Freedom from Slavery

Psalm 114 (Message)

After Israel left Egypt, the clan of Jacob left those barbarians behind;

Judah became holy land for him, Israel the place of holy rule.

Leaving the land of slavery, Israel became God’s holy people and the land the place of holy rule. This was a first step to their being made Holy.

This move from slavery to holiness is not a process we are good at. We lurch between slaveries. People who have encountered the Lord and been freed often develop a path through which others can find their freedom that is upheld legalistically.

The freedom described here is not gained through repeating steps in a plan, but calling out to the Lord for mercy and waiting for Him.

Sea took one look and ran the other way; River Jordan turned around and ran off.

The mountains turned playful and skipped like rams, the hills frolicked like spring lambs.

When the Lord intervenes, then nothing will be an obstacle to Him. Discussing this with someone from Africa he commented that, in the face of corrupt officials, if the Lord wants something to happen it will.  It may take longer, but the Lord will fulfil his word.

Tremble, Earth! You’re in the Lord’s presence! in the presence of Jacob’s God.

He turned the rock into a pool of cool water, turned flint into fresh spring water.

The transforming effect is not because of the skill of the people of Israel, it is because the presence of the Lord is there. The earth trembles when the Lord approaches.

 

The more complete Study of this passage can be found at –Freedom from Legalism

Spiritual emptiness

Why does the Lord take us through periods of spiritual emptiness? We long for intimacy in worship and the word, but encounter dryness.

This seems to be the experience of the Psalmist in Psalms 42&43 (combined as one).

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?

This seems blasphemy to a culture exalting intimacy with God. How could God distance Himself? Yet the Psalmist writes –

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night,while people say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’

When this spiritual emptiness is experienced there are consequences, a rawness to life. One is on edge and brought to the end of natural defences. One is tempted to fill up through satisfaction of physical senses that only scream louder.

In years gone by, the Psalmist may have believed in a ‘technique that worked.’ After gaining intimacy with God through such techniques and then losing it for no apparent reason one gains perspective that God is after more than experiences of wellbeing.

43:3 Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.

The break through comes not from our efforts but from the Lord. The Psalmist calls on the one who seems to have forgotten him, recognising that the Lord’s purpose is as much about character as the experience of His presence.

 

For greater detail see the study for the whole passage.

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.

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

Controversies and faith

The arguments I hold in my mind expose secondary issues that have supplanted my Father as the one to be worshipped.

In Psalm 76 the Father restores perspective.

2 …  his dwelling-place [is] in Zion. 3 There he broke the … weapons of war.

Going to Zion, God’s dwelling, we find different priorities, there He breaks my weapons – my simplistic arguments.

5 The valiant lie plundered … not one of the warriors can lift his hands.

If I allow the Lord to speak His perspective then he exposes these discussions, as pointless. He challenges me with the fact that He is not interested.

7 It is you alone who are to be feared. … 8 From heaven you pronounced judgment, and the land feared and was quiet –

It is God alone who is to be valued. When I fix on something lesser it becomes my idol. I am shocked when the Lord pours scorn on this thing. Yet when I let Him, I experience a wave of peace.

9 when you, God, rose up to judge, to save all the afflicted of the land.

These arguments have collateral damage. Hearts are poisoned when the arguments become the overriding issue of a Christian’s faith.

10 Surely your wrath against mankind brings you praise, and the survivors of your wrath are restrained.

When I allow my Father to divert me from my petty arguments I become a survivor of His wrath and I am restrained. I find myself at peace again in His presence.

 

You can see the original Bible study here

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.

Go with the King

The call to become a disciple of Jesus is a call to leave. We see this in Psalm 45 where the bride is called to forget that which has been precious to her and even defined her.

10 Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention:
    Forget your people and your father’s house.

