Polarised views

Crises unfold, we are on tenterhooks. Are our leaders up to the challenge?

The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created.

Psalm 33:6

The fact that we divide ourselves over the opinions and decisions of mere people shows how far our eyes have wandered from the Lord.

Let the whole world fear the Lord, and let everyone stand in awe of him.

Psalm 33:8

We say we believe God. but our eyes are on people, thinking the answers lie in their hands, or even our own. Let us stand in awe of the Lord, who knows far more and controls all.

The Lord frustrates the plans of the nations and thwarts all their schemes.

Psalm 33;10

The schemes of our divided nations fail. Unpredicted factors come in, but the Lord always knew.

the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken.

Psalm 33:11

The Lord has a plan. It might not be what we want, for he has a purpose we cannot see. Are we willing to trust him for it?

the Lord watches over those … who rely on his unfailing love. He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine.

Psalm 33:18-19

The situation could deteriorate. If so, the voices will become sharper still. Are we willing to let go of these opinions and the tribal mentality and look up to our Lord who has a different plan. Are we able to rest in his presence, confident of his unfailing love?

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.

Fear or love

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by events and am disoriented –

… the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. [Psalm 46:2-3]

In such times I am comforted by the Lord as I look back at times of rescue and reflect on his care. There is a joy at odds with the circumstances.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. [Psalm 46:4]

Things don’t necessarily end as I want, but I have confidence that I will look back knowing my Father has brought good and that it has been a blessing.

God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. [Psalm 46:5]

So, in dark times I look forward to break of day, that moment when Jesus Christ appears with his grace. This brings me back to v1 –

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though …

Anticipating Jesus’ grace there is a choice not to fear. Fear wells up as I presume events will follow a natural course. Jesus is bigger than events!

Instead I choose to hold onto Jesus’ peace that floods in when I recognise and surrender to his sovereign control.

Allowing fear, I strike out in selfishness and hurt people. Choosing God’s grace and peace, love flows into me and out to others.

Confident Future

With what confidence can we look at the future ahead of us? Do we look out with fear at Brexit, Trump and an uncertain world?

What joy for the … people he has chosen as his inheritance. [Psalm 33:12NLT]

Such joy in the face of uncertainty seems naïve. Yet it demonstrates where we hope.

We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. [Psalm 33:20-21NLT]

The current world order is turning upside down. What we have relied on in the past is crumbling.

The best-equipped army cannot save a king, nor is great strength enough to save a warrior. Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory— for all its strength, it cannot save you. [Psalm 33:16-17NLT]

Our anxiety highlights the level to which we have depended on what is not God. We wonder how we will survive.

But the Lord watches over those who … rely on his unfailing love. [Psalm 33:18NLT]

And who is the Lord? Why should we trust him?

The Lord frustrates the plans of the nations and thwarts all their schemes. But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken. [Psalm 33:10-11NLT]

These events are not accidental. God designed them to demonstrate who is worthy of trust. Yes, we don’t know where the future will take us, but we do know the one whose plans will stand. We know the one who has chosen us as his inheritance. We are safe!

Stand tall with God

Standing tall with God is developed through fearful times where we are tempted to run to a place of safety. (Psalm 11-Message)

God’s business is putting things right; … Once we’re standing tall, we can look him straight in the eye.

The Lord’s training requires trust, honesty and integrity so we can look each other straight in the eye.

The fact God had to put things right shows this follows training which involves threats-

I’ve already run for dear life straight to the arms of God. So why would I run away now when you say,

“Run to the mountains; the evil bows are bent, the wicked arrows Aimed to shoot under cover of darkness at every heart open to God. …”?

There are fearful people spreading fear and running for safety; taking things into their own hands they squeeze out God.

But God hasn’t moved to the mountains;

True safety is not the absence of danger, but being away from the Lord.

… He’s in charge, as always, … his eyelids Unblinking, examining Adam’s unruly brood inside and out, …

The Lord is aware. Don’t run away; trust he is able and willing to save.

As the Lord waits His time, he sees His people panicking.

He tests … if anyone cheats, God’s outraged.

The Lord looks to see how we behave through trials. Without trust we will cheat to gain advantage.

Fail the test and you’re out, out … Drinking from a canteen filled with hot desert wind.

