When treasures collapse

How do we react when our view of the world is shown to be false? One of my views was shaken recently and I went into shock. I see this same response in the disciples when Jesus explains –

“The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.”

Mark 9:31 NLT

This is so far from the disciples’ expectation they can’t cope.

They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.

Mark 9:32 NLT

Rather than responding with courage and faith, asking Jesus what he meant, they retreated into the false hope of pretending – Maybe Jesus didn’t really meant that.

Yet Jesus did mean it. If the disciples had been able to handle this challenge with faith and accept their view of God’s plan being trashed, they might have been able to take hold of the real hope that was offered –

“… but three days later he will rise from the dead.”

In our topsy turvy world we are seeing God shake one pillar of society after another. Only by standing with him in peace and asking him what he means by it will we stand while all we have treasured collapses. If we are able to let go of these treasures, we will be there to see glory!

Photo by Raph Howald on Unsplash

What is faith?

Jesus’ faith held to some absolute certainties.

Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, …”

John 11:41-42

This does not mean Jesus always got what he wanted.

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre.  He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 

Mark 7:24

The work of faith is less about getting what we want, and more about how we behave when we don’t.

Then he took [the disciples] with him and they withdrew by themselves … but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them ..

Luke 9:10-11

Faith runs the race the Father sets out for us with love. Faith runs in hope that the one who sets the course gives grace for the challenges and unexpected interventions for the impossible.

let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

In this strange world our only hope is Jesus. Let us fix our eyes on him and run the course he has set for us!

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Celestial vending machine?

Do we go to Jesus for what we can get?

“My little daughter is dying,” he said. “Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live.”

Mark 5:23

Healing came when Jesus touched. This man wanted it for his dying daughter- understandable, but inappropriate. Jesus in compassion agrees but before arriving, he sees something to develop his understanding.

A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years. … she came up behind [Jesus] … and touched his robe. She thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Immediately the bleeding stopped.

Mark 5:25-29

A woman came to Jesus thinking he provided healing through touch, a commodity to be used.

Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”

Mark 5:30

The woman had taken something from Jesus. He challenged her, and when she confessed, said,

“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”

Mark 5:34

Taking had been wrong because the healing needed them both together. Her inappropriate taking would have left her with guilt, but now having humbled herself and confessed, she is sent in peace.

Do I treat Jesus as someone to be used, to get things from?

If you want to see God, be patient!

We see turmoil in the world. Do we also see the Lord who is over all?

The floods have risen up, O Lord. The floods have roared like thunder; the floods have lifted their pounding waves.

Psalm 93:3

The world and all its powers, symbolised by floods and waves, rage against the authority of the King. We see these powerful forces at work and become unsettled.

But mightier than the violent raging of the seas, mightier than the breakers on the shore— the Lord above is mightier than these!

Psalm 93:4

Whereas the waves are easy to see, the power of God is hidden from us. The Lord challenges us to believe what he has said about himself.

The Lord is king! He is robed in majesty. Indeed, the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength. The world stands firm and cannot be shaken.

Psalm 93:1

When we think of power, we think of people throwing weight around like bullies. The Lord however is robed in majesty; think, the fruit of the Spirit – Love, joy, peace, patience, …

If the Lord is patient in these tempestuous times, We will only see him if we receive his peace and from that peace are patient enough to see him unfold his plan with love.

How do you flourish?

Photo by Tessa Wilson on Unsplash

What kind of flourishing do you aim at? What kind of a person does that make you?

Only a fool would not understand this: Though the wicked sprout like weeds and evildoers flourish, they will be destroyed forever.

Psalm 92:6-7

Weeds flourish, growing fast and taking over, but their end is the dump. This is the flourishing of the wicked, who manipulate and control.

But the godly will flourish like palm trees.

Psalm 92:12

The godly who know and live by God’s word grow more slowly, but with a greater trajectory.

The advantage of the godly is not in their skill at manipulating people and events. The wicked are better trained in such things, and they achieve so much – yet at what cost?

The godly by contrast …

… are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.

Psalm 92:13-14

The godly have an inner strength that comes through abiding in God’s presence. The flourishing is not seen in what they achieve for themselves, but in the fruit of love that overflows from them and brings glory to God.

But you, O Lord, will be exalted forever.

Psalm 92:8

So, how do you flourish?

Un-approachable?

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The throne room of heaven is a strange mix of being inviting and drawing in while also seeming unapproachable. Many people’s first reaction to reading Revelation 4 is one of horror. The underlying message though is one of approachable glory and splendour.

And instantly I was in the Spirit, and I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it.

Revelation 4:2

The first thing that John sees on entering heaven is the Lord’s throne.

The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones—like jasper and carnelian.

