Live the Truth

Only when we understand Jesus, do we understand life, for He defines it. When we understand Him we are aligned with the One who is the Life.

Jesus was challenged over the validity of his teaching.

 “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”  (John 8:13)

His defence was curious. His basis for validity was-

I know where I came from and where I am going. (John 8:14)

It would seem this implies that when I want to be sure of my validity, I need to know where I come from and where I am going. The person who understands such things often appears secure in relationships and free. Yet, Jesus’ statement about the Pharisees holds me back.  He says –

“But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going.” (Jn8:15)

The implication is that the focus is not on our own identity, where we come from or where we are going, but on Jesus’ identity.

My testimony is validated as my life becomes more aligned with the Jesus the Way and the Truth and the Life. This alignment occurs as I grow to know Him through making the choices in life that He leads me into and empowers me for through His Spirit. Taking these choices requires a security and freedom not in my own identity, but founded on Jesus love and life.

A more detailed study can be found at Biblebase2AdaringFaith

What do we value?

Our culture has only one question to determine value – “Does it work?” Jesus takes a different view. After feeding the 5000 He leaves.  Most would have continued the ministry. When the people find Him, He challenges their motives –

  ‘… you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.  (John 6:26)

What is the difference between eating bread that came as a miracle and seeing signs? The difference is in the focus. If I look for Jesus because I ate, then I am looking for myself and the focus is on me. If I look because I saw miraculous signs my focus is on Christ and I am looking to worship Him.

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.’ (John 6:27)

This focus is seen in our relationship with God. If the focus of my spirituality is on what works, then it is subject to men’s evaluation which inevitably is temporary and ultimately spoils. The fruit Jesus is looking for is the fruit of lives changed by faith. Faith is proven through trust even when things don’t seem to be working –

‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’ (John 6:29)

Are we able to trust Jesus in how He directs rather than try to use Him to get what we want? This is food that endures to eternal life.

 

A fuller study

Christmas without limits?

Christmas is often expressed as a time to live without limits. John the Baptist challenges our generation with its rejection of boundaries. We don’t think to ask “Who has God made me to be?” but rather, “What could I make of myself?” John the Baptist knew who he wasn’t.

He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ John 1:19-20

God had shown John who he was, and he was content with that –

 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Make straight the way for the Lord.”’ John1:23

In our society it never occurs to us that there could be a limit. We want the biggest, the best, the most, … Christians have christened this value to become: Having the biggest church, Having a strategy that will take the world for Jesus Christ, … Another name for this value is greed and with spiritual clothes it becomes spiritual greed.

The godly value that opposes greed is contentment. Paul writes

“Godliness with contentment is great gain” 1 Timothy6:6

John the Baptist did not go to the crowds in Jerusalem, but risked all on the passage the Lord had given him. He went to the wilderness. John was content to depend on God to fulfil the ministry He intended.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:6

Am I willing to receive the delightful inheritance God has given me with its boundaries?

What counts?

How poorly I appreciate the unseen work of Christ. I recently organised a conference. There was a sense of God at work, one person even said it was the best conference they had ever been to. Yet looking back I experience frustration that only half the expected number turned up.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

Looking for visible impact I slip away from Christ. In Portugal He spent six years showing me numbers were irrelevant. How easy to revert to type after returning to a culture fixated with measurables. This road leads to a pressure to justify cost effectiveness where the desire to impress, or merely justify, leads to abuse of those entrusted to me. It won’t be through circumcision, but elevating what is secondary and what is elevated becomes idolatrous and abusive. In Paul’s day it was all about bringing people into Judaism; he writes,

Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. (Galatians 6:12)

Such abuse is to no avail, for what counts is the transformation that only Christ sees.

15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.

I live in a world where what is counted is supreme so, being human, I will struggle! However, I trust Jesus who promises –

16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule – to the Israel of God.

 

The background study can be found in ‘Circumcision for now

Trustworthy to Jesus?

The Lord loves us but he does not entrust himself to us.

But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. John 2:24 (NIV)

We see this in Jesus’ relationship with his disciples. They were with him wherever they went, yet he did not entrust himself even to his closest disciples. Consider James and John, two of the closest. There is the time they want to call down fire on a village for not having received Jesus or the time they ask for a place on His left and right in heaven. Though they had asked,

We want you to do for us whatever we ask, Mark 10:35

Jesus had not entrusted himself to them. He was free to do what was right.

When people are being emotionally abusive we need to keep our emotional distance. This is hard when they are friends or family. When Jesus would not entrust himself he was protecting himself from those he was closest to, and yet could not trust to act honourably.

This principle extends to the Lord’s relationship with us. I too can be abusive in the way I relate to Him. I call myself His friend but then presume on him with demands that do not reflect His love. The Lord will of course be gracious to me, but will not entrust himself to me while he knows this is in me. I am challenged to relate to my Father in love, respecting and trusting Him, so that He can extend deeper friendship to me.

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?’

 

Simply Jesus

‘Simply Jesus’

is a great phrase to help us keep perspective when things become complicated.

We need care, there are those for whom the words are a mere bumper sticker. They have heard some Christian leader say the phrase and are convinced this is the totality of the Christian life. Safe in this knowledge, they live life their own way while using the phrase ‘Simply Jesus’ to ward off teaching that might be getting close to their heart or demand any more of them.

One believes the one who proclaims ‘Simply Jesus’ to the extent they have allowed Jesus to penetrate their heart. So when a Christian, two weeks in the faith, gives out wrist bands saying ‘What would Jesus do?’ there is confidence that this person has met with Jesus, and this is a real expression of their journey.  When this is the extent of life and witness for someone who has been twenty years in the faith, one suspects something is missing. On the other hand, when someone who has walked with Jesus for the last twenty years introduces this perspective into a discussion that is becoming complex or stratospheric then it can be a helpful reality check.

‘Simply Jesus’ can bring resolution. For example when Jesus said,

‘Give to God what belongs to God, and to Caesar what belongs to Caesar’

He shifted focus from money to the scope of claims for authority from God and man. When finding balance between extremes, shifting our view up to bring in Jesus often brings resolution.

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.

Two forms of discipleship

Recently it has dawned on me that there are two approaches to discipleship in the Scriptures.

In the Navigators we use the apostolic form of Jesus. This approach focuses on someone willing to follow as an apprentice. In Jesus’ ministry this required leaving behind home comforts and responsibilities to follow. ‘Leaving’ creates space in life for learning.

Many churches use Ephesians 4, where the Lord gives gifts for building the Church. Gifts and people are brought into the Church for the sake of building it up. The focus is on developing the community.

These approaches come with strengths and weaknesses.

The Ephesians 4 approach gives opportunity for a range of gifts. The community stays together, looking after the weakest. It is naturally pastoral. Since it is building itself up it has difficulty releasing people to minister beyond its own scope. It has a hard time developing leadership since this focuses on individuals not the community.

Jesus’ apostolic approach goes to people so it is naturally outward looking. It takes ministry into the world beyond the community. It develops those willing to go with the apostle, valuing the apprentice who is faithful, available and teachable. This approach develops leaders but can leave people behind.

All groups apply a mix of these approaches. Pastoral ministries extend apostolically and apostolic ministries care pastorally. However, the opposite form is like a right handed person writing left handed. Most churches have to send people away for development, most Navigators struggle with care for the weakest.