Failure brings us to challenging circumstances developing trust.

 

A fuller version can be found at – biblebase2adaringfaith

Created perfect?

If God is so great, how come he made me like this? There are many who look at themselves and see only imperfections and a choice between a helpless God, or a God who doesn’t care.

God speaks to this in Isaiah 44:2.

This is what the Lord says – he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you:

The Lord affirms that it really is He who formed us. He does not pick up where nature leaves off. Everyone has been formed with care and purpose.

We forget that those who seem ‘perfect’ have an inner wealth that tends towards independence. They are tempted to think that they don’t need God, or worse that God needs them.

It is no accident that the following statement is that the Lord will help us. If we think, I am made so poorly I need help, we miss the wonder of our creation. We were not made to be independent but to live in partnership with God. Only in unison with the Father are we complete – the poor in spirit who inherit the Kingdom.

do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.

Dancing with an invisible partner leaves us feeling exposed. When we appreciate our situation fear rises. This takes us from a naïve presumption to real faith where we trust God to fulfil His perfection in us. He chose us not as dispensable add-ons but ones who cost Him His son’s life! We are chosen in love, with patience and care.

 

A fuller study on Isaiah 44 can be found in Biblebase2adaringfaith.

Entrust to mercy

A living sacrifice does not pick it’s sacrifices, nor determine the cost. A living sacrifice is ready to die to self. If I am to walk yoked with Jesus in step with Him, then I cannot choose the bits of the journey I want. In essence, I am throwing myself at the mercy of God.

When an opportunity is presented to me my reaction is to evaluate the cost against my capacity and decide if I can fulfil what is being offered. While this approach is generally appropriate and eminently Biblical (Luke 14:28), I sense at this time The Lord’s challenge for me personally, is different.

Therefore brothers, in view of God’s mercy, I urge you to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1

I feel as I do when standing on a tower with a zip line in front of me.  My head tells me that I will be safe while my senses shout, ‘You fool!’ It is the Lord who knows the journey’s path from the beginning. He can regulate the pace; He can cancel meetings; He can make apparent obligations impossible, and expose them as frauds. The other side of the challenge? If I allow Him to work in me this way then through faith He will break the bounds of my limited view and overflow from me into the lives others. So, I am encouraged to take the risk and entrust myself to His mercy, to His love.

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.

Head held high

My defensiveness towards others inadvertently rubs off on my relationship with God. If He asks something of me that I believe is unacceptable to others I will not fully receive it in case I feel embarrassed.

“Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” (Ps24)

Many want more of Jesus and ‘lift up their gates’ to let Him in.  As we do so we understand that the king of kings comes both to bring glory and to rule.  We let him in with an attitude of surrender. Yet ‘Lift up your heads’ implies honour. It is the place where I look people in the eye and speak with confidence and a clear conscience. It is not enough to know in my inner world that I have honour. To stand before God and people with head high I need to be willing to trust God with my outer world.

It has taken years for the Lord to lift my head. I have always walked head down, secure in my inner world, insecure in the outer one. The King encourages me to lift my head secure in His honour. He has been proving that confidence by leading me into situations where I may be misunderstood. As I face them with Him by faith and with openness, I learn that Jesus is faithful and can be trusted with my reputation. So, I lift my head and receive more of what He has for me.

God’s goodnes vs our wickedness

The great drives that push me towards wickedness are my fears and my strong desires. The antidote is trusting the goodness of God.

Psalm 34:8-10 says: Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. … The lions may grow weak and hungry but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Many who know God would acknowledge this – especially when all is well. Life however throws objections. When we feel in need our fears question these words. When what we desire seems tantalisingly in reach we can find ourselves manipulating people; so wickedness is found in us. Yet God IS good and provides what is good! When I look back on times of crisis God’s faithfulness always shone through. The problem is with the appearances that trigger fear and strong desire as we look at an uncertain future.

On an extended overseas trip I went to a lot of trouble to have phone and internet access at a manageable cost. Half way through the trip the equipment failed. Now the challenge – I felt a lack but my drive to rectify the situation pushed my family aside. Could I accept God working for good in the failure? He knew what communication was needed and how much was driven by fear. When I let go of what I thought I needed, accepting a second rate solution, God in His goodness stepped in with unexpected answers that brought completeness. His goodness shone through.