Why all the evil?

Wild animal in dark

Why are God’s people succumbing to spiritual attacks?

… Come, wild animals of the forest! Come and devour my people!

Isaiah 56:9

We have cut down the defences against evil and have become an open target.

For the leaders of my people … are blind and ignorant. They are like silent watchdogs that give no warning.

Isaiah 56:10

Our defencelessness indicates a failure of spiritual leadership. Leaders fear challenging evil because in our day it is considered offensive to challenge behaviour.

Like greedy dogs, they are never satisfied.

Isaiah 56:11

Spiritual greed for numbers to demonstrate fruitfulness overwhelms faithfulness to our Lord and silences our challenge to a culture casting off constraint.

They are ignorant shepherds …

We harden ourselves to silence our guilty consciences by deliberately forgetting what we know of the Bible. We prefer ignorance to a conflicted heart.

… all following their own path and intent on personal gain.

Having hardened ourselves against God and his word we are freed to follow the paths that will give us numerical following, the ‘indication of fruitfulness.’

All this might be expedient in our day, but there are consequences …

Come, wild animals of the field! Come, wild animals of the forest! Come and devour my people!

Isaiah 56:9

People are suffering and asking why isn’t God stopping it from happening?

Living for praise?

Hands raised in worship

How do we measure praise?

See, my servant will prosper; he will be highly exalted.

Isaiah 52:13

Jesus is the greatest. How did he prosper?

But many were amazed when they saw him. His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man.

Isaiah 52:14

I am shocked. Praise is exemplified in this prophecy of Jesus being beaten with a led tipped whip and executed in utter cruelty.

So, where is the prosperity and exaltation? Jesus was pushed to the edge, but not broken. He demonstrated God’s grace was greater than man’s torture and humiliation.

We measure prosperity and exaltation by ‘likes’ and ‘follows’. Jesus measured exaltation from the applause of heaven when he stood firm though all were opposed, and friends hid in silence. He had demonstrated the power of God.

… Kings will stand speechless in his presence. For … they will understand what they had not heard about.

Isaiah 52:15

The world’s exalted will stand speechless before Jesus, understanding that their craving for popularity robbed them of integrity, robbed them of the opportunity to demonstrate faith, and hope and love. As Jesus said,

How can you believe when you accept praise from one another but make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?

John 5:44

Peace in fearful times

Woman sitting in fear

We live in turbulent times with messages of fear. The fruit of these messages is anger, attempts to control people and ultimately, hatred. Jesus speaks into this,

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart.

John 14:27

What a contrast between the messages of fear and the gift of peace. Fear drives us and those around us. Peace is free to live and to extend a hand of love.

And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.

John 14:27

Those who project the future speak as if they were God. Yet, their view and their authority are limited. Jesus is Lord of all. He may indeed permit terrible times, we must entrust that to him in prayer while we learn to receive his promise of peace.

So don’t be troubled or afraid.

John 14:27

When I allow fear to rise up, I am tempted away from love. It may be that I will sink into depression, or try to take control, or lash out in anger, or spend energy and effort preparing for what in fact will not happen, …

I demonstrate that I am living through Jesus and in the light of his promise when I am free to extend his love and hope to the fearful people around me.

What price peace?

What price for peace? We look back on the way we have hurt people and our insides are churned up. These words can seem merely aspirational –

we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God

Romans 5:1

The impact of my failure is worse than I realise. When I fall short of love other’s get hurt. In their hurt, they fall short of love. The effect cascades. Sin, defined as falling short, has consequences-

the wages of sin is death.

Romans 6:23

Sin cuts us off from God, the source of life, bringing spiritual death.

Our tendency is to blame others. Yet, for all those we blame, there are as many who blame us. We cannot hope to overcome the effects of death till we are right with the source of life for only life can overcome death.

God’s wonderful grace rules … giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 5:21

This grace and peace come when we ask forgiveness from God and receive life through Jesus. Jesus extends this life from us through faith when we who are forgiven extend his forgiveness to those who hurt us and ask forgiveness of those we have hurt.

I want to make light of the hurt I have caused, but I have to remember that paying for it cost Jesus his life.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.

Romans 5:6

Jesus came to model life

Nativity scene

Jesus was born and lived. What was the purpose?

He is my chosen one, who pleases me. I have put my Spirit upon him. He will bring justice to the nations.

Isaiah 42:1

The Father announces Jesus as the one through whom he will act. That work continues through us as we live by His Spirit.

“Look at my servant, whom I strengthen.

Jesus needed the Father’s strength and the Spirit and as we continue his mission, so do we.

He will not shout or raise his voice in public.

Isaiah 42:2

Jesus’ love and the words his Father gave were enough to fulfil his mission. Are we willing to speak words of love and offer acts of kindness his Spirit prompts us into?

He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle …

Isaiah 42:3

When we are sure of ‘The Agenda’ we crush people. The Father can drive his agenda. Let us watch what he is doing and join him with gracious words and love.

