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.

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.

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.

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.