31. A goal in sight

‘Bible Impact’ Meditations No.31: A goal in sight

1 Cor 15:25 “he must reign UNTIL he has put all his enemies under his feet.”

I have dared call this study ‘a goal in sight’ because Jesus’ goal in clearly expressed through the revelation he gave to the apostle John for our encouragement – to come as a conquering king and to bring into being a new dispensation, a new world that the closing chapters of the book we call Revelation speaks about. But the thing about ‘sight’ is that on a clear day on a flat part of the world you can see a long way and so his coming to start to bring those things into being may be just round the corner or they may be centuries to come, we just don’t know. He warned us about that.

Solomon warned that none of us know how long our years will be (Eccles 9:12) and Jesus warned (Mt 24:36) that none of us will know exactly when he would return, but he did charge us to live lives that are prepared (Mt 25:1-13, Mt 24:32) and ready for when he comes, that we will not be caught out (Lk 18:18). There are numerous parables of Jesus that give this same warning – be prepared, be ready, be found to have the resources needed to keep you in dark days, be found to be using the resources God has provided for us. Serious challenges that bring a sharp edge to today as we are prepared for ‘tomorrow’.

The Godhead works to a predetermined time-scale. They KNOW how it will all pan out, they are working into it with quiet whispers, sometimes strong interventions while still giving men and women the most incredible privilege of being allowed to make choices. We make them in the light of all we know (or should know) and in the light of the unravelling circumstances that are such a mix of evil AND good (never lose sight of the good things of today). For us there is a guaranteed end – to be with Him in eternity, but there is also this call to live full of faith and whole-heartedly in the present day, taking hold of the resources Jesus has earned for us – God’s Spirit, His grace, His wisdom, His fruit, His gifts – and use them, first to enable us to stand in the face of the darkness the enemy seeks to bring over the earth, and then, second, to use to bring light and life to the area of the world where we each are.

And that’s the wonder, we are not alone, Jesus is always with us AND we have one another to encourage, support, challenge and build us up. This is not a time for sitting inactive letting the world fall about around us, it is a time for each of us with our individual callings and giftings to rise up as the body of Christ and let his life and love pour through us to this sin sick world. So, let His love and light shine in you, goodness and truth be seen in you, and be at peace while HE reigns.  

30. His reign through his body

‘Bible Impact’ Meditations No.30: His reign through his body

1 Cor 15:25 HE MUST REIGN until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”

Yesterday we came to the reality that I feel the Lord has been putting before me again and again in recent years – that Jesus reigns. The trouble is that we focus purely on the material aspects of our lives so much of the time and fail to catch something of the spiritual realities behind the physical world, the fact of God, the fact of His working to a plan, the fact of Him working towards a goal, the fact of Him have individual plans for us. If we dare claim we believe in what the Bible says, we MUST believe all these things and so we turn from that prophetic declaration in Psa 110 we considered yesterday to this truth that we find in 1 Corinthians 15.

Incredible revelation from the apostle Paul. The Lamb who stands on the throne (Rev 5:6) has been given the end-time scrolls to open and roll out. Having given mankind freewill to follow the dictates of Sin, he calls to whoever will hear in the midst of the confusion and chaos of the day that he allows to be rolled out, days designed to bring mankind to its senses, whoever has ears to hear.  In GOD’S mind there is no confusion or chaos for He watches over it all, speaking and working into it, as He always has done, for HE is Lord and now Jesus expresses it, reveals it, and administers it. This is what it means about ‘he reigns’.

Let’s let that sink in a bit more. Imagine Jesus as the heavenly divine conductor of the battle that is this world. I don’t know if you have ever seen a film like ‘Zulu’ and therefore might remember the Zulu warrior on the hilltop with a long spear that he waves in different directions to release or send forward the next Zulu group into an attack position. This is Jesus, administering the kingdom at the right hand of the Father, urging through his Spirit, his people forward, some to rise up and take forward fighting positions, others to be ready as support troops.

But unlike the in-the-background-directing’ Zulu warrior, Jesus is a commander who one day will come in his own right and all will fall before him and his armies (see Rev 19). As God, it is a foregone conclusion. It is only his grace that holds back, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9) Yet there will come a time when he says, “Enough’ and will come to wind it all up.  But now, from heaven, but through his Spirit here with us, he comes face to face, one to one, to challenge, convict (when he sees the time is right), convert, encourage, build up, equip and empower. There is a sense that now he does a myriad more things by his Spirit than he was able to do on earth through the one body. Now his ‘body’ is made up of millions of bodies and together we express his reign. Hallelujah! 

