Bringing it down to one word

Image credit: Derek Thomson on Unsplash

“Love makes it impossible to harm another, so love fulfils all that the law requires.”. Romans 13:10 TPT

Good News

The Good News of Jesus and His kingdom is that we CAN live differently, because His living presence in us — the Holy Spirit — enables us.

Reflection

The ‘golden rule’ — treat others how you want to be treated — is not unique in Christianity.

What is unique is the enabling or empowering that having Christ in your life brings to day by day living.

Christians are not just called to live above themselves. There is plenty of teaching about how to do this! But it is not simply the moral “do better” exhortation of a typical homily.

The Good News of Jesus and His kingdom is the good news that we CAN live differently for and in Him, because His living presence in us — the Holy Spirit, third person in the godhead — who gives us abilities and insights we don’t have in a natural way.

He builds on what is there. As God’s creations, we are all made like Him. But at the same, made different with a variety of stand-out characteristics.

  • Are you a caring, patient person? The Holy Spirit will add His gifts to what is already good.
  • Or an enterprising one? The Holy Spirit can turn you into one of God’s pioneers.
  • A musician? That can take you into a new area as the Holy Spirit focuses your talent in leading others in worship.

But there’s one attribute which is like a hallmark in precious metal. It is love, or rather, being one who is actively receiving God’s love, the love that took Jesus to the Cross on our behalf. What happens when we are being filled and impacted by God’s love? We overflow with it!

This is the hallmark of being genuine inhabitants of the kingdom of God that others see and want for themselves.

“Love makes it impossible to harm…” and this is what makes new life in Jesus, new. More than half of the foundational statements of the law, the Ten Commandments, are about not doing harm to your family, those around you, their marriage relationships, possessions and reputation. Knowing what not to do is important — but having a heart that is set on the very opposite of selfish harm, is even better. It is powerful!

Take away

Go to www.biblegateway.com and enter this verse, Romans 13:10. You will see the verse in the version of your choice. (e.g. New International Version).
Just under the search box is a link to see the context of the whole chapter and also the verse in all English versions. There are some interesting emphases. What stands out to you?

Link

For a prayer based on this verse, see this post on www.glowweobley.com

Knowing where to look for God’s guidance

Image credit: Ian Greig 03229

Verse

I set my heart on Your precepts and pay close attention to all Your ways. My delight is found in all Your laws, and I won’t forget to walk in Your words. Psalms 119:15-16 TPT

Good news

God is constantly revealing Himself, especially through different dimensions of His word. That’s how He speaks to us, personally, as His children, as we listen.

NOTES

Precepts
Principles. Covenants that require our willingness. Kingdom principles e.g. as taught by the parables of Jesus

Ways
Demonstration from examples

Laws
Foundational commands like 10 Commandments, Great Commandment etc

Words
God’s ‘now’ word for me

REFLECTION

What is our compass to guide us through life? It depends where our hearts and values are.

If you live in a village, the traditions and committees and clubs of that self-contained community may well be the values you live by. And they may be considerate and good — they have been ‘proved’ over a long period.

Our need to belong

In a town or city there is more of a sense of ‘being in the flow’ of what others are doing. There is peer pressure from those you work with, commute with, follow fashion with.

For a young person without strong ties to family or school, a gang may be the way of belonging. In ethnic communities, the laws of that minority culture, its related families and religion often dictate behaviour and stifle any individual aspiration to grow beyond those confines.

Everyone has a need to belong. The need to belong and be accepted in a local community can be the overruling factor — it’s part of our security.

God’s kind of belonging

God wants us to belong (in a good way — the loyalty of a slave offset by the freedom and honour of a son) and His kingdom community is protective, supportive, nurturing — and eternal. It also guides us into what works. But this is a choice — to give greater regard to belonging to God and listening to what He says, than other traditions or affinities that want to ‘own’ us.

God’s precepts, laws, ways and words overlap, but there are differences.

  • Laws are foundational, like the Ten Commandments or the Great Commandment of Jesus to love God and love others.
  • Precepts are principles like covenants where there is a partnership involved, needing our active participation.
  • God’s ways are what we learn from the whole of Scripture and Scripture’s commentary on itself, and the record of salvation history and more recent church history illustrates the tension between God’s ways and man’s ways.
  • God’s words are how we hear Him day by day. God is always speaking, and His Holy Spirit in us will often ‘lift’ a verse that was originally spoken or written for people centuries ago, a different time and context, and bring it to us with fresh meaning.

