57. About ‘attitude’

The Wonder of the Church:  Part 8 – Counter Attack

57. About ‘attitude’

1 Sam 17:36   Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.

Attitude? We sometimes talk about young people with ‘attitude’. Attitude means a strong or belligerent spirit, almost a youthful arrogance. David had ‘attitude’ but it was based entirely in his knowledge and experience of the Lord. He is the supreme example for us of a warrior. He is a man after God’s own heart, we’ve already noted, he’s been chosen by God to eventually replace Saul as king, but in the meantime he is a humble shepherd boy, doing his father’s bidding, living out on the hillside looking after his father’s sheep or, as now, taking provisions to the other brothers at the battle front. And it is when he arrives here he finds this terrible situation – Israel brought to a fearful halt before the taunts of this pagan giant. Everyone else is in a state of fear, and fear immobilizes, and so there appears a stalemate. Nothing is happening – except the giant comes out day by day with his taunts and his challenges.

And the Church? In this day of confusion and chaos, that we have already considered, there is a word-weariness. How does the church appear to deal with this? Apparently by minding their own business and just carrying on as normal holding services.  In the UK, where for well over a year, there has been Parliamentary shambles over Brexit, the church has been silent. Where are the voices of leadership at the top of all the main denominations that should be crying out, “Stop bickering, stop maneuvering for your own ends, work together for the good of the country, seek wisdom to come to a collective agreement, care for the country not your own petty kingdoms!”

In the USA, where for the last two years the integrity of the office of the President has been torn down in the eyes of the watching world, where are the big church voices that should be crying, “Mr. President, some of your goals are worthy but please work for them without tantrums, without abusing people, without lies and apparently constantly changing your mind in a war of words, please regain credibility for the office.”  Where are the voices of the church? They are silent. We gaze across the valley at the enemy (of lies and unrighteousness) and we stand silently immobilized by fear. Where are the Davids?

David’s Testimony: David first testifies to what he knows God has done for him in the past. Remember Isaiah cried out, “To the law and the testimony,” (Isa 8:20) and at the end, “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” (Rev 12:11) In the Old Testament it was to rely on the Law and what God had done previously delivering Israel out of Egypt; in the New Testament it is the work of Christ on the Cross and the testimony of what Jesus has done for us. How much of a testimony do we have today?

The psalmist wrote, “The righteous …. will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green,  proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” (Psa 92:12-15)  The elderly righteous have an important part to play in this battle – they have a testimony, years of experiences with the Lord to be declared aloud, things to encourage the following on generations. Where are the voices of testimony in your church or does the church, in attitude at least, push aside the elderly generation as “past it!”?

And me? I can have ‘attitude’ because of my knowledge of the word of the Lord, because of the work of Christ, and because of the years of blessing that I have known. Each of these things should act as fuel for a fire that should burn bright in each of us, that brings boldness, brings courage. And you? Who are there around you in your ‘bubble’?  Family, friends, people at college or in the workplace? What have they learned about me that gives credibility to my voice? Do we stand out as trustworthy, hard and conscientious workers, reliable, gracious, loving, kind, gentle, caring, wise? Are these things part of our testimony, or has the enemy silenced us with a sense of failure? It’s never too late to start again, never to late to start reaching out with God’s servant-hearted love to those around you.

Trust & Relationship & Process: David trusts the Lord to turn up for him, to enable him to do what is necessary to bring down this pagan giant. He knows the relationship that he has with the Lord and knows that Goliath is an enemy of God: Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Sam 17:26) The fact that this giant keeps on demeaning Israel is an insult to God. We are God’s people! Don’t we believe the many scriptures where He promises to look after us? Is being a Christian, is being a part of the church, just about turning up on Sunday mornings to work through an hour or so of ritual? Isn’t the calling of Jesus to build up the body (teaching it to do what he did) and take it out into the world to wage war on lies, deceptions, untruth, unrighteousness.

