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?
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.
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.
“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.
We desire to see the Lord’s fame go to the world, to see God yield His harvest.
Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us. God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him. (Psalm67:6-7)
This skips to the end of a process. It begins with –
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, (Psalm67;1)
Great! I want that too! When however, He chooses to answer at a time of His choosing, will I be ready to respond? When He wakes me at 3:00am am I willing to get out of bed and receive that blessing?
that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. (Psalm67:2)
I might think of this blessing as a purely personal thing between God and myself. Yet it is precisely such personal blessings that go out to bless His world.
People see and hear how the Lord has worked His ways in us. This demonstrates something living and practical. They are inspired to seek God too. People hear of how the Lord rescued us from challenging situations and they are emboldened to ask Him for their own.
He uses a ripple effect, throwing a pebble into the pond so the waves go out. The wave is with us for a short time, we forget and move on. The Lord however makes the fruit of that personal encounter persist into the lives of others, and beyond to people around them.
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.
What does it mean for a loved child of God to wear ‘the mantle of shame’? (Ps89:45) We live in a world that beats down our identity and threatens us. In our insecurity we accuse the world of doing this, but the Psalmist points to the Lord–
‘YOU have broken through all his walls and reduced his strongholds to ruins.’ (Ps89:40)
When we build up ‘Self Image’ we develop a destructive conceit the Lord challenges–
‘YOU put an end to his splendour and cast his throne to the ground’ (Ps89:44)
Do we have faith to acknowledge the reality God has us in- a church in disrepute where even leaders act in shameful ways? In past decades the Church presented itself as spotless. Now, when problems are evident, do we polish our image grasping for the once great splendour? Or can we embrace that the Lord has-
‘covered us with a mantle of shame’ (Ps89:45)
When the Lord gave me no ministry opportunities, it took courage and faith to answer the question, ‘What do you do?’ By saying, ‘Nothing beyond standing in God’s presence’. I could state this because I know the Lord values me for who I am, not for any ministry I do. Similarly, we can acknowledge this shameful place the Lord has us in when we are ready to believe that our value to Him is as His loved children, rather than the exterior image of our witness. Which do we value, the world’s view of us or God’s view?
These verses of Psalm 66 begin and end with something we desire: To overflow with praise at God’s abundance. The road to abundance however, runs through fires of refining.
11 You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. 12 You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water,
These fires might push us towards bitterness in our frustration. We question how the Lord can be glorified through such situations where the unrighteous are winning and our response is far from good.
10 For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver
The point of refining is to expose rubbish so that it can to be dealt with. Without heat, we imagine ourselves to be godly. Only when heat exposes poor character can we become aware of our need to ask the Lord for help to deal with issues that He was always aware of.
Often the way to refining is opened by a poor decision. It is a necessary step for without the refining we would be unable to appreciate or rest in the forthcoming abundance.
9 he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.
The Lord encourages us that He will preserve us. We may stumble, but the Lord keeps us from slipping. In this hope we can face the challenges that come our way with an assurance that He will bring us through to a place of abundance.