Wait to receive joy

I am so concerned to show myself a responsible servant of Christ that I fail to receive the oil of joy which would give off the aroma of Christ, making His work plain to all.

The fruit of God’s work is intended to produce joy. In the Bible joy is experienced at the conclusion of a fruitful venture; bringing in the harvest or sharing the plunder of victory. Joy is developed through reflecting on the challenges God has overcome.

Psalm 45:7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.

The Lord anoints with joy after we, together, overcome my tendency to wickedness and choose righteousness.

Here I tend to stumble. I am so concerned to get to the next act of service that I do not wait to receive the anointing or enjoy the celebration with the Lord over our victory.

When this service, apparently in the name of Christ, drives me from the place of receiving His joy, it is exposed as being a fraud, more concerned for people’s approval than the approval of my King.

8 All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
from palaces adorned with ivory
the music of the strings makes you glad.

Curiously, this oil of joy holds the fragrance of Christ which would spread out to all around. My concern for a testimony compromises the most effective testimony.

Christ in us – Majesty

Our culture tries to smear us with shame for following Christ. Atheism’s angry voice dominates. I want to fit in, yet that means concealing the majesty the Lord has clothed me in, covering it with the clothing of the world. It takes faith and courage to be clothed in righteousness.

Psalm 45 expresses the Lord’s perspective.

V3 ‘ … Clothe yourself with splendour and majesty.’

How can we clothe ourselves in splendour if we have none? We do not understand that when we humble ourselves to show kindness to a child, we are clothed with splendour.

v4 In your majesty ride forth victoriously
in the cause of truth, humility and justice;
let your right hand achieve awesome deeds.

We think of majesty as the domain of the celebrities flaunting and exaggerating greatness. The Lord sees majesty when we humbly acknowledge the truth that outside of Him we are nothing; when instead of currying favour, we surrender our advantage to defend the oppressed. Others see foolishness, the Lord sees awesome deeds.

v8 All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; …

Lives transformed by Christ give off His aroma but we are not aware. Visitors to our home often mention it’s peace. To us, it is normal. Only those for whom it is not, notice the contrast.

We often despise ourselves, seeing nothing in our lives for the Lord to get excited about because we look through the world’s values. Christ however sees His glory being displayed.

 

For the detailed study see Caught up with Christ

 

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/

Sliding values

It seems that we so emphasis our relationship with God that we have forgotten who it is we are relating with. We have determined He will accept us no matter what we do, so we cease to care how we treat Him. As we drift, our teachers fall into moral sin, and cannot uphold God’s standard without being confronted by their hypocrisy. So, while we are singing, ‘We want more of you Lord Jesus,’ our Church is moving in the opposite direction.

Many millions on the web are searching on Jesus and the Bible. When it comes to moral issues, such as theft, lying or immorality, it is a couple of thousand at best and in the UK only a few hundred. In fact the tool that locates such search questions is struggling to come up with examples.

It seems that in the Church we have accepted the secular view that spirituality is fine so long as it does not interfere with the way you or others live. Nothing may stand in the way of personal enjoyment or experience. We demonstrate this acceptance through silence. We will not talk about the state of the Church. The older generation hope no one notices their little peccadillos; many of the younger generation are living in flagrant sin but few have noticed.

I am left with a disturbing question: When will the Lord, who knows this better than any, step in? How will He draw these unwelcome facts to our attention?

Torrent to come?

When I read of the collapse of God’s people in the last days of Israel before the Assyrian invasion, I am amazed that godliness could be wiped out in such a short time. Then I look at what has happened in the UK. Thirty years ago even an agnostic would know the basics of Christianity better than many Christians today. Many hide their faith in order to have freedom to ‘enjoy themselves’ without being troubled by conscience.

At times I have seen a Christian chose a path that pushes out God and the Lord has made that path the trial that brings them back to Himself. This process is seen in Isaiah 8:5-8 (Msg) “Because this people has turned its back on the gently flowing stream of Shiloah.” (the location of the Tabernacle). ‘And gotten all excited about Resin … I’m stepping in and facing them with the wild floodwaters of the Euphrates, the king of Assyria … sweeping everything before it, water up to your necks.’

The problem with such floodwaters is that they are indiscriminate, so the Lord is hesitant to send them. Yet Jesus says, ‘I will show you what he is like who hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When the flood came the torrent struck that house but could not shake it because it was well built.’ (Luke 6) So, if it comes, who will stand?

Asking questions of society

Are we answering questions people are not asking? The gap between those with theological training, and those without has become so great, and developed so quickly, that the spiritually mature can be unaware that their answers fail to meet the questions of the spiritually unaware.

Henry Nouwen’s ‘Reaching Out’ points out that a hospitable teacher will draw out and develop his pupil through asking questions and giving space for the pupil to express themselves.

Since our society abandoned any interest in Christianity long ago, it challenges us to explore the issues they are dealing with. Since our society is pretty much in a relationship train wreck, this would seem to be a sensible place to start asking questions.

A second point of Nouwen’s is that we can only hear the answers to the questions that we are aware of.

Many of our answers are about truth and righteousness. These are often thought of as divisive to a generation that craves good feelings, harmonious relationships and positive experiences. Of course, much of the Bible is about truth and a righteous life, this perspective however is only one of a number of ways in which the Lord addresses the human condition. For instance, Jesus also addresses our motivations for action. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus challenges ‘righteous’ actions performed out of selfishness. Maybe this is a more appropriate angle for a society totally committed to image, and a new self-righteousness bound up with politically correctness?

