Learning when to wait and when to act

Look and listen – like we learned when crossing the road BUT it’s learning to look and listen with spiritual eyes and ears.  And learning to wait until the Lord says to cross.

Green Cross Code

  1. THINK! Find the safest place to cross, then stop.
  2. STOP! Stand on the pavement near the kerb.
  3. USE YOUR EYES AND EARS! Look all around for traffic, and listen.
  4. WAIT UNTIL IT’S SAFE TO CROSS! If traffic is coming, let it pass.
  5. LOOK AND LISTEN! When it’s safe, walk straight across the road.
  6. ARRIVE ALIVE! Keep looking and listening

The waiting is hard but we need to keep asking as in the parable of the widow and unjust judge.

Luke 18:1-8

The Great Romantic, Purpose and Destiny

Purpose is important. Purpose gives you a reason to get up in the morning. Without purpose we become depressed. When we lose purpose our identity has been stolen.

True purpose is God’s calling into destiny. Our hearts awaken simply at the thought of that. Something to live for, something to long for, something to die for.

God is a romantic. He yearns for you,  searches for you, and greatly desires to win your heart and having won your heart, to captivate your heart.  He is the knight in shining armour, fighting his way through the brambles, breaking into the castle to kiss you and wake you up from a 100 year sleep.  There is nothing he wouldn’t do and in fact He has already done it all on the cross.  All we have to do is to turn our face towards Him and receive the kiss of life.

Once we wake the Lord puts Himself in us and sends us as knights in shining armour to more castles enclosed in brambles with many sleeping beauties within.  What can we do but get out our sword and fight for those we love.

The Great Romantic calls us into Purpose and Destiny.

Suggestion is the enemy of integrity

The enemy finds many ways to whisper suggestion in our ears and sow seeds of doubt about people or ministries.

We need to recognise when suggestion is at work and cut through it looking for the truth as seen in the open and the fruit of those concerned.

 

Many Beautiful Things

Last Tuesday’s ODB entry is worth reading, but it made me ask what does God find beautiful.  It’s whole new area to explore ….

Some questions:

  • What is beauty?
  • How does cultural bias impact?
  • What speaks to our souls/hearts?

Mark 14:1-9

Many Beautiful Things

 

Disarming the Dragon

As I help a friend through a difficult situation I have caught a glimpse of how much people can give themselves over to evil.  He is under constant attack and it’s costly.  It is also character-forming.

Over time, I have also seen the contrast of what might be seen in a snap shot (what someone might want us to see of them) and their true character which is then revealed over time.

The bible says (Matt 7:15-20):

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Image result for wolves in sheeps clothing

These verses tend to focus on those who would seek position in churches – people to watch out for.  In the case of my friend it seems he is having to confront a “dragon in a dress“.

Image result for "dragon in a dress"

As I write I am conscious that many of you may think I am being unfair, but please trust me, there is a long list of people who have felt the flames of attack.  My friend just receives it regularly.

It is a testing time.  He suffers.  His wider family also suffer.  But during this time we have prayed and worked together to try to be and respond the way God would want.  Which ultimately means to trust God, wait and see what He will do.  It’s not easy and it is very tempting to respond another way.

1 Pet 5:18-19

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

So, how do you disarm a dragon?  A beautiful magnificent creature that breathes fire and destruction.

In summary, the answer is faith as opposed to fear.  The enemy is only as strong as the degree to which we give ourselves over to fear.  And of course we need to be honest when we are doing precisely that – and bring it to God.  Confess the fear and ask Him for help.  This is not a momentary transformation.  It is an ongoing battle.  We need the shield of faith.

Eph 6:16

16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

The only defense against the flaming arrows is the shield of faith. Faith in a trustworthy God, faith in His victory, faith in the redeeming power of the blood of Jesus, faith in our identity in Christ.  To stand firm in the fact that I am a child of God.  It is my identify bestowed upon me by the Lord Himself.

