42. Areas of Rule

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 42. Areas of Rule 

Dan 7:13,14 “there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power;

In a previous series, “Focus on Christ” in Study No.56, we noted the following about Christ and because it is so pertinent to our present series, we repeat it here. It flowed out of the prophetic picture that Daniel had about the Son of God referred to in our starting verses above, of Christ the ruler, and we will see the areas of his rule:

Reign’ is about exercising sovereignty, about being in control, not merely coping, not merely surviving, but being in control. When we come to the ruler over the Kingdom of God, the ruler is a benign controller who controls for the benefit of his subjects. That is the big difference between the kingdoms of the earth and the Kingdom of Heaven.  So, let’s see ‘Christ in Control’. It is so obvious we have probably never thought about it

Control over the material world: This is the most obvious thing in Jesus’ earthly ministry, and many of us struggle to believe that this is still true of his body today when we allow him to lead. In the pages of the Gospels we see Jesus in control of the elements – calming a storm, walking on water, turning water into wine, expanding bread and fishes to feed thousands; these are all examples of Jesus being in absolute control of material elements. If I had more space I could give modern day examples of the same sorts of thing.

Control over health and life itself: When we see Jesus healing the sick and casting out demons and even raising the dead, we see this power and authority over the material world being applied into flesh and blood human bodies. This is Jesus reigning in the most obvious ways. Again we could give many testimonies of the same things happening today.

Control over himself: Now here is an area we don’t tend to think about but when it is paralleled into our lives as part of his body today it becomes very pertinent. Let’s consider various ways we see this.

 i) In respect of Satan: The Gospels record Satan coming with three temptations before Jesus starts his ministry, seeking to bring him down, but in each case, Jesus remains firmly in control of his mind and his behaviour and gives right responses. This is significant because Satan questioned his very identity, but Jesus remained firmly in control of his own thinking about himself and so did not succumb to the enemy’s negatives; he knew who he was and what he was to do, right up to and including the Cross and never deviated from that, even in the Garden of Gethsemane when he was confronted with the awfulness of what was just about to happen

 ii) In respect of human prejudices: Jesus not succumb to prejudices or false religious expectations which we see in the way he met with and spoke to the Samaritan woman, the adulterous woman, the Greek woman, a leper who he touched, tax collectors etc. who he dined with, all of whom would have been rejected by respectable Judaism.

iii) In respect of his speech: But it goes beyond meeting with the unclean, the sinners and so on; it includes how he encountered and responded to the leaders and religious elite; he did not speak out of turn, he was in complete control of his tongue. He did not waver before ‘great people’; he knew who he was and therefore never felt defensive, as we so often do. He never felt uncomfortable in any situation because he knew who he was and knew the power and authority that he had.

 iv) In respect of his emotions: This is an area where we are so often stunted and so our emotions are oppressed by expectations or hardened and calloused by the hard knocks of life or the hard words of parents or teachers or other people of influence that shut us down. No, he was clearly saddened by the fact of his disciples’ little belief sometimes, he was saddened by the grief that he saw in those he loved (at Lazarus’s tomb), and he anguished over the thought of being separated from his Father on the Cross.

In each of these ways Jesus was in complete control. He knew people (Mt 12:25, 27:18, Jn 2:24) and was not fazed by them, whether they were the great and good and influential or whether they were prostitutes, demon possessed, sinners and crooks. In one sense we might say he was above them all and was therefore not controlled by what they thought, either of themselves or about him.

Application: Now that was what I wrote in that series about Christ, but now we have to take and apply this to all we have been saying about being seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, ruling with him. He, we said, is the head of the body and so if that is how he exercised his rule, seen in the Gospels in one single body, it must also be how he reigns through us, his body today. So, let’s apply those things.

When we are led and empowered by his Holy Spirit, in the light of these things, we should expect the body to, at times:

  • have control over the elements, the material world,
  • have control over health and life itself, bringing healing
  • have control over ourselves with His enabling, so that
    • we do not let Satan put us down
    • we do not tolerate prejudice
    • we control our speech
    • we are not fazed by ‘big people’, the good, the bad, anyone.

