Awake! Awake!

Cathedral in ruins

Many of those who made commitments as children have abandoned any sense of faith.

The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make … her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her.

Isaiah 51:3

If God’s people are Zion, then Zion is currently in ruins. However, we sense that the Lord has begun a new work. This can seem little comfort when we look at where we have come from.

look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was only one man, and I blessed him and made him many.

Isaiah 51:2

Our culture believes that to build, you need a large base. Our Lord specialises in building from the least.

My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way …. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm.

Isaiah 51:5

Our restoration does not begin by discovering the right formula, but through putting our trust and hope in Jesus.

Awake, awake, arm of the Lord, clothe yourself with strength!

Isaiah 51:9

We begin with people calling on the Lord to awake. That sounds a little strange, that we would need to awaken him who never slumbers, but this is the cry of a desperate people who are desperate to see the Lord working.

Sharing in Heavenly Glory

We discover Glory through seeing Jesus’ return to heaven.

How the king rejoices in your strength, O Lord! … For you have … withheld nothing he requested. (Psalm 21:1-2NLT)

Following his crucifixion, Jesus returns with joy at God’s victory.  All has been done, not by superman Jesus but, in divine partnership with God.

You have endowed him with eternal blessings and given him the joy of your presence. For the king trusts in the Lord. (Psalm 21:6-7NLT)

This glorious life of faith, hope and love is beyond anyone but for his eternal blessings of grace given to those who trust him.

You welcomed him back … You placed a crown of finest gold on his head. (Psalm 21:3NLT)

Like Jesus, we receive the victor’s crown after faithfully running the race set before us. Faith meets our weakness!

He asked you to preserve his life, and you granted his request. The days of his life stretch on forever. (Psalm 21:4NLT)

Hope looks above the crisis to a sovereign Lord- the adventure of an eternal exploration of the infinite God.

Your victory brings him great honor, and you have clothed him with splendor and majesty. (Psalm 21:5NLT)

God clothes us with the fruit of the Spirit; a love which exudes splendour and honour.

Glory in eternal life

The second of three avenues that Jesus says bring glory is the road to eternal life.

Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25)

This eternal life is our hope; the hope of a life of intimacy with the God who loves us. Jesus expressed eternal life in these terms-

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

Our anticipation of this intimate relationship with our Lord in heaven inspires us to remain faithful to the end. We don’t want to meet him in the end with the shame of betrayal. So Paul wrote of

endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:3)

This faithfulness to our Lord leads to choices that force a choice between our Lord and those we love, even ourselves. In choosing Jesus, we can look like we hate others, even our own lives. Since God is love, when we look back we see those choices expressing his love and demonstrating our knowledge of him.

This hope is ready to wait for eternal life in glory and it is developed through patient endurance. It is also fulfilled in facing crises. Knowing Jesus’ goodness, we set our hope on the grace he will bring at just the right time, often completely turning the situation around.

So let us, by grace, endure to eternal life!

Experiencing the love of God through training.

Through the training of life’s trials comes hope,

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts … (Romans 5:5)

Shame comes when mistakes are seen. So, I avoid risks. God’s antidote is to pour love into our hearts. His love overcomes shame.

Learning to depend on God’s love begins with –

suffering produces perseverance; (Romans 5:3)

Through suffering I learn to persevere in assurance that God will be there. Knowing his faithfulness, I wait for Jesus to reveal himself with his surprising salvation.

perseverance, character; (Romans 5:4)

Perseverance is a foundation on which is built character; as seen in the fruit of the Spirit – Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control.

Confident in Jesus, there is freedom to behave well. So, character is developed in a pressured environment.

and character, hope.

The transformation of character to hope is the transformation from doing the right thing, to doing it with joy, in hope that God will cover the cost.

And hope does not put us to shame,

Expecting specific outcomes risks shame. Hope is focused not on outcomes, but on God’s love which triumphs over shame.

So, suffering with God we experience his love.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces … hope and hope does  not disappoint us because God has poured out his love in our hearts. [Romans 5:3]

Living in hope

God’s promises inspire hope. Do we have faith until he fulfils?

We live in two worlds- embracing current reality and simultaneously being prepared.

When they were but few in number, few indeed, and strangers in it, they wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another. [Psalm 105:12-13NIV]

The patriarchs wandered Palestine holding to a promise that they would be a great nation, all the while while having nothing to show for it. How did they achieve it? They believed God.

He allowed no one to oppress them; for their sake he rebuked kings: … [Psalm 105:14-15NIV]

God was faithful. He protected them from abusive kings even when they succumbed to fear in their doubts.

He called down famine on the land  and destroyed all their supplies of food and he sent a man before them – Joseph, sold as a slave. [Psalm 105:16-17NIV]

Things seemed to go backwards. The son Isaac hoped in was sold as a slave.

Famine tests our resolve we look for consolations elsewhere, sometimes good things, sometimes not so good. It is good to live in current reality, but not to let go of what God has promised.

It is hard to appreciate that God might be manoeuvring his servant into the optimum position.

… till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the Lord proved him true. The king sent and released him, the ruler of peoples set him free. [Psalm 105:19-20NIV]

What has he promised you?  Can you faithfully wait for him?

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!

Looking for God to restore

We complain about the demise of the Church and ask God why He is not advancing the gospel. We do not realise that He is! He is returning us to reality! We live in a time of disgrace for the church of God. The cry of many is –

Restore us again, God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us.
Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger through all generations?
Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us your salvation. (Psalm 85:4-7NIV)

In times past, the hope of the church seemed to be the Evangelical Movement bringing Christ. At the time we were criticized for a shallow approach: “All you need is to receive Jesus, and God will do the rest.” What we failed to appreciate was the context of a culture striving but failing to live for God. In this context the simple message was good news.

Now our culture has little interest in seeking God. The old message is exposed as simplistic. Many have taken it literally and with their ticket to heaven secured they abandon God and give themselves to sensuality.

The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.
Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps. (Psalm 85:12-13)

Are we ready for the Lord to do new things, preparing the way with His righteousness, bringing fruit as He understands fruitfulness?

Price of abundance

8 Praise our God, all peoples, …

13 You brought us to a place of abundance.

These verses of Psalm 66 begin and end with something we desire: To overflow with praise at God’s abundance. The road to abundance however, runs through fires of refining.

11 You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. 12 You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water,

These fires might push us towards bitterness in our frustration. We question how the Lord can be glorified through such situations where the unrighteous are winning and our response is far from good.

10 For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver

The point of refining is to expose rubbish so that it can to be dealt with. Without heat, we imagine ourselves to be godly. Only when heat exposes poor character can we become aware of our need to ask the Lord for help to deal with issues that He was always aware of.

Often the way to refining is opened by a poor decision. It is a necessary step for without the refining we would be unable to appreciate or rest in the forthcoming abundance.

9 he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.

The Lord encourages us that He will preserve us. We may stumble, but the Lord keeps us from slipping. In this hope we can face the challenges that come our way with an assurance that He will bring us through to a place of abundance.

 

For more detail – Price of abundance

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.