Monday, August 19, 2013

Perspectives Part I: Defeating the Defeatist

I think that we sometimes believe that God has left us on earth and that we need to muster all our strength together just to survive.  Since He doesn't give us anything we cannot handle, we're pushed to the very limits of what we can handle. We think that it's hard to be victorious, but because Jesus is able to sympathize with our weakness we know He understands when we struggle through life's obstacles. This defeatist thinking is what keeps us in this place, unable to escape, unable to experience victory. "Hope deferred makes the heart sick" according to Proverbs 13:12.

This is not to say that it's not tough on earth, Jesus said, "If they persecuted Me, they will also, persecute you," (John 15:20) and Paul said the only reason He stayed on earth was to help save those who were on it. Paul described our stay on earth in this way, "We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; [9] persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— [10] always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body." (2 Corinthians 4:8) Through all of this, the life of Jesus is manifested in our mortal bodies. When the Peter and John received their first whipping from the Pharisees they we're filled with joy because they we're worthy of suffering for Christ. If they who suffered so much could rejoice and overcome, we should have no excuse.

"for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Rom 14:17) God's kingdom is one of joy and His kingdom is within us.

Our Provider

I am of the opinion that one of the biggest surprises we will have when we sit down face-to-face with Jesus just how much he cared and was involved in the intricate details of our daily lives. He cares so much for us that He designed for us not to be worried about food, drink, clothing or any of our essentials.

Meditate on these words from Jesus and think about His heart for you:
"Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? [26] “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? [27] “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? [28] “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; [29] “and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. [30] “Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? [31] “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ [32] “For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. [33] “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." (Mat 6:25-33) The only people on earth who need to worry about these details are the unbelievers and those of little faith.

The Father has deployed us here on earth for His good purpose and He has made provisions so that we are equipped for every good work, He has removed the obstacles so that we can focus on our eternal purpose.  I lead a small team of software developers and one of my primary objectives is to remove the impediments. I want to get rid of the little details that slow them down, eliminate the random day-to-day interruptions so that they can accomplish the purpose for which they were hired. God has done all this and more. He doesn't want us to focus on the distractions of this materialistic world, but on our mission. For this reason He says, "seek first them kingdom of God and His righteousness." God will bless us materialistically, but that's not our focus.

It is finished

Many years ago we experienced a major move of God in our church, which gave me a glimpse of what church should be like. Unity of the brethren, brotherly love, faith, righteousness, peace and joy seemed to overflow naturally. Things which are today a challenge were accomplished with no effort at all, in fact, it would have been more difficult to not have faith or brotherly love. Years after the revival had waned I found myself longing for another move of God, but to the extent that I had been deceived into thinking that without revival these truths and gifts would not be made manifest amongst us. While I still long for a revival because of how quickly and easily God's kingdom is established, I realize that I was 'stuck waiting'. Not having revival became for me an excuse for not seeing God's kingdom come. In this way I took some of what was my responsibility and shifted it to Him.  Truly, we need God to move, it is only through Him that His kingdom can come, but we have a responsibility. He has equipped us for every good work and we need to invest the resources He has given us rather than wait passively for God to move.

While I found myself 'stuck waiting,' the Holy Spirit whispered, "what more could Jesus have done?" I was dumbstruck. Here I was waiting for Jesus to do something so that I would bear fruit, when He has already done it all. In Jesus final moments on the cross, He declared, "it is finished," because it was. He had accomplished everything He was sent forth to do, everything so that we can be a holy nation and a royal priesthood, a people after God's own heart being transformed into the likeness of Christ.

"His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, [4] by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." (2 Peter 1:3-4)
  • Everything you need for this life is provided.
  • Everything you need to be godly has been provided.
  • Everything you need to be like Him has been provided.
  • Everything you need to escape the sins and corruption of the world has been provided.

A Glimpse of His Heart

How does Jesus really feel about you personally?  It's easy to lose perspective when we're in the midst of our day-to-day activity and when we're focused on God's correction and how we so often fall short, we don't often take the time to see things from His perspective.  Reading through the Israelites forty year journey in the wilderness one can't help but wonder if they'll ever learn. It seems to be one rebuke after another. Yet, when the Holy Spirit came upon Balaam from across the Jordan river, he spoke these words:
“The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor,
The utterance of the man whose eyes are opened,
[4] The utterance of him who hears the words of God,
Who sees the vision of the Almighty,
Who falls down, with eyes wide open:
[5] “How lovely are your tents, O Jacob!
Your dwellings, O Israel!
[6] Like valleys that stretch out,
Like gardens by the riverside,
Like aloes planted by the LORD,
Like cedars beside the waters."
Numbers 24:2
It was because of God's love that He disciplined them and it's because of His love that He disciplines us.  We need to take the time to see ourselves through His eyes, not in a prideful way, but in a way that brings Him praise and glory for the work He is doing through us individually and corporately.

