What Value?

Would we accept being smaller if more precious?

O storm-battered city, troubled and desolate!

Isaiah 54:11

Jesus’ church seems to be consistently battered. We are battered by the pressures of a culture intent on replacing the Lord with mankind as its centre. Now, even Covid is having its impact.

I will rebuild you with precious jewels and make your foundations from lapis lazuli.  I will make your towers of sparkling rubies, your gates of shining gems, and your walls of precious stones.

Isaiah 54:11-12

We feel such losers. Our theology demands growth, while we shrink. Yet, the Lord speaks of doing something else. He speaks of rebuilding with a people whom he is making precious, transformed to reflect him.

I will teach all your children, and they will enjoy great peace.

Isaiah 54:13

Will we allow ourselves and our children to be rebuilt as precious and at peace with God?

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Photo by Sabrinna Ringquist on Unsplash

Empowered?

Why does Luke emphasis that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit’s power? Surely as the Son of God that’s obvious. Yet,

Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power.  

Luke 4:14

After being in the wilderness fasting forty days and been tempted by the devil Jesus should be weary. So, anything he did demonstrated the power of the Spirit.

Jesus said, blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The temptations demonstrated Jesus’ attitude. Consider his response to each,

“No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’”

Luke 4:4

The passage Jesus quotes continues,

“But on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Deuteronomy 8:2

The source of his life is God and his word.

When offered the world if he worships the devil, Jesus responds,

“The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”

Luke 4:8

Jesus affirms the Father is the only one to be worshipped.

When encouraged to manipulate the Father into saving him and so gain honour for himself, Jesus responds,

“The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”

At each temptation, Jesus affirms he is not sufficient in himself, he needs the Father and so the whole Kingdom of Heaven is available to him.

For the year ahead when we are weary of the issolation where is our hope and strength?

Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash

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?

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?

Prepare the way

For years I have observed Christians shut down by the vehement anger of others that falsely accuses in order to silence its own conscience.

Pass through, pass through the gates!

The Lord encourages us to go out. Despite our fears, we are called to leave the safety of our stronghold.

 Prepare the way for the people.

We are to prepare a way. A way for Jesus’ people to return, those who left for the pleasures and experiences of the world, and for those who have yet to know Jesus. All these need a safe path, a path of grace and forgiveness.

 Build up, build up the highway!

We are to build a road that anticipates and overcomes the obstacles for those who would enter.

 Remove the stones.

There are stumbling blocks of old religious views and expectations, the ways of the prodigal son’s older brother. We need to examine our own hearts.

 Raise a banner for the nations.

Let us raise up Jesus as our banner. There can be so many extras raised to attract. Let us not allow anything to distract from him.

Awake! Awake!

Cathedral in ruins

Many of those who made commitments as children have abandoned any sense of faith.

The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make … her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her.

Isaiah 51:3

If God’s people are Zion, then Zion is currently in ruins. However, we sense that the Lord has begun a new work. This can seem little comfort when we look at where we have come from.

look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was only one man, and I blessed him and made him many.

Isaiah 51:2

Our culture believes that to build, you need a large base. Our Lord specialises in building from the least.

My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way …. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm.

Isaiah 51:5

Our restoration does not begin by discovering the right formula, but through putting our trust and hope in Jesus.

Awake, awake, arm of the Lord, clothe yourself with strength!

Isaiah 51:9

We begin with people calling on the Lord to awake. That sounds a little strange, that we would need to awaken him who never slumbers, but this is the cry of a desperate people who are desperate to see the Lord working.

Change coming?

Is a new day of favour coming?

 “In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; 


Isaiah 49:8

After decades of proclamation, it stretches faith to suggest this time might be almost here.

I will keep you … to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’


Isaiah 49:8-9

So many Christians are living in darkness as captives, so bowed down that few have capacity to live for Jesus.

For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.


Isaiah 49:13

Not many believe we are captives – how could we be in such affluence! However, we know we need Jesus to comfort us.

See, I will beckon to the nations, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons …


Isaiah 49:22

The Lord will turn things around. We have reached out to an unresponsive people. Now, Jesus will be lifted up so people come to him.

Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.


Isaiah 49:23

From our perspective now, if we saw this, it would clearly be Jesus! It seems unrealistic.

“Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save.


Isaiah 49:25

Jesus is clear, this is not a problem for him.

Let go of the past

We seem to be an unwilling to let go of past times of abundance

I think of the good old days, long since ended, … Is his unfailing love gone forever? … Has God forgotten to be gracious? [Psalm 77:5-9NLT]

One reason we resist letting go is that the abundance represented God’s love and grace to us.

And I said, “This is my fate; the Most High has turned his hand against me.” [Psalm 77:10NLT]

There are times when, for a while, the Lord hides himself from us. We need to unlearn habits, reinforced by success, that block us from moving into a deeper relationship with him.

But then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. [Psalm 77:11NLT]

I focus on the past because I think I can fix it and return. I need to look at who the Lord was, is and will be and live in that reality. He is the one who transforms us.

O God, your ways are holy. Is there any god as mighty as you?

I see God patiently working with me, unwilling to move on until together we have dealt with the issues, then moves me on to the promised land.

You are the God of great wonders! … By your strong arm, you redeemed your people, [Psalm 77:14-15NLT]

Let us be led into his redemption and our transformation to be his holy people, ready for the next chapter of his power.

Realising my wickedness

The shock of my Christian life was realising that this description of the wicked fit me…

In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. [Psalm 10:2]

Arrogance comes from believing ourselves to be so ‘right’ we can tell others how to live. We give ourselves permission to put others straight and use clever schemes to bring people into line with what we believe.

He boasts about the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord. [Psalm 10:3]

Our empty hearts need an object for their cravings. Too impatient to wait on God to fill us, we direct our cravings towards ministry, developing a greed for what we are convinced is on God’s heart.

His ways are always prosperous; your laws are rejected by him; he sneers at all his enemies.’ [Psalm 10:5]

Convinced we are right, we justify abandoning love to cajole others into developing our ministry success.

His mouth is full of lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue.  [Psalm 10:7]

This ministry is spread through half-truths masquerading as God’s word. Threats of terrible consequences silence the objections of love. Its fruit is trouble and evil, for love is driven away by wickedness. It looks and sounds so right and Biblical, but where is the life of Jesus?

Trying not to be like this becomes another form of wickedness. The Lord overcomes my wickedness as I spend time with HIm so he can fill me with his love.

Glory in service

The last of three avenues that Jesus says lead to glory-

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me. [John 12:26]

When the Lord of the universe honours us, there is glory, like in the parable of the talents where the kings says,

“Well done good and faithful servant.” [Matthew 25:21]

Many love praise and personal achievement. The Father honours those who set aside personal ambition and follow Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve, into the service he has for them.

Whom do we really serve? Jesus, at times tests our motives by leading us away from the service we have invested in. Do we love the ministry or Jesus who gave it? From whom are we looking for honour? It takes faith to follow Jesus away from apparently good things.

Jesus uses service to test faith. Do we really believe that he will resource the work he has set before us? If the task ahead is beyond us then knowing our limitations, we wrestle with the challenge. It takes faith to follow.

Sometimes we are perplexed. Are we able to rest assured that he has said,

“Where I am, my servant also will be.”

If our heart is set on serving Jesus, we can trust him that he has us in the right place.

So, Jesus encourages us to follow him into faith filled service and promises that the Father’s honour will follow.