29. Out of Control

‘Bible Impact’ Meditations No.29: Out of control?

Psa 110:1 Msg now rule, though surrounded by enemies!”

We’ve been following a very mixed bag in the last few days – sharing His glory, sharing Jesus’s joy, and then overcoming fear, two very positive studies and one not so much. But the subject of fear is a very real one and one that is needed to be thought about a great deal because it seems that the news over recent years has been full of worrying things – environmental crisis, the Pandemic, a health crisis, and in more recent days the potential of a third world war. Yes, it seems it’s a world on the edge of crisis. Environment, health & war!

Worry, I would suggest, is an enemy. Paul said don’t have anxieties but give them to God and let Jesus’ peace rule (Phil 4:6,7). To overcome these fears we need to catch the ‘big picture’ presented to us by the Bible – that Jesus IS ruling. Psalm 110 has a prophetic start and I’ve quoted a part of it above from a modern paraphrase to make it even more clear.

This follows the Father’s prophetic instruction to His Son, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” It’s a truth the people of God desperately need to regain, perhaps especially in the growing darkness of the days in which we live that I’ve just been considering. The enemy may pour out a torrent of lies and untruths into the minds of modern men and women, and TV news is constantly full of worrying things, but there is one who will come with “a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.” (Rev 19:15) That sword is the word (decrees) of God (Eph 6:17) empowered by His Spirit. It IS coming and it says, ‘God reigns!’

Now like Gideon we may feel, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” (Jud 6:13) and the answer is that the Lord has given us free will and the way we have exercised that means we have the three ‘crises’ I referred to. The way we have misused the planet means we have rising temperatures which are causing forest fires, heavy rains, rising sea levels etc.; they are all quantifiable and are occurring because we have been putting too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The Pandemic was caused by careless scientists in China, and threats of war come from defensive and neurotic despots. Each of these ‘worries’ is down to man. So where is Jesus in all this? Still standing in the throne (Rev 5:6), still presiding over the end times, working to bring men and women to the end of themselves so they will turn back to the Father. You may not discern his hand on it all, but it IS there and nothing is taking him by surprise. Let him be your rock, your fortress, your deliverer, your refuge, your shield (Psa 18:2) in these days. He is Lord.

28. Fear?

‘Bible Impact’ Meditations No.28: Fear?

Fear not!”  (a myriad of verses!)

Is it perhaps too easy to suggest that the modern Western church is so lethargic, even moribund – the word that comes to mind – not only because we haven’t handled materialism well by putting it in second place, (for affluence is not a bad thing if it takes its responsibilities to the rest of the world seriously) but possibly because we have allowed the enemy through the world to cower us? Is it because somehow we have stepped back into the safe waters of tradition where we present an orderly face to the world that is rarely outward looking and challenging, rarely opposing the world’s values, where we no longer look to and rely upon the Holy Spirit to guide and inspire obedience by revelation and power and wisdom, revealing true holiness?

Living in a hostile, fallen world was always a risky business. Israel were called to be a holy nation that would be a light to the world and as long as they obeyed God, He blessed them and they were strong and prosperous, but when they turned away to the idols of the neighboring world around them, He stepped back and left them to their own devices, when they soon became weak and vulnerable and a prey to those neighbors. It was only when they called on the Lord in repentance did He come in power on a leader to rise up and deliver them. It is interesting in Judges that he always used men and one woman to deliver His people and didn’t just destroy an enemy Himself. He always seeks to involve us. He could have delivered Israel from Egypt without Moses, but He chose a human face to represent Him.

So we have a Bible full of ‘fear not’s because the Lord knows that in our sinful state we are prone to fear, and perhaps on occasion rightly so. Again and again in Scripture the answer was the Holy Spirit coming on a man or woman to bring the required change. It is so often said there are so many of these words about not fearing, to encourage, and so often they are linked with, “for I am with you.” Unquestionably there is much ‘darkness’ in the world around us and the media delights in displaying it. Anger, hostility, aggression, resentment, intimidation, hurt, harm, abuse, violence, denial of truth, false accusations, slander, corruption, dishonesty. It is there at the individual level, the community level, the national level, and the international level, BUT The light still shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out.” (Jn 1:5 JBP) – and it never will. The Light of the World is still with you, remember that, and He says, You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:14,16) Moreover, “perfect love drives out fear.” (1 Jn 4:18) Let light and love be seen.