The enemy also only has as much authority as we give him.  In Genesis 1:28,29 God gives man authority over the earth:

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.

In Genesis 3:4-7 Satan steals that authority:

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Why do I say he stole our authority?  See Matt 4:8-9:

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

I say it, because he claims it himself.  He has as much authority and rule as we give him.  He does it through temptation, sowing seeds of doubt and fear.

However, Jesus won that authority back (Matt 28:18-20):

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

And with that authority he commissioned us to re-establish the rule of His Kingdom.

We literally have to choose which kingdom we live out of.  This will determine how much power we choose to give the enemy.  How much do we choose to believe the lies or fear the threats of the enemy as opposed to putting our trust and faith in God?  How much do we allow a harmful action to define us – victim or victor.

Let God defend our character as opposed to trying to control and influence what others think about us.  Our reputation is safe in His mouth.

We can learn something from a famous passage found in the sermon on the mount (Matt 5:38-42):

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a]39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Key points:

Do not resist an evil person!  Wow.  That is a challenge, but it is also the key.  Do not be drawn into reacting – it is slippery slope.

I say again this is why suffering so often refines our character.  We have to recognise who we are choosing to be in any moment.

“Turning the other cheek” – when done, we are saying that the threat of physical harm does not have any power over me.  I have the courage to face physical pain. Your violence against me does not define who I am.  My response to your action defines who I am and I choose to be a child of God.  Your action defines who you are.  Now, who is the victor?

“If being sued for your tunic give them your cloak as well.”  Your threats to rob me do not scare me.  I place little value in these things and more value in trusting God for what I need and who I am as a result.  Your actions define who you are. Now, who is the victor?

“Go the extra mile when someone forces you to do one.”  Note that this is routed in something the Roman army could enforce on people.  They could demand a local to act as a guide or a porter – for a set distance (1000 paces).  Given this was an order from an oppressor this very act reinforced that you were the victim.  Jesus once again encourages us to choose who we are.  I choose to be kind and if you want help it is my choice to give it and I choose to help you more than you asked – it is my choice.  I choose to bless – it is who I am.  Who are you?  Now, who is the victor?

Wise as serpents, innocent as doves (Matt 10:16).

Pouring hot coals (Prov 25:21-22).

Giving and Receiving Worth

If you have read some of my recent posts you will notice that there are times when I have a feeling a low self worth.  This is born out of a frustration of recognizing I am not the person I want to be – and at times a long way off from that.

I am not the first to feel this way.  See what Paul says in Rom 7:21-25:

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[a] a slave to the law of sin.

 

I recognize the hand of the enemy at work during these moments because he wants to make me ineffective and, if he can, even destructive to the work of God. He does not hesitate to remind me of my failures and how unworthy I am.  And of course, it is a half-truth.  I do have many failures and I am unworthy of God’s mercy.  But that is not the point is it?  I often need to be reminded that I am covered in the blood of Jesus (through my belief) and therefore completely washed clean of my sin.  God sees me “hidden in Christ”.  He no longer sees the sin – it as though it is as far as the east is from the west.  So that takes care of both my failures and unworthiness.  Then add to that I am adopted into the family of God – I am a child of God.  Chosen!  Destined!  Sent!  I just need to humble myself and make myself available.  But I also need to take on and accept that God really does love me!  That He really does accept me as I am AND that He loves me so much that He wants to make me more like Himself.  Wow!  What a privilege.

It is so important that we are honest about our failures.  If we hide them then we are pretending we don’t have any and other people will not be able to see the full work of salvation in our lives.  My failures speak of my need for salvation.  My faith then speaks of my trust in God, His love and His redeemed and refining purposes for my life.

However, that is not the point of this post!  It is simply the reason why I started thinking about giving worth.

Where do we get our sense of self-worth from?  When we speak of worth we speak of value.  So, to put it another way, where do we get our sense of how much others value us and thus how much we might then value ourselves?

It’s an important question.  It’s important because it should force us to be honest. Whose voice do we listen to the most?