Now our tendency may be to duck and dive and make excuses and say well, these things will only happen through ‘big ministries’, apostles etc., but Jesus did say, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing.” (Jn 14:12). Admittedly the miraculous, whether in respect of the elements or in respect of human sickness, will only occur when needed, i.e. when we make ourselves available to Christ on the frontline, but why should that not include you and me?  This IS the way Christ ruled and still rules, so if we are seated with him exercising this rule……? Some areas for serious thought and prayer, and maybe reassessing of our ‘belief’.   “Whoever believes”?

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23. Laughter or Tears

Meditations in Ecclesiastes : 23 :  A Time for Laughter or Tears

Eccles 3:4 a time to weep and a time to laugh

We said yesterday that life is a kaleidoscope of change, but it is also a kaleidoscope of emotions. We mature when we realise this and when we learn to cope with all emotions. We also need to realise that emotions are our inner feelings expressing themselves outwardly. Now in Britain there are ranges of socially acceptable emotions and they vary depending on the area of the country where you come from, I have observed. Some areas and some social strata are more expressive than others. Some nationalities seem to be more expressive than others. We talk about the British “stiff up lip” meaning we don’t easily show emotions, yet that isn’t always true. I have known, what tend to be lower income groups, where emotions are expressed very freely.

There are other groups within society who have been taught that it is wrong to express emotion; historically that was probably to train the men to lead in the army and be an example to their men in not showing fear. In the women it was possibly to cope with their men going away to war and coping when they didn’t come back. Yet many of us are taught “big boys don’t cry” or “big girls don’t cry” when they’ve been hurt. Thus psychologists will talk about repressed emotions. The truth is that God has given us emotions and they are the healthy way to express what is happening on the inside.

So, there IS a time to weep. We can weep from sorrow or we can weep with joy. Healthy emotions aren’t afraid to be expressed. If you are watching a beautiful film that is touching, it is healthy to shed a few tears. If there is sadness, it is healthy to express tears. Those who are fearful of tears are fearful of losing control and falling apart. The person who  always holds back their tears is in danger of becoming an emotional block of stone, but you can only hold it in for a limited time, and if we don’t allow our emotions free play, then one day we may completely crack.

The person who bottles in their emotions is unable to express them to their partner or their children, and the relationship is only a tiny part of what God intended it to be. Children who grow up never seeing their fathers express emotion are deprived and won’t know what to do with their own feelings, and may be similarly stunted.

We should not be ashamed of tears. When a loved one dies, it is natural to weep. If they have been going through a serious incurable illness in great pain, there may be a sense of relief when death finally comes, and we simply find there are no tears because of the relief. That’s all right; it’s what you are feeling on the inside. When we weep with sorrow it will not go on for ever: weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psa30:5). Perhaps if we had real freedom of emotions, we would express tears far more often as we see the hurt and pain of this Fallen World. Jeremiah wept over the fall of Jerusalem and the book of Lamentations is just that, a lament with tears over the awfulness of what had happened. Do we ever get similarly moved?

Laughter seems to be a particularly human experience. Clearly dogs express pleasure by wagging their tails and other creatures express pleasure in other ways, but examine and watch and analyse laughter and it is a strange human thing. Our faces contort, our breathing becomes rapid and we ‘hoot’. Psychologists say laughter is good for you, it is healthy. Check your life out. How often do you laugh?  A life deprived of laughter is a sad life. Laughter comes with humour and different people find different things funny. Some things we find mildly funny and other things we find side-splittingly funny. It’s a strange thing humour and laughter.

We laugh because we are happy: Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” (Gen 21:6) We laugh when we find ourselves in ‘funny situations’ or someone inadvertently says or does something funny, and we laugh. Yet if we are kind and considerate there are times when we know it is nicer not to laugh else we will be laughing at someone and demeaning them by it. We can laugh as means of expressing our security when someone seeks to verbally attack us:the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming.” (Psa 37:13). Thus we can laugh in the face of adversity if we know the Lord is with us. Beware the laughter of unbelief: Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old?” (Gen 17:17)

So laughter can be good or bad. It is bad when it mocks another or derides the word of God. It is good when it expresses happiness at good things happening, or laughs at funny things happening. Imagine a life entirely devoid of emotions; how dull it would be. In the TV and film series’ Star Trek they created the character of Spock who was a ‘Vulcan’ a race for whom emotions had been overridden. Spock compensated for his lack of emotions by showing his logic – ‘cold logic’ we speak about. In a later series, the android, Data, was given emotions. Prior to then he had been this ‘cold’ robot. When we read books, watch films, or listen to music, our emotions enhance the experience. God, who has emotions has made us in His image, and so we have emotions to help us be more complete people. The psalms are full of these emotions. It’s the way the Lord has made us. Rejoice in our humanity.

