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.

Overcoming anger

I was overcome by fear and anger.  Someone had made a threatening comment and I was churned up inside. My mind would turn on this person and fight mental arguments.

I know that when I am in such a state, it would be unwise for me to open my mouth – bile would come out. The Lord’s approach is instructive. He does not enter the argument but calls me to His side.

Psalm 110:1 “The Lord says to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

He asks me to sit with Him in His presence and allow Him to deal with the issue. When I can contain myself to sit with Him, meditating on His Word and surrendering in prayer, He changes my perspective. He shows me that He is able to handle this person who would threaten His son. When I fail to sit with Him I enter the fray and descend to my opponent’s level.

I am reminded of a cat fight. Our cat had been chased in-doors through the cat-flap and was now facing the threatening cat with the flap between them. There was hissing and scratching at plastic. Neither understood that the cat-flap was programmed to admit only our cat so she was safe. Knowing our cat was upset and fearful, I picked her up and held her. While the other cat continued to hiss and paw at the cat-flap, ours looked into my face and quietly settled in my arms.

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

Downwardly mobile

We want to be associated with the rich, powerful and famous for through them we gain a foothold in their world and are elevated among our peers.

The ‘Great Banquet’ of Luke 14 expresses the betrayal felt by a host as each guest despises his invitation. Then, in a surprising turn, the host invites not the next best but those at the other end of the scale –

bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.

Perplexed, I re-read the chapter for clues. This parable was given in the context of a banquet.

12 Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’

There is the same phrase! Here, Jesus gives a reason for inviting outcasts – a reward in heaven. This reveals the Lord’s value system often declared by Jesus –

Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last. (Luke 13:30)

To surrender the race for the top, receiving those the Lord sends us is a sacrifice of love, doubly so to receive those who will disadvantage us before those we care about.

Who is a disciple of Jesus?

Who is a disciple of Jesus?  Jesus gave two key passages. The first –

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Often discipleship is measured by fulfilling our leaders’ agenda; attendance at meetings and serving on rotas. Jesus’ indicator is love. Disciples of people, take on their attributes. Jesus’ attribute is love.

If we target love, we identify its characteristics– patience, kindness, … and try to display them. But love is the fruit of discipleship. When roots are watered and the tree healthy, fruit comes.

Jesus directs us to a discipleship where we will be watered and strengthened. The second passage.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’ Luke 9:23

We follow Jesus who is love himself.

We can follow systems instead of Jesus. We become followers of a movement or church. Jesus challenges us to follow Him alone.

Jesus might present us with a cross. We believed Jesus was taking us one way when a crisis occurs requiring we are diverted from our ambitions and in love attend the crisis.

We are blocked by someone standing against Jesus’ leading. We have to choose to love Jesus over this person. Something dies inside giving space for love.

The complete Bible study on Who is a disciple of Jesus.

Nice encounters Love

Being nice has become a core value of our age. It is hard to argue against what superficially seems so good. Nice however is rooted in selfishness, with its fear of what people will think and its desire to be liked and gain influence over others.

An example of the difference between nice and love is seen at Jesus’ trial (John 18&19). Pilate has a choice between what his inner being tells him is right or giving in to what the voices of the self-righteous demand. It is a choice between the aspirations of the heart and the fear of hurting the feelings of influential people with the consequent loss of influence.

The contrast with Jesus’ love exposes the shallowness of ‘Nice’. Jesus knows Pilate is being driven by the manipulative forces of the religious leaders, yet He does not try to out manipulate Pilate. Rather, Jesus challenges him with a question that helps Pilate gain perspective. He goes on in love to risk His life by explaining himself with truth that leaves Pilate a clear picture of what is right.  Tragically Pilate gives in to evil.

Only when I trust the Sovereign Lord can I entertain love. He takes me beyond the immediate circumstances. He takes a stand with love, truth and righteousness and invites me to stand with Him. I can do so because I know He has my back.

Let’s despise niceness, this shrivelled and poverty stricken imitation of love and stand with God in truth and love.

Read the Bible study that inspired this Blog.

Nice or Kind?

I have often been ‘Mr Nice Guy’, yet niceness is not godliness. I read up on the difference between nice and kind and was shocked by how different these two words are, when most would consider them synonymous.

My reading suggested that ‘Nice’ has its origin in conflict avoidance and is worked out through fear and selfishness. Since ‘Nice’ avoids conflict it is subject to manipulation from anyone who forcefully demands what they want. Nice tries to arbitrate between factions, while failing to ask, ‘What is or is not acceptable?’

Kindness has its origin in the love of God. The love of God looks for peoples’ development into godliness and love. It recognises a person’s condition with compassion, but is not so patronising as to accept that state for the long term. Those who know God, recognise the grace of God is sufficient to draw us out of crisis and develop godliness and love.

When ‘Nice’ meets an unacceptable situation it avoids the pain of dealing with core issues by smoothing things over, dealing with surface emotions and condemning all involved to repeat the situation. ‘Kind’, in looking for love explores the real issues at a personal cost. ‘Kind’ is willing to be the ‘Bad Guy’, confronting with God’s Truth while looking for His grace, holding people to the best. We see this consistently when Jesus encounters challenging people in the gospels –

For the son of man came, not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45 NIV)

Jesus’ delight in us.

In our manufacturing age we have ordered life around what is productive and assume Jesus holds the same view. We may acknowledge that Jesus is passionate about us but we easily revert to a utilitarian view considering ourselves workers, valued for what we do.

In Song of Songs 4 the lover (Christ) passionately describes to the beloved (His people) how he sees her beauty.

1 How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves …

The first things the lover describes when recounting the beloved’s beauty are her eyes, and how they express peace. This delight in character is in stark contrast to our presumption that Jesus’ favour is gained through our acts of worship or output.

8 Come with me from Lebanon … from the lions’ dens

The lover appeals to her to leave her home in the dangerous wilds of the north to be with him. She is not in a place conducive to depth of relationship, yet needs encouragement and coaxing.

9 You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride.

If we accept we are deeply loved maybe we will be ready to leave our ‘fun’ culture for the intimacies Jesus delights in.

16 Awake north wind … blow on my garden that its fragrance may spread abroad.

The woman, aroused by the expressions of love, desires for her influence to be spread around. She does not loudly proclaim it, but asks the Spirit to blow, spreading the unseen fragrance of Christ.

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.

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.