Jesus said of His disciples, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled." (John 17:12) He took the utmost of care to ensure none of the disciples were lost and in the same way, He takes the utmost of care to ensure we are not lost.

Just before Jesus was crucified He said,  “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31)  Jesus warned Peter of what was probably his greatest trial and Jesus himself prayed for Peter that his faith should not fail.  How would our perspective change if we knew that Jesus himself was praying for us?  Jesus is praying for us, He is making intercession for us, He is praying that our faith should not fail and when we overcome, not if, but when we overcome we have increased our faith and are able to strengthen others and perhaps even keep them from the same trials.  Jesus is always redeeming and each and every trial even those that are the result of our own sins can be redeemed so that those scars become our glorified even as Jesus' scars became glorified.

Notice that Jesus warned Peter before it happened.  Jesus often told the disciples what was about to happen so that they would not stumble, "These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble." (John 16:1)

Jesus wants us to know the events of the future to the extent that we can bear them because these will help us not to stumble. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit who would tell us things to come.  "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come." (John 16:13)

I know no better way to end this article other than with the words of Paul:
"that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, [17] that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— [19] to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:16-19)

All scriptures are from the New King James bible.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Perspectives: Treacherous bow

Hosea 7:11 (NKJV)
Ephraim also is like a silly dove, without sense—
They call to Egypt,
They go to Assyria.

[12] Wherever they go, I will spread My net on them;
I will bring them down like birds of the air;
I will chastise them

According to what their congregation has heard.
[13] “Woe to them, for they have fled from Me!
Destruction to them,
Because they have transgressed against Me!
Though I redeemed them,
Yet they have spoken lies against Me.
[14] They did not cry out to Me with their heart
When they wailed upon their beds.

“They assemble together for grain and new wine,
They rebel against Me;
[15] Though I disciplined and strengthened their arms,
Yet they devise evil against Me;
[16] They return, but not to the Most High;
They are like a treacherous bow.

Their princes shall fall by the sword
For the cursings of their tongue.
This shall be their derision in the land of Egypt."

I think sometimes we just don't take the time to reflect on the depth and seriousness of what He has called us to.  We know that apart from Jesus, the vine we can do nothing and that performing miracles may still make us workers of lawlessness unless we as Jesus only do what we see the Father doing. When we do accomplish great things, our response should be that we are humble servants doing what our Master asked. Granted, He does want us to be friends so that we actually know what He is doing, but we can do His will without knowing what He's doing.

What God is doing is not just limited to us, God's plan is to fill the whole earth with His glory, that all the nations will be Jesus' inheritance. It's a grand plan of which we are part of.

When we go down to Egypt for supplies instead of coming to Him, when we have a plan B for our needs, we're the silly dove. The things that are going wrong in our life may not be Satan's assault, they may just be God's jealous love casting a net and bringing us down to return to Him. God disciplines those He loves, therefore repent from your sin so that He won't have to discipline you (Rev 3:19). We must come to a place where He is the only answer. God specifically told the Israelites that they would never return to Egypt where Egypt is symbolic of the world, it's governments, provisions and strength. When we were saved, we were told never to return to Egypt, never to depend on the world, never to rely on government, no we  lift up our eyes to the hills, but our help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 121).

We must also consider that when we fail to do this we don't just affect ourselves and our own faith, but others and their faith and we become a treacherous bow in God's hand. When God picks us up to accomplish a great work that will bring Him glory, His bow fails Him just as He needed it the most.

I think part of the reason we fail Him is because we don't learn to distinguish the word of the Lord. We must become His sheep that know His voice. It's hard to risk everything when we're not sure if it was Him who spoke to us.  The ancients would make sure it was God who spoke to them like Gideon when he laid out the fleece. When they knew it was God they put everything they had into His word.

Note: I am writing this, not as one who has arrived at these things, but as one whom the Lord is rebuking and encouraging, and I pray that through His word to me you also may be encouraged to love and good works.