Monthly Archives: July 2013

Not For Shame, But For Glory!

Reading: Luke 11:1 – 12:11

Scripture

There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.

What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. Luke 12:2-3 NIV

Observations

One day, everything that there is to know about us will be known by everyone else. All the good things in our lives — the deep things, the hidden things, the things that show just how good God has been to us — all these will be on display for his glory, a reflection of all that Jesus won for us at the cross. What a wonderful day that will be! What a celebration!

But what of the “not so good” things?

I find great reassurance in knowing this: There will be no shame on that day for sins confessed. They are forgiven and forgotten, for “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12).

But what about unconfessed sin? Is it possible that I could live my life as a follower of Jesus, and yet still harbour sin? Would I not have to completely ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit? And how could I live in such a place of deceit? Obeying that still small voice of the Spirit is the very essence of living the Christian life, “…because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14)

But in actual fact, as I think about that day when “all will be revealed”, I find there is no fear within me. Instead, I am comforted by the knowledge that in God's sight, everything is already revealed.

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13).

Application

What a wonderful arrangement! Whenever I turn my eyes toward God, if there is sin or a wrong attitude or something that needs to be put right, it is right there — “uncovered and laid bare” — all ready to be confessed, and forgiven. So long as I keep seeking his face, I need never be afraid of harbouring sin. Sin can't remain in his presence, so he helps me get rid of it, meaning I can always stand before him clean and forgiven.

And now, the priestly blessing in Numbers 6 carries new meaning. As God turns his face toward us, it is inherent in the blessing that he meets our sin with his grace, and replaces our shame with peace.

And when that great day comes when “all is revealed”, it will be for us a day not for shame, but for glory and great joy. Hallelujah!

Prayer

Thank you Jesus that the fruit of your work in my life will one day result in much glory and celebration. I look forward to that day! I agree with what David said: “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.” Psalm 32:1-2 NIV

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26 NIV

Have you tried SOAP? Using SOAP as you read your Bible is a great way to hear what the Holy Spirit has specifically to say to you. Why not try it? You can read about it here: What is SOAP?

 

For Each Of Us There Awaits a “Divine Exchange”

Reading: John 18:1 – 19:27

Scripture

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. John 19:25-27 NIV

Observations

I find myself captivated by this beautiful yet curious exchange between Jesus, Mary his mother, and John, “the disciple whom he loved”. I always think of the cross as the place where a “divine exchange” took place — Jesus' holiness for my sin; his good standing for my shame; his wounds for my wholeness; and much more besides. It is indeed a beautiful exchange which Jesus invites us to make with him.

But here, near the foot of the cross, another exchange is taking place. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is losing her dearly loved son, only to unexpectedly gain another.

Exchange: An act of giving one thing, and receiving another in return.

We usually focus — and rightly so — on how God gave his Son for us. This event, this sacrifice, is the very centre and foundation of our faith. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV).

But on the human level, someone else was giving over their son too. Someone who with great faith and humility had once said, “I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said.” Many years had passed since Mary's declaration, but no doubt the words spoken to her at that time were again fresh in her mind as she stood before the cross:

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:30-33 NIV

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:34-35 NIV

Here, now, these words were being fulfilled. And although it isn't recorded here, I like to think that Jesus wasn't just “taken from” Mary, but that even in the midst of her grief, Mary was able to “offer him” into the hands of God, believing that God would indeed fulfil the promises he had made to her all those years ago.

And there at the cross, the sweetness of Jesus' love for Mary is revealed one last time before he dies. Her husband Joseph was already dead, and it seems her younger sons were not in position to care for her.

But Jesus knew this. And in a beautiful and very personal reflection of the divine exchange that was taking place on the cross, Jesus offers to Mary a new son — John — to care for her, and comfort her, and protect her from shame. “Dear woman, here is your son. [John], here is your mother.”

(I think it inconceivable that John was surprised by Jesus' words at the cross. Rather, Jesus will have planned this with John well beforehand — that when his time came, John would take Mary into his family home and care for her. So when Jesus said to John, “Here is your mother”, he was really saying to John, “It's time.”)

Application

It is indeed a beautiful exchange which Jesus invites us to make with him. And all the more beautiful because for each of us, that exchange will be different. We each having different things we need to bring to him.

