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Saturday, 29 August 2015

The fourth anchor!

In Acts 27:29, we read these words: "... fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let out four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come."
Over the past few posts, I have been suggesting that certain 'anchors' are essential if we are to survive the storms that life so often sends our way.   So far, I have suggested hope - hope that is in the Lord Jesus, the Christ; duty - duty that is steadfastly carried out; and prayer - prayer that is fervent and believing.

In this post,  want to suggest that the fourth 'anchor' which is so very necessary if we are to voyage safely, should be love.  I wonder, is there any anchor in the world that is quite like it?  Of course, I am not referring to the sentimental 'love' of the Mills & Boon novel; or the natural love of, e.g., a parent for a child; and certainly not the 'love' that is actually no more than lust.  What I am thinking about is the love that is described in the Greek language word: agape.  This is the love that has been described as "the minimum of emotion, and the maximum of evaluation." (Rev George B Duncan).

It was this love - extended towards you and me - that brought the Lord Jesus to this sinful Earth.  It was this love - extended towards you and me - that took Him to Calvary, there to suffer what has been described as the most cruel form of the execution of the death penalty that the twisted mind of man had yet devised. 

And those of us who claim to be His disciples are bidden to love in like manner.  We are called to love one another: "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love (agape) for one another." (John 13:35).  Indeed, we are called to go much further than even that!  We are called to love our enemies - those who hate us!  "...  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, ..." (Matt 5:44).

The anchor of Hope - hope that is founded in a living relationship with the Lord Jesus, the Christ;
The anchor of Duty - duty that is faithfully, and steadfastly, carried out;
The anchor of Prayer - prayer that is fervent and believing;
The anchor of Love - 'agape' love, that is modelled on the infinite love of God.

Four anchors.  Do you have them on board as you travel through on that voyage that we call life?  May none of us find, when the storms of life are raging, that our anchors have grown rusty with neglect or, even worse, that we are at sea with no anchors aboard!

Friday, 28 August 2015

Prayer!

The third of our four anchors should be, I would suggest, prayer.  Some might even suggest that it should be first - but, like the best competition results announcements, I am working in 'reverse order'!!

There is little hope for the ship that leaves for the open seas of life without this anchor aboard!  So many do - and many, who once possessed it, have long since cast it away.  It is sad, but true, that there are a lot of people - including some who would make the claim to be Christians - who seldom, if ever, pray except when in a tight corner.  One wit has commented that the most sincere prayer ever uttered is "God help me!"  I would dispute that conclusion - but I can understand it being made.

But how can God possibly be real to such people?  Even the Lord Jesus, as we read often in the Gospel narratives, "... continued all night in prayer to God." (Luke 6:12; KJV).  And if He, God the Son, the Second Persona (see the chap on the 'Trinity' in "Great Words of the Faith") of the Godhead, had need to pray - and to spend much time in prayer - how much more do we need to pray?!

It is, surely, much more than mere coincidence that great times of spiritual awakening have times when men and women have fervently sought God's face in believing prayer!  Someone has written that, "To neglect prayer is to play around with one's very soul.  Without it, we cannot commune with out Maker."

 James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, wrote: "The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.  Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.  Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit." (James 5:16-18).

But "None is righteous, no, not one;" writes Paul (Rom 3:10), referring to Psalm 14.  So where does that leave us?  Praise God, He has not left us helpless.  The same Paul writes to the early believers in Philippi: "... whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith;" ( Phil 3:7-9; emphasis added).

Be certain that you have that righteousness - that you may effectively make use of the anchor of prayer!

Hope - in the Lord Jesus, the Christ; Duty - steadfastly carried out; Prayer - that is fervent and believing.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Duty!

This post is part of a brief series based on some words from the Acts of the Apostles: "... fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let out four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come." (Acts 27:29).  I have suggested that, in the Christian life, we need to have four anchors to keep us steady in the storms that life throws up against us.  In the last post, I suggested the necessity of Hope.  This time, I would suggest Duty.

