Snapshots: Day 53

Snapshots: Day 53

The Snapshot: “the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts.” (Ex 7:22) Once upon a time the Lord’s wisdom came only through His church. Today that wisdom is seen on bookshop ‘self-help’ shelves. Once upon a time, healing came only through the church; now it comes as well through medicine, hospitals and doctors, all God’s provision. The Lord works to bless His world but there is one thing that the world cannot emulate – the real presence of God and a relationship with Him. We should have a greater wisdom, a greater power, a greater understanding, if we seek Him and that which the world has, as a copy, soon flounders, for without Him the Lord will not allow it to continue. Seek Him.

Further Consideration: We live in a world of immense knowledge and experience and I believe this fact undermines the confidence of many Christians who perhaps have never thought these things through. I addressed this when I wrote a series of meditation entitled, “Reaching into Redemption” in Part 7 “In Defense of the Faith” where I touched on the subjects of drowning in materialism, knowledge, unreality, and social media. The world is good at drowning us in these things.

I wonder what Moses felt like when he opened the way for God to perform the early judgments and the stupid magicians copied them and made the situation worse. God’s power was being challenged. So there is the challenge then and today, is God’s power big enough to out-power the enemy? Really even thinking like that suggests we have lost contact with the truth. Our God is the super designer-creator of everything we know. He knows about everything. His knowledge is unlimited and His power is unlimited.

I love the account found in Luke 5 of Peter’s boat being used by Jesus and then Peter being scared out of his wits as he realises that the one in his boat not only knows more about fishing that he does, but he also appears to have the power to conjure up a massive shoal of fish where there were none!

So yes, I believe God inspires inventions, technology and all the rest – and then leaves us the immense challenge to find the wisdom to use it properly! And in the meantime there is also the temptation to believe all our modern technology came by our own cleverness. Silly little human beings! Don’t be conned into thinking that because we have all this technology in our homes or cars or businesses, that it makes us clever. Jesus’ parable of the two house builders (Mt 7) still holds true. Ignoring him may mean we can get away with it for a while but watch for the storms of life that will challenge our foundations. Don’t be conned by the bright lights of imitation reality in today’s world.

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Snapshots: Day 52

Snapshots: Day 52

The Snapshot: “your brother Aaron will be your prophet.” (Ex 7:1) Lord I am just not up to this. Yes you are. But I can’t speak. That’s OK, others can. So I don’t have to speak for you? Oh you will eventually but in the meantime I’ve got someone to help you; you’re not alone. What do you mean ‘eventually’?  You will grow, you will change; don’t be put off by your limitations today. Work as part of my body and leave me to do the changing in you. Just make sure your heart is open to me, and the rest will follow.  So I can sit in the background until you’ve been able to change me? I didn’t say that. Step out and see what changes. Right…….

Further Consideration: There are perhaps four things we need to highlight here. First, I am just like Moses at this time: weak, frail, feeling inadequate and struggling to cope with the things that still lurk from the past. The answer is, therefore, that just like Moses, the Lord is not put off by this. What follows is His answer.

Second, if I am like Moses, I am going to change, and it won’t be by trying harder, it will simply be by being obedient to the bit-by-bit leading of the Lord. Circumstances will open up that I will step into, people will ask things of me, life will go on, and I will be changed and so the places where I am inadequate today will become fewer as He leads and teaches and equips me.

Third, of course I am not God and I am not the whole body of Christ. We seem to have lost much of this concept in the church today, it seems. We desperately need to reclaim the truths of the body of Christ.  I am but a part of this body and I am what I am because God has so gifted me. I am not a miracle worker; I am not an evangelist. I would like to be but that is not what God has gifted me to be.  Knowing who you are and knowing your own heart and the gifting God has put within you, enables us to step out in faith in our area, the area God puts before us, and have the confidence that He will use us in it. In the meantime, I will not stress that He uses you in some other sphere; indeed, I will rejoice in it.

Fourth, I think it needs saying that we need to beware the enthusiast who wants us to be like them. The people-person with an evangelistic heart is the very best at laying guilt on the quiet soul who is just such a lovely, gentle witness of a saint. I run schools of prophecy and although everyone that evening will ‘have a word’ from the Lord, in the following months only a few will use the gift regularly and some never again – but that is all right! They will have their own unique gifts. All us teachers can do is open a door and see who the Lord wants to draw through it and bless and use. Know your ‘door’ and  rest and rejoice in it.

Snapshots: Day 51

Snapshots: Day 51

The Snapshot: “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?” (Ex 6:12) So I shared with my friend and they rejected my words. Why would my neighbour, my boss, my teacher, listen to me? I suspect I have shared with people who are just not ready, but the Gospel is never wasted; they have heard. Perhaps if I pray and listen to the Lord to see who he puts on my heart or what he puts on my heart to say, it might be different. Moses had to speak to Pharaoh and be rebuffed at least ten times. Hmmmm!  Lord, make me a light – somehow! – and give me opportunities and grace to persevere to glorify you.