Fresh bread for today

God’s ‘now’ word is God’s fresh bread for today, and it’s something we all desire. It’s part of the reason — if we are honest, maybe quite a big part of the reason — we attend church, possibly take part in a small group — and read the Bible for ourselves. It’s not the only way God speaks to us but it is His number one way, and all other ways are checked out by it. Because it is fresh bread, we delight in it and pay close attention to it — together with the more enduring forms of revelation God has given us in His law and precepts and His ways, brought into sharp focus by Jesus.

TAKE AWAY

A free account with Tecarta.com gives different versions of the Bible to compare (NIV and NLT are two of the best, accurate, contemporary-language Bibles available). You can receive their verse of the day — the source of many of these reflections. But many people prefer to read, and mark, and add notes to, their printed Bible.

LINK

For a prayer based on this verse and theme, head over to www.glowweobley.com and
this page

The long-term plan IS the plan!

Image credit: Ian Greig 03515

In all life’s uncertainty and change — what is God saying?

But the LORD’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken. Psalm 33:11 NLT

WE HAVE BECOME over-used to short-termism — unhealthy adaptation to a fast-changing world — which has infected all of life.

Partnership has become more normal than marriage. There is no ‘job for life’ and most people will experience redundancy and career changes. The kettle we buy today will be taken to the dump in a year or two. “Fast fashion” creates mountains of discarded fabric which, unlike cotton, doesn’t readily recycle.

Sometimes there IS a need to live one day at a time. For some people on the front line during the Covid crisis, it was just like that. But that’s what we would call a coping mechanism, not a strategy.

Away from the pandemic, we have endured governments publicising constant new initiatives which last for a year and quietly disappear; companies downsizing their workforce to improve the share value prior to takeover; roads patched repeatedly when resurfacing would have been a far better, less costly solution; and hospitals managed on bed occupancy occupancy (like a hotel) removing the resilience needed to cope with epidemics.

God doesn’t work this way. His timescale is longer… in fact, eternal. Unlike us, He is not influenced by short-lived trends.

Here’s a report on one of God’s plans that has stood firm from the beginning. This intention started with a promise given to Abraham, gained momentum by being proclaimed through the prophets, was given new impetus by Jesus — and then was worked out by the first Christians. Now it has come down to us.

Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God. Acts 11:1 NLT

This was God’s purpose that knowing Him and the invitation to worship Him would be for ALL people. And it has been consistently fought by the ‘insider’ people. The Jews of Jesus’ time found, in His love without boundaries, a reason to hate Him. The new freedom of salvation by personal faith alone in the Reformation was fought with a restating of the doctrine of salvation only through (one particular) church. In our day in a church setting, we find social and cultural diversity challenging. We are naturally (rather than supernaturally) ‘birds of a feather’, more comfortable among other people who are socially similar. And it’s not only church treasurers who prefer to consolidate what we have — not give it away, and spread ourselves thin with mission.

But the LORD’s plans stand firm forever…

God’s intention to establish His just and balanced rule, the kingdom of God, is a very long-term plan. In fact, it IS His plan!

Take away

To follow God’s plan, our prayer requests for short-term needs need to be set in the context of the priority of God’s kingdom. The prayer the Lord taught us turns on the phrase: “Thy kingdom come!”

  • That’s why every Christian and every church needs to come together in agreement with the prayer for revival. Revival in our communities — a turning to Jesus — is like a tide rising that floats all the boats in the harbour.
  • Revival is the ‘big need’ that also answers all the little ones. The big need is the kingdom coming for people who enter into it in salvation and new life in Jesus, ready for Jesus’ return. And in turning to Him, our lives get sorted out and all kinds of other needs come right.

Summary

God’s long-term, stated purposes stand in sharp contrast to our ‘reactive living’ and short-term mind set. We should pray agreeing with what God is doing as a solution, rather than the requests of those overwhelmed by immediate concerns.

For a prayer based on this verse, go over to www.glowweobley.com and this page

Ask for anything — true or untrue?

