God’s Dwelling

“For the Lord has chosen Zion, He has desired it for His dwelling.” Psalm 132:13

I desire to live with Christ. Here however, the Lord desires my heart for the dwelling He has chosen. This begs the question, “What kind of dwelling does He come to?”

The answer has developed –

When first a Christian, after enduring 5 minutes embarrassed silence with God, not really knowing what to say, time was up.

Then I met John. He opened the Psalms and showed me the delights of digging deeper in Bible study. Now when the Lord came, I would take Him into the sitting room. We would face each other and converse somewhat formally about Him – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. I would tell Him about what I had learned and He would show me who He is.

Then I lived in a full on student ministry community. I wonder if the Lord’s encounters with me were like a military briefing room. After the usual pleasantries we would get down to the business of the day, how each person was doing and how the Lord could help their development.

Then the Lord revealed that I was trying to use Him to gain what I wanted. He does not behave this way. He loves us. Thus I began seeking God for His own sake rather than mine. Now we sit and reflect on life from many different angles. We are comfortable with one another. What He reveals overflows into prayer for others. I hope He enjoys our time as I do.

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

Live for eternity

Jesus’ unearths His followers’ motives following the feeding of the 5000 because it is here that the eternal value of what someone does is seen.

‘Very truly I tell you, 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 to people as a miracle and seeing signs? They were the same event! The difference is in the focus. If I am looking for Jesus because I ate the bread and had my fill, then the focus is on me. If the focus is on Jesus, then I am looking for Him in order to worship Him. Jesus’ statement asks questions about my direction and focus in life –

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’ John 6:27

In our materialistic age I can be caught up with what is ultimately material, even if it seems spiritual. Paul identified Faith, hope and love as the three that persist. (1 Corinthians 13:13) Jesus asks questions of our motives too. Seeing our lives through the lens of ‘faith, hope and love’ helps us see if we are trying to use Him to get what we want out of life or whether we are working for the food that endures to eternal life.

 

See a more complete study 

Freedom

Our society exalts freedom, but what does it mean to be free? Tozer makes the point that ‘there cannot be two absolutely free beings in the universe, for sooner or later two completely free wills must collide.1’ Our western secular culture prides itself in giving people freedom. It exalts the values it has worked out through taking what is Christian and stripping out Christ. Perversely it finds it has to impose this freedom through a system that is increasingly patronising and intolerant. The thing that ties our freedom in knots and forces us to defend ourselves from everyone else’s freedom is our culture’s slide into self-indulgence – the very fruit of the freedom it exalts.

Jesus offers us freedom from a different source. He said, ‘If you hold to my teaching you are truly my disciples, then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’2 Jesus summarised His teaching: ‘Love the Lord your God’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’3 Freedom is found not in self-indulgence which lifts up ME, but in a relationship of love with Jesus and the people He has set us among. Through love we will know the Truth- and Jesus is the truth4. This is not knowledge that we take and control, it is knowing the King of the universe who loves us and receives us. As we live with Him, He leads us into a deep freedom that is independent of circumstances – even in Auschwitz or the body of a paraplegic!

 

  1. The Knowledge of the Holy
  2. John 8:31-32
  3. Matthew 22:37-40
  4. John 14:6

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.

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

Prostitution rejected

Many imagine that our Lord has no interest in our lives outside of a personal relationship with Him, as if we lived in a spiritual bubble. Hosea 9 challenges the upbeat perspective of God’s people. In today’s terms, there is something wrong and Hosea calls on people to confront their own prostitution.

Today, our prostitution runs deep, but is largely unaddressed. Where niceness is lifted up as if it were godliness, we steer clear of unpalatable truths. This leaves us with an open goal to the accusation of hypocrisy.  Our prostitution has many guises. Here are a couple:

On the physical side there is considerable sexual immorality in the church. This is most widespread  in the private world of internet pornography, yet physically as well in a culture where one is considered weird if one has a friend but are not going to bed together. Our Christian culture has adopted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” stance as if what happens behind closed doors is of no interest to our Father in heaven.

On the spiritual side we have so elevated numbers that we can end up using spirituality to gain a following. We can become more concerned with our following than with our Lord. So, we can become spiritual prostitutes, using what the Lord has given us to gain influence over other people. Even in this blog I constantly return to the fact that I write for an audience of One.

For the Bible study see – http://biblebase2adaringfaith.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/idolaters-rejected/

God’s persistent training

Our amazing God is faithful where I am unfaithful.

Having grown up in a culture concerned about right and wrong, it is easy to become caught up with a list of dos and don’ts. In Psalm 78 Israel’s failure is put differently. Rather than speaking of breaking laws, the psalmist speaks of disloyalty and unfaithfulness; terms important to relationship. Reading the Psalm in this light I see a pattern: Israel failed to grasp the greatness of God and were unwilling to entrust themselves completely to His care. They broke faith with Him creating their own solutions and even their own gods. It also speaks of our Lord’s persistence in pursuing Israel to draw them back to Himself.

When I put my life against this bar I do not come out well. For instance there have been times when words have come to mind that could challenge someone’s headlong drive towards folly that was later regretted. To my shame I have kept them to myself. It is a bit like “the men of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned back on the day of battle.” (v9). Seen through the relational covenant lens, I betrayed God when I failed to deliver and give this child of His an opportunity to hear another perspective.

I look at my failures and wonder how God could trust me again. What I actually see Him doing though is training me in less challenging situations. Seeing these lessons gives hope that He can teach and change me.