Indeed, it's an expression of the sweetness of his love that he deals with each of us as individuals. He knows our name. He knows our every need. And his desire is that each of us will fully discover all that he won for us at the cross.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, may that be my life's pursuit! What a privilege that I can stand in your presence holy and welcomed! But Lord, what else is in my heart? What else that needs to be healed and restored? How yet is the divine exchange to be worked out in me?

Today, I offer my life to you afresh, and ask that you would help me to discover and experience all the riches that you won for me at the cross. Let nothing of your sacrifice be wasted.

 

Feeling Under-Qualified? Excellent! Make a Start!

Reading: Judges 6

Scripture

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior. ” “But sir,” Gideon replied… Judges 6:12-13a NIV

Observations

“But sir…” Surely you have made a mistake? How can you say “the Lord is with you” when we are being so oppressed by all these Midianites? We are impoverished! Our land is being ravaged!

And sir, how can you call me “mighty warrior”? “My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

The “facts” of the situation, at least as Gideon perceived them, did not seem to line up with this truth that God was speaking.

Gideon's version of the truth was clearly based on things other than God's word to him: His circumstances, his fears, his experiences up to that point. All of these things caused him to doubt.

But God was insistent: “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?” (Judges 6:14). God seemed to be speaking from some 'alternative reality' that Gideon was not yet able to see. The story as it goes on reveals that Gideon took quite some convincing before he finally mustered enough courage to take God at his word and obey him fully.

But obey him he did. Despite feeling supremely under-qualified, Gideon made a start. And having made that start, “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him.” (Judges 6:34).

It was the beginning of a wonderful victory where two things became abundantly clear: The Lord was indeed with Gideon, and Gideon was indeed a mighty warrior. Who would have thought!

Application

Romans 4:17 tells me this: Our God is a God who “calls things that are not as though they were.” If God calls me to do something, he will equip me. It doesn't matter what my circumstances are. It doesn't matter what experiences (or lack of them) I have had up to that point. It doesn't matter how under-qualified I feel. If God calls me to do something, he will equip me.

It's up to me to obey by simply making a start. The rest is up to him.

Prayer

Thank you Lord for your calling on my life. Thank you for your promises and for the potential that they hold. Thank you that the truths revealed in your Word are so much more solid than the apparent 'facts' of my current experience. I choose to believe those truths, to declare them out loud, and to step out in faith as you call me to obey.

 

“Speak To That Rock!” — On Praying With Authority

Reading: Numbers 20:1-13

Scripture

The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honour me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” Numbers 20:7-8, 11-12 NIV

Observations

Moses' good old staff was tried and tested. With it he had turned the Nile river to blood and parted the sea. It was familiar, and he trusted it. He knew that God was going to bring water out of the rock, and so hitting it with his trusty stick was well within his experience.

But God hadn't told Moses to strike the rock with his stick. He had told him to speak to the rock. This was something new — an authority Moses wasn't used to. I imagine him wondering, “Can I really do this? Would it be right? Will my spoken word alone actually be enough to release God's power?”

I note that God didn't tell Moses, “Pray and ask me to bring forth water.” He specifically told him, “Speak to that rock.” Jesus has something similar to say to us:

“I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, `Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.” Mark 11:23 NIV

It seems that in bringing things to pass, Jesus spent little time speaking about those things, and much time speaking to them. And just as God told Moses “Speak to that rock”, Jesus teaches us now to “Speak to that mountain.”

Application

Speaking to things instead of praying about them takes a bit of getting used to. Like a child standing on the edge of the garden shed roof in a Superman suit, there comes a nagging feeling, “Can I really fly?”

Can I really speak this mountain and have it move? Can I really speak to this sickness and command it to go? Do I really have authority to command a blessing, or to break the power of a stronghold?

For most of my life, I have simply asked God to work on my behalf. Just as Moses had his trusty staff, 'prayers of petition' have been mine — my tried and tested method. There's nothing wrong with having a trusty staff. Look at what God said to Moses: “Take your staff”. It was important. Just as my prayers of petition are.

But then God said something new: “Speak to the rock”. I feel that God is bringing the same command to his children today, revealing afresh the authority we have been given. The truth of that authority hasn't changed, but the appreciation of it has the potential to change everything.

Prayer

Lord God, I want to honour you with my obedience to your promptings. I pray for courage, that I might step out in faith at your command. Please teach me more of the authority I have in Jesus, and help me to walk in it, that your glory might be revealed to all.

See also an earlier post on this theme, Walking in Authority

 

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