Revelation 4:3

The one on the throne is likened to brilliant gemstones. The Lord’s character, represented by the gem stones shines out. This is one overwhelming in love, in joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness. Instead of being forbidding, he draws.

And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow.

Around him is a rainbow figure of emerald green representing our covenant relationship with God. It says the way into his presence is clear, paid for by Jesus’ death on the cross.

Twenty-four thrones surrounded him, and twenty-four elders sat on them. They were all clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads.

Revelation 4:4

It is people who are closest to the Lord. They too are enthroned. They are with him.

I wonder if the horror many feel at this text is because we are used to being on a level with everyone, but here is someone so much greater that there can be no pretence at parity. This is a shock to our western value system.

Looking beyond

Can we look beyond our challenges?

You have rejected us, O God, and broken our defenses. … You have shaken our land and split it open.

Psalm 60:1-2

When the Lord sends challenges, they can make us feel split open and shaken.

Seal the cracks, for the land trembles.

Psalm 60:2

Our response is often to pray for the devastation to be reversed.

You have been very hard on us, making us drink wine that sent us reeling.

Psalm 60:3

When the Lord puts a cup in our hand though we may, like Jesus, ask for it to be taken from us, it is usually to be received with faith and courage. With the Lord we can face the troubles and drink what he has presented with, fellowshipping with Jesus in his sufferings. Phil 3:10

But you have raised a banner for those who fear you— a rallying point in the face of attack.

Psalm 60:4

The rallying banner the Lord raises for us is Jesus raised up on the cross. Whatever we are going through, Jesus went through worse, and as Hebrews says –

… who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:2

Whether the cup is dealing with a need for perspective, or some past failings, or some current development, they are a prelude to joy in the Lord’s presence. Let us receive with hope, and faith that the Lord is sufficient to carry us through.

Polarised Positions

When we enter a polarised debate, where each side looks at the other as the enemy, then war can enter our hearts.

As for my companion, he betrayed his friends; he broke his promises.

Psalm 55:20

Polarisation can divide friends. We see someone who was once a companion in our pilgrimage with Jesus. For whatever reason we find ourselves on opposite sides accusing the other of breaking their commitments.

His words are as smooth as butter, but in his heart is war.

Psalm 55:21

Since the players are godly people, their words are smooth as butter. They try to behave themselves. But there is a problem – In each heart is war, and war seeps out. So, the words might be contained and measured, but ultimately the real intent will come out.

 His words are as soothing as lotion, but underneath are daggers!

When war is in the heart, no matter how reasoned what is spoken, it conceals a dagger and the intent is violence. A self-righteous urge to force the other to their side of the division.

When I find such thoughts coming into my mind (how embarrassing), I must recognise that I have made an idol of “my” side. I have made my position more important than the love of Jesus, who loves these people whom I find myself treating as enemies!

Do you love me?

What do we love most?

 Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”  “We’ll come, too,” they all said.

John 21:3

Following his denial of Jesus, and Jesus’ death, Peter goes fishing; his goto place when not doing well.

At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, … He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?”  “No,” they replied.

John 21:4-5

Peter’s attempt to find happiness has fallen flat.

When they got [to Jesus], they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread. “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. So Simon Peter went aboard … There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn.

John 21:9-11

Jesus shows grace. He gives it all, fellowship around breakfast following the catch of a lifetime. We would love it if that was where the story ended. But this is the prequal to a challenge.

After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”  “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”  “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

John 21:15

Jesus has created what Peter loves best. Now he uses it to challenge Peter’s heart. He asks, “Do you love me more than these?” The life on offer, feeding lambs, has nothing to do with fishing. How would we do if Jesus asked us to give up what we love to be with him in what he loves?

Polarised views

Crises unfold, we are on tenterhooks. Are our leaders up to the challenge?

The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created.

Psalm 33:6

The fact that we divide ourselves over the opinions and decisions of mere people shows how far our eyes have wandered from the Lord.

Let the whole world fear the Lord, and let everyone stand in awe of him.

Psalm 33:8

We say we believe God. but our eyes are on people, thinking the answers lie in their hands, or even our own. Let us stand in awe of the Lord, who knows far more and controls all.

The Lord frustrates the plans of the nations and thwarts all their schemes.

Psalm 33;10

The schemes of our divided nations fail. Unpredicted factors come in, but the Lord always knew.

the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken.

Psalm 33:11

The Lord has a plan. It might not be what we want, for he has a purpose we cannot see. Are we willing to trust him for it?

the Lord watches over those … who rely on his unfailing love. He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine.

Psalm 33:18-19

The situation could deteriorate. If so, the voices will become sharper still. Are we willing to let go of these opinions and the tribal mentality and look up to our Lord who has a different plan. Are we able to rest in his presence, confident of his unfailing love?