Free?

What does it look like to be spiritually free?

“Long ago my people chose to live in Egypt. Now they are oppressed by Assyria. … But I will reveal my name to my people, and they will come to know its power.”

Isaiah 52v4-6

The choices we make can leave us in emotional cul-de-sacs. Life situations can oppress us. It is from these places that the Lord can reveal his power in our lives!

Wake up, wake up, O Zion! Clothe yourself with strength. Put on your beautiful clothes, O holy city of Jerusalem … Sit in a place of honor. Remove the chains of slavery from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

Isaiah 52v1-2

It is while we are captive to circumstances that the Lord tells us to wake up and clothe ourselves with strength. We are asked to clothe ourselves with his beautiful character of love seen through joy, peace, patience, kindness and the like.

When we can live like this by the power of God in us, whatever the circumstances, then we are demonstrating freedom in Christ. Then his name is revealed and we see his power.

.

.

Photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

Facing Challenges

With new challenges it is encouraging that the Lord has been preparing me for them.

Praise the Lord, who is my rock. He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle.

Psalm 144v1

We might not welcome the challenge ahead, but without it, the skills he has developed in us will never be fully realised.

He is my loving ally and my fortress … my rescuer … and I take refuge in him

Psalm 144v2

I can go forward without fear knowing that he will keep me safe.

Open the heavens, Lord, and come down. Touch the mountains so they billow smoke.

Psalm 144v5

When the Lord acts we can be disturbed. Yet, our response is to pray, and this prayer is not without effect.

I will sing a new song to you, O God! I will sing your praises with a ten-stringed harp.

Psalm 144v9

Seeing him do new things, we worship him with a new song.

May our sons flourish in their youth like well-nurtured plants. May our daughters be like graceful pillars, carved to beautify a palace.

Psalm 144v12

Then, after patient endurance, we look back and see the fruit of his work with joy.

.

.

Photo by Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash

What trail do I leave?

What is the trail we leave behind? Is it of love, zeal or complacency? In our pursuit of Jesus we fall into traps.

After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?

Galatians 3:3

I run ahead of Jesus. I presume that by following spiritual exercises we developed together, I will be with him. Likewise, I put myself under the obligations that seemingly are godliness. When I run ahead of Jesus these become idols characterised by zeal or complacency.

“Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

Galatians3:6

Remember Abraham. He had none of our spiritualities or obligations. He trusted his Lord and lived out what was shown. Though he stumbled God met him and led him into what was important though faith.

when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.

Galatians 5:6

When Jesus is the centre, he leads us into love. When we are living with him and not running ahead there will be a trail of love. This trail is characterised by joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness …

.

.

Photo by Martin Adams 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?

.

.

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?

God’s power

Crises ask, ‘Do I believe God for his goodness and power?’ Feeling powerless challenges my attitudes both to God and to what I want from him.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3-NIV)

The constraint on God’s power is not in God, nor my ability to summon power, but in my knowledge of him. When I am willing to be developed, he provides a crisis where I am confronted with a Jesus I do not know. Am I willing to trust him for situations beyond my experience of him?

We see this in the interactions Jesus had around his miracles. He discusses with the person what they believed about him. It would seem he does not allow the person to be a passive recipient of God’s grace, He challenges them to stretch out and risk their understanding of God’s goodness.

The next verse points out the eternal significance

 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:4 NIV)

Power is not merely to fix our situation. It transforms us as we work out his purposes together. He wants us to know him and trust him so that we can release the corrupting drives that fester within.

Faith for long haul

When faith is tested we like immediate vindication. Sometimes faith leads into a lifelong process. Take Noah, he was given a significant challenge –

 “Build a large boat from cypress wood … Make the boat 450 feet long…” (Genesis 6:14-15NLT)

This was to be the world’s largest ship till Brunel built the SS Great Eastern in 1858!

When building something normal, techniques exist. Noah would have to make up construction techniques as he went along. How many times did he start again because the logs were too weak to sustain the weight?

How was Noah’s faith sustained through a hundred years of building? How many times did he quit? How many years did the construction lie dormant? Yet ultimately –

So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him. (Genesis 6:22NLT)

What hope in that commendation!

What sustained Noah for 100years of ridicule, building this huge structure at vast expense? With no external vindication we often begin to doubt. Did God really say …? There was no creeping destruction for validation.

Two promises sustained him.

“Look! I am about to cover the earth with a flood that will destroy every living thing that breathes. Everything on earth will die.  But I will confirm my covenant with you. So enter the boat—you and your wife and your sons and their wives.  (Genesis 6:17-18NLT)

A coming judgement and a covenant relationship with God. May we too have faith to live to the end the life God sets before us.

God far away

I was awakened each night to pray leaving only a couple of hours sleep.  I became sick, losing weeks to poor health.

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. (Psalm 38:1-NIV)

I asked the Lord, ‘Why am I being persecuted?’  He showed me it was a rebuke.

Your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down on me. Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; … (Psalm 38:2-4-NIV)

I tried defending myself by going to bed earlier, but I awakened even earlier. Finally, I saw the issue:  I was defending myself from God.

My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly … I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. (Psalm 38:5-8-NIV)

I had become resentful. It was not as if these were good times of prayer.  Was it worth the pain? Yet who am I to tell God what is productive or good?

All my longings lie open before you, … my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. (Psalm 38:9-10-NIV)

The light was going from my eyes with the frustration of standing in God’s presence and nothing seemingly happening. It felt a waste of time.

Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God. Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Saviour. (Psalm 38:21-22-NIV)

All I could do was call on God for help that this season would pass – as it did following these realisations.

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.