Those are some of the things Jesus is warring against: “he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:25) Is this understanding part of our ‘attitude’? Jesus IS reigning in the midst of this fallen world, he IS working for the good of his people (Rom 8:28) and he IS working for the glory of his Father (Jn 17:1), he IS working to extend the kingdom and rule of God on the earth, so that love and goodness and light are extended into the darkness, and he WILL continue to do this until he has achieved it, with all these negatives brought down. Now part of this process is surely taking place today and he uses whoever will be available and will respond to him with their unique gifting to be used in their unique ways, and part of it must be when he returns again in sovereign triumph (see Rev 19)

Your unique part: Because we are just a part of the body of Christ, the church, we should not let the enemy taunt us with, “So you are going to challenge Parliament or the President! Just who do you think you are?”  Well, some of us may have that role, may have positions where we can be voices to the inner sanctum, but that is not true for most of us. So what about us? Are all the words of this study just hot air? No, there are specific things we CAN do. Let me give some starting pointers:

  1. We can and must ‘stand’ (see Eph 6:13,14), holding faithfully to Christ and who he calls us to be, be clear about our identity and holding on to it.
  2. We can and must pray as he guides us (see Eph 6:18, 1 Tim 2:1,2) for our nation and those who lead it. Never belittle your power to pray.
  3. We can ask the Lord to put specific people and local situations upon our hearts to pray for, and as he opens up understanding ask him for wisdom to know what to do, or what to say, so that you may have the opportunity to be salt and light (see Mt 5). This may include people who are in our family, or friends, neighbors etc. Don’t just pray for them but ask the Lord what part He wants you to play in bringing His love to them.
  4. In your church context, ask the Lord to use you to build up, encourage and build faith in others so the body will be strengthened and become more available to go to battle.
  5. Learn something of spiritual warfare – there are books out there, and I have written elsewhere on this site about this – and gather others around you who will be like minded, and make yourself available to the Lord, to pray, to intercede, to act to bring life and light to others.
  6. Daily maintain your relationship with Him for it will only be out of this that all these things will come about into reality.
  7. Pray for the Lord to draw you close, fill you with His Spirit, use you, and enlarge faith in you. Resist a mentality of settling for ease and comfort, declare you will be a kingdom bringer!

Amen?  May it be so.

12. Personal Righteousness

Meditations in David’s Psalms : 12 : Personal Righteousness  – Psa 15

Psa 15:1   LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?

Those of us who have known the Lord for any length of time come, I believe, to take so much for granted, that we tend to lose some of the wonder of the Lord and what has happened to us. It is amazing, first of all, that human beings can claim to be able to have a meaningful relationship with the true living God. But after that come questions: what does He want of me, what sort of life does He want me to live?

It is in this vein that David now ponders his relationship with the Lord. There is no indication of where or where these thoughts flowed in him, but he is pondering on the wonder of the possibility but is aware that God places demands on us. He gave Israel the Law through Moses, instructions of how to live out life as His people, in ways that would enable them to live in line with His original design for mankind. So David now ponders on the possibility of living in relationship with the Lord, living close to Him:LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?” (v.1)  There must be requirements, he muses, as to just who can dwell close to God because God is against evil, so what sort of life does the Lord require of me?

Now before we move into the list that follows, it is imperative that we clarify the truth that you cannot reach God and be saved by good works. Our works will never be good enough and so it is always a case of us surrendering to Him and receiving the salvation He has provided through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. In his death on the Cross, Jesus took all our punishment so that we might receive God’s forgiveness when we ask for it. That is how we are saved, but after that, the question then becomes, what sort of life does the Lord now want of me?

The verses that follow come as a continuing list: “He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.” (v.2-5) We need to work through this carefully.

Whose walk is blameless? Our conscience will scream out, with the Spirit’s help, if we know there are things for which we can be blamed, that were our fault, and so we should endeavour to see that we do not do such things. What is righteous? It is what is right before God. These are general attitude and behaviour issues.

Speaks the truth and allows no slander? This is all about words and speaking. How easily we let ourselves and the Lord down with careless words. This must be especially so in respect of others, never saying things that are untrue about another but, going further, never speaking wrong about another that pulls them down, i.e. doing no wrong to a neighbour and casting no slur on anyone.

Despises a vile man? This is about distinguishing between good and evil. Vile means wicked, sinful, offensive, disgusting, degrading, low or mean. Where we see these characteristics we should recognize them for what they are and we should despise them, look on them with scorn as things unworthy of people, things to be avoided. We need to recognize the wrong when we see it and reject it.

Honours those who fear the Lord? It is too easy to be skeptical about people who are more pious that we are, people who appear more holy than me. No, we should honour and encourage every believer who fears and respects the Lord. Again this is an attitude thing that reveals our own heart.

