Monthly Archives: January 2013
Kingdom of Light
Reading: Colossians 1
Tags: light, dominion, kingdom of light, kingdom of God, truth, darkness, inheritance
…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:12-14 (NIV)
I have been rescued from the dominion (the sovereignty or control; the supreme and independent power or authority) of darkness (the partial or total absence of light). The problem with darkness is that it prevents me seeing. When there is darkness, I can be controlled by something that I can't see, and remain completely unaware of it. Not until light is introduced do I begin to see things as they really are. In effect, light reveals truth.
I had to be rescued from the dominion of darkness because I had no way of escaping it myself. And who was it that rescued me? God. He didn't just “turn on the light” to show me the true state of things. He rescued me from the sovereignty and control of Satan and brought me into the wonderful kingdom of light – the kingdom of the Son he loves.
Application and Prayer
One day, I will experience the full glory of the kingdom of light. It is something I look forward to with incredible excitement and anticipation. But Father, until that day I ask that you would fill me with your light, and keep filling me, revealing and dispelling the darkness that still remains in my heart. May no untruth darken my thinking, and no work of the evil one remain hidden and active in my life.
Even at this moment Holy Spirit, is there any darkness in me that you would bring to light?
Lord, I pray too that would you fill me with light not just for my benefit, but that others may see the light of truth in me. I don't want to be hidden or inconspicuous, like a lamp hidden under a bowl. Rather, may the treasure in me shine for all to see, and others come to know you and be qualified themselves “to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”
Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O Lord, you preserve both man and beast. How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. Psalm 36:5-9 (NIV)
See also, Radiant!
Anakites?! Big gnarly inconvenient obstacles… (mutter, mutter)
Reading: Joshua 15-20
In accordance with the Lord’s command to him, Joshua gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh a portion in Judah—Kiriath Arba, that is, Hebron. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.) From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites—Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai—descendants of Anak. Joshua 15:13-14 (NIV)
Joshua: Well, here's your promised inheritance Caleb – Kiriath Arba. The land is yours. Oh, and by the way, it comes with a few Anakites…
Caleb: No worries, Joshua, I'll sort them out.
And so he does. Caleb had been promised this forty five years earlier after spying out the land with eleven others. Only he and Joshua had believed that with God they could take the land. “So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’” Joshua 14:9
Finally the time had arrived to claim that inheritance. “Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day,” says Caleb to Joshua. “You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” Joshua 14:12
Caleb sure had spirit, even at a young 85. As far as he was concerned, the promise had been made, the land was his, and nothing was going to stand in the way of him claiming it for his own.
It strikes me that the promises of God often seem to come with “Anakites”. I wish that wasn't the case – I don't like big gnarly inconvenient obstacles parked all over my driveway. When I read in Isaiah 61 (for example) of those things that Jesus won for me at the cross, and then look at my actual situation (and those of others), it's clear that there are still a few gnarly old Anakites out there. Some of what has been promised to me through Jesus I have yet to claim. And I see others weighed down with burdens that, with his life, Jesus paid to remove.
Caleb is my teacher today. First and foremost, he took God at his word. Secondly, having spied out the land years earlier, he knew what had been promised to him, and had a clear picture of this in his mind. I too need to become completely familiar with God's promises, and then set about claiming those promises with the same spirit that Caleb had – one of faith and determination.
Thirdly, it's clear that although Caleb didn't focus on the Anakites, he did deal with them. As I deal with the “Anakites” in my life, and help others to deal with theirs, prayer is so vital, along with worship and time in the Word. By myself, I actually can't use these things, but with the ever-present help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, they are powerful in my hands. “The Lord helping me, I will drive [the Anakites] out just as he said.”
God my Father, I pray for the faith and courage of Caleb. Help me Lord to truly be a man of prayer, and to take real action as I claim what you have promised me. As I spend time walking and talking with you, as I converse with you during the moments of my day, and as I talk and pray with others, may “your kingdom come, Lord; and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
See also Walking in Authority and To Him Who Overcomes…
Apart From You, I Shall Do Nothing!
Reading: Jeremiah 23:9 – 35
We have obeyed everything our forefather Jonadab son of Recab commanded us. Neither we nor our wives nor our sons and daughters have ever drunk wine or built houses to live in or had vineyards, fields or crops. We have lived in tents and have fully obeyed everything our forefather Jonadab commanded us. Jeremiah 35:8-10 (NIV)
Jonadab had commanded his family never to drink wine, and not to settle but instead to live as nomads. “Then you will live a long time in the land where you are nomads.” (Jeremiah 35:7). Since the time that promise was made, “The descendants of Jonadab son of Recab [had continued to carry] out the command their forefather gave them…” (35:16). They believed the promise, held firmly to it, and met the conditions attached to ensure it continued to be fulfilled.
