

Is that why my baby won’t sleep  – because I pick him up when he cries?

‘They’ would place guilt on parents in these situations, overloading us with information and doubts…What do we actually teach them? That long term that mum and dad will ignore them so its no use trying to call out to them?

Yes maybe they have to learn to sleep through the night on their own, but how many adults do this?

Its normal for adults to wake during the night, we just don’t cry for attention when we wake.

Instead we try all manner of things to put us back to sleep, like drugs, food, drinks, essential oils, creams, cooling, heating, and even some white noise.

I need the fan going all night every night to fall asleep, without it I take forever to settle, is this a bad habit i have got myself into? If my little one couldn’t fall asleep without white noise would it be considered a bad habit? Much of the information out there would suggest so!

Maybe I have taken these things out of context and it is well meaning mothers who love their little ones, that cant cope without sleep, (ie myself), that have written numerous guidelines and techniques for helping baby to sleep through the night. I may well be writing sleep studies for babies in years to come, but i still find it confusing…and probably will even then.

What did mothers do hundreds, or thousands of years ago, or even just decades ago, when they didn’t have the internet?

When they didn’t have as many contacts via phone or email, or the copious amounts of sleeping guidelines that we have today?

Maybe they just picked up their baby and fed them and comforted them when they needed it.

 

Maybe they held their little ones all night knowing that one day they would not be little any more and they would be independent of their parents.

Thats a scary thought for me.

How will my little man do without his Mother?

One day my son wont need me to help him to go back to sleep.

He will look to other things to achieve this purpose.

Until then as hard as it is and as much as I love my sleep, I will hold him when he wants holding and feed him and comfort him when he needs it.

Maybe just one day in the future I will wish back the days when getting up every night to my son was the norm.

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