Further Consideration: As I talk and listen to friends, I am left feeling that most of us feel quite inadequate ‘witnessing’ to others. In the UK at least, we live in a land where ‘religion’ has been marginalized but that doesn’t mean that God is inactive in reaching out and drawing those He saw from the foundation of the world who would respond. Our culture appears hardened to the Gospel and yet the truths of the Gospel still provide the only answer for the problems and perils of mankind. Still the consequences of living contrary to God’s design are increasingly obvious and even the world itself is beginning to see these things, whether it is to do with lives of many sexual partners, cohabitation, infidelity, use of pornography, over-drinking, or excessive social media use, it is still the same: we need the Gospel, we need to call people’s attention to an alternative way, the way of God.

But then Peter comes to our aid: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Pet 3:15) Our starting point is seeking to be a blessing to the world around us so that just perhaps someone with a hungry heart is going to say, “Why are you like that? I want what you’ve got.” It is then, hopefully with grace and humility we share our testimony. It is a good practice to sit down and think out what you could say in such a situation, a testimony that you could share in say two or three minutes. If they want more, they will ask for it.

If you really want to step out of the boat and walk on water, watch for the times when people open up their hearts and share their worries. There are two levels of approach. First is to say, “Would you mind if I go away and pray about that for you?” and the second is, “Would you mind if I prayed for you right now?”  Very, very rarely is it that people will say no. People may not be open to church and religion, but they invariably are open to prayer.

Many of us have ‘faltering lips’ but we must remember that the Lord is with us, just like Moses. Watch this space!

Snapshots: Day 50

Snapshots: Day 50

The Snapshot: “I will bring you to the land…”  (Ex 6:8) When God says He will do things we so often jump to the conclusion that He means now, this minute, but His reiteration to Moses that He will take His people into the Promised Land first came to Abram, then Isaac and then Jacob. It first came over four hundred years back! He had warned Abram that it would take that time. Our problem is that we only read parts of scripture and rarely get the big picture which means we jump to wrong conclusions – God is not here, He’s changed His mind, He doesn’t love me anymore, He’s given up on me. All lies from the enemy. He is using the time to change you in the circumstances, so look again and rejoice.

Further Consideration: From the moment the Lord called Abram and the die was set for establishing a relationship with this family and then later with this nation, ‘the land’ was always a feature of His promises to the Patriarchs: “Go from your country….to the land I will show you,” (Gen 12:1) and then, “To your offspring I will give this land,.” (Gen 12:7) then, “All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever…. walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you,” (Gen 13:15,17) and, “He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it,” (Gen 15:7) then, “your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there…. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here,” (Gen 15:13,16) etc. until eventually, to Moses, “I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites.” (Ex 3:8)

‘The land’ was to be the place, the environment, in which the Lord would have dealings with Israel, revealing Himself to the world through them until eventually it would be the ‘God-zone’, prepared over the centuries, into which His Son would come and be revealed and become the Redeemer of the world.

Did the enemy realise the significance of all this? Probably not, and yet the fact that God was declaring this was His will for the Hebrews made the enemy stir up against them through Pharaoh. The battle isn’t merely to deliver them out of Egypt, as wonderful as that was, but was to deliver them into the new land, the land He has decreed will be theirs forever. Yet, as He warned, it would be ‘future generations’ who would receive it – the present generation. The time has arrived. It’s time to get them out to get them in, and however much Pharaoh might object, it WILL happen! Two lands, one to be left, one to be taken.

Snapshots: Day 49

Snapshots: Day 49

The Snapshot: “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people?” (Ex 5:22) Why, Moses, when God said it would be hard, do you complain? So often we complain because we fail to take hold of the truth that has been put before us. God is not hard, but the fallen world often is. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Mt 5:4) I don’t like mourning. I know but death does come. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.” (Mt 5:10) I like being liked.  Yes, but the unrighteous don’t like being shown up.  But I thought being a Christian would be easy?  I’m sorry you listened to a lie. But why, and how will I cope? It’s all right, I am with you (Heb 13:5) and I am working all things for your good, even the bad things! (Rom 8:28)

Further Consideration: I believe it is one of the most important things that Christians understand the big picture of being a Christian, for only in so doing will they manage to maintain a right attitude towards the things that happen to them.

Moses lost sight of the big picture; the Lord had warned him that this would be hard going that would necessitate Him coming again and again to deal with Pharaoh, yet Moses cries out to the Lord, “Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” (|Ex 5:23) Moses wanted it to happen instantly, he wanted God to wave a magic wand over the situation and transform it straight away, but this situation involves people and changing people takes time.

Point One: we live in a Fallen World where, because of sin, things go wrong and people say and do nasty things because they have free will.

Point Two: God does not override our free will and so permits the world to proceed as it does with things going wrong and people acting badly BUT He does expect us, His children, to act as His representatives and to be salt and light in it.

Point Three: He a) expects us to change the circumstances and b) be changed by the circumstances. We are to be one of His means of bringing change in this world while being changed into Jesus’ likeness as we do it.

