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.

Un-approachable?

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

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.

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?

Want the height? Go down!

How do we get to heights with God?

“I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble.

Isaiah 57:15

Some trust in their approaches to gods through going to spiritual places and performing spiritual exercises, the Lord says that the ones he is looking for are those who fall before him.

In order to go up to him, we must go down before him!

In Jesus’ story of the pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18, the pharisee was confident before God because of his spiritual exercises. The Tax Collector, whose standing in society would be like today’s loan shark, humbled himself before God. It was the tax collector whom Jesus says was made right with God.

Do we trust in our spiritual exercises and developing righteousness to reach the Lord, or do we humble ourselves, and give ourselves to him – maybe through spiritual exercises?

God says, “Rebuild the road! Clear away the rocks and stones so my people can return from captivity.”

Isaiah 57:16

The road to God from captivity is littered with obstacles –things we worship that are not God. In v6 Isaiah had mocked people who worshiped stones. Now, these objects of worship must be cleared from our lives so we can return to the Lord.

The problem with our idols is that we are attached to them. It requires humility to admit they even exist before we can take that step to remove them.

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

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

Devotion under pressure

man reading in narrow space

It is easy to be distracted from the Lord. David prays for a single-minded focus.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. 

Psalm 27:4

The pressures of 21st century life can make this sound unrealistic; a desire for when we have time. David, sees things differently.

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent … 

Psalm 27:5

David has learnt, by spending time with God, that being with him is the safest place. Dwelling with him is the best preparation for the troubles ahead.

Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. 

Psalm 27:3

David knows that whatever the trouble that is presented to him, the Lord knew of it from before the beginning, and already knows the way through. So, his confidence is not in his own efforts or the resources he has at hand, but in the Lord.

The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1

So, what is the stronghold of our lives? What is my first reaction when trouble comes?

Who needs forgiveness?

Man holds forgiveness sign

We have rid our culture of so much religion that we can miss the principles Jesus is teaching because the context has changed-

 “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’

Matthew 9:12

We don’t offer sacrifices and we have a culture that is learning to receive everyone. So, it looks like, job done. However, looking at the principle that follows, I see a challenge.

For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

Matthew 9:13

In our time people excuse themselves of anything. Behaviour is explained away by a painful past or challenging circumstances. People may not think of themselves as righteous but struggle to accept an identity of sinner.

So, here Jesus offers mercy and we are so self-satisfied that we can look at the mess we are creating and say we need help or counselling or anything but forgiveness and mercy. Only when we are willing to take responsibility for our actions will we recognise that what we have done is so bad Jesus had to die for it. Only then can we accept the need of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins and receive his mercy.