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.

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.

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.

Arise above fear

Photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash

Coronavirus has brought fear into the open – fear of death, fear for fragile family members, fear of running out of food and supplies, fear of economic hardship, …

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

Isaiah 60:2

The response to Coronavirus is a spreading darkness; dark because fear supresses love. How have we succumbed to this darkness?

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

Isaiah 60:2

The Lord has a totally different perspective. In a world indifferent to God, his glory rises. The Lord will show his glory through his people.

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

Isaiah 60:1

Arising so that the light can shine on us is an act of faith. Rather than seeing the glory of the Lord on us, we become overwhelmed by our failures. We have to arise, without knowing what people will see.

We arise when we see and act on the needs set before us. The Bible says,

Let us not become weary in doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people …

Galatians 6:9-10

We may or may not see the glory of the Lord, but that is not the point. The call is to arise in faith and love!

Let us not give into the darkness. Let us arise in love and faith allowing Jesus to shine through us.

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!

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.

Mindset when tested

When Peter went to his trial, he was taken unawares.

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, …. Peter followed him at a distance, … He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.

Matthew 26:57-58

Peter went “to see the outcome”, to observe, not participate. When I adopt an observer mindset, I resist being drawn in. Then a test comes seemingly out of nowhere. I fail to take responsibility and am taken unawares into a betrayal.

… a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

Matthew 26:69-70

Jesus went into his trial ready to be a responsible participant, though for the most part he was silent.

“This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’” … But Jesus remained silent.

Matthew 26:61-63

He would not be drawn into frivolous arguments. But at the right moment he intervened.

The high priest said to him, “…  Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” … Jesus replied “… From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Matthew 26:63-64

The leaders thought they were trying Jesus. They were taken unawares when he presented just the right words to test their hearts.

How do we adopt a mindset that is ready to be tested?

What comes out of us?

Whatever we value, we set our eyes on and store up. Whatever it is takes our heart and becomes our master. So Jesus said,

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.

Matthew 6:19

When we choose to treasure things apart from Jesus, we fill any space in our hearts where we could treasure the Lord. Jesus builds on this idea-

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other …

Matthew 6:24

This brings me to the bit I find most curious.

The eye is the lamp of the body.

Matthew 6:22

What I choose to keep my eye out for is what I fill my heart with. If I choose to fill my heart with the God of Love, then the love of God will flow from me. That which I fill my heart with, I become. So,

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.

Matthew 12:35

Most things that people set their eyes on are neither good nor bad. However, when we ‘set our eyes’ on them, we make them our idol and our desire for them becomes selfish. This is a desire apart from the love of God and ultimately leads to our storing evil in our hearts and this evil will come out!