31. He WILL Provide

‘Probing Deeper’ Meditations: 31: He WILL Provide

Mt 6:33b these things will be given to you as well.”

As we conclude this particular series, we reflect on the fact that we have been examining our attitudes, the things we give ourselves to, the things we consider important, our ‘treasures’ and concluded yesterday in wondering what we do that has long-term consequences. Actually it can be very simple: simply encouraging another person, bringing them a word or help that picks them up, may have long-term consequences. Obviously sharing the gospel with others can have eternal effects, as can teaching the word of God. Oh yes, there are lots of ways we can do this.

But there are also two other aspects to this to be considered. First, putting the kingdom first (6:33a), as we noted yesterday, is not a cause for pride but it is noted in heaven. Our motivation for considering these things is not to be ‘self’ but a desire to be obedient and bless God who delights in His children, especially when they are following His guidance and directions. In other words, the right ‘direction’ of these things is important.

But if attitudinal direction, if we may put it like that, comes first, then a simple trust in God must come a close second. So much of the time we give our efforts in life to providing for ourselves and our families – and that is right, as long as we get the order right. We do these things under the watchful eye of our Lord, and he is to be there in our thinking as much as we can at all times. We have a natural concern for ourselves and our families which we said is right but underpinning our lives we are called by Jesus to cultivate a trust in our loving heavenly Father who, Jesus says, will provide all these things when we get our priorities right.  Essentially Jesus taught us that God looks after His ‘kingdom-first’ children and provides for them and meets their needs. This is not the so-called prosperity gospel (for that puts us first) but it is an acknowledgement of Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides (Gen 22:14).

Settle it: make Him and His will your focus and leave the rest to Him, He will provide what we need, not necessarily what we want – except when it coincides with His perfect will. Years ago I once caught a vision of having a word processor, (when I had no money) sensing writing was what He wanted me to do, prayed for one and had one within months. But seeking Him and His will is what ‘godliness’ is about and such godliness brings contentment, said Paul (1 Tim 6:6) and added, it is all about “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17). This is what the kingdom or rule of Jesus brings. Hold tightly on to that in the uncertain days in which we live – and be blessed!

30. Treasures?

‘Probing Deeper’ Meditations: 30: Treasures?

Mt 6:20 store up for yourselves treasures in heaven”.

Some people are collectors. They collect specific articles. I’ve known people collect thimbles, others collect plates, others all different sorts of memorabilia. Basically they just store them up at home to show others. They consider them their ‘treasures’ and indeed sometimes some of the things are very valuable. It’s a fascinating subject. The ‘big people’ in this realm are art collectors, whether it be famous paintings, statues or some other art form.

All these things, of course, are material things, things that be broken or stolen and are things you can’t take with you when you die. Their value, therefore, may be great here and now but in eternal terms they are worthless. But then many people are not concerned about spiritual values, they are just surprised when death arrives without warning. If that are given warning, then very often such people start readjusting their perspectives about what is important in life.

But as Christians we’re supposed to be different aren’t we. We have such warnings as we have in our starter verse from Jesus. Then we have his ‘Parable of the Rich Fool’, which concludes with, “‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’  “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”  (Lk 12:20,21)

The focuses of the Christian experience tend be on ‘being’ and ‘doing’, knowing your identity as a child of God and moving under the prompting of the Spirit. But behind those things is the background awareness that we are citizens of heaven and servants of heaven and as such our assets, our resources, our earnings, our ‘fruit’, goes in to the bank of heaven. Our focus is on a Lord who is in heaven, directing his Spirit from there to bring about his rule.

So how are we to be ‘rich towards God’ and ‘store up for ourselves treasure in heaven’? Treasures are things that we value highly, seek after, consider most important. Treasure hunters give their lives to it. Treasures for us are God, Jesus, his will, his expressions – love, goodness and so much more, the things HE considers all important.

Here on earth we’re not to rejoice over our goodness (which leads to pride) but heaven takes note and although it’s not the thing that will get you to heaven, when you get there, they will acknowledge your life and praise God for it. Worth pondering on, yes? A little exercise to check this out, not to make us feel guilty but perhaps to think, pray and act differently: what do you and I do in life that has long-term effects in the kingdom of God? Time to ponder.