27. Live with Joy

‘Bible Impact’ Meditations No.27: Live with Joy

Jn 17:13 so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.”

This is praying before leaving for Gethsemane and the Cross. It’s a prayer about his glory and his unity with the Father and when we experience both, we will have the same joy Jesus had. I wonder how often we’ve read those words but never thought below the surface. Jesus had joy.

Joy is defined as ‘a vivid emotion of pleasure’ in my dictionary. It’s not just “that’s nice” but it is much stronger than that; see the word ‘vivid’ in that definition, which means strong and bright and powerful.

After Jesus sent out the seventy-two (Lk 10:1), when they returned he declared, I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven,” and the text goes on to record, “Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father,” (v.21) Seeing his disciples ‘doing the stuff’ and taking authority over the enemy brought him great joy.

But now in Jn 17 we see Jesus praying for his obedient disciples who had received all his teaching (v.6-8) that they be protected by the Father (v.11) when he leaves, as he had protected them while with them (v.12). Now he wants them to have the same joy that he has in his relationship with the Father as he sends them into the world (v.18), set apart to God (v.19), praying for the unity of the future church (v.21) sharing his glory in that unity (v.22,23), eventually coming to Jesus with the Father in heaven (v.24).

Now look back over that summary paragraph and see all those things tother that bring joy to Jesus, bringing his Father’s will into being. In Jude’s doxology he speaks of us going to the Father “with great joy” (v.24). There was joy in heaven when we were saved (Lk 15:7) and there is joy when, like the disciples we have a sense of success in obedience (Lk 10:17). Joy is also, of course, a fruit or outworking of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22), part of the kingdom package (Rom 14:17).

Perhaps, and I say this very gently, if we have lost joy in our life, we have somehow forgotten the promised package and are no longer living in it. So, does the relationship we have with the One who is so glorious, whose love is so incredible, create in us a sense of the goodness and wonder? Does that burst forth in joy, a joy that overwhelms the gloom and doom and fear that the enemy would seek to bring to this world today like a tsunami of evil that fills hearts and minds to destroy the very life God seeks to bring? Let the truth bring joy! Live in that truth, declare it afresh every day and watch as the Holy Spirit, who always witnesses to the truth, brings that “vivid emotion of pleasure.” May it be so.

26. Glory!

‘Bible Impact’ Meditations No.26: Glory!

2 Cor 3:18 Msg so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful.”

So much of this series has been about thinking and how our thoughts can lead on to create the sort of lives we lead. We sometimes talk about self-worth or self-esteem which when it is ‘low’ means we tend to limit ourselves, but this series is meant to challenge us about how we let the word of God impact us, for it is so easy, as we said at the beginning, to settle into a routine which can become a rut and that tends to mean it lacks life.

To see where we go next, I have simply prayed and seen what verse the Lord next puts in my mind and so today we have this verse that I usually read as, we … are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory,” but the Message version seems especially challenging.

What an incredible picture, shining with God’s glory just like Jesus did on that Mount of Transfiguration (Mt 17:2), but it is reflected glory the whole verse says. Paul caught this idea that as we stand before the Lord we light up with his glory in the same way the moon does with the light of the sun. That one time on the mountain was unique but John spoke more widely when he said, “we have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son” (Jn 1:14) i.e. we have seen his wonder, his amazing greatness, his goodness, his grace and truth. Can that reflect on me?

Moses’ face literally shone (Ex 34:29) when he came down Mount Sinai after having been with the Lord, but it also continued to happen when he met with the Lord at the tent of meeting (Ex 34:34,35) and it is this that Paul refers to when he speaks like this to the Corinthians.

But there is something important there that is so obvious we may miss it – Moses’ face shone when he remained in the presence of the Lord. He spent time with the Lord, initially forty days and nights up on the mountain, but then regularly in the tent of meeting. I have noticed that when I have had a particularly precious time in the Lord’s presence, I am reticent to leave it. I suspect it was probably like that with Moses. Now scholars believe that Moses was the author-compiler of most of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, and I have often wondered how that came about. It must have been collecting together much that had been passed down the generations by word of mouth, but there is much that goes beyond.  I have wondered how much of that came about as the Lord shared with Moses in that tent of meeting all those years in the wilderness. Interesting! Wilderness, an opportunity? God’s presence, to be sought out more? Revelation imparted, for me? Could there be so much more to my relationship with Him if I spent more time alone with Him?  That’s a challenge.  