Who keeps his oath, even when it hurts. Wow! We are to be those who keep our promises even when it causes us work, effort or whatever. Truth, honesty and integrity go together in these things and we do well to consider them.

Who lends his money without taking interest? That is a challenge in the modern age when it is standard to charge for loans, but the word is saying be kind and generous in your dealings with others so you are working for their well-being and do not put them under pressure.

Finally, does not take a bribe against the innocent. Maintain justice and have no part in anything crooked, and especially have no part in anything that does others down and even more, do nothing to corrupt justice so as to blame the innocent!  Truth and honesty and integrity join now to justice.

And then he concludes, “He who does these things will never be shaken.” (v.5b) maintaining right and good standards mean these things will not backfire on us and the Lord will have no need to act against us. Even more, He will bless those who live His way and will keep and sustain them and protect them. There’s quite a lot here to think on, things to ponder on in the light of the ways of the world today.

30. Respect and Honour

Meditations in 1 Peter : 30:  Respect and Honour

1 Pet 2:17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honour the king.

There is an ongoing flow in Peter’s train of thought. We might trace it back to verses 9 and 10 where he speaks of us being “a chosen people… a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him … now you are the people of God.” We are, in other words, a special people. Having identified us in this way, he wants us to stand out for good: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God.” (v.12). Expanding on how we are to act within society he said, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority” (v.13) so that “by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” (v.15) and, on a negative note, he warns us “do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.” (v.16). In all of these ways he wants us to be people of good standing in society so that we will glorify God through our lives.

Which then brings us to “show proper respect to everyone.” There’s been a lot about respect in the media in recent years, largely because of the feeling that it is something that is largely absent in modern society. So what does respect mean? Why does it permeate right the way through culture? Even the youth culture phrase, “Don’t you dis me,” (i.e. don’t you disrespect me) speaks of this requirement to be respected, something we would like but which seems is often missing.

Now when Peter speaks of showing ‘proper respect’ there is an implication that respect should be given to every person. Respect means holding a good and right attitude about others, accepting them and esteeming them for who they are. At the very basic level, every person is made in the image of God, and every person is loved by God. Yet God has made each of us a sovereign figure, we rule our lives (in some measure at least) and have the ability to make choices that affect our own lives. We are not mere animals and we are not robots. We are human beings with an amazing range of abilities. We hold multiple roles in life – e.g. daughter, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, employer etc. etc.  – and in what we do and how we live we reveal something of the wonder of God, whether we realise it or not.

If we were really able to see one another with God’s eyes, we look past the failures and foibles and go, “Wow!”  I really like the prophetic gift because it allows one to see past the exterior and see something of the reality of the person before you and their potential and we are all considerably more than a cursory glance reveals. Because of that, each and every person is worthy of our respect in some measure.

But then Peter continues with three further brief injunctions which will reveal to others what we are really like. First there is “Love the brotherhood of believers.” That is shorthand for having a good attitude towards all other Christians. Note ALL other Christians. Why? Because we are all part of one big family that has God as its Father and who have their origins in Him. We are indeed all brothers and sisters in this family. We are related by the Holy Spirit and therefore there should be love among us.

Second there is simply, “fear God.” That is shorthand for, hold on to a right and proper relationship with the Lord whereby we honour Him for His greatness and glory and give Him the worship that is due to Him. He may be our heavenly Father but don’t be over familiar or casual with Him. He is God Almighty, Creator of all things. ‘Fear Him’ means realise the awesome wonder of who He is!

The third and final injunction in this simple verse is, “honour the king.” There is a right balance here. Honouring God first and then the rulers He has put in place, the figurehead of human society. The head of state or government is a powerful person and a person who carries much responsibility and, Scripture testifies, is answerable to God for the way they exercise their rule at the head of society. This person also deserves our respect (and prayers).

As we respond in different ways as Peter indicates here – with love, fear, respect – we reveal that we are people who understand our place in the scheme of things and our responses indicate we understand those to whom we respond. Thus, more than any other people, we should reveal reality. That is what this is all about! This is a world with God at its head and, one way or another, everyone is related to Him. Christian or otherwise, they deserve our respect, our ‘esteeming them for who they are.”  May it be so!