A Promise: A declaration that something will (or will not) be done or given; an express assurance on which expectation is to be based.
God brought this particular family to Jeremiah and held them up as an example of how all the people of the land should have responded to God's promises and the commands that accompanied them.
The promise that comes immediately to mind for me is one that Jesus makes:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (NIV)
The promise is that I will bear much fruit. But what is the condition? “Remain in me”. The last phrase particularly stands out: “Apart from me you can do nothing.” In other words, anything that I do “apart” from Jesus (separately; without involving him; on my own) will be fruitless, and not worth the time or effort spent on it.
The opposite of 'apart from' is 'together with'. In using the example of a branch connected to a vine, Jesus is describing a continuous and unbroken togetherness. This is the relationship he wants with me, and my fruitfulness is conditional upon it. There is no “apartness” in the equation; instead there is a continual conversation of prayer. In 1Thessalonians 5:17, Paul describes it in two words : “Pray continually.”
I resolve, with the Spirit's help, to bring everything to God in prayer: To bring him every need, to thank him for even the smallest blessings, to make every job whether big or small an offering of service to him, to seek his guidance and be always listening and ready to respond to his voice, and to enjoy the constant presence of the Holy Spirit in me.
Jesus, I thank you for this wonderful promise in John 15:5. You say to me, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” And so I ask for your grace as I make this declaration: “Apart from you, I shall do nothing.” May this become a motto for me. Please help me to do my part in developing that continuous and unbroken togetherness you seek, and may everything I do be done in your strength and your grace.
See also Walking in “Promise Land”
Goodness Can Be Stored!
Reading: Luke 5:17 – 6:49
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognised by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers.
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:43-45 (NIV)
I am intrigued by the idea that goodness can be “stored up”. Jesus tells me here that “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart…” God also “stores up goodness” as seen in Psalm 31:19 (NIV): “How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you.”
Goodness: The state or quality of being good; moral excellence; the beneficial or nourishing element of something; kindly feeling; generosity; essence; the best part of anything.
What an amazing thought, that God has stored up “the best part” for me! He knows exactly what I need and what delights me, and has something beneficial and nourishing ready to give me at just the right moment. And he has placed in me this same capacity to store up goodness, ready to share “at just the right moment” with the people he would lead me to. What a privilege, to be like God!
Goodness is the fruit of the Holy Spirit's presence and work in my life as I submit myself daily to him. If goodness can be stored, I'd like my cupboards to be large! And the more often I can empty them by bestowing goodness on others, the more often God can fill them afresh. He never runs out of goodness.
Best there be a door not just on the front of the cupboard, but also on the back, for “inward goods”. Or better still, let's just make that an open hatch! And whenever I find myself on the receiving end of a particular blessing from God, whether that be a financial blessing, or a 'happy turn of events', or an answer to prayer, my first reaction after giving thinks to him can be to intentionally look for some way to share the blessing of God's goodness with someone else. Goodness in, goodness out.
Lord God, you have been so good to me. I love the idea of being able to share your goodness with others. Please continue to renew my heart that I might be a good man, and enlarge my capacity to be able to receive and share your goodness. I look not to my own supply channels but to you for all I need. And I pray that you would indeed bestow your goodness on me “in the sight of men”, that all may see what a good and gracious God you are.
See also, Before eBay or TradeMe, there was God…
God’s Provision for Me
Reading: Leviticus 17-25
But you might ask, ‘What will we eat during the seventh year, since we are not allowed to plant or harvest crops that year?’ Be assured that I will send my blessing for you in the sixth year, so the land will produce a crop large enough for three years.
When you plant your fields in the eighth year, you will still be eating from the large crop of the sixth year. In fact, you will still be eating from that large crop when the new crop is harvested in the ninth year. Leviticus 25:20-22 (NLT)
Under the Law God gave to Moses, every seventh year was to be a “Sabbath Year”, a chance for the ground to have a rest, and the people too. They were to plant no crops, and were to leave their vines unpruned. And to make sure his people could enjoy and make the most of this year of relative ease, God promised that he would give them a bumper crop the year before.
There was a condition: “Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land. Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and live there in safety.” Leviticus 17:18-19
God is good. He knows what I need. He knows my physical needs, my emotional needs, and my spiritual needs, and he makes provision for all these things. My part is simply to trust him.
