Category Archives: Maswell Biblefresh

John 3:30 – No Motive But God.

Why do we do things?  It is to glorify God?  Or for self-advancement?  Is it to serve others?  Or for others to serve us?

Like most of us I shall be honest in that I find that my motives are normally more mixed than I would like.  All I can do is submit those motives to God and ask him to purify them so he can truly use me in all the ways that he wants.

I was playing Words with Friends on Facebook this evening and felt that God would speak to me through this rather ordinary game, and he did with amazing clarity.  I had the following letters M O T I V G and C (I think).  I could have made MOTIVE, but there were no Es free, but I could make GOD as there was a D spare.

Hence, ‘No motive but God’!

WOW!!!  What a challenge!  We see this purity of motive also in John the Baptist, only from this place can we truly say with him, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30 NRSV).  But you’re saying, ‘I’m not in that place but would like to be’, keep seeking God and asking him to help you to die to self.  He will, and you will grow too.

Lord Jesus, help us to be like John the Baptist and have ‘No motive but God’ in all that we do, so that all the glory may go to you and to you alone.  Amen!!!

Exodus 3:4-5 – Holy Ground

When the LORD saw that he [Moses] had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush. ‘Moses, Moses!’  And he said, ‘Here I am.’  Then he said, ‘Come no closer!  Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’  (Exodus 3:4-5 NRSV)

If you have ever been in a worship or prayer meeting with me then you will have noticed that I always take off my shoes and put on ballet shoes.

It is not because I like to dance, although I do on occasions.  It is not because it is a superstition that I have to do it, as if I am out praying while I walk or prayer-walking I will wear shoes.  In fact at times I forget that I have my shoes on until I start praying so have to take them off, because it is too uncomfortable to leave them on!

To be honest if I can keep my shoes on during a prayer meeting in particular, it says to me that there is very little of God’s presence there.  That is why I wear ballet shoes (it is a bit safer than going completely barefoot), if God is there then I go barefoot as a recognition that I am on holy ground, wherever that may be!

From this Scripture I am in good company!  Moses was commanded by God to take of his sandals, as was Joshua on a similar occasion (see Joshua 5:13-15).  This was not because the ground in that place was intrinsically holy, it was just ground, but it was because God’s presence was there, and wherever God is, it is a holy place.

‘Remove the sandals from your feet, …’

In those days you did not walk on lovely well made paths or roads, at best it would be a well-worn track!  One consequence of this, and the fact that there were animals all around, your sandals which would protect your feet would get dirty when you were walking around.  This is why people would take off their sandals and wash their feet when they entered a tent or a building, so the dirt from the outside world would not be carried around inside.

In everyday life we all get dirty, we still sin even though we don’t generally want to.  As a result of this we need our feet washing regularly by God.  Jesus understood this, even though Peter did not (see John 13:1-20), and we are to wash each other’s feet as well.  When we come to God we need to ditch all that could get in the way of our relationship with him.  We need to try to keep short accounts with God and with each other, sometimes we will succeed in this, other times we will fail, but even then we can bring to him.

‘… for the place where you are standing is holy ground’

After ditching the dirt we need to recognise God’s majesty, power and holiness.  The fact is that God is God, and we are just human beings.

God is holy whether we respond to it or not, God asked Moses to respond by taking off his sandals, and that is how I respond to God’s presence.  How do you respond to God’s presence?  Are you quiet or noisy?  Do you respond in a physical way, or only in your spirit?

How you respond is not important.  What is important is that you do respond in the way God asks you to.  We all need to ask God to help us to be more sensitive to him, and to his leading.

Father God, help us be more like Moses, who turned aside when he heard you, and responded to your leading.  Help us to ditch the dirt in our lives, so that we might live more aware of you in all we do, and especially in times of worship and communion with you. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Prayer is … #2 Conversation

Prayer is a conversation, it is a two-way dialogue, not a one-way monologue.

You’re overstating it, you may say from looking at the previous sentence, but it is a point that cannot be overstated!  I could refer to places in the New Testament for this, but you may be surprised to know that this was well understood in the Old Testament.  Here are a few examples.

The example of Abraham.

Well there is Abraham for starters, ‘he was called a friend of God’ (James 2:23 NRSV), and what do friend do but talk with each other!  When he interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah he was involved in a literal, physical conversation with God see Genesis 18:16-33, he was also bold enough to negotiate with God, but was wise enough to know where the limits were.