29. Kingdom Coming Near

‘Probing Deeper’ Meditations: 29. Kingdom coming near

Lk 10:9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

We’re back to the unnerving stuff of Scripture, truths, commands, instructions of which we find ourselves uncomfortable. This was Jesus sending his disciples out on a training exercise. Suppose our leaders instructed us to “go out in pairs and find someone to pray over and heal.” (Leaders only do it, not because you hear of other churches doing it, but because you’ve heard the Holy Spirit’s prompting to encourage your people in this way!)

But it’s only what Jesus instructed of disciples (starting with leaders) – to bring in the kingdom – Mt 28:20 / Jn 14:12. We’re back there again and it has to start with “me”. Is this a marker to show us where we are – or not?  Is this something that focuses the kingdom curriculum that demands our focus until we get there and ARE doing it?

I want to be honest. I have found this series perhaps the most difficult ever to write because I don’t want to teach what I haven’t entered into myself. But before we get to the end of this series there are three things to note.

First, I have called some these things, parts of ‘the kingdom curriculum’. A curriculum you will know is a learning list for a course, things that a prospective student knows they will be having to get to grips with soon, to be worked on in the days to come.

The second thing is that we are learners or, as it is sometimes put in a different context, works in progress. I am not all the way yet, but I am on the path, I am going somewhere as Jesus directs.

The third thing is that when it comes to spiritual matters, power and revelation are in His hands alone. If we are waiting for revival or renewal, we are waiting for a move of God and you and I can’t make Him move. He will move when He sees the time is right and the world is ripe for harvesting. In the meantime we must just seek to remain faithful, be obedient and be available. When we talk about ‘the kingdom’ we are talking about Jesus’ rule. The New Testament speaks about how Jesus intercedes for us (Heb 7:25) as our advocate (1 Jn 2:1) but that is his continual reminder to heaven that we are his, bought by his work on the Cross. That should bring us assurance and confidence but I find the greater assurance I have is that he is ruling in the midst of his enemies (Psa 110:1,2) and that he will continue ruling until the end that the Father decrees (1 Cor 15:24,25). You and I are to have this mindset: we are the body of Christ, led and inspired and empowered by Him to do his works to reveal the rule of Jesus in and around us. Yes? Yes!!! 

28. Thirsty?

Probing Deeper’ Meditations: 28. Thirsty?

Jn 7:37 Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.”

We continue to ponder on the question of the yearnings we have. Some people have yearnings for fame, some to be loved, some just to know peace. Those yearnings may be about identity, meaning or just simple survival. The reality is that all such yearnings are focused on us, on our personal needs. Imagine walking in a desert under the heat of the sun. The obvious ‘need’ is water to keep us alive, our yearning in such a situation we simply call ‘thirst’; it is a natural survival feature of being a human being.

In the world of the spirit, we may or may not be aware of our inner needs but Jesus referred to this when he stood up at a feast in Jerusalem and declared the words in out starter verse.

But what is the result of that drinking? rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit.” (Jn 7:38,39) Do you see the order? Thirst – drink – flow. Do we thirst for the Spirit? When we draw near to Jesus do we receive from him and drink the Spirit and is the result that the Spirit flows FROM WITHIN us – to others?

Like Ezekiel’s River (Ezek 47) where we ‘flow’ do we bring ‘life’ and transformation. THIS is what should be happening through the church – the Spirit flowing out to the world round about and transforming it. If it isn’t, we’ve just found another reason to be yearning, aching, longing for more from the Lord, which is what this month has been all about.

Now we have to insert a word of caution here for only the other day I was speaking about this and a dear lady came and started talking about all the good works a group in the church were involved in. Now I have no problem with ‘good works’ for indeed I do believe they are part of our calling (see Mt 5:16) and are referred to as the light we shine into the world, but the trouble is that non-Christian atheists can do ‘good works’ and so what we are talking about is Spirit-motivated and Spirit-energized activity that has SPIRITUAL results – people being saved, people being delivered, people being healed, people being transformed in a whole variety of ways – but by Jesus!

Are you thirsty to see that sort of Spirit-life in the Church? Are you thirsty to see God glorified and honored and praised and worshiped as a result of Jesus’ activity in and through you and me? Am I seeing it in me? Largely no, a bit, yes. And I yearn for more, and I know it comes with the knowledge and presence of Jesus. Whatever sort of ‘meetings’ we have as church – main services, Bible Studies, Prayer Meetings, specific evangelistic activities, general activities – can we pray that the power and presence of Jesus by his Spirit will be seen, yes seen, not just spoken about? Thirst for that life! 