Sometimes, we are inclined to rebel against our daily duty.  Yet duty is a sheet anchor (old salts will understand!).  There is little like it to make men and women of us.  We may chafe under it; we may sigh for leisure; we my wish to freed from bondage to set hours, appointments, rules and regulations, the apparently 'treadmill' round.  Yet this is, so often, part of God's schooling for us.

In Luke's account of the Gospel record, we find these words of Jesus to His disciples: "So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'" (Luke 17:10).  It is surely worth noting that the duty was done!

There are, I believe, ships - the lives of men and women - sailing the seas of life today, that would have been smashed on the rocks long ago, but for the anchor of duty.

Are you faithfully doing your duty today - to God; and to your fellow-man?


Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Hope!

Continuing from the previous post, may I suggest that the first anchor should be hope?  The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews, speaking of the impossibility of God ever proving to be false, says, "We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain." (6:19).  As long as we have hope, sunk deed down in our inmost being, then life cannot ever destroy us.  It may, and often will, hurt us, but it cannot break us.  As long as hope holds out, we may weather the fiercest storm.

Most will be familiar with the old adage: "Where there's life, there's hope."  I would suggest that it is equally true (if not more so!) to say that "Where there's hope, there's life."!  Many of the survivors of the Holocaust have spoken of the hope that kept them going in the midst of the most terrible of conditions.  In many countries, today, there are those who are persecuted - predominantly those who profess a Christian faith - but who live in hope.  I can never forget the commercial traveller who, during a particularly bad snowfall in the N.E. of Scotland survived being buried for some days, in his car - when others had succumbed to the cold, and to the difficulty in breathing.  His comment, when rescued, was: "I never gave up hope!"

Of course, the hope that is an anchor for the soul is not just a vague optimism that 'things will turn out alright; that, as Dickens' character, Mr Micawber, would have said, "Something will turn up!"  Rather, it is the hope of which Paul writes to the early disciples of Jesus in Colossae: "Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col.1:27).  It is, in fact, more than hope, in the popular sense of the word.  It is an assurance that is based on the unchangeable character of Almighty God.

One of the old hymns states:
"My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name." (Edward Mote)

Do you have the anchor of hope on board, today?  Is that hope grounded in the Lord, Jesus the Christ?  I encourage you to hope in Him.  It will be for your good, and to His glory.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Anchors!

Whilst having lunch with another retired clergyman, and good friend, I mentioned that I love being able to preach a series.  Whether it be working thorough one of the books of the Bible, or following a particular theme, it ensures that I deal with passages, or topics, that I might otherwise avoid.

I was also attending to some "consolidation" this afternoon, as we prepare for our new home in Gardonne to be fully rewired.  I came across a small ring binder in which were the notes from messages that I have shared in the past - most of them at the 'Worship before Work' service that was held, every Monday to Friday, in St.George's-Tron Parish Church, Glasgow, when the late Rev. George B.Duncan was the minister (and I was but a lowly Divinity Student!).

One message 'jumped out at me', and I want to share it here, on my blog, as a brief series!  I read the following verses: "When the fourteenth night had come, as we were drifting across the sea of A'dria, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. So they sounded and found twenty fathoms; a little farther on they sounded again and found fifteen fathoms. And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let out four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come. And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the boat into the sea, under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, 'Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.' Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat, and let it go." (Acts 27:27-32).

How many anchors have you on board your ship?  Are they strong enough for the day of storm?  Are they fit for the strain of life and death; joy and sorrow; and everything else that may happen on the seas of life?

The faith that some people claim to have is purely a "fair weather" thing - it's strong only when circumstances are favourable!  Because of that, they have constructed their lives on the assumption that they are going to meet nothing else but calm seas and favourable winds.

In that passage from the Book of Acts, we read that the sailors "... let out four anchors from the stern ...".  Over the next four posts, I plan to suggest four anchors that each of us ought to carry on the voyage of life.

Don't forget to follow the series through!