Overflowing grace

We desire to see the Lord’s fame go to the world, to see God yield His harvest.

Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us. God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him. (Psalm67:6-7)

This skips to the end of a process. It begins with –

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, (Psalm67;1)

Great! I want that too! When however, He chooses to answer at a time of His choosing, will I be ready to respond? When He wakes me at 3:00am am I willing to get out of bed and receive that blessing?

that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.  (Psalm67:2)

I might think of this blessing as a purely personal thing between God and myself. Yet it is precisely such personal blessings that go out to bless His world.

People see and hear how the Lord has worked His ways in us. This demonstrates something living and practical. They are inspired to seek God too. People hear of how the Lord rescued us from challenging situations and they are emboldened to ask Him for their own.

He uses a ripple effect, throwing a pebble into the pond so the waves go out. The wave is with us for a short time, we forget and move on. The Lord however makes the fruit of that personal encounter persist into the lives of others, and beyond to people around them.

See more detail in 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.

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

Shades of grey

I was shocked by an exercise of going through the events from Gethsemane to the cross taking the perspective of those who were condemning Jesus. I found it all too easy to understand some in the Sanhedrin voting for His death. The exercise exposed the weakness of my shades of grey, big picture mentality.

Whereas I could not understand those adamantly against Jesus, I found myself understanding those who thought they saw the big picture. I began to understand those who, with reluctance, cast their lot against Jesus thinking that what He was doing could lead to rebellion and suppression by the Romans

At times like that I need the perspective of those who, seeing black and white, stand and say, ‘This is wrong!’ They more than I can see the line in the sand that should never be crossed.

This comes as I struggle while not easily able to delegate.  My shades of grey mentality sees the perspective of busy people doing good things and allows them to walk away while I live on the borders of an unsustainable lifestyle.

Thankfully, my Lord stands and tells me, ‘This is wrong! You have to change!’ The fault lies not with others, but with me for permitting the situation to persist. I need God’s grace to rescue both me and the organisation. I need the voice of others who can come up with imaginative suggestions about who can take over tasks. I need courage to accept the tough decision that some things should be left undone.

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

Rest in stress

There are times when I am stressed out by the urgent and yet it seems every road I take to resolve the situation ends in frustration. It seems I am battling against God.

The real surprise shown in Isaiah 30 is that this may well be the case!

16 You said, “No, we will flee on horses.” Therefore you will flee! You said, “We will ride off on swift horses.”  Therefore your pursuers will be swift!

When I am stressed my mind drives towards a solution. In my drivenness I push aside every consideration towards love. When I scheme I make myself the answer, I try to become my own salvation, supplanting Jesus. The Lord is looking for a very different attitude.

15 In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.

The Lord’s counsel: In repentance and rest I find salvation, repentance of the drivenness that suggests all depends on me. Can I hold this attitude of being at rest? Faith is not demonstrated through inactivity but attitude. It is possible to work hard, and be at rest in the soul, confident the Lord will bring to fruition His work. When I wait for Him I receive far more than I either deserve or imagine!

18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice.  Blessed are all who wait for him!

 

For a fuller look at Isaiah 30 HERE is the study.

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.

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.

Reward with God

What a privilege to participate in Jesus’ ministry. Paul and Barnabas were directed into ministry through Isaiah 49:6:

“… I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,  that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

This verse is not stand alone. How does Isaiah leads into this promise?

First the Lord polishes His arrow and conceals it.

2 .. he made me into a polished arrow  and concealed me in his quiver.

This arrow has to fly true first time and so it receives special attention. Other arrows enjoy their successes in the hunt, this one is polished. It seems a humiliating waste of time.

The Lord seeing the discouragement, speaks tenderly.

3 He said to me, “You are my servant,  Israel, in whom I will display my splendour.”

The Lord gives hope that He will use this servant to display His splendour, however these seem vain words.

4 But I said, “I have laboured in vain;  I have spent my strength for nothing at all.

Polishing is hard work, requiring labour for little visible result.

This frustration finally bears fruit through a change in attitude-

Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand,  and my reward is with my God.”

The surrender of desire to see the outcome. When content that his reward is with God, there is freedom to be used by the Lord without playing to the audience and wrecking the show.

Now the Lord begins to use His polished arrow!

 

The full Bible study can be found at Biblebase2adaringfaith