27. Satisfied

‘Probing Deeper’ Meditations: 27. Satisfied

Lk 6:21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.”  

We concluded yesterday the hard truth that, as Jesus said, without him we can do nothing. But we are considering a yearning that brings with it blessing – satisfaction. The famous prayer of Richard of Chichester asked, “May I know Thee more clearly, Love Thee more dearly, Follow Thee more nearly.” It is a good daily request and is one that comes from a hungry heart.

The interesting thing is that this yearning, this hungering, this thirsting after God, isn’t there for what it can get out of it, it is just a yearning after something that it senses is there but hasn’t yet fully achieved.  One of the psalmists declared, As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”  (Psa 42:1,2) For him this yearning came out of trying circumstances. So often we need such trying circumstances to stir us from our complacency, whether it be trouble with other people as it so often seemed with the psalmists, or simply the awareness of living in a (spiritually) dry and parched land where nothing satisfies. So many people go through life with a yearning for something more but are never satisfied.

Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount found in Mt 5-7 has a practical dimension to it, hence “you who hunger NOW.” There is an implication behind that which suggests that such hunger will not go on forever, there will come a time when you will be satisfied.

In spiritual terms, another word for satisfied is ‘fulfilled’, arriving at your destiny, God’s plan for you and me. Every day we MAY be advancing towards that destiny and I say ‘may’ because it involves daily change that comes from heart yearning. Without it, we stay the same. That’s where it can start getting uncomfortable because the Lord would ask us, do you want to stay the same, do you want an undisturbed life, for growth will mean change, it will sometimes mean challenge, being disturbed, going out on the edge, yes indeed, walking on water!

Now if we are feeling lacking – and I’ve had numerous people saying to me, “I don’t want to go back to that church life we had pre-pandemic, I want life” – then can we allow the Lord to channel that sense of lack into a new hunger and thirsty for the ‘more’ that he has on His heart for us? Failure to do that will mean we stay where we are, vaguely happy with life but with an underlying dissatisfaction. If we allow Him – no, ask Him – to stir a fresh hunger in us, the end result will mean we come into a place that may not always feel comfortable (as I’m sure the disciples weren’t when Jesus sent them out) but we will be satisfied. 

26. Yearnings

‘Probing Deeper’ Meditations: 26. Yearnings

Mt 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

We’re on the downhill slope to the end of the month. The underlying theme this month has been ‘going deeper’ and to ‘go deeper’ you have to ‘probe deeper’ but to do any of these things – and stick at them – there has to be an underlying yearning deep down for more.

Another version of this verse says, “Happy are those whose GREATEST DESIRE is to do what God requires.” This requires focus, effort, concentration, but above all a conviction that knowing God is THE all-important issue of life and knowing Him MORE is one aspect of that. Can we pray daily, “Open my heart Lord to you and to your word, put a hunger in me that nothing with satisfy except knowing you more.”

There, that was easy to say, wasn’t it, but the whole point of these thoughts this month have been to prompt us to go beyond simply saying the words and thinking more deeply about what they really mean to us.

There used to be a time (but we don’t seem to hear it so much today) when talk of ‘commitment’ came up regularly. Commitment was about an attitude of the will to ‘go for God’, which was often seen in outward actions and serving. But Jesus, especially in the Sermon on the Mount, focused more on what was on the inside of us rather than our outward actions. Outward actions should come from a yearning heart but they can come instead from a sense of legalistic guilt – this is what I ought to be doing. Jesus prefers the former reason – our actions flowing from a yearning heart.

This ‘yearning heart’ – hungering and thirsting for God and His righteousness, His will, I have come to believe, comes when the Holy Spirit is able to ‘enlighten our hearts’ as we saw back in Study 22. When He is able to start bringing us understanding (and this happens when He first finds an open heart) and we start ‘seeing’ (as we considered in various earlier studies) there comes a growing awareness of the wonder of who it is we follow and what he has done for us.

That is on the knowledge side. Probably at the same time we may be experiencing Him (the Spirit) stirring us as we pray or wait upon the Lord. For some of us this happens early on in our walk with Him, for others more further along the path and for a very few even as we came to Christ. It was all about when the Spirit could work in this way in us. If we are concerned at what we might perceive as an absence of such hunger the answer, as always, is to pray, seek Him, petition Him, for without His help, the hard truth (hard as it hits the ego and pride) is that, as Jesus said, without him we can do nothing. But this yearning brings with it blessing which we’ll consider tomorrow.