Image credit: Ian Greig

And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it. If you love me, keep My commands.    John 14:13-15 NIV

“Whatever you ask….”

IT’S TEMPTING to dismiss this before engaging with it. Or to trivialise it by praying for a lottery win or a sports result. But let’s slow down… and see this for what it is. A promise of Scripture… and a clear promise of God’s Son, Jesus. What He says is what He says.

What is the context? Jesus has been drawing His disciples out on the question of who He is1. So Philip’s lesson is that seeing Jesus is like being able to set eyes on the Father. He is also “the way” — the one way we can access to the Father.

Religions and philosophies (including the Christian church variants) put forward their own suggestions of paths to God and these have similar requirements: combining correct observance of prescribed worship, obedience or pilgrimage, participation in rites or ordinances, and living charitably and sharing wealth. Worthy objectives — but this is not the path that Christ set out for us. Yes, He did teach living unselfishly and imitating His unconditional love, but *not* as a means to salvation. Rather, the result of it.

The Good News — and what it isn’t

All religious redemption is based on us doing, or performing, or going without, something for God. Faith in good works is the opposite of faith in Jesus and the gospel. The Good News of Jesus and His kingdom is all about who He is and what He has done. The way, the truth and the life that Jesus spoke about — using the divine name I AM — is about whether or not we believe the reality, or truth, of who Jesus is, and receiving and trusting in Him for rebirth into life with a renewed spiritual dimension — a life that continues into eternity in fellowship with Him.

So the promise “Whatever you ask in My name” is about Jesus and His kingdom. AskingTo keep the context the same, we are asking for what brings His rule and reign and justice. Our personal needs, important to the Lord who loves us, have to be submitted to that greater purpose.

So what about those “difficult” questions about physical and emotional healing? What about material things?

Keeping a focus on the kingdom

All our needs are on God’s heart and part of His concern — as part of His desire to bring the just and fair rule and order of His kingdom. This brings with it a general prosperity or “well-doing”, of spirit, soul, body and our situation.

Why do we not see dramatic and visible healing in the way recorded about Jesus’ ministry in the gospels? The answer is we do, but not as repeatably or often! When Jesus in person drew near to a person, the kingdom of God drew near — and justice of the kingdom with it. There was an intensity of the presence of Jesus — as you would expect with the visible person of Jesus present.

Intensity of presence

Today, Jesus is seated in the heavenly places. However, where much prayer has been invested in a gathering, there can be an intensity of the Holy Spirit presence of Jesus. The kingdom draws near, and the signs of the kingdom, healing among them are manifested. By contrast, the routine reading out of names week after week in formal church service intercession may not have that preparation of the Holy Spirit of Jesus, and may not be shared with a level of expectation and faith as our human counterpart.

The Lord will meet us in our “asking” prayer, but first things first — our “praise prayer” acknowledging Him as king of His kingdom is a necessary approach. So is our general awareness of His kingdom purpose, and our wanting, most of all, His rule and reign in our hearts and communities: not just coming to Him for our need of the moment to be met.

If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door, you will not find Him in the chalice. — St. John Chrysostom (lived 347-407)

 Summary

“Ask me for anything” invites the equal and opposite follies of asking God for what is inappropriate, and not asking for what tests our faith. The context of the verse helps us find the balance — Christ is drawing out from His disciples who He is. He alone is the way into the kingdom — and that kingdom life and kingdom order meets everyone’s needs, your personal ones included.

For a prayer linked to this verse, see glowweobley.com on this page

  1. John 14:6-14 []

David’s way of finding God’s peace in the face of threats

Image credit: Ian Greig

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.
Psalm 27:4 NIV

Summary

David knew all about anxiety, with his life and reputation under threat even from those close to him. But he also knew God and His goodness. He knew where to find peace. We are better equipped to practice the presence of God, even in our busy lives — we have the Holy Spirit, the Helper, who will always lead us to finds heaven’s perspective on our situation.

Thought

Life is stressful, unpredictable, full of anxiety — any casual conversation will settle into this theme at some point. At a time of objective uncertainties — an epidemic which is still glaring up, no certainty about future protection and no actual cure, economic collapse and no roadmap for recovery — there is plenty to be anxious about. But David, whose life and reputation was continually threatened, had a way of regaining personal security.