This is quite a challenge!  How much are we prepared to argue someone’s case before God?  Not for a Christian, but for a non-Christian to be saved!  After all, ‘The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.’ (2 Peter 3:9 NRSV).  We should not think that Jesus is slow in returning which is the context of this verse, but as with Sodom and Gomorrah, when he does there will be judgement, and by then all choices about eternal salvation will have been made.  Until then, let us be like Abraham praying for mercy and salvation, and wrestling in prayer for those who don’t know Jesus.

The example of Moses.

Moses is another great example of how prayer is a conversation, and again the best example we have of this from his story are when he was interceding on someone else’s behalf.  We see this in the time when Israel sinned by worshipping the golden calf (see Exodus 33).

God was angry, the people he had brought out of Egypt had spiritually returned to Egypt by making and then worshipping an idol.  God was more than angry, he was going to destroy all of Israel except Moses and his family, and make a nation out from him alone.  But Moses stood up for the Israelites, not because they had not sinned, but for the sake of the patriarchs and because if God destroyed them all the Egyptians would have a cause to celebrate and say that God could not complete what he started!

The result of this pleading.  God ‘changed his mind’ (Exodus 32:14 NRSV) because Moses had asked him to, ‘Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people’ (Exodus 32:12 NRSV).  We may deserve God’s judgement, but if we humble ourselves, pray and seek God’s face he can, and will, send revival (see 2 Chronicles 7:13-14).

Like Moses we can cause God to change his mind, or we can stand by, be fatalistic about it and see others perish.  Prayer is so powerful if we only grasp it, it is not just for the weak, and for old ladies (though it is for them also), in fact to pray like Moses did takes both strength and humility, and comes first of all out of a close relationship with God.

Are we, like Moses, prepared to lay down something that could be to our advantage, to see God’s kingdom advance?  What a challenge!

Prophets, priests and kings.

I could give other examples, when the nation of Israel came to together to pray, it was the prophets, priests and kings who would pray.  Why?  Because these were the people who would not just speak to God, but who could listen to God’s reply!

Under the New Covenant we are all prophets, priests and kings so this responsiblity of prayer and intercession now falls on us, and we can fulfil that task because we can have a conversations with God!

Lord Jesus, help us to learn to listen as well as talk when we pray, because only then can we pray and intercede effectively for those who don’t know you.  Help us to take up the challenge, and to lay down our agendas for the sake of others to build your Kingdom.  In your name we pray, Amen!

Exodus 2:1-4 – A Special Baby

‘About this time, a man and woman from the tribe of Levi got married.  The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son.  She saw that he was a special baby and kept him hidden for three months.  But when she could no longer hide him, she got a basket made of papyrus reeds and waterproofed it with tar and pitch.  She put the baby in the basket and laid it among the reeds along the banks of the Nile River.  The baby’s sister then stood at a distance, watching to see what would happen to him.’ (Exodus 2:1-4 NLT)

In chapter one we have just read how the Israelites are now being oppressed by the Egyptians.  Being forced to make bricks without straw, and then being forced to commit filicide (the deliberate murder of their sons).  Which the midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, avoided doing and because of that were rewarded by God.

This is what is happening when the story of Moses begins.  I love the NLT for these few verses, because it says that Moses was a ‘special baby’, and all baby’s are special even before they are conceived!

We see this is Jeremiah’s call:

‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’
(Jeremiah 1:5 NRSV)

King David speaks in a similar way in Psalm 139:

‘For it was you who formed me in the inward parts;
     you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I  am fearfully and wonderfully
          made.
     Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
     My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
     intricately woven in the depths of the earth.’
(Psalm 139:13-15 NRSV)

Moses was a ‘special baby’, but all babies are special to God and special to their parents.  On Twitter I regularly retweet posts for Saying Goodbye, as I think the work they are doing both to enable all affected by the loss of a baby in the womb or in very early life to be supported and to say goodbye to their babies by services in the great cathedrals of this land, and to help remove the taboo that has surrounded infant death for far too long is fantastic.

Like Jeremiah I was called even before I was born, as I was one of twins and my twin was stillborn having only developed to 3 months.  I have never known my twin, but there is a hole in a way, I feel there is someone I should know, that I have never had a chance to know!  I have no easy answers, but I know this, even when I have no answers I can trust God regardless.  Even in the womb babies can recognise their parents voices, so I am certain that they can recognise and respond to their Heavenly Father.

