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?

Peace under attack

The place of security is not through having an unassailable position, but it is resting in the Lord’s presence.

But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, “You are my God!” … Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.

  Psalm 31:14-16

When people are scheming, I am driven from peace, payer is a challenge and I am tempted to counter scheme on perpetual loop.

Don’t let me be disgraced, O Lord, for I call out to you for help.

Psalm 31:17

David is able to surrender the situation to his Lord. He calls for help and asks the Lord to deal with these enemies. It seems that in unreservedly handing over his enemies to the Lord, he enters peace.

How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world.

Psalm 31:19

In that place of assurance, David is able to praise God freely.

You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues.

Psalm 31:20

What an amazing place of shelter in times of trouble.

Who is God to you?

Our character determines how we identify the Lord.

To the faithful you show yourself faithful;

Psalm 18:25

People demonstrate faithfulness because they value it for it comes at a cost. It requires commitment when others would have given up. So, it is the faithful who will hang on long enough to see God come through in faithfulness.

to those with integrity you show integrity.

Psalm 18:25

Few people believe others have integrity. They look at their own spin and assume everyone else spins with them. So, when Jesus says “I am with you always.” They give a knowing wink. They are not going to stick their necks out on the basis of anyones word.

It is those who live out what they believe in integrity who will stick with Jesus enough to prove his words true.

To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.  

Psalm 18:26

Shifting from the light to darkness there is a change. The Lord demonstrates he is no fool. The crooked lure the innocent into their traps. Yet, the Lord has a way of trapping the crooked in their own traps showing himself to be shrewd. Sadly, few see it. Most believe that they had failed to cover all eventualities. It takes a remarkable person to see that it was the Lord who was behind their failure.

Receive?

How do we feel about ourselves when we have little to show for our labours? What do we think Jesus feels about us?

  Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”  “We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.

John 21:3

When Peter was feeling down about life, he went back to what he knew best. While struggling with a creeping marginalisation, many go to what we know best. Is it worship or is it anaesthetic?

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

John 21:4-5

Jesus brings them to admit their reality. Are we willing to admit where we are?

Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.

John 21:6

Jesus does not berate them; he loves them in the way they understand love.

The disciples don’t head home to celebrate success, they head to Jesus.

When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.

John 21:9

On arriving they find Jesus’ welcome and cooked breakfast, what a treat. Are we willing to stop and receive a treat from the Lord? Are we so caught up with what our training tells us to be that we don’t have space to receive him?

Fruit of darkness

When we are being targeted by wicked people, we have a hard time waiting for the Lord to rescue.

Who will come from Mount Zion to rescue Israel? When the Lord restores his people, Jacob will shout with joy …

Psalm14:7

Out of nowhere, the Lord comes to rescue his people. In relief there is great rejoicing. Yet, who is the Lord saving from?

The Lord looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt.

Psalm 14:2-3

Everyone is included. We too are abusers from whom the Lord needs to save. So, maybe we can be grateful that he is so patient with the abusers!

The start of corruption is significant: our turning away from the Lord-though only slightly. When facing him, we receive from him. When away from him, we are filled with darkness which brings corruption, and bares its fruit as we fail to do good.

They eat up my people like bread and wouldn’t think of praying to the Lord.

Psalm 14:4

People who turn from the Lord find their nourishment consuming God’s people. Rather than go to Jesus, who promises to feed us. When darkness finds lodging in us, our greed drives us to take the life giving gifts entrusted to others.

Terror will grip them, for God is with those who obey him.

Psalm 14:5

The outcome of allowing the fruit of darkness to be expressed is tragic.

Freedom for what?

We should be free to live as we want! But there are other players in the game, and what of the Lord?

“Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.”

Psalm 2:3

To be free of the constraints we feel God puts on us, we make him a monster.

Why are the nations so angry? … the rulers plot together against the LORD and against his anointed one.

Psalm 2:1-2

Even after pushing the Lord aside, that is not enough. Our conscience gnaws at us, driving us to join the plot against the Lord. We twist his Word to justify the freedom we have taken.

“The LORD said to me, ‘You are my son. Today I have become your Father.

Psalm 2:7

The Lord has a different approach to our need. His name is Jesus! He invites us into relationship as adopted sons with his Son. The one he has appointed as the king we are trying to break free from.

Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the whole earth as your possession.

Psalm 2:8

In love, the Father offers the whole world to Jesus as his inheritance. If we relinquish our pursuit for the satisfaction that so frustratingly eludes us. If we embrace Jesus as our king, we will discover that his gift to us will be a far deeper fulfilment of desire, and a freedom to express it in love.

What lies ahead?

As we endure lockdown, consider what lies ahead-

“Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore.

Isaiah 65:17

The current crisis helps us see the value of moving on from our current realities to something far better.

Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation! And look! I will create Jerusalem as a place of happiness. Her people will be a source of joy.

Isaiah 65:18

We are driving our current earth to destruction. We will be so grateful to start again. Our current cities destroy the soul. The Jerusalem Jesus creates will be a place of happiness. His people will be joyful in fruitful lives.

I will rejoice over Jerusalem and delight in my people. And the sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more.

Isaiah 65:19

Consider a time when, being with Jesus, we will be spared from grief.

In those days people will live in the houses they build and eat the fruit of their own vineyards.

Isaiah 65:21

We can look forward to a time of creativity and rewarding work. Consider how much easier life could be without protecting the fruit of our labour from those who would steal and kill and destroy. Looking at what we have to endure, consider how much easier and more joyful life would be if everyone knew that everyone else would do what was loving and kind?

That is what we have to look forward to!

Arise shine

Any crisis brings about testing as circumstances give us choices between light or darkness, living by the Spirit or living by the sinful nature.

Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth,  

Isaiah 60:2

As Coronavirus unfolds our choices become apparent. The darkness lurking within our culture will be exposed. Fear and self-protection are powerful motivations.

but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.

Isaiah 60:2

The world has become indifferent to God, but as the darkness envelops it, the light of Jesus on his people will become unmistakable.

If we overcome temptation to darkness, if we cling to Jesus, and live by His Spirit the glory of the Lord will appear over us. Our choices will reflect what is in our hearts. Jesus said,

“… out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Matthew 12:34

Can we use our time well, to prepare our hearts by feeding on Jesus through word and prayer? A challenge when anxiety drives us to anything but settling down with Jesus.

“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see.  For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you.

Isaiah 60:1

At some point something will happen that will be the opportunity for us to stand up and act out of our love of Jesus. This is when we could arise so that the light will shine. May we do it well. May our hearts be exposed as full of Jesus.