Author Archives: David

About David

David: Half Scot, grew up in Guernsey and the UK. Lives in one of the most rural counties of the UK not far from the Welsh border. Father of Nick who encouraged David to start blogging. Married to Marilyn for 40+ years. Four other children in addition to Nick. Eight grandchildren. Former Merchant Navy officer now getting closer and closer to retirement.

Golden Hearts

Proverbs 17:3 

“The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the Lord trieth the hearts.”

Gold refining 1A friend of mine used to work for a company that specialized in precious metals. He gave me a factory tour several years ago. It was interesting to see the difference between raw materials and unrefined items, and the final product be it silver and gold bars, or jewelry supplies and products.

I remember the tremendous heat involved in the refining process and the large vault in which everything was secured, before and after refining. Everything in that factory was of value, regardless of where it was in the production line. Refining added value, as did the process of transforming silver, gold and other materials into jewelry. Needless to say, I had to undergo an airport type search before leaving the factory.

imagesThe point is that every human being was created by God in His image and is of value to God, whether they are still rough around the edges, undergoing a refining process, or fast approaching becoming a finished product. God sees value in us all, but He needs to take us in our unrefined state and add further value. The only problem is that most of us do not want to pass through the heat of the furnace.

The Hebrew word used for trieth in this proverb may also be translated as test, investigate, examine, prove, tempt, try (by trial). Each of these words describes part of the process God applies to us. We cannot expect it to be a walk in the park. This is serious stuff. But consider the end result!

Imagine a worker in the precious metal factory handling a shiny gold bar having watched it take shape from the point it entered the production line as dirty unrefined ore or nuggets. Imagine the joy of holding the finished product and seeing your reflection in it. Then imagine how God feels when He can finally see Himself reflected in one of us.

Purify my heart
Let me be as gold and precious silver
Purify my heart
Let me be as gold, pure gold
 
Refiner’s fire
My heart’s one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for You, Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You, my Master
Ready to do Your will
 
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from within
And make me holy
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from my sin
Deep within
 
Brian Doerkson
 

Refiner’s Fire – Christy Nockels


Temper Temper

Proverbs 16:32 

“He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”

Being slow to get angry is not an easy task for most of us. It is quite interesting for me to consider my five children when I read this verse. Some of them fly off the handle very quickly, but only one was ever slow to anger. This stood him in good stead on the rugby pitch where provocation is often rife. There came a day when he was fifteen years old when my son did lose his temper. He punched another player who then had to leave the pitch and visit the local A&E, where coincidentally my wife was one of the two duty nurses, and my next-door neighbor was the other.

It seems that everyone saw the punch except the referee. But nobody condemned my son, except my wife who wasn’t too pleased when she found out that her son was responsible for her patient in A&E (be sure your sins will always find you out!). The other players in my son’s team and the sports teachers who had accompanied the team to the match knew that my son was slow to anger and that on this occasion a one-off well-timed and accurately targeted punch was appropriate. The boys on the opposing team more than certainly knew that their teammate on the receiving end deserved what he got because of his behavior during the match. The same boy spent hours scouring the town center (downtown for US readers) with two of his friends looking for my son to take revenge. Brave boy. Three to get one.

James, the brother of Jesus, repeats and adds to this proverb in the New Testament:

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. (James 1:19 NLT)

What excellent advice. And by the way, they won the match, which was a semi-final in the U15s Anglo-Welsh cup. My son’s team went on to win in the final. I can’t help but think that one reason they won was because as a team they were slow to react to provocation, leaving them free to focus on the match.


Driven by Hunger?

Proverbs 16:26 

He that laboureth laboureth for himself; for his mouth craveth it of him.
The laborer’s appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on. (NIV)

I meet with a spiritual director/mentor several times a year. During one visit he gave me a card with three questions to be considered during the time I spent with him, and in quiet retreat during that day:

  • What occurs in my life that nurtures me spiritually?
  • What occupies the space at the center of my life (i.e. what captivates me)?
  • What drives me and motivates me?

I added a further question to the card during the day: What distracts me?

When I read this Proverb I find myself asking the same questions again. What I am so hungry for that my appetite drives me on? Is there anything distracting me, getting in the way of my progress? The words of this Proverb directly challenge me about my spiritual welfare and growth. If I am no longer hungry, then I may become lazy and complacent, two attributes that God does not expect in followers of His Son.

Is your appetite for spiritual things constantly nagging away, driving you to feed your hunger?

  • What occurs in your life that nurtures you spiritually?
  • What occupies the space at the center of your life (i.e. what captivates you)?
  • What drives you and motivates you?
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35 NIV)

A Question of Survival

Proverbs 16:25 

“There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

A cadet is the lowest form of human life on a Merchant ship. Chief officers love cadets because they can give them the jobs that no one else wants to do. And that is how I came to find myself with needle and sewing palm, tasked with repairing the canvas covers to the lifeboats on one old ship.