25. Perceptions (4)

‘Probing Deeper’ Meditations: 25. Perceptions (4)

Mt 14:29 Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”

Yesterday we pondered on why God wants to change us and came up with the amazing conclusion that He wants us to be happier today than we were yesterday and happier tomorrow than we are today, and that happiness comes as we become more and more that fulfilled person God has designed us to be – fulfilled in being ‘me’, the unique person full of His love and goodness that He has on His heart.

So, back to perception again. How do we perceive ourselves? Have the words of that previous study and so far in this one got to us, helped us realise the wonder of who we are, the wonder of the process we are in called by different names – redemption, sanctification, glorification – all words about change into someone better, someone happier.

So, I ask again, how do we see ourselves? Not different from the people next door? Or potentially those with new-ability lives? Let’s take the example of the apostle Peter. Peter did something naturally or humanly impossible, he walked on water, just for a few moments at least. Here’s the question: are we open to the possibility of Jesus being able to take us and do in or through us something that is naturally or humanly impossible?

Bringing people to Christ is humanly impossible because it needs a work of the Spirit. Bringing encouragement or wisdom to others without it being ‘self’-inspired is the same. Letting God’s word come alive every day is the same. Pray for and expect greater abilities than you have now, that is what this talk of change is all about.

So let’s be practical, how does that change come about? Well consider the disciples. For three years they traveled with Jesus and watched and listened to him and took in a great deal of teaching. But that didn’t stop them being very human with questions and doubts as Jesus went to the Cross. They witnessed his death, his resurrection and his ascension and it left them feeling lonely so all they could do was cluster together and pray. And then the Spirit came and transformed them. Suddenly they were out from behind locked doors and looking the world full in the face saying, he is alive! Later the apostle Paul caught something when he wrote, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18 ESV) Reflecting God’s glory as we live our lives with Him, He changes us. It’s a natural process having once received and been filled with the Spirit, now HE is the main agency changing us – to be happier and happier!

24. Change!

‘Probing Deeper’ Meditations: 24. Change!

2 Cor 3:18 we all….  are being transformed into his image.”

Somebody fairly recently asked me, why is God always talking about change. It came a bit defensively and yet it came from a well established Christian. Even when we are ‘well established’ – with strong Christian upbringing, years of church background and so on – there can be an uncertainty, an insecurity that feels that God must be hostile if He is constantly wanting to change us. But nothing could be further from the truth, not that He doesn’t want to change us, but that He is hostile towards us. Yes, for some of us, particularly if we have had a harsh, even legalistic upbringing, can feel negative about fathers and consequently about God as our heaven ‘Father’. But this is the thing, He’s not like any earthly father, everything about Him is for us.

I’ve had a mantra for the last twenty-plus years: “God loves you exactly as you but He also loves you so much He wants to change you – because He has something better for you.” Please note the two halves here if you’ve never heard this before. First, He really does love you exactly as you are. He knows everything there is to know about you, and He still loves you. You know your young children are sometimes wilful, disobedient, childish, and yet you still love them. God sent Jesus to die for you BECAUSE you are like that, but He sent him to save you out of that into something better.

Consider an impatient person and a patient person. Who is the happier? Consider a stressed out person and a person at peace. Who is the happier? Consider someone who is constantly striving to be someone and the one who knows they are a precious child of a loving family. Who is the happier? Consider the girl who tries to get men to love her by giving herself to them, and the girl who comes from a stable background where she knows she is loved. Who is the happier?

Now you do the ‘maths’. Consider all the negatives you can think of and all the positives.   Who is the happier? That’s why Jesus wants YOU (and me!) to change because He wants us to be happier. It’s staggeringly simple isn’t it!  No brain surgeons needed here to understand that surely? But actually many of us have lived listening to the enemy’s lies for so long we struggle to believe it: God wants you to be happy, happier than all those struggling ‘to be’, struggling to achieve, struggling for a future. He’s given you everything you need for this new at-peace, fulfilled life, everything you need to be successful in becoming the person He sees you can be. The more we move towards that goal, the more we sense peace, achievement, fulfillment, the happier we will be.  OK, let’s pray – change me Lord, I want to be that happy person.

