Relational battles

There is a person blocking us in an endeavour we sensed the Lord directing us towards. It had seemed a case of praying and seeing how the Lord would protect his endeavour. Then Psalm 18 challenged me.

I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed … [Psalm-18v37-38-NLT]

The Lord entrusts the battle to us, a challenge of faith to someone who avoids confrontation.

You armed me with strength for battle; you humbled my adversaries before me. You made my enemies turn their backs in flight, and I destroyed my foes. [Psalm-18v39-NLT]

The Lord’s desire for destruction challenges my compassion. There is a reason-

Many caught in sin only apologise where caught. There is remorse but no brokenness that owns the guilt. All is explained away and fault is assigned to others. There is no humbling or turning their backs in flight merely withdrawal to a new defiant defensive position.

They cried for help, but there was no one to save them – to the Lord, but he did not answer… [Psalm-18v41-42-NLT]

The enemy’s defeat challenges their self-righteousness. Those who have stood in defiance presume God is with them. Defeat forces self-righteousness to acknowledge its presumption.

You have delivered me from the attacks of the people; … They come trembling from their strongholds. [Psalm-18v43-45-NLT]

The battle is not one sided. The enemy fights back and fights dirty, yet God delivers.

Surrender is not merely to us, but from the strongholds of self-righteousness. Through victory the enemy’s road to reconciliation with God is cleared.

 

Life in trials

Life circumstances push faith to the limit. We wonder why our ‘faithful God’ has abandoned us. Such trials expose the extent of our faithfulness to God’s word.

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. (Ps 119:92)

We can be so angry with God for allowing affliction that spiritual death takes hold. Affliction exposes how much we learned to delight in the Lord and His law in the easy times.

I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life. (Ps 119:93)

Those who have been through trials with God can testify that His Word preserved their lives. Through His Word they had an inner strength to face impossible odds.

Save me, for I am yours; I have sought out your precepts. (Ps 119:94)

From this place of having proved God’s Word, God’s servant calls out for salvation to the only one worth calling to.

The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes. (Ps 119:95)

The fruit of this proving ground is that there is a confident hope of God’s salvation, and so sufficient peace to ponder God’s work while most at this point would struggle with anxiety.
96 To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless.

Perfection is limited in that it is predictable. God’s Word is boundless because when the Lord fulfils His Word we are always surprised by the twists with which He does it.

 

The original Bible study is found at this link – Faithful Word

Eternal Word?

We see a world in flux. The ‘best’ lasts six months. The ‘must have’ I-Phone 5, gives way to I-Phone 6. If ‘the best’ lasts a year, how can the Bible, written thousands of years ago claim to persist? The Bible is clear about itself –

Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Psalm 119:89

If the Lord’s word were fixed on earth it would change. Instead it is fixed in heaven, the home of our Lord who created time! He is Alpha and Omega who knows the end from the beginning and can have text written that persists through time.

90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.

Life on earth appears to persist on a knife edge. During the Cuban missile crisis an officer on a Russian submarine refused to launch a nuclear strike. Today many fear global warming. Continuing life on earth testifies to God’s faithfulness.

91 Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you.

God’s word stands to this day, not because He has been clever at writing and anticipated all that was needed. Rather, the whole universe rests on the frame of His word. All that happens works to serve His purposes –Jesus’ death on the cross was intended as evil, but brought salvation. The fact that we question God’s Word exposes how narrow our view of life is. When we align our lives to God through His word, we participate in God’s purposes through His love.

Freedom

Our society exalts freedom, but what does it mean to be free? Tozer makes the point that ‘there cannot be two absolutely free beings in the universe, for sooner or later two completely free wills must collide.1’ Our western secular culture prides itself in giving people freedom. It exalts the values it has worked out through taking what is Christian and stripping out Christ. Perversely it finds it has to impose this freedom through a system that is increasingly patronising and intolerant. The thing that ties our freedom in knots and forces us to defend ourselves from everyone else’s freedom is our culture’s slide into self-indulgence – the very fruit of the freedom it exalts.

Jesus offers us freedom from a different source. He said, ‘If you hold to my teaching you are truly my disciples, then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’2 Jesus summarised His teaching: ‘Love the Lord your God’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’3 Freedom is found not in self-indulgence which lifts up ME, but in a relationship of love with Jesus and the people He has set us among. Through love we will know the Truth- and Jesus is the truth4. This is not knowledge that we take and control, it is knowing the King of the universe who loves us and receives us. As we live with Him, He leads us into a deep freedom that is independent of circumstances – even in Auschwitz or the body of a paraplegic!

 

  1. The Knowledge of the Holy
  2. John 8:31-32
  3. Matthew 22:37-40
  4. John 14:6

One thing I ask …

Psalm 27:4 both inspires and challenges.

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.

First – In praying this I have seen the Lord bear fruit, however I then go on to ask the Lord to give ministry success as well, missing the point that He is sufficient in Himself.

The Lord has been challenging me to be content with ‘one thing’!  Only when willing to be open, that my ‘one’ ministry was to dwell in His house, experiencing the ‘humiliation’ of ‘not doing anything’ did He open the door to further ministry.

Second is the context – I had imagined it as the longings of one far from worries. In fact it is written in conflict. V12 –

Do not hand me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me,  spouting malicious accusations.