25. Working it out

‘Bible Impact’ Meditations No.25: Working it out

Rom 12:2 JBP “let God re-mold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good.”

This month has been about our misunderstandings, our calling to be holy and different, about life transformation. This JBP version of Rom 12:2 focuses how that can be: (i) re-mold your mind, to (ii) prove in practice that (iii) God’s life plan for you is good. Spend time reflecting on those three aspects – (i) thinking right to (ii) show in daily life, (iii) it’s good!  Now reverse it. How many can say with assurance, “God’s plan for me is good, I’ve proved it in my life, and in my mind”?

So let’s look at each of those things a little more deeply. Let’s start with re-molding our minds. There is a difference between facing the various misunderstandings we can have and having a clear God-centred way of thinking. The former is about facing and dealing with the specific intellectual (and spiritual) problems that we sometimes find before us, while the latter is about setting the overall direction of our thinking.

So for instance yesterday I wrote about really and truly facing up to our need of the power of the Spirit in our lives that Jesus touched on when he was speaking with Nicodemus, a power that starts us off on the new walk with Jesus when we are ‘born again’ and we give permission for the Lord to both save us and be Lord over us. It’s then he places in us his same Holy Spirit to empower us, not to lay dormant but to change us into his likeness and flow in and through us like a river of life. Now transformed thinking, that Paul spoke about to the Romans at this point in his letter to them, has to have embedded within it, I would suggest, some of these basic truths that act as the foundation upon which everything else follows.

So, to move on, how do we prove in practice that God’s life plan is good for us? We live it out, we check out our lives, we check out how we live in ourselves and within ‘the church’. There’s not only power but there’s also character, so we ask, are the fruit of the Spirit being worked in us more and more? “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal 5:22,23) When we are working on these things we will see that indeed it is ‘the good life’, it is a life worth living and working at. When it comes to ‘church’ there are so many ways we can let things slide so, for instance, are we a truly welcoming church with no cliques, ‘special’, superior people (especially the suits or dresses) but a church bedded into servant hearted humility where all feel cared for, listened to and appreciated. Church is not a club but a body and the parts are to care for one another, and the head listened to and the Spirit obeyed and given freedom to move. Just some pointers to ponder.

24. We need power

‘Bible Impact’ Meditations No.24: We need power

Jn 3:4 How can someone be born when they are old?”

If you use Bible Gateway, try a fun exercise and type in ‘how’ and try, say John’s Gospel, and you’ll see all the misunderstandings and questions that people asked Jesus. [Yes, we’ve gone the full circle] Transformation, we said, starts in the head, starts by letting the Holy Spirit impact us with His word and make us so uncomfortable we won’t rest until we start ‘seeing’ with new eyes, understanding with new minds, hearing with new ears. If a bright guy like Nicodemus got confused, don’t be surprised if you do sometimes – but don’t remain content with confusion – He wants you changed. Just ask and listen and keep on at it!

You may wonder why we are travelling this particular road again. Yes, we’ve just said, we’ve gone the full circle and again are considering the topic of misunderstandings. But why? Two reasons. First, generally, we need to hear something more than once to really take it in and, second, I believe the generally lethargic state of the church today necessitates us keep on hammering home truths until they truly impact us – for this is what this series is about.

Nicodemus has basically been showing confusion if not misunderstanding when Jesus is leading him to think about religious life being more than words or appearing good, appearing spiritual. The apostle Paul declared, the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power,” (1 Cor 4:20) and it’s about spiritual power that Jesus is speaking as he talks to this high-ranking Pharisee – power to be born again, power to receive a new Spirit-empowered life.

What signs do you see of this Spirit power in, say, the life of the church when it gathers? Are our ‘services’ neatly packaged performances, prearranged, preplanned so we know exactly what is going to happen. Yes, the Holy Spirit can and does inspire leaders and musicians but how much space is there in your gathering for God to speak or move and demonstrate His presence. If His presence is not there, would we know it? I have asked similar questions in the past but will continue to ask them until I know there are positive answers to them all. At the end of, say, a Sunday morning gathering, do we go home having been aware we’ve been in the holy presence of God, have we known the Spirit so empowering worship and preaching that we are uplifted, empowered with head held high ready afresh to take on the world, do we have testimonies of healings, deliverances, conversions, life transformations, or was it just ‘a nice time’?  You see all these things need the presence and activity of the same Spirit about which Jesus was talking to Nicodemus. Is He Lord in our midst – really? 