18. Disturbed

‘WHY?’ QUESTIONS No.18

Psa 42:5 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?

Our emotions are both a blessing and a bane. Joy and laughter are expressions that bless us. Tears even can be a blessing when they are tears of joy. Those are the upside emotions but the many downside emotions are not a blessing. We are sufficiently self-aware these days to know that emotions are linked to our physical state so when we are tired we feel down, we feel low. But there are also times when we feel emotionally low and we cannot see any connection with our physical well-being. Physically we’re fine, yet somehow within us we feel disturbed. Sometimes our deep emotions can act as a warning.

Once, many years ago I came home at the end of the day and found as I talked to my wife about normal things, I began to feel quite disturbed. Disturbed is a good word. Do you remember there was a pool in Jerusalem in Jesus’ day called the Pool of Bethesda where it was believed that an angel came and ‘stirred’ the water and when that happened they believed if you got into the pool quickly you would be healed. The man spoke to Jesus,Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred.” Stirred here is the same as disturbed. The peaceful water would suddenly be stirred up, it was disturbed. That is how it can be with us and that was how it was with me that day. There seemed to be no natural reason why it should be, so I went away and the Lord said, “You wife’s spirit is disturbed because there was a witch in the house earlier in the day and her disturbed spirit disturbed your wife’s spirit and her disturbed spirit has disturbed yours.” It was true she had been sharing the Lord with this other woman who was deeply into the occult and it had left her with a disturbed spirit. We learnt to ‘clean up’ before the Lord after such encounters.

Sometimes we may be ‘disturbed’ because a loved one is being threatened and it is a warning to us to pray. Sometimes we may be ‘disturbed’ because of the presence of the enemy in someone we encounter, as above. Sometimes we may be ‘disturbed’ because of the enemy rising against us directly. In each case there is an absence of peace deep down or, to put it another way, the still waters of God’s presence are disturbed by the enemy’s presence. The only thing about this dis-peace is that initially at least we don’t know the cause of it. Something or someone is making us feel disturbed but we don’t know who or what. There is yet another cause seen in this psalm.

Thus it was that the psalmist had this awareness of being downcast, of being disturbed, but didn’t know the reason for it. In fact, twice in this psalm and once in the psalm that follows he expresses this uncertainty. For him this sense of inner disquiet is more than feeling just ‘low’; that we might think if we had just the word ‘downcast’, but we also have the word ‘disturbed’. However, even thinking about ‘downcast’ we see it means to be ‘cast down’ and that suggests that someone or something has caused this. It didn’t just happen. Add to that the word disturbed and, using the water analogy above, someone or something has disturbed the peace. Something has happened to cause this, and we need to enquire of the Lord to find what it is. To do that here we need to go back in the psalm.

The first three verses of the psalm seem to indicate a hunger for the Lord which is acute because the Lord doesn’t seem to be there. Yet what makes it worse, are the words of other people who have been chiding him: “men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?(v.3). Their words make it worse. His awareness of lacking a sense of the Lord’s presence has been made more acute by their remarks. He thinks back (v.4) to the times in the past when they knew the Lord’s presence, but that just seems a distant memory now. That is what has made him feel downcast, that is what has disturbed him. He knows there is something better than he has at the moment, and its absence leaves him feeling both negative and disturbed.

So what to do about such times? Two answers are given. The first is to call to the Lord. That is what he is doing in the psalm. The second thing is to resolve to trust the Lord, to trust that, although the Lord seems distant at the moment, that will change. Listen to what he says: Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (v.5,6). He may feel low at the moment but, as he puts his hope in God, he will yet praise the Lord again. The sense isn’t just that he will have to make a supreme effort to praise God, but that God will come and do things that will cause praise to rise afresh in him. In other words, he is declaring that this is a temporary state and he will trust God to turn up in His time and continue doing the things they have known Him do in the past.