I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness.

Isaiah 42:6

We get caught up with voice and message. The greatest message is simply demonstrating his righteousness as we live out the good he has prepared for us to do.

I will take you by the hand and guard you, and I will give you … as a symbol of my covenant

Such good comes at a personal cost, covered by the Lord himself – At the Cross!

Message of a filled life

Path through wilderness

We live in a spiritual wasteland. The Lord desires to enter it and asks us to participate.

“Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!

Isaiah 40:3

Our role is to clear a way through this wilderness and make a straight path for him. Straight paths drive uncompromisingly through the obstacles of our lives.

Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places.

Isaiah 40:4

Our high places of false worship are to be levelled. The valleys of weakness filled in. The Lord prepares us to be the road, through which he reaches others.

A voice said, “Shout!” I asked, “What should I shout?”

Isaiah 40:6

Yet, we don’t know the message. Once it was clear, but the barrenness has taken away our self-confidence.

 “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field …  The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”

Isaiah 40:6-8

Our beauty fades. What a contrast with the glory of the Lord and his word. This glory lives in us as we live out his love through faith. His glory overwhelms our wasteland lives.

… O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!”

Isaiah 40:9

So, the message we proclaim is our testimony of how God has filled us, Christ in us, the hope of glory!

Multiplying Impact

waterfall to river

I often underestimate the impact of God working through us.

​The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple,

Ezekiel 47:1

We are that temple; God’s Spirit lives in us.

and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple … The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar.

Ezekiel 47:1

South of the altar was the bronze wash basin made of mirrors. James likens the word to a mirror and in Ephesians we see the washing with pure water of the word, just as the basin’s water was for washing the priests.

However, In Ezekiel the water is not contained, it flows. It goes out to influence the world. As Jesus said,

“Whosoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”

John 7:37-38

This passage asks, are there streams of living water flowing from within us?

the water was trickling from the south side.

Ezekiel 47:2

We see just a trickle, we doubt the impact from our lives. Yet after a couple of kilometres, the trickle has become a river.

it was a river that I could not cross.

Ezekiel 47:5

How did that happen? The Lord speaks to me through his Bible, when I share this. To my surprise, that word impacts others, and their lives are changed. They in turn influence yet others. Jesus multiplies what we receive from him by faith.

To Unsafe Places

The well

Sometimes we are taken out of our comfort zone,

It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water.

John4:7

Collecting water at midday would leave one exhausted and perspiring. Later we hear she has had a string of failed relationships. Maybe she was avoiding those who despised her.

Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well.

John 4:6

The one avoiding relationship met Jesus who, being exhausted, had not gone into town. Maybe he was avoiding company?

Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”

John 4:7

They came together through need. Jesus was thirsty. There followed a conversation ending,

 “I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

John 4:25-26

One of the clearest statements Jesus made about his identity.

the woman went back to the town and said to the people,  “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.  Could this be the Messiah?”  

John 4:28-29

The woman is willing to go to people who despise her with a message that would sound unbelievable. Who would accept it? Though despised, the love instilled by Jesus is greater.

Many of the Samaritans from that town  believed in him because of the woman’s testimony,

John 439

Her risk bore fruit. Am I ready to let Jesus lead me to people I don’t want to relate to?

Observer Mindset

Having the mindset of an observer will lead me to fail when I am asked to step up and participate.

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.

Matthew 26:57-58

Peter went to see the outcome. He was an observer with no expectation of participation, but then someone asked him about his loyalties and he could not switch roles.

I too fall into this trap of trying to hide and resist being drawn in. I want to preserve my place as an observer. Yet my attempt to hide can leave me appearing to approve or betray.

Jesus’ silence at his trial makes him look like an observer. However, at key moments he intervened. It becomes clear that he is using the opportunity to clarify the real issue for those who considered themselves to be the judges, but were themselves on trial.

Limits of Knowledge

There are people so clever they think they can disprove God. I have met a few. One asked, “Can God do anything?” I replied, “Yes.” Now he had me! “Then could God make something so heavy that he could not lift it?” The underlying message being, if I can dismiss God with a paradox, then I am free to live any way I choose.

Jesus met some people like this. They presented him with a paradox about marriage and heaven; their hidden aim being, to dismiss anything in the spiritual realm.

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”

Matthew 22:29

Jesus’ response was that they might be intelligent enough to come up with a paradox, but they lacked knowledge of two critical factors that could have spoken to their understanding. This is ironic, because these religious people would have prided themselves in their knowledge of both the Scriptures and God.

Paul’s response to people who considered themselves experts is illuminating –

We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.

1 Corinthians 8:1-3

The key to real understanding is when it is framed by the love of God. So, when I find my mind caught up with theories, can I make them practical, living them out to others with the love of Jesus? The key to the real knowledge of God is through applying that knowledge in love.