Though I don't live under the Law of Moses but rather by faith in Jesus, the principle of the sabbath is just as applicable now as it always was. To set time aside to honour God and focus my thoughts on him whilst resting and being refreshed – this is a wonderful way to experience fully the goodness of God and his purposes for my life. How can I not have time for this?
“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:3-5).
And Jesus tells me, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33).
Lord God, the more I contemplate your purposes for the sabbath, the more I see your love and concern, and the goodness you have for me as I trust you. I don't want to miss out on any of that goodness by doing things my own way, and trusting in my own efforts instead of your grace. You know me completely, and so I look to you for all that I need, that you would bless me and care for me.
I love the way that the Holy Spirit is able to speak to me from the Word of God, even from books like Leviticus! If you are needing some tips and ideas to help you read and enjoy the Bible yourself, you might like to check out the following pages on this blog: The Bible: Where Do I Start? and What is SOAP?
The Fine Art of Listening
Reading: Psalms 112-116
I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. Psalm 116:1-3 (NIV)
“Because he turned his ear to me…” Two pictures come to mind as I consider the remarkable thought of God turning his ear to me. The first is of a man walking down a road who suddenly stops and kneels down with his ear to the ground to listen to an ant.
The second is of a person who, in the midst of a noisy crowded room, picks out the voice of one particular person and ignores all the other voices so as to focus on what this person has to say.
It is clear from the psalmist's words that God didn't just 'notice' him, but that he showed concern for him in his distress, responding with compassion and grace. And the psalmist's response? Devotion. “Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.”
This is yet another reminder of God's love not just for the human race, but for me! He loves me, and one of the ways he expresses that love is by listening to me. He values what I have to say, which means he values me!
Nothing is so big or so small that I can't talk with him about it. Paul tells me to “Pray continually.” (1Thess 5:17). In Philippians 4:6 he says, “Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (NLT)
But there is more here. Listening is a way that I too can express my love, both for God as I meditate on his Word and seek his voice in prayer, and for others as I take a genuine interest in what they have to say and how they feel about it.
Thank you Lord that you not only welcome open communication with me but you seek it. I don't want to miss any opportunity to commune with you, but I need your help. Please open my ears to hear you more clearly, and teach me as I practice with you the fine art of listening.
See also When Your Words Come
The World’s Most Astonishing Drama
The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
so he got up from the meal, took off his kouter clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:2-5 (NIV)
The drama described here at the “pointy end” of John's gospel is like theatre. The scene is set. Judas, the yet to be revealed “villain”, is ready to make his move, but only Jesus, the central character, knows exactly how the drama is going to unfold. The “audience”, his disciples, have no idea.
So when the curtains open at the beginning of Act 1 of this 'final week drama', the disciples are astonished at what they see: Jesus, the hero of the drama, has stepped off the stage and come down to be amongst his audience. And now, one by one, he is washing their feet! (Including, but unbeknownst to them, the feet of the one who is about to betray him).
It was just the first of many twists in a plot which, though laid out in the Scriptures for hundreds of years, they were only seeing clearly for the first time now.
What a surprise it is to discover truth for the first time! What an astonishing Kingdom, where the king washes the feet of his subjects, where evil is overcome by good, and where greatness proceeds from humility.
As I picture the scene of this last supper, I see that Jesus would have had to get right down on his knees in order to wash his disciples feet. It's not hard to understand the reaction of Peter who initially balked at the prospect of letting Jesus wash his feet.
Such humility as Jesus displayed lays wide open even the hardest of hearts, piercing our very soul. I can find in myself only two possible responses – to run, or to bow down, offering everything to the One who offered everything for me.
And I see too another truth revealed, that if I follow the example of Jesus and humble myself to serve others as he did, then even the hardest of hearts can be opened to the truth found in Jesus. When I serve others with humility, the light of Christ will be revealed.
Lord Jesus, I am completely disarmed by the love and humility you have shown to me. I offer myself again into your hands. Help me to serve as you did. Please fill me afresh with your Spirit, and may your light shine through me that others would come to know you and love you, the most astonishing King of kings and Lord of lords.
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:14-15, 17 (NIV)
See also The Noble Endeavour of Serving.
Happy New Year!
To all who have read or visited “Sneaking Off With God” in 2012, thank you so much for your support and readership during the start-up months of this blog. It's so encouraging to know that someone is there! I hope that you've found something to stimulate you and inspire you in your walk with or towards God.
I wish you all a very Happy New Year and God's richest blessings for 2013. May He inspire you and captivate you. May He refresh you and renew you, and bring forth in you much good fruit in the year ahead.
And may you ever pursue that close and intimate relationship with God that is for us the ultimate treasure.
PS Here's my verse of the year:
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)