It was my second trip to sea. The other cadet was on his first trip. He still held the opinion that he knew better than those who had been around much longer than he had. Somehow he persuaded me that instead of laboriously using sail twine to sew patches of canvas onto the lifeboat cover we could glue them. We weren’t visible to anyone because we were working in the fo’c’sle, so by gluing patches onto the covers we were soon finished. That freed time to lounge around, have a smoke, have a brew, and idle the time away.

I don’t remember details of the punishment inflicted on us by the chief officer. I know that we had to continue stitching rather than sticking patches onto the covers in our free time. The way that seemed right to us did not result in death, but it is never pleasant being on the receiving end of a chief officer’s anger, especially when you are a cadet. While lifeboat covers may seem fairly insignificant the purpose of the covers was to protect the boats that we might have to use to escape from a sinking ship. It was necessary to ensure that the boats were well maintained and kept ready for such an event. Thankfully I have never had to use a lifeboat, but I have been involved in the rescue of two yachtsmen whose liferaft failed to inflate bringing them close to the point where failure to maintain emergency equipment very nearly cost them their lives.

Our world is full of people who think that they know best. Unfortunately, most of us think we know better than God. He gives us the freedom to choose. The choice is simple: Follow God or follow men. Choose life or choose death.


What Makes a King a King?

Proverbs 16:12

“It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness.”

A king detests wrongdoing, for his rule is built on justice. (NLT)

I have never met an earthly king, but I have often wondered what makes a king a king, or a queen a queen. The history books tell us that many kings and queens built their rule not on justice and righteousness, but on evil and by instilling fear among their subjects. There are countries in our world that continue to be ruled in this way.

Jesus was born into poverty in a land ruled by terror. A foreign king ruled the land with the help of a local puppet king. Neither covered themselves in glory in the way that they ruled. Compare Caesar and Herod to Jesus. The fact that Jesus was different was evident after His arrest when He was interrogated by Pilate, the Roman governor for the province:

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:33-38 NIV)

Did Pilate understand what Jesus was saying? Here was a King like no other. A King who is holy and perfect in every way that we are not. A King from another place who cannot be compared to any earthly ruler, but a King who considers every human welcome in His Kingdom. It is not us that this King judges, but our wrongdoing. His rule is built on justice, and the forgiveness made possible by His sacrifice.

Before Jesus all human beings are equal, and all are equally welcome. He hates the wrongdoing, but He loves the wrongdoer. What a King!


Father Knows Best (16:1)

Proverbs 16:1 

The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord.

I began my University studies when I was twenty-eight years old. It was a big sacrifice for my wife, who stayed at home with our two oldest sons, aged five and three, while I lived away during the week. At the beginning of my third year my wife started to get sick. I was really worried. Any relief I experienced when I found out that the sickness was down to my wife being pregnant vanished when I discovered that the baby was due the following May, right in the middle of my final examinations.

As the time approached for the baby to be born I started to pray. First I prayed that the baby would be born early, at least two weeks before my examinations. I thought that this would give me time to be at home for the birth, and then focus on my revision. Then I changed my mind and started to pray that the baby would be born after my examinations. Then I found myself chopping and changing between the choices. One day when I was praying about the situation God spoke very clearly. He said he was prepared to answer my prayer if I could make up my mind. But then He challenged me to trust Him to make the decision for me. That meant letting go completely. Surrendering myself into His perfect will. It wasn’t easy, but I knew there was no other way.

My first paper (quantitative methods) was scheduled for the morning of Friday 20 May 1988. I left Thursday 19 May to revise for this examination, my intention being to work through past papers from the previous three years. I had already revised for my other papers, all of which involved essays rather than mathematics. At 08.30 on 19 May my wife called me to tell me that her waters had broken (the fact that there was a telephone in a 1988 student house is another story of God’s provision). I was home by 10.30. James was born at 12.20. During the seventy-five mile journey home I repeatedly questioned God. In my opinion this was the worst day for the baby to be born. But it wasn’t. It was the only day for the baby to be born. I returned to my student house in the evening and went straight to bed. I set the alarm for 04.00 and got up to revise my formulae. Then I sat the examination and flew through it. Then I went home for the weekend.

If James had been born really early I could never have revised because my mind would have been elsewhere. If James had been born after my examinations I would never have focused on the examinations for worry that a call would come. The only day James could have been born was the day that he was born. God knew. I didn’t.

We can make our own plans, but the LORD gives the right answer. (NLT)

Bright Eyes

Proverbs 15:30 

The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart: and a good report maketh the bones fat.
A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health. (NLT)

Recently one of the television channels in the UK screened a documentary entitled ‘Island Hospital.’ The documentary featured the lives of people who work in the Princess Elizabeth Hospital in Guernsey, and the way that they change the lives of their patients. It also showed much of the scenery of Guernsey and the other smaller islands nearby. Watching the documentary brought back many very special memories of my childhood in Guernsey. The joy of those memories pales into insignificance when compared with the joy of the hospital patients and their families as the doctors and nurses brought healing and recovery into their lives.

smiley_faces-wideAfter a ten-day stay in hospital in March 2000 the news that brought joy to my heart was to be told that I was well enough to go home. Good news and joy go together don’t they? So why do so many Christians have problems in displaying the good news of their salvation in their eyes and on their faces? If a person has accepted Jesus Christ and received the Holy Spirit shouldn’t there be a visible indication of the change that such momentous events have made in the life of the recipient?