David the general has confidence not in his skill, but in the Lord. This confidence comes not from his history of success but from the core of his soul. He has encountered the Lord and seen His goodness in both success and failure. So David is at peace confident of God’s goodness, whatever that may look like. He prays, ‘One thing’ not out of sentimentality but because the outer situation reinforces the need for his core relationship with God to be developed.

The study from which this was derived is found in BibleBase2ADaringFaith

Overcoming anger

I was overcome by fear and anger.  Someone had made a threatening comment and I was churned up inside. My mind would turn on this person and fight mental arguments.

I know that when I am in such a state, it would be unwise for me to open my mouth – bile would come out. The Lord’s approach is instructive. He does not enter the argument but calls me to His side.

Psalm 110:1 “The Lord says to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

He asks me to sit with Him in His presence and allow Him to deal with the issue. When I can contain myself to sit with Him, meditating on His Word and surrendering in prayer, He changes my perspective. He shows me that He is able to handle this person who would threaten His son. When I fail to sit with Him I enter the fray and descend to my opponent’s level.

I am reminded of a cat fight. Our cat had been chased in-doors through the cat-flap and was now facing the threatening cat with the flap between them. There was hissing and scratching at plastic. Neither understood that the cat-flap was programmed to admit only our cat so she was safe. Knowing our cat was upset and fearful, I picked her up and held her. While the other cat continued to hiss and paw at the cat-flap, ours looked into my face and quietly settled in my arms.

Controversies and faith

The arguments I hold in my mind expose secondary issues that have supplanted my Father as the one to be worshipped.

In Psalm 76 the Father restores perspective.

2 …  his dwelling-place [is] in Zion. 3 There he broke the … weapons of war.

Going to Zion, God’s dwelling, we find different priorities, there He breaks my weapons – my simplistic arguments.

5 The valiant lie plundered … not one of the warriors can lift his hands.

If I allow the Lord to speak His perspective then he exposes these discussions, as pointless. He challenges me with the fact that He is not interested.

7 It is you alone who are to be feared. … 8 From heaven you pronounced judgment, and the land feared and was quiet –

It is God alone who is to be valued. When I fix on something lesser it becomes my idol. I am shocked when the Lord pours scorn on this thing. Yet when I let Him, I experience a wave of peace.

9 when you, God, rose up to judge, to save all the afflicted of the land.

These arguments have collateral damage. Hearts are poisoned when the arguments become the overriding issue of a Christian’s faith.

10 Surely your wrath against mankind brings you praise, and the survivors of your wrath are restrained.

When I allow my Father to divert me from my petty arguments I become a survivor of His wrath and I am restrained. I find myself at peace again in His presence.

 

You can see the original Bible study here

Awaiting God’s intervention

In a crisis I am tempted to force a solution. The Lord shows a different way – Isaiah 56

1‘Maintain justice  and do what is right,

I can’t achieve righteousness through abuse, only love.

for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.

The proximity of danger exposes hearts, asking – ‘Do I believe God’s justice and righteousness are the only way? Do I believe His salvation is at hand?’

Those willing to resist the temptation to force their own righteousness while seeking God’s salvation receive it. What a difference His righteousness will be from the one we had wanted. Instead of me winning and all else suffering, the Lord’s righteousness brings peace and love.

His salvation often waits till the last moment.

2 Blessed is the one who does this –  the person who holds it fast,

The Lord blesses those who hold to His righteousness. To do so I have to let go of hope for the outcome I had defined as righteousness and look to Jesus as my hope.

who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps their hands from doing any evil.’

This hope is seen in two aspects of submission:

Rather than driving towards the goal – destroying others in the rush, they will be content that there will be enough time and resources for the Lord’s will to be done His way.

Rather than forcing what they perceive as righteousness, they will walk in love expecting God’s way to become apparent as they go with Him.

From consumer to disciple

One of Jesus’ statements is brought into new light through His apostolic ministry.

 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother … yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25)

Jesus is traveling from place to place. As He goes those who follow have a choice: They can -Either – Be consumers, experiencing what was on offer. OR – Be disciples, participating in His ministry. This choice became apparent when Jesus travelled beyond the scope of home as in –

Luke 9:59 He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But he replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ 60 Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ 61 Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.’ 62 Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’

Deciding to be a disciple who followed Jesus wherever He went, meant leaving people behind who would feel betrayed – even hated! Jesus had no qualms in this and even now leaving all behind to be with Jesus gives freedom to follow Him with all of my heart, soul and mind. Further since He is love, His way, with hindsight be seen as the road of love.

Who is a disciple of Jesus?

Who is a disciple of Jesus?  Jesus gave two key passages. The first –

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Often discipleship is measured by fulfilling our leaders’ agenda; attendance at meetings and serving on rotas. Jesus’ indicator is love. Disciples of people, take on their attributes. Jesus’ attribute is love.

If we target love, we identify its characteristics– patience, kindness, … and try to display them. But love is the fruit of discipleship. When roots are watered and the tree healthy, fruit comes.

Jesus directs us to a discipleship where we will be watered and strengthened. The second passage.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’ Luke 9:23

We follow Jesus who is love himself.

We can follow systems instead of Jesus. We become followers of a movement or church. Jesus challenges us to follow Him alone.

Jesus might present us with a cross. We believed Jesus was taking us one way when a crisis occurs requiring we are diverted from our ambitions and in love attend the crisis.

We are blocked by someone standing against Jesus’ leading. We have to choose to love Jesus over this person. Something dies inside giving space for love.

The complete Bible study on Who is a disciple of Jesus.