So Moses was a ‘special baby’.  His birth and the few months that followed, when his mother risked him being discovered and killed, was the beginning of a long journey until God got him to a place where he could be used in a mighty way.

Like Moses, all our lives are journeys, and all our journeys have a beginning.  Most probably not as fraught with danger as Moses’ beginning was, but whatever that beginning was, we can say for certain that God was there.  But what about babies who had a very short journey in this life?  Well, God was there too, and we can trust him with them now as his ‘hand is not too short to save’ (Isaiah 59:1 NRSV)!

Heavenly Father, thank you that you hold all our lives in your hands, that you were there at our beginning.  Help us to show compassion to all who have experienced infant loss, and thank you that you hold those little ones in your loving arms.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Exodus 3:1-3 – Small Signs, Big God

In Scripture when God gives a sign it is often of Biblical proportion! Here’s a few examples.  Israel crossing the Red Sea and the Jordan River, God’s graffiti in Daniel and the dove descending on Jesus in front of crowds by the Jordan.  Other signs were on a more personal scale, Gideon’s fleeces, Jesus turning water into wine and the Burning Bush.

‘Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.  Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.”‘ (Exodus 3:1-3 NRSV)

Just in case any one is not sure, a sign is a physical occurrence that has spiritual significance.  A sign is also prophetic because it is a way that God can use to speak to us.

The Burning Bush was a sign for Moses, and for Moses alone.  He was, as it says in the KJV in ‘the backside of the desert’, you couldn’t get more obscure than that!  He was in the back of beyond, he was living in obscurity anyway, and now he was in an even more obscure place than normal!

This is an encouragement to anyone who has ever felt that they have been passed over, or have escaped into obscurity when things have got too much, and have never left it.  God can meet you even there, in fact it can be the best place to hear him, as there are fewer distractions!

The Burning Bush was a sign to Moses, God got his attention through it, but it also had a meaning beyond that.  It was a picture of Moses’ own life from that time on, he was to experience the presence of God in a way that very few people experience without being burnt up because of their unholiness.

But what about us in our normal lives?  Very few Christians have ever seen God write on a wall, if any!  More Christians have laid a fleece that God answered, but in general most Christians have had only small signs that reveal how big God is!

Has God ever given you a sign about something that seems trivial when you mention it to anyone else.  Even if it seems trivial to them, it is not to God, and it should not be for you.  Let me explain from my own experience.

Just over 20 years ago I went to a two-day conference to pray for London as a financial centre, it was led by Clifford Hill and Kjell Sjoberg, and one of its main foci was to see finance released for the Kingdom from the shaking of the nations.  It was attended by around 200 prayer warriors, and was a very significant time.

On the second day we went out in groups to pray for various financial institutions, I went with a group to pray for the Bank of England.  As we could not go into the Bank of England we prayed in front of it and walked around it three times, if I remember correctly.

Regardless of the number of times we went round it, on the last time, when we had almost walked all the way round I picked up a 5p piece from the road, that had not been there on the previous circuits.  I felt that God was saying from this that he was releasing  money for his Kingdom.

For nearly 20 years I have periodically picked up 5ps from the ground.  Some have been very significant, others not, but all have kept that promise alive, and at times it has been rather an ‘in joke’ between myself and God!  About a month ago God first gave me 1p after specifically asking for one, and a few days later gave me £5 that was on the floor, 100x more than before, this was significant it upped my faith and was on the way to what happened yesterday when I was walking past a cash-point at a bank and it spewed out £50 and a till receipt, so I took it straight back into the bank so they could put it back into the account from which it came.  This was 1000x more than ever before!

This is very significant, God is growing my faith for financial provision both personally and primarily for his Kingdom work.

God has grown a small insignificant sign into one of greater importance, there is work underway in the Kingdom that will require much gifting of finance, of resources or of both.  Because God has used this trivial sign and built my faith over time, it is no longer a trivial sign!  What will I see in the future, I look forward to see.  But I know this, God is in control and that we should not despise ‘the day of small things’ (Zechariah 4:10 NRSV).

Father God, help us to see with eyes of faith and recognise a sign from you, no matter how trivial it may seem to others.  Help us to respond in faith and to grow in faith and in our walk with you, in Jesus’ name, Amen!

Ezekiel 18 – Individual Responsibility

‘The word of the LORD came to me: What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?  As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel.  Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.’ (Ezekiel 18:1-4 NRSV)

The whole of this chapter expands upon these opening four verses, and it is well worth a read!