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23 NIV)
Bright eyes,
Burning like fire.
Bright eyes,
How can you close and fail?
How can the light that burned so brightly
Suddenly burn so pale?
Bright eyes.
(Art Garfunkel)
 
http://youtu.be/a502RejLz8s

Red Means STOP

Proverbs 15:21 

Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly.
Folly delights a man who lacks judgment, but a man of understanding keeps a straight course. (NIV)

Lack of Judgement

Teenage boys are not generally known for their wisdom. This is particularly the case in our home where my thirteen-year old son John derives considerable pleasure and joy from annoying his sixteen-year old sister. Unfortunately for John his sister is not only older, she is also bigger and stronger than him. That may change in the next year or so, but at the moment John is unable to defend himself against the physical response his lack of judgement incurs when he embarks on each mission to see how far he can push his sister.

Heed the Warning

Unfortunately folly is a contagious disease that anyone can catch. I see folly most mornings while negotiating a junction controlled by traffic lights. Inevitably there Description=19th September 2006. Pic: Paul Rogers A traffic signal showing red.are drivers who believe that they can drive through their red light when mine is green. It isn’t rocket science. Red means stop, and needs to be heeded just like any other warning, be it a road sign, a parental instruction, a safety measure linked to mechanical or electrical equipment, or anything else.

Follow the Instructions

Walking uprightly or keeping a straight course means taking note of warnings, being alert to danger, and avoiding risk. To avoid risk we need to understand risk and the consequences of failure. For followers of Jesus that means trying to avoid temptation. Most of us know our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. If we don’t, then we should. And then we should follow the instructions for walking uprightly given to us in Scripture.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:1-18 (NIV)


What About the Vegetables?

Proverbs 15:17

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.
A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate. (NLT)

I remember a television comedy sketch in the UK concerning the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and her cabinet sharing a meal. Puppets were used to portray the scene. Mrs Thatcher was served first. The waitress placed several slices of meat on her plate and then asked, “and what about the vegetables?” The Prime Minister looked around the table briefly at her cabinet colleagues, many of whom were regarded as ineffective by voters. Then she replied, “oh, they’ll have the same as me.” This was not a meal shared in love!

Mrs Thatcher was known in the press as the ‘Iron Lady’ and her methods of leadership were not always respected. Despite this, and despite the attitude of her fellow cabinet members, Mrs Thatcher needed them, and they needed her. While a bowl of vegetables shared lovingly may be considered superior to prime steak shared begrudgingly, the common denominator between the two parts of this verse is that meals are not meant to be taken alone. The question is less about the menu and more about the company, and the attitudes of those around the table to each other.

In my work travels I often eat alone. It doesn’t matter how good the food is, a meal taken alone is not something I enjoy. Mostly I can’t wait to leave the restaurant. A conversation with a friendly waiter or waitress is a bonus. The fact is that God created us to be together. The need to share is woven into our DNA. So here’s a question. Is there someone you know who eats alone and who would benefit from an invitation to a meal at your home? A meal shared in love and a meal representing love. Jesus said:

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:27-38)


Reasons to be Cheerful

Proverbs 15:13

A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit. (NIV)

Tradition?

The tradition at my last church was for four deacons to sit at the front of the church during communion, two on either side of the pastor. Two deacons would pray before the bread and wine were served by all four. The almost complete lack of happy faces in the congregation always surprised me when I sat at the front of the church at communion time. I don’t think I ever counted more than six happy faces out of up to 100 people taking communion.

Happy about Communion?

You could ask what there is to be happy about during communion? After all shouldn’t we come to the communion meal filled with remorse and seeking forgiveness? I don’t dispute the need for remorse, but Jesus died once to pay the price for all of the sin in every human life. I am truly remorseful when I let Him down, but having surrendered my life to Him I rejoice that I am forgiven. Consequently, I find myself overwhelmed by happiness at communion time. There may well be tears running down my face, but they are tears of joy at the huge relief I know because of my redemption. Because Jesus died I have a happy heart. One that should make my face cheerful not only during communion, but all day every day.

Crushed Spirits

It is not easy to maintain a cheerful face all day long. The circumstances of life conspire to steal our happiness and crush our spirits. We have all been there, sometimes to the point that we even question our faith. It troubles me that so often we are oblivious to some of the crushed spirits around us. Some of the non-smiling faces we encounter may truly be in a place where there is nothing to smile about. How can we stand with family, friends, colleagues, folk at church, etc., at such times?

God Knows

Sometimes only God knows, and sometimes He brings people into our lives at a particular time on a particular day because He knows. I can think of times in my life like this, and there are times I know that He has used me to meet the needs of others. That’s when I really smile. I smile because it reminds me that God cares. God cares about crushed spirits because He just can’t stop loving us. No matter what.

And that is a reason to be cheerful.