Response to abuse

How did Jesus respond to abuse? It seems He responded with an honest statement of the truth, often in the form of a question.

Take the betrayal of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. He asks Judas, ‘Do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’ No accusation was needed, no anger, rather He confronted his betrayer with truth.

Take the incident of the slap. John 18:22-23 ‘When Jesus said this, one of the officials near-by struck him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” He demanded. “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me.” Jesus does not justify himself; nor does He accuse his assailant, rather He confronts with truth through a question.

A spiritual leader is behaving badly and I am unsure how to deal with it. I was all for charging in on a white horse named Truth and Righteousness. Then I read in Psalm 45, alluding to Jesus, that he comes ‘on behalf of truth, humility and righteousness.’ (45:4) The attitude I was missing was humility. It is so easy to exchange righteousness for self-righteousness. The problem with self-righteousness is that it wants to stand over the other in order to force its own will.  There is nothing of this in Jesus’ responses. He seems more interested in helping the other person to understand himself and develop as a person towards righteousness, and so He exposes the truth behind the situation, while permitting the abuse to continue. What amazing love.

God’s goodnes vs our wickedness

The great drives that push me towards wickedness are my fears and my strong desires. The antidote is trusting the goodness of God.

Psalm 34:8-10 says: Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. … The lions may grow weak and hungry but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Many who know God would acknowledge this – especially when all is well. Life however throws objections. When we feel in need our fears question these words. When what we desire seems tantalisingly in reach we can find ourselves manipulating people; so wickedness is found in us. Yet God IS good and provides what is good! When I look back on times of crisis God’s faithfulness always shone through. The problem is with the appearances that trigger fear and strong desire as we look at an uncertain future.

On an extended overseas trip I went to a lot of trouble to have phone and internet access at a manageable cost. Half way through the trip the equipment failed. Now the challenge – I felt a lack but my drive to rectify the situation pushed my family aside. Could I accept God working for good in the failure? He knew what communication was needed and how much was driven by fear. When I let go of what I thought I needed, accepting a second rate solution, God in His goodness stepped in with unexpected answers that brought completeness. His goodness shone through.

Who are the wicked?

The wicked are generally lumped together as those bad people out there, but who are they really?

When I have a plan for another person  & a course of action to fulfil that plan. Then when I exercise control – The less I need God & The more I am  wicked.  (see study at end)

There are two angles I need to be concerned about:

The most disturbing  – I am wicked!  It was a shock when I realised that my plans to bring people into the kingdom of God were using manipulation and hence wickedness. I had a plan for people to grow in righteousness, and I tried my utmost to get them to follow that plan. I had forgotten God. The Lord has people on a process, and I am merely one interaction in that process. I must entrust people to God in prayer rather than thinking I am personally responsible for them. The fruit of my being wicked is either frustration when my plan fails, or pride if it succeeds. The fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control are marked by their absence.

The other angle is when I am the victim. When I feel I have no choice but to do what is being presented, then I am being manipulated by wickedness. I have somehow forgotten that God is bigger than the threats. I see an outcome as inevitable, but is it really? Is God not able to intervene to rescue? Whether God does intervene or not is down to Him. My doing wrong to avoid certain outcomes or gain others shows a lack of faith in God or love of God.

This is the end of the blog.  The remainder of the text is a study in Psalm 10 on the wicked for those who want more detail.

Psalm 10 describes the wicked.

Verse 2 introduces the idea. ‘In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak’. So, the wicked person is arrogant, thinking too much of their own capability and so depends on self, or those they can control. The target of the wicked is the weak, those who can be controlled through manipulation. The wicked manipulator will probe a person to find their weakness, the button that will work on them.  When discovered they move to the second part of Verse 2 – ‘who are caught in the schemes he devises.’ A plan is worked out that will force this person into the scheme chosen by the wicked.

Psalm 10v3-6 describes the heart of the wicked person.

V3 ‘he boasts of the cravings of his heart.’ So, they have a heart’s desire. The end result where they want people to arrive. The worse the wickedness, the more obviously this end is the person’s personal desires. This end may appear good. I have been guilty of using manipulation to press people towards God and His righteousness. However benign the outcome, looking beneath the surface one sees the outcome is about self. There is a hidden, secret motive: these people are righteous because of me, or even worse: for my glory.

Psalm 10:7-8 describes the methods of the wicked.

‘His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats.’ The wicked manipulator threatens terrible things if their scheme is not followed. and they promise the world as they set out a vision of what will happen when their scheme is followed. These promises are lies, for the manipulator cannot guarantee what is promised.

Psalm 10:9-11 The victims of this abuse are the helpless.

The victims are typically those who crave the same things as the wicked person and so can most easily be drawn in by what is promised, or they are the weak who see no way of surviving the threats if they do not go down the wicked persons course of action. When a person falls victim, they are caught in the net of the wicked and dragged off to do the will of the wicked.

‘God has forgotten.’ In such cases God is forgotten both by the wicked and by the victim.  Perversely, God may be invoked and prayed to, but always to help bring about the scheme.  There is little sense of surrender to the will of God.

V12-18 The Lord at some point intervenes to rescue the weak.

‘But you O God, do see trouble and grief … The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.’ So, the Lord sees what is going on as events expose the hearts of both the wicked and the victims. ‘The Lord is King forever and ever … defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.’