So, to conclude; if you have this sense of being cast down and being disturbed by someone or something, and the presence of God seems absent, then see it as a temporary glitch. As you call to the Lord and trust in Him, He will act; He will reveal the cause and bring change. That is faith.

8. The Pure in Heart

MEDITATIONS IN THE BEATITUDES – 8

Mt 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Many of the key words in the Beatitudes are not words in common usage today. Perhaps this says more about us today than about the beatitudes. The idea of purity, or the word ‘pure’ is one such example. Purity is something that only gets referred to when we are talking about gold or silver, very rarely about qualities of our lives. However, that concept, of purity of gold or silver, does help us understand something more about what is being said in today’s verse. All of the early uses of ‘pure’ in the Bible are to do with “pure gold” that was used in the construction of the tabernacle. Forty times in the historical books in the first half of the Old Testament there are references to “pure gold”, gold without any impurities, the very best, the very finest gold possible. That was to be the quality of material used in connection with the worship place of God.

But our verse refers to purity of heart. Now Vines Expository Dictionary identifies ‘heart’ as meaning, the ‘inner man’ (Deut 30:14), and the seat of ‘desire or inclination’ (Ex 7:14), the ‘emotions’ (Deut 6:5), ‘knowledge and wisdom’ (Deut 8:5), ‘conscience and moral character’ (Job 27:6), ‘rebellion and pride’ (Gen 8:21 ).

Now remember we have said again and again that we must see each verse in context, as a follow on from what has gone before. In the previous meditations we said that there was a submission to the will of God and a desire to receive God’s righteousness, and then having a merciful attitude towards all others as an indication of the reality of understanding of our spiritual poverty and need for God. One of the key verses in the Old Testament that is pertinent here is, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). As we come to God to receive His salvation, the Lord closely examines us to see how effective the convicting work of His Holy Spirit is. Having a merciful attitude towards others is one good indicator, but our attitude towards God is the key thing, and that is where this verse applies.

So, to quote what we said about what we find in Vines Dictionary, the Lord looks on the inner person (as our verse above says). He looks to see the reality of the desire that is there. It is only when our desire for his salvation is pure or real, that He gives it to us, and of course He is the only one who can see that reality. Perhaps that is why some people appear to come to a place of commitment but don’t seem to ‘come through’.

The Lord also looks at the reality of our emotions. How pure are they? Are our tears, tears of remorse, tears of having been found out, revealed for who we are, or are they tears of genuine contrition, tears of anguish over the awfulness of who we are? The Lord alone knows the reality of our emotions at that point.

The Lord also examines our knowledge, the awareness of our state. Some people in big meetings have an emotional experience but there is no content to it. They do not know why they are feeling what they are feeling, but when we truly come to Christ under the conviction of his Holy Spirit, we know that we are sinners, we know that we are lost, we know that we are helpless and we know that only God can help us.

The Lord also looks at our conscience, our desire for moral standing. This is very similar to the previous one – He looks to see that we are going beyond mere emotions, that our cry is a genuine cry from deep down to be put morally right.

Finally the Lord looks deep inside us to see if, at the moment of conviction, there is a genuine dying to the old rebellious nature. When the Lord sees that, He knows that we are truly sincere and willing to forsake the past and let Him bring us a new life.

The second half of the verse gives us an amazing promise: they will see God .. The first implication is that when God sees this heart purity we have been considering, He then reveals Himself to us. By His own Holy Spirit coming to indwell us (Jn 14:17, 1 Cor 3:16) He enables us to have the most intimate relationship possible. “See” in that sense would simply mean ‘experience’. In the longer term, the promise of the New Testament is that when we die we will go to heaven and there we will see the Lord face to face. Purity of heart opens the way for the Lord to bring us His salvation, the ultimate expression of which is eternal life with Him in heaven. Yes, we have years to live out that relationship here on earth and possibly through dreams and visions we will ‘see’ the Lord, but the final outworking of that relationship is a face to face encounter in eternity in heaven. That is our destiny; that is the destiny of those who come to the place of purity of heart.