Who is responsible for their sin? A person themselves, their parents or their children? And likewise, who will be punished for that sin?  In this chapter Ezekiel lays the facts out as they are, God holds each person accountable for their sinfulness or righteousness, and neither can it be passed from one generation to the next.

‘The person who sins shall die.  A child shall not suffer for the iniquity or a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own.’ (Ezekiel 18:10 NRSV)

It is true that the life choices of one generation may influence the life choices of another generation, but ultimately each person is responsible for themselves before God.

What about generational curses you may ask?  Paul Scanlon has written an excellent blog on that, here is the link Generational Curses or Choices, like Paul I also believe that in Christ we all start again from square one!

For me the Israelites in the days of Moses and Joshua are all the examples we need as to how God deals with each generation.

Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea, yet they still had their hearts in Egypt and made false god, the golden calf, while Moses was still on Sinai with God!  God prevented that generation from entering the Promised Land because of their sin, despite all he had done for them!

The next generation was born just before the Exodus or in the wilderness.  The male children were not even circumcised, so great was the lack or concern for the things of God shown by Moses’ generation.  Yet it was this generation that entered the Promised Land and served God until all those who had seen God working had died!  The generation after them turned away from God once again.

If God had judged the following generation by the acts of the previous one then the story might have been very different!

I have been planning on writing this post for about a week or so but have only just got round to it, and this is definitely something on God’s heart at the moment.  Why?  God is moving the UK into a new season, and a new generation is coming to the fore.  Yes, there are still Joshuas and Calebs who have been waiting and believing for change for a long time , but many others have lost their faith in what God has promised.

It is 45 years this year since Jean Darnall first gave her prophecy concerning revival in the UK, to read it follow this link Jean Darnall Prophecy.  We are not there yet, although there are pockets of fire breaking out, but God is on the move in this land in a new way.

It is imperative that we pray with a new level of urgency and of expectation for God to move and revive this land.  If you struggle to do that, then ask God’s forgiveness for your lack of faith and ask him to renew your faith and he will!  Whys is this so important?  I shall let Ezekiel have the last words, I can put it no better than this:

‘For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD.  Turn, then, and live.’ (Ezekiel 18:32 NRSV)

Heavenly Father, forgive us when we have doubted your ability to revive this land and help us to pray and seek your heart with renewed fervour so that we might burn brightly for you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Psalm 74 – When God Gives No Answers

‘… there is no longer any prophet,
and there is no one among us who knows how long.’ (Psalm 74:9 NRSV)

You may wonder what a psalm is doing in a series from the book Ezekiel, well I read this yesterday as I am working through the Psalms but haven’t read one for a while, and this fitted so perfectly with what I shared yesterday from Ezekiel so I though I would share too.

In this psalm Asaph asks how long Judah, Jerusalem and the temple will be laid waste and over-run by its enemies.  He asks the questions, but there will be no answers.  Why? Because there are no prophets left.  Yesterday I looked at how God condemned the false prophets and prophetesses who were prophesying in Ezekiel’s day.  God was against them and they would experience his wrath (see Ezekiel 13).

This psalm seems to have been written by an eye-witness of the destruction of Jerusalem that Ezekiel (among others) prophesied.  God’s presence had left (see Ezekiel 10), so what had once been God’s land, city and temple were now over-run and destroyed’ and ‘desecrated’ by foreigners.

All the prophets who had been left in Jerusalem and had been prophesying lies were now gone.  God had fulfilled his word!  But this meant that Asaph did not know how long this would last for, he was a priest, not a prophet, and there were now no prophets left for him to go to in order to seek God’s word!

We can see the effect this has on him, he is perplexed and confused, he can only cling on to what God has done in the past and ask God to act again for his people and against the enemy.

I have had times in my Christian life when I have had no answers.  When I was became unwell just over 10 years ago, I was also confused and perplexed, I asked God questions, but got no answers.  Through everything I held onto one thing, no matter how bad things got the Father was with me, whereas the Father had to turn his face away from Jesus when he was on the cross as a consequence of my sin.  Jesus was forsaken by his Father, but I would never be, because of what Jesus had done for me.  That was my only hope at times, but like Asaph it sustained me.

Heavenly Father, help me to be honest with you in prayer, like Asaph was.  If all I have is questions then let me bring them to you.  In dark times help me to cling onto, and praise you for, what you have done, and still be able to ask you to do it again in an uncertain future.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.