Integrity

Franchise owners ensure that outlets maintain standards. The Lord is even more concerned with the use of his name.

“Listen to me, O family of Jacob, you who are called by the name of Israel and born into the family of Judah. Listen, you who … call on the God of Israel.

Isaiah 48v1

It is very easy for us to apply labels, but is the inside of the tin as described on the outside?

You don’t keep your promises, even though you call yourself the holy city and talk about depending on the God of Israel …

Isaiah 48v2

We are identifying with Jesus, the truth. When teaching his disciples to pray to the Father, he said, ‘Hallowed be your name’. How does our speech reflect our hallowed Father?

Thankfully that same prayer says, “Forgive us our sins.” Mercifully he knows when we fall short and is ready to forgive. He is also ready to intervene when we slip. I once made a flippant statement to which a colleague took offence – “… and you call yourself a Christian!” He tried to prove me corrupt, but the Lord justified me to that colleague. I was so grateful.

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Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Dealing with enemies?

I can be indignant at the way people relate with me. I want God to deal with them but when I see how the Lord has dealt with me I see gentleness.

There he has broken the fiery arrows of the enemy, the shields and swords and weapons of war.

Psalm 76:3

I am interrupted while telling someone of an injustice. I think that I am so right, but maybe the Lord is breaking my fiery arrow! The interruption gives me space to regain God’s perspective and let the subject go.

At the blast of your breath, O God of Jacob, their horses and chariots lay still.

Psalm 76:6

In my agitation can I hear the voice of God suggesting a road of peace? Can I allow him to still me from my indignation?

God is honored in Judah; his name is great in Israel.

Psalm 76:1

When I have listened and resisted the temptation to lash out, I have later discovered that it was good that he had intervened. I am left in awe at God’s greatness.

Can I learn from the way God has acted in my life and pray for a similar intervention into the lives of those who I feel are wrong, maybe even other dear children of God?

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Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash

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.

When God seems far away

I experience a thrill when the Lord opens his word to me. When the messages are few and far between, I wonder if the lack of experience points to failure. Yet –

I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. Psalm 139:7-8

Even if I had deliberately run from him, I could never have escaped. The passage began –

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. Psalm 139:1-2

The Lord knows whether I allowed something between us. If I ask him to reveal where I went wrong, he can show me. He is concerned for the state of our relationship.

Sometimes that silence has another purpose. He asks if I will persist with him without that sensation of awe at his word I so enjoy.

I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night— but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you. Psalm 139:11

God sees through my darkness. All my fears and concerns are unveiled before him and we are left with the question, how will I behave when I feel like I am abandoned – though I am not?

To whom do we align?

There are people who have power through words. They puff up their claims of what they will do to gain a following. Depending on our position we love them or hate them.

Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man? Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God? (Psalm 52:1)

The Lord calls them a disgrace. This can either shock or elate us, depending on our attitude to their policy. Yet the issue the Lord has is not with their policy but their deceit.

Your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor, you who practice deceit … You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue! (Psalm 52:3-4)

These champions of the powerful word who strike down their enemies, and sometimes ours, are considered a disgrace by God. We have to consider carefully who we align with.

Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin … he will uproot you from the land of the living. (Psalm 52:5)

Are we aligned with those who will be brought to nothing? Who should we align with?

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. (Psalm 52:8)

The reason we align to powerful people is that they offer us hope. The contrast is when we trust in God’s unfailing love. As we take our nurture and love from him, we are empowered to model God’s love, offering dignity while surpassing the deceit of both sides.

Law meets love

Growing up in a culture that values keeping laws, I struggle when someone bends rules. So, when Jesus confronts the rule keepers I have disquiet.  Would I be on the wrong side of him?

Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shrivelled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shrivelled hand, ‘Stand up in front of everyone.’ (Mark 3:1-3)

When those who elevate law confront Jesus we see in their hopes to accuse, self-righteousness. Having reduced godliness to keeping rules, their tunnel vision blinkers out God’s glory. Only obeying God’s rules denies his love.

Then Jesus asked them, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they remained silent. (Mark 3:4)

If I see Sabbath as alignment towards God and his sovereign authority, then Sabbath elevates God’s love. If I see Sabbath as a law, then that alone matters.

… He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. (Mark 3:5-6)

When I struggle in self-doubt, I forget that the Spirit of God will lead me into crises of choice between my cultural norms and his way of love. As far as by grace he has transformed me, so his love will shine through.

Impact of loving God

Those who love God become like him and influence their world.

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.  Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. [Psalm 36:5-6]

As we meditate on his character- love, faithfulness, righteousness and justice we aspire to become like him.

You, Lord, preserve both people and animals. [Psalm 36:6]

We notice that the Lord loves and preserves all his creatures, both people and animals. They are valued as his creation. We join him, showing that same value.

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. [Psalm 36:7]

As we aspire, and in some small way live out this love, people find safety with us.  In effect, they take refuge beneath God’s wings.

They feast in the abundance of your house; [Psalm 36:8]

As we generously share what God has provided, we demonstrate his abundant care.

you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; [Psalm 36:9]

Not being the source, we have no idea what will feed or give life. We merely pass on what he has given us. Then to our surprise, this is spiritual life to those who receive it.

 in your light we see light. [Psalm 36:9]

When we look at Jesus, the light of the world, we see the light of life. Though our situations are dark, he fills us with light from within.

Why isn’t life always ‘peaches and cream?’

Why would the Lord leave me with constant background fear? He says he will deliver me from them all.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. [Psalm 34:4]

Usually fears bubble away in the background, even as I pray. It’s only when the fear becomes acute that he delivers me. Maybe, because what is really valuable in life- faith, hope and love are all developed most thoroughly in the presence of challenging circumstances.

Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. [Psalm 34:5]

This radiance is in the presence of fear. With faith and hope, the presence of fear will not take away joy; there is confidence God will save the day.

Looking to God brings confidence that there will be no shame.

This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him… [Psalm 34:6-7]

We want to be well off. Yet the Lord hears the call out of poverty.

Who will the poor man fear? those who threaten him, or the Lord? People say, I had no choice. If I hadn’t, terrible things would have happened!  -meaning, I didn’t believe God would rescue.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. [Psalm 34:8]

Let’s wait for God, living out the faith, hope and love -the real treasures of life and see his blessings!

What is prosperity?

Many are drawn to a prosperity of money, sex, power and fame, gaining influence over others to get what they want. Yet if we get, someone else must lose. We leave a trail of hurting people. So, the prosperous-

… wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty. These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for! They scoff and speak only evil; in their pride they seek to crush others. [Psalm 73:5-8NLT]

Those who have surrendered their souls for this prosperity are-

… like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind. They will be condemned at the time of judgment. Sinners will have no place among the godly. [Psalm 1:4-5NLT]

God desires-

… this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, … [Galatians 5:22NLT]

Instead of a trail of hurting people, those who choose God’s prosperity leave behind a trail of love, joy and peace. Love will be tested by the offer of ‘prosperity’ so I need God’s love to stay true-

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked … But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees … bearing fruit each season. [Psalm 1:1-3NLT]

When I invest in God, he blesses with a prosperity that brings joy, not mere appearances attempting to suppress a churning heart. So, do I choose to aim for the prosperity that offers what ‘I want’ or that which leaves behind love and good fruit?

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?