23. Open-ended possibilities

‘Bible Impact’ Meditations No.23: Open-ended possibilities

Mt 4:19 Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will…..”

So we’ve been considering change, the people we are becoming and how it happens. But now I’m taking us back to that verse we considered early on in this series when I suggested a good way to view discipleship is to see us tagging along with Jesus as he leads. This is in line with the underlying things I have sought to keep hold of in all these studies, that whatever we are, whatever we are becoming, however we are doing it, it is all with the motivation, encouragement and empowering of Jesus in and through us. We are not alone and his desires for good for us are, I am sure, stronger than ours are for ourselves.

The picture that comes out of our starter verse is startling clear in its call – to let him lead us where he will, how he will and at his own pace. Now for many Christians I am sure that that sentence is utterly meaningless because it requires a certain level of awareness as well as a desire to be obedient to his word and what he may be saying daily by his Spirit within us. This is not being unkind in saying this, just real. I am not sure that I aware constantly aware of his promptings, some of the time, yes, but not all the time. But when we make time daily to wait quietly before him, then we may expect some measure of awareness of his leading.

Now when we let him do that we will find – and don’t panic at this – he will lead us into circumstances that are beyond us – but not beyond him. I said yesterday that change starts between our two ears; it starts with you and me truly believing in a supernatural Saviour who wants to do supernatural things through us – like walking on water or feeding five thousand, that’s what the twelve did, so why not you and me? But it starts – and this is where we go back more to the basics I referred to yesterday – with me having a listening attitude, whether that is when I read his word, pray, listen to sermons or generally keep a watch on life generally. These things may be very simple – “make a call to…..”, or “write an email to…” or “go and see….” just simple promptings of the Spirit within as He sees possibilities and opportunities and invites us to join in and take them. Maybe it’s to share a testimony, maybe a word of encouragement, maybe just offer help.

Back in study number 13 I spoke of reasons why it is easier to ignore such promptings, it’s safer, easier, more comfortable, but if we do we miss the two words I used just now – possibilities and opportunities. If we overcome the fear of the unknown, of what might be – and that is what it so often is – we enter the realm of blessing and seeing perhaps wonderful things happening, people and circumstances changing, simply because in a very simple way, tagging along behind Jesus, we let him lead us into it.   

22. Process and Goal

‘Bible Impact’ Meditations No.22: Process & Goal

Mt 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

This series, remember, is about allowing the Bible to impact us as we read it. Yesterday we considered David receiving the low life of Israel and giving them self-worth and transforming them into a trained guerilla army that could take on all-comers. Then we saw Jesus taking a ragbag of disciples and changing them into what became with the empowering of his Spirit, a world-impacting, a world-changing body of men and women.

Jesus call in this present verse is to attain and live in a wholeness or completeness that only he can bring about – but it is a goal he sets before us, to be worked at for the rest of our days on this earth. But it’s all about changing the world and that starts between my two ears, agreeing to let God change ME, make me more into the likeness of Jesus (2 Cor 3:18) who is much better at changing the world than I am.

I find as I progress each study in this particular series, the Lord taking me further and further back into the fundamentals of the reality of being a believer, a Christian, a child of God. We have moved from the call to be holy, through thoughts of what that means and not taking onboard the ways and thoughts of the world and then arrived at this point of confronting that recognition that we are called by Jesus and we’re called to change.

Now as I say, this may sound incredibly obvious, but I wonder how often and how many of us, ponder this thought that the Lord loves me so much that He has something better on His heart than what I have and am now? Perfection sounds an impossible goal when we are so conscious of our weaknesses and failures but as we said previously it is a goal, it is what we are working towards. It is also something that we are, in one sense in God’s sight because of what Jesus has done on the Cross – He sees us without guilt or failure while also recognizing in day to day living we need His help every moment to make it through.

Now the difficulty, of course, is to know when you are perfect. It is easy to know when we are not, when we are conscious of our negative feelings, our weaknesses, and our failures, but perfection, that is something else! Perfection here has been described by someone as “to be brought to completion, full-grown, lacking nothing.” Now although it is a process being worked in us by God, it is more about being, knowing who we are, being content in that, being open, available and, where we see or hear a direction, being obedient. And then we rest in that. But it is a constant reminder of the sort of people He wants us to be and that awareness, as much as the process, must grow in us. Change is definitely part of the game.