How much do the people in school or college/university value me?

How much do the people in my team value me?

How much do the people in my work value me?

How much does my spouse value me?

How much do my family value me?

I have broken out these questions so that we might think through them one by one.

Because whenever we ask “how much does X value me?”, we are also asking, “and what can I do to increase that?”.  We might not put it in to these precise words but I am sure that is what we so often do ask ourselves.  It plays a great importance in our sense of self-worth.  We might then need to consider, “what am I willing to do so that X will value (love) me more?”

The situations that caused me to have such a low self-esteem were those in which I may have humiliated myself in front of people who are important to me.  I may also have inadvertently hurt them in some way.  They are certainly not situations I am proud of.  That then leads to my frustration in myself.

So how do I deal with this?

The answer lies in recognizing how much importance I place on what people think of me.  I think you know where this is going, but before I get there, it’s really important that we don’t undervalue what people think of us either!

I need to place the most importance in what God thinks of me.  This has to be my starting point.  That does not mean I don’t value what others think of me, but it has to be put in perspective.  And interestingly, my starting point for taking on what God thinks of me is not to ask that question but rather to give Him his worth!

I need to start with worshiping God.  I can best worship God by recognizing who He is and what He is like.  The bible tells so much of that but there are also great worship songs out there that do the same.  I would also hope that being among God’s people in church does the same!

He is faithful, loving, kind, generous, swift to bless, slow to anger, almighty, powerful, sacrificial, full of peace, grace and mercy and ready to listen at any time.

He has also achieved so much that makes it possible for me to enter His presence. I need to give thanks for His sacrifice on the cross, the forgiveness of my sin, my adoption into His family and the destiny He places on my life.

And there is so much more!

God is ready to receive our “giving worth” (worship) at any time.  He does not need it, but He does delight in it for in those moments we are closest to God the Father, part of His loving family.  We can enter in to the most Holy place and know His acceptance and healing.

In worshiping God I remind myself of who He is.  That changes everything.  He then reminds me of how much value He has in me.  His willingness to die on the cross so that we can be together is such a beautiful expression of love.  See:

Engraved on His hands

My sense of self-worth changes in these moments and I know that whatever I do it cannot be taken away.

In these same moments I can also confess my sins, ask for forgiveness and also then ask God how I can put it right.  I do value what people think of me (the value they put in me).  It is part of loving and respecting someone.  I also value what they think of God as a result of what they think of me.  So, therefore if I have wronged someone I need to try to put it right, and if they have wronged me then I need to forgive them and where possible let them know it does not get in the way of how much I value (love) them.

But my self-worth must not come from what people think of me.  It must come from accepting and entering into what God thinks of me.

Finally, as well as giving worth to God, we need to find ways to give worth to each other.  This is simply learning to honour people for who they are.  Learning to look for the person God has made them to be and calling it out when we see it at work.  When we bestow God’s identify on someone, we honour them.  We can also do this through prophecy when God sees someone’s identify before we see any sign of it through what they do.  In the same way that God calls Gideon a mighty warrior or Jesus calls Simon, Peter (the rock) before they have done anything to warrant that name, we too can open ourselves to the leading of the Holy Spirit to call out and honour someone with the name and destiny God has given them.

The Right Marinade

Be Still and Know that I am God.

 

Take it in.

 

Breathe it in.

 

Wait.

 

I have been struggling and frustrated with myself recently.  I so want to be a man of peace.  As per Col 3:15 – to let the peace of Christ rule in my heart.  But I still have occasional outbursts of temper.  The most recent was a time that whilst in discussion with my son I was getting a little bit agitated (I can’t even remember what about now) and then I suddenly went over on my left ankle.  I have a history of ankle problems particularly with my right ankle for which I have ongoing physio treatment.  I let out a loud cry of pain and anger.  My emotions were a mixture of fear, pain and anguish.  And yet within a couple of minutes I knew it was not that bad.  Thirty minutes later my ankle felt as though nothing had happened.  In the moment after crying out I got angry at myself for getting angry!!!!  I was so disappointed that seemingly just below the surface there was this anger waiting to get out.