So, when bad circumstances come, turn to the Lord, look for His grace and His wisdom to deal with it. When we find it difficult to cope with people around us who are not being the epitome of a good person, look to Him for His grace to love them, pray for them, and bless them. Not the easiest of tasks but possible with His enabling. Let’s not moan and groan under the pressures of this Fallen World but use such times to demonstrate the goodness of God.

Snapshots: Day 48

Snapshots: Day 48

The Snapshot: “Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go?” (Ex 5:2) A hard heart is revealed by a “Why should I?” attitude. Why should I worship God? Why should I pray? Why should I read the Bible? Why should I go to church? Why should I do what I don’t want to do? Why should I obey him? Hard hearts refuse to listen to others. Hard hearts refuse to receive wise counsel. Hard hearts refuse to say sorry. Hard hearts continue to make excuses. A hard heart is simply any heart that has settled into a self-centred mode and refuses to change. Of course, all the refusals – pray, read, obey etc. – are irrelevant. It is the heart condition that is the critical issue. And it is critical because hardness turns into inactivity which becomes death.

Further Consideration: In the previous snapshot we sought to demonstrate how hard-heartedness, this resistance to outside pressure, can so easily mean we are operating against what can only be called common sense. It is that because any outsider looking in would see how foolish it was to pursue this course, a course that was doomed to failure and even likely to cause our demise.

But we see this same attitude in so many people around us who say, “Who is God, what is this religion, that should tell me what to do? Why should I obey the things your preachers say, who are you to say you are right and I am wrong?”

Increasingly I have to say, look at the way life, in the godless Western world, is working out. As they say, ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’, i.e. ‘the final results are the only way to judge something’s quality or veracity’, to quote an internet definition. The Bible puts it more simply:A man reaps what he sows.” (Gal 6:7)

But the hardness of people’s hearts means they plough on through life living foolishly, suffering all the repercussions that are being seen to follow. Obesity is almost an epidemic because of lack of self-control in eating, alcoholism or a whole range of antisocial behaviour is seen following intemperate use of alcohol, failing relationships, growth of STDs, unwanted pregnancies, guilt-laden abortions, etc. etc. are the clearly visible fruit of hardhearted refusal to listen to God.

But why is it? The apostle Paul wrote, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor 4:4) How does he do that? Using what John called, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” (1 Jn 2:16) or, “the world’s ways… the world’s goods… squeezing out love for the Father.” (Msg) These are the things that fuel a hard heart.

Snapshots: Day 47

Snapshots: Day 47

The Snapshot: “I will harden his heart.” (Ex 4:22) Lord, I’m a bit confused by this. I’ve looked up and there seem at least ten times when it says you hardened him and at least three times that he hardened himself. Which is true? Both. It’s very easy; when someone has a hard heart and you challenge them, their heart just gets harder.  So you were purposely making it worse? I was purposely making it clear to you what was going on in him. Er …. why? As a warning; how would you describe him? Me Lord? Yes, you.  Er, stubborn and pretty stupid really, I suppose. Was he unique in the human race? Definitely not.  What lessons do you think come out here? Well …. not to allow yourself to be hard-hearted, not to argue with I AM?    Silence.

Further Consideration: The heart? Of course when the Bible speaks of ‘the heart’ it is not referring to that muscle that pumps blood around the body but that inner area where will and intellect interact to guide, motivate, inspire the life that is ‘me’.

But that’s where it takes on differences in me from other people, differences in me as to how I react to God, to people, to circumstances. The Bible shows the possibilities: stubborn-hearted (Isa 46:12), an undivided heart (Ezek 11:19), a heart of stone or of flesh (Ezek 36:26), a troubled heart (Gen 6:6), a hard heart (Ex 7:3), a lusting heart (Num 15:39), a fearful heart (Deut 1:28), a seeking heart (Deut 4:29), a proud heart (Deut 8:14),  a pure heart (Mt 5:8), a gentle and humble heart (Mt 11:29) etc. etc.

All these descriptions show us what we are like ‘at the heart of us’, at the core of our being, that is expressed outwardly in life activity. And so we come to a ‘hard heart’, a person whose inner being is set and determined, who resists any pressure from outside of their being to change and conform to outside wishes, outside forces – God!

In Pharaoh we see the awfulness, the folly, of a heart that resists the pressures put upon it. To use a completely different analogy, imagine a man driving a car across the country and he decides to keep himself awake by having half a dozen bottles of alcohol beside him which he will use from time to time. You try to explain to him that it won’t work, in him like that, that it will incapacitate him, but he has set his heart on this. He starts off and you ring him on his cell phone, his mobile in the car, and you plead with him not to drink from the bottles, but his heart is hard, he refuses to listen to you; you keep on warning him but he refuses to listen, even though his vision is becoming impaired. Eventually you hear over the phone the sounds of the crash. It was inevitable! Thus it is inevitable that pressed and pressed Pharaoh’s hard heart will get harder and bring about his demise. Learn.