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.

Choose Jesus’ way

Jesus talks of how we choose to receive His word. An emphasis on visible results has pushed us towards –

The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.

Results are easy! We can count green shoots of decisions and boast of fruitfulness. But easy come brings easy go –

But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.

Noticing the failure trailing this approach, many abandoned the focus on decisions for a journey into the Christian life. This sounds good, but the thorny issues of life are not dealt with in repentance. So –

The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

Protecting ourselves and others from Jesus’ cross is producing a fruitless faith. There is however another choice –

But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Mat 13:18-23 (NIV 1984)

Jesus is clear about what this choice involves–

…  unless an ear of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12:24

Let’s choose Jesus’ way!

What counts?

How poorly I appreciate the unseen work of Christ. I recently organised a conference. There was a sense of God at work, one person even said it was the best conference they had ever been to. Yet looking back I experience frustration that only half the expected number turned up.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

Looking for visible impact I slip away from Christ. In Portugal He spent six years showing me numbers were irrelevant. How easy to revert to type after returning to a culture fixated with measurables. This road leads to a pressure to justify cost effectiveness where the desire to impress, or merely justify, leads to abuse of those entrusted to me. It won’t be through circumcision, but elevating what is secondary and what is elevated becomes idolatrous and abusive. In Paul’s day it was all about bringing people into Judaism; he writes,

Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. (Galatians 6:12)

Such abuse is to no avail, for what counts is the transformation that only Christ sees.

15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.

I live in a world where what is counted is supreme so, being human, I will struggle! However, I trust Jesus who promises –

16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule – to the Israel of God.

 

The background study can be found in ‘Circumcision for now

Poor in spirit

When presented with the impossible, I am challenged to be poor in spirit. When my peers flout their wealth, I am challenged to be poor in spirit. Much of Jesus’ ‘sermon on the mount’ can be summarised by this. We need to have courage, look reality in the face and acknowledge that we are in a weak position. Then we look to the King as against our abilities, networks or resources for the impossible to be fulfilled.

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ Matthew 5:3

The poor in spirit are not necessarily materially poorer, but they know their wealth is not the answer.  Wealth can take many forms: our money, our heritage, our network of friends, our skills, our profession, our family, knowledge of the Bible, our spiritual gifts, … Those who have these advantages find it hardest to let go of the security found in wealth and entrust themselves to the King.

People who allow the Word to speak into their lives and take action are the poor in Spirit. They act not knowing how the end can be achieved, for at the start they don’t have the resources. They act confident that their Lord will back them up. This poverty of spirit requires a surrender of life and reputation into the hands of the King. It is not easy. ‘When I step out in faith the question lurks in the darkness: Was this God’s idea or my presumption?’ We learn the difference as we develop in our relationship with God.

Freedom from Slavery

Psalm 114 (Message)

After Israel left Egypt, the clan of Jacob left those barbarians behind;

Judah became holy land for him, Israel the place of holy rule.

Leaving the land of slavery, Israel became God’s holy people and the land the place of holy rule. This was a first step to their being made Holy.

This move from slavery to holiness is not a process we are good at. We lurch between slaveries. People who have encountered the Lord and been freed often develop a path through which others can find their freedom that is upheld legalistically.

The freedom described here is not gained through repeating steps in a plan, but calling out to the Lord for mercy and waiting for Him.

Sea took one look and ran the other way; River Jordan turned around and ran off.

The mountains turned playful and skipped like rams, the hills frolicked like spring lambs.

When the Lord intervenes, then nothing will be an obstacle to Him. Discussing this with someone from Africa he commented that, in the face of corrupt officials, if the Lord wants something to happen it will.  It may take longer, but the Lord will fulfil his word.

Tremble, Earth! You’re in the Lord’s presence! in the presence of Jacob’s God.

He turned the rock into a pool of cool water, turned flint into fresh spring water.

The transforming effect is not because of the skill of the people of Israel, it is because the presence of the Lord is there. The earth trembles when the Lord approaches.

 

The more complete Study of this passage can be found at –Freedom from Legalism

Worship, a cure for rebellion

When I really want something, I look on the Bible as a hindrance, getting in the way of what I want. I want to rebel –

 ‘Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.’ Psalm 2:3

I despise my convictions as irrelevant for this situation. The Lord however, has a response:

He rebukes them … saying, ‘I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’ Psalm 2:5-6

I have become so passionate for what I desire that I have forgotten Jesus. The way back is to focus on Him alone. When I have Jesus in focus, when I have surrendered the passion and spent time with Him, feeding on Him, I find my heart is restored. Then questions of ‘What are the limits I can get away with?’ become irrelevant.

For those unwilling to surrender there is a tragic road ahead –

You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery. Psalm 2:9

The Lord is clear about His intention. He will not willingly allow us to be drawn away by false gods.

Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Psalm 2:12

Finding the limit of law is a sideshow. The response He is looking for is to worship Him, to choose to delight in Him, not the trappings of this world, to turn my head around and look passionately at Jesus.

 

The Bible study from which this came – biblebase2adaringfaith