It was a depressing thought.  In my quiet times that followed I recalled something someone had recently sent to me by text – Be still and know that I am God.  To silence myself and simply rest in the presence of God.

A thought came to me that this was not a matter of trying to unravel all the complex undercurrents going on within me, but rather that I simply reflected that which I have been soaked in during my life.  That I have effectively been marinated in all the fears and temptations of the world for such a long time that it is going to take a long time of deliberate choice simply to sit before the Lord if I am to take on His fragrance and taste.  To marinate in Him.  In other words the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness etc) are the observed outcomes of the Holy Spirit being at work in us.  These qualities are an essence of Him.

As I was praying this morning (choosing to simply sit before the Lord – whilst on a train into work) I find that I have to work at saying little and doing nothing. This act prepares my heart.  I then turned to the latest ODB which pointed me to Matt 5:16, “Let your light shine before others …..”.  I had started my prayer time feeling useless – with this underlying frustration at my inability to control my temper at times.  God reminded me that He has put a light within me – that it is there.  I have to be willing to let Him work within me and patient to let Him do it in His time – and then trust that He will.  At the same time I then have to let whatever light there is within me to shine before men – so that God will get the glory.  The Glory that He so deserves.  There are opportunities to shine – to serve and help others and learn the joy that the privilege to do so shapes who I am in Christ and gives Him the glory at the same time.

What do we marinade in?  What do we taste and smell of?

Opportunities to Bless

Imagine you are in a foreign country (the UK) in a big city (London) and having had a lovely day visiting a famous tourist site (Hampton Court) that the moment you get off a train and see it leave the station you realize that you have left your phone on that train.  A very expensive phone with valuable, personal, memories.

How would you feel?  Distraught.  Stressed.  A lovely day trashed.

What would you do?

Now imagine you are on the way back home from work.  As you get on the train home you see a phone in the seat you have chosen.  What would you do?  This happened to me yesterday.  I had several choices:

  1. Ignore it.  Do nothing.
  2. Find an official or employee of the station (and probably miss the train) – and risk them not doing anything.
  3. Steal it (never an option).
  4. Try to find a way to help the owner get their phone.

For me, it was always going to be option 4!  There are thoughts that go through your mind.  Would other people think I was stealing it?  Would the owner think I had stolen it if they tracked the phone and called the police?  Well sometimes we need to choose to sow blessing and trust in the world rather than add to the overload of suspicion.  To be as innocent as doves (in our actions) whilst being wise to the world we are in (Matt 10:16).  I took the phone and did a search on the internet to try to find out how to return a phone to its owner.  It was locked – so I could not look anybody up.  It was not connected to the internet, so I could not ask Siri to phone “home” or “mom”.  So, I decided to get home, look up the IMEI number and call the provider (seemingly Vodafone) or simply wait for someone to call.

As I walked through the door at home the phone rang and I spoke to Emily, who was very stressed.  Questions were asked about location and we agreed to meet halfway at Wimbledon.  It was a detour and time for me – but it was an opportunity to bless.

When I got to Wimbledon you should have seen their faces (Emily and her husband Mike from New Jersey).  They were so pleased.  We hugged and chatted for a short while – and I know that their evening will have been far, far better than it could have been.  I felt good.

I did not make a choice to feel good.  I reject the argument that even acts of love are selfish – but it did feel really good.  As I was walking back up the hill to my home I thought of Jesus’ words, “it is better to give than receive” (Acts 20:35).  I shared that with Emily and Mike via text – we had exchanged phone numbers.  They had wanted to give me a reward which I refused simply asking them to pass on the kindness to someone else.  They replied to my text saying they would do precisely that.

Now, who has been more blessed, me or them?  It doesn’t really matter.  But I can tell you that we have all come out of the day more blessed than we were.  God is good.

Let’s all look for opportunities to bless.  It’s well worth it.