As I go with my King I embrace a new future. This requires me to let go of my old life, however good it might have been. This might seem a betrayal, but it is essential. Jesus calls us, yet many are so stretched between a misguided duty of maintaining what has gone before, and desperation to take hold of what Jesus has ahead that neither is achieved.

11 Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;
    honour him, for he is your lord.

King Jesus is enthralled by me, yet will I let him? My poor self-image refuses to allow it. Yet if I allow that He is enthralled by me then I will be free to go with Him. As I receive His love, the love of His rivals will fade from my view.

13 All glorious is the princess within her chamber;
    her gown is interwoven with gold.

Those who allow Jesus to do this work in them become glorious and are clothed with Christ.

16 Your sons will take the place of your fathers;

you will make them princes throughout the land.

The fruit of a life with the King takes the place of our fathers. Our hearts are satisfied by what Jesus does.

For the complete study on Psalm 45 follow this link – Caught up with Christ  and go to the end.

Driven

When I am driven by a task I find myself clinging to the false hope that this next attempt will succeed. When it fails I jump immediately to the next attempt. There is no time for reflection and grappling with the big picture.

All this time there is someone watching over my shoulder who has all authority in heaven and earth. If I would only let go of my death grip ‘fix it mode’ and allow myself to be still in His presence. I might discover that His perspective and plans make the need for my drivenness evaporate.

As it is, we are even driven to ‘advance the Kingdom of God’! We are so convinced that we hold the keys, and just need to work out how to use them. In this we fail to respect Jesus. He is a person with dignity, not a tool to be used.

The final sentence of the great commission is,

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:20)

His intent is that life and ministry are opportunities to work together with Him, not things He pushes our way to get on with by ourselves. Let us let go of the drive to achieve and work with Jesus in this rich life He has with us, for He says,

‘take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for … my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ (Matt 11:28-30)

 

 

What do you want?

The Lord has been asking me, ‘What is it that you want?’ I am left struggling. In the past I have known clearly what I want, but those wants were focused on me. Even when they were focused on His kingdom, they reflected how I wanted His kingdom to come. Most of my desires and dreams are those my culture wants me to have. When I indulge them they give gratification, but emptiness in the soul. So I am left questioning, ‘What are the true desires of my heart?’

In my last blog I saw ‘the kings of the earth’ taking their stand against the Lord to free themselves from Him in order to gain what they want (Psalm 2). This way of independence from the source of life is folly.

Margaret Silf in ‘Landmarks’ makes the observation that the desires of our hearts were implanted by the Lord. As we walk with Him stilling our hearts from the clamour of what we think we want, we see things from His perspective. The desires of our hearts begin to surface. So a good start point is to ‘Kiss the Son’ and ‘take refuge in Him’ (Psalm 2) for these unite us with Him.

After years of walking with Him why have these desires of the heart not surfaced earlier? Because I have allowed myself to want what others want – ranging from ‘The advance of the Kingdom through ministry’ to the latest gadget, with its life expectancy of two years.

Freedom from whom?

Many think of freedom as ‘Free from’; free from those who limit us; free from the rules that stop us having what we want. So we blame those who rule over us for keeping us from our desires. In our age however there is such freedom that when we can’t get what we want, the only one we have left to rage against is God. In Psalm 2 we read, “Let us break off their chains.” One would imagine such a cry coming from people who are oppressed, but these words come from ‘The kings of the earth,’ those who are the freest to do as they choose!

In reality, our lack of freedom comes not from the Lord, but from ourselves. We lack the courage to look into our own hearts and acknowledge our failure, our lack of courage to do what is right, or the way we ensnare ourselves through our evil desires. These are the real origins of our chains.

The Lord’s response to the kings is to present them with truth: “I have installed my king on Zion.” Jesus has been installed as my King. If my life is lined up with the Lord and His King then this statement brings joy, peace and freedom for together we can do anything. If however, I am living for my own will, then I respond as the kings do with terror at the Lord’s rebuke. I am terrified by what the Lord might take from me.