Covenant with God

With God, what we declare on earth is declared in heaven. He fulfils what we commit to in union with Him.

Psalm 132 is a tale of two parallel oaths.

1 David … 2 swore an oath to the Lord, … 3 ‘I will not enter my house or go to my bed,… 5 till I find …, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.’

David would not rest till he found a dwelling for the Lord. An oath carried out passionately, even after Nathan told him that he was not the one to build a temple for the Lord.

Most would say, ‘Oops!’ and revoke their vow. David dedicated his vast wealth to the construction of the temple.

In v11 we see a parallel oath. There is nothing to indicate which came first.

11 The Lord swore an oath to David, a sure oath he will not revoke: ‘One of your own descendants I will place on your throne.

As David kept his oath, so the Lord would not revoke His. When David failed, the Lord redeemed! David’s oath came from his heart; the Lord swears with all of His being – and we see that oath fulfilled in Jesus who reigns for ever.

13 For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying, 14 ‘This is my resting place for ever and ever; …, for I have desired it.

David chooses Jerusalem and wants the Lord’s presence with Him. The Lord chooses Zion for his dwelling; apparently independent yet together.

 

For the more complete thinking behind this follow this link

Where is your God?

Why do the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’ Psalm 115:2

This is a question that is being asked of the Church. The question raises key issues. Firstly: What is it about the way we reflect Jesus that keeps this culture from seeing Him in us? Secondly: What is it about the world that it is so blind people cannot see Jesus in us? I believe that the next verses point to the answer for both questions.

Our God is in heaven, He does whatever pleases Him. Psalm 115:3

Our God is in heaven, so He cannot be seen by a culture that despises faith, declaring: Seeing is believing.

‘He does whatever pleases Him’, as against whatever pleases us. We struggle with this because our culture thinks of God as someone with a job description – to help us enjoy life. We make ourselves the centre and ask, Why believe in a God who does not do as I please?

But their idols are silver and gold made by the hands of men. They have … eyes, but they cannot see. Those who make them will be like them and so will all who trust in them. Psalm 115:4-8

We protect our selfish view by creating our own gods to make us happy and so blanking Him or blinding ourselves in pretence that He is the god we want him to be.

We have a culture that blinds itself looking at a delusional Church. No wonder we are asked, ‘Where is your God?’

 

Recognise kindness

The Lord initiates with me by showing kindness when He rescues me from my disaster. What catches my attention is when He does it without my even thinking to ask. My seeking God in independence is humbled.

It is through the Lord rescuing me from trouble that I become aware of both His power and His kindness; His ability and His character.

Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, to make his mighty power known. (Psalm 106:8)

This is critical to my spiritual journey. I am tempted to brush off His intervention. I say, ‘it was inevitable’, whilst ignoring that earlier I saw no way out. When I fail to think about His kindness then I won’t trust Him next time, I will give in to desires and crave what I hope will fulfil them taking them at any opportunity, but experiencing only emptiness of the soul.

But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his plan to unfold. In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wilderness they put God to the test. So he gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease among them. (Psalm 106:13-15)

What I need to do is reflect on the Lord’s kindness and power to intervene. As I reflect on Him I become aware of how generous He is in His love towards me. I am challenged to show that same generosity towards others, trusting that He will continue His generosity to cover the cost.

 

The Bible study from which this came is found here

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

Downwardly mobile

We want to be associated with the rich, powerful and famous for through them we gain a foothold in their world and are elevated among our peers.

The ‘Great Banquet’ of Luke 14 expresses the betrayal felt by a host as each guest despises his invitation. Then, in a surprising turn, the host invites not the next best but those at the other end of the scale –

bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.

Perplexed, I re-read the chapter for clues. This parable was given in the context of a banquet.

12 Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’

There is the same phrase! Here, Jesus gives a reason for inviting outcasts – a reward in heaven. This reveals the Lord’s value system often declared by Jesus –

Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last. (Luke 13:30)

To surrender the race for the top, receiving those the Lord sends us is a sacrifice of love, doubly so to receive those who will disadvantage us before those we care about.

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.

Nice encounters Love

Being nice has become a core value of our age. It is hard to argue against what superficially seems so good. Nice however is rooted in selfishness, with its fear of what people will think and its desire to be liked and gain influence over others.

An example of the difference between nice and love is seen at Jesus’ trial (John 18&19). Pilate has a choice between what his inner being tells him is right or giving in to what the voices of the self-righteous demand. It is a choice between the aspirations of the heart and the fear of hurting the feelings of influential people with the consequent loss of influence.

The contrast with Jesus’ love exposes the shallowness of ‘Nice’. Jesus knows Pilate is being driven by the manipulative forces of the religious leaders, yet He does not try to out manipulate Pilate. Rather, Jesus challenges him with a question that helps Pilate gain perspective. He goes on in love to risk His life by explaining himself with truth that leaves Pilate a clear picture of what is right.  Tragically Pilate gives in to evil.

Only when I trust the Sovereign Lord can I entertain love. He takes me beyond the immediate circumstances. He takes a stand with love, truth and righteousness and invites me to stand with Him. I can do so because I know He has my back.

Let’s despise niceness, this shrivelled and poverty stricken imitation of love and stand with God in truth and love.

Read the Bible study that inspired this Blog.

Jesus’ delight in us.

In our manufacturing age we have ordered life around what is productive and assume Jesus holds the same view. We may acknowledge that Jesus is passionate about us but we easily revert to a utilitarian view considering ourselves workers, valued for what we do.

In Song of Songs 4 the lover (Christ) passionately describes to the beloved (His people) how he sees her beauty.

1 How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves …

The first things the lover describes when recounting the beloved’s beauty are her eyes, and how they express peace. This delight in character is in stark contrast to our presumption that Jesus’ favour is gained through our acts of worship or output.

8 Come with me from Lebanon … from the lions’ dens

The lover appeals to her to leave her home in the dangerous wilds of the north to be with him. She is not in a place conducive to depth of relationship, yet needs encouragement and coaxing.

9 You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride.

If we accept we are deeply loved maybe we will be ready to leave our ‘fun’ culture for the intimacies Jesus delights in.

16 Awake north wind … blow on my garden that its fragrance may spread abroad.

The woman, aroused by the expressions of love, desires for her influence to be spread around. She does not loudly proclaim it, but asks the Spirit to blow, spreading the unseen fragrance of Christ.