23. Revelation?

‘Probing Deeper’ Meditations: 23. Revelation?

Jn 3:4“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked.”

For the Christian ‘knowing’ is something different. You can know ‘facts’ but knowledge and understanding are different things and wisdom is again something different. It is clear from Jesus’ talks with his disciples – and even more clear with his talking to the crowds – that so often he was using words which left the listeners wondering. Even his parables were open to questions.

Nicodemus is one such person who heard Jesus’ words but struggled with understanding. Our starter verse is such an example and a bit later we find him asking, “How can this be?” (v.9) He is struggling to understand what Jesus is teaching him. Jesus is using words out of their usual context and Nicodemus finds that difficult. It is interesting that the subject matter of what Jesus is speaking about – being born of the Spirit – is at the heart of understanding. Nicodemus – and us – needed the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit that Paul spoke about in yesterday’s verse; he needed revelation.

Put most simply ‘revelation’ is knowledge and understanding that could not be known otherwise, being communicated by God. Paul, speaking to the Corinthians declared, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began,” (1 Cor 2:7) and went on to explain that everything he taught came with the Holy Spirit’s revelation and had to be received with the help of the Spirit.

There is a deception that the enemy seeks to get us to believe – that revelation is for clever people. No it’s not, it for open-hearted people. Nicodemus was clever, a leading Pharisee (and they were well taught) but he ‘couldn’t see it’. He needed the Holy Spirit to teach him about His work. Nicodemus needed his heart enlightening as we saw yesterday. How do you start ‘seeing’ more? Spend more time in His word. Five minutes early morning is not enough! Cry out in prayer more, show the Lord you are hungry and thirsty. Determine to be available and obedient – the two criteria that reveal love for God. He loves to share with such people.

There is a shallowness of knowledge and understanding in many churches because preachers fail to meditate on God’s word and spend time in God’s presence. There has been a loss of confidence in God’s word in many and that will only be reversed as more and more of us spend more time in His word and in His presence. When that happens we will become convinced of the truth and the power of both the word and the Spirit and the church may come alive in a new way.

22. Enlightened?

‘Probing Deeper’ Meditations: 22. Enlightened?

Eph 1:18“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.”

I am aware that I have waded around in this river of perception more than a few times in the past but then for the Christian ‘seeing’ is all important- seeing who Jesus us, seeing the wonder of the salvation that God offers us, seeing the ongoing work of redemption where the Spirit is constantly working to bring us back to the original master plan for mankind, eventually fulfilled in heaven in eternity, seeing the wonder of grace, seeing the wonder of the body of Christ…. and so much more.

Perception, insight, awareness, understanding. The fact that Paul had to pray for it suggests it is not natural. The New Testament speaks about how sin and Satan blind people in unbelief (2 Cor 4:4, 1 Jn 2:11, Jn 12:40) and the truth is that we are all still tainted by it in some measure which is why it is so important that we let Jesus’ light and the light of the Gospel shine into every corner of our minds.

God looks for open hearts into which He can share His heart (1 Sam 13:14, Acts 13:22) into which He can speak. Yes, reference to the ‘heart’ in the Bible speaks of the inner being where emotions, will and intellect interact. Paul wanted the Ephesians to be impacted by the Holy Spirit to bring revelation in all these areas so that (v.18,19) we would know who we are, people with power, people with a future, people of destiny. Lacking any of those? Time to go deeper and call out to heaven.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating again and again: I wonder how much the enemy has blinded the modern church (if not the church down through the ages) and what we are therefore missing out on? Again I have commented in the past that as I look back on my many decades of knowing the Lord and of being a church leader, I look back with a sense of failure – that I didn’t see things at the time that I see now. But it is as various government leaders have said about the year and half (nearly) of the Covid Pandemic – if we had the knowledge we have now, back at the early days of the Pandemic we would have done things differently, but life is a major learning exercise.

I was reminded only yesterday of a man – a very deceived man – who once said to me (and this is absolutely true), “You can’t teach me anything new, I know it all.” The height of deception. But I wonder how many of us potter through life ignorant of what we don’t know (yes, I know!) and are quite complacent in our ignorance. Paul knew that we need Holy Spirit revelation to understand. Perhaps we need to pray daily, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your word.” (Psa 119:18) Yes, I have substituted a word (law) to get a bigger picture.