David, writing this poem, was concerned with security. He became idolised by Jews as their greatest and most God-fearing king, which is partly why it was so significant that the Messiah was of David’s line.

David, we could say, was Israel’s best king but he had the worst enemies, and some of them were in his own court! Security was important to a man who was constantly under threat of being murdered, physically or verbally.

Security in God’s will

And for David, security was first and foremost about being close to God, in His will and tracking His guidance.

The “one thing” for Him is “dwelling in the house of the Lord”. So how does that translate? Becoming a cathedral verger?

For David, the place of God’s presence was the tabernacle. He didn’t get to build the actual temple — Solomon did. But under the Old Covenant, the sense of place was important. The Samaritan woman took issue with Jesus about which mountain was the place to offer God worship — Mt Gerazim for the Samaritans, Mt Zion for the Jews.

In Christianity it is a quite an extreme ‘high church’ view to see a church building as the place of the presence of God. Those who have come into a personal relationship with God through receiving Jesus have a freedom to experience God through their personal relationship, and their reading of His word. That’s any place, any time, and no need for an intermediary.

We live in the presence and awareness of God through having given our lives to the One who gave His life for us — Jesus.

We can live in the presence of the Lord, to be aware of the beauty of the Lord, and to seek Him by asking the Holy Spirit to be our connection with heaven. And this is our security.

The context of David’s words are full of “the day of trouble” with armies besieging, the wicked advancing, and false witnesses making malicious accusations. There were plenty of people around to give him a rough ride! When we feel insecure, it is that same feeling of being surrounded, of not being in a safe place.

David knew God was for him

But David knew that God was bigger, and he knew that God was for him. He had God’s covenant promises. He knew His call — it had been delayed, opposed, with frequent attempts on his life, before the actual coronation. His security was knowing God in His life and listening to Him, not the rattling spears of his enemies.

We can translate that into our world. Our God is the same faithful God. It’s easier for us to draw close to Him because of Jesus. If we draw near to Him, He draws close to us and reassures us that we a re His.

Perhaps it’s a bit more difficult for us to hear His voice, with all the noise and distractions of life, broadcasts, media, travelling and general busyness — but that is an area we can control. We can create some quiet, give God some space. It is up to us to seek Him, to be living in His presence and seeking the true perspective which the Holy Spirit shows us.

That’s God’s remedy for anxiety, and there’s no kind of lockdown that can keep us from that.

Good News

The good news is that we can ask Jesus into our heart and life and make that transition to knowing God personally. We don’t have to find Him in His temple because we ourselves become a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer

Lord, I feel assaulted by life, and fear and anxieties keep pressing in.

But I come to You in Jesus and I ask You this:
that I might draw close to You,
to know Your presence and gain Your true perspective.

Thank You so much that I have privileged access to You at any time,
and I have Your promises all the time.Remind me again, as I regard Your beauty, Your kindness — and Your wisdom. Amen.

Take away

Design a way that works for you, to create some ‘holy space’ when you can talk to God and He can talk to you.

Tell Him about your two or three biggest anxieties right now. Resolve that during the day, you are going to be mindful of what He may be saying to you, or showing you, about them

What does God think?

How to focus on God’s thoughts for a change

Image credit: Wikipedia/Apollo2005

VERSE

How precious to me are Your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand — when I awake, I am still with you. Psalm 139:17–18 NIV

SUMMARY

Once we have become friends with God through Jesus, we have a conversation going with Him. But a listening attitude is important if we are going to hear His voice — not pretending we know best. Agreeing that His thoughts are precious is a good way of seeking His wisdom for our lives.

Conversation with God

Some people are better at conversation than others. A couple of things that are the mark of every good conversationalist, are the ability to ask good conversational questions, which empower the response of others… and listening to them.

And one of the most common of those empowering phrases is: “What do you think? Or the variant, “What did you think of…?”

People find it easy (too easy, sometimes) to give their opinion, and asking for their opinion is honouring. God doesn’t need our help in conversation… or does He? He speaks all the time. But like the quiet participant in a noisy group, He doesn’t always have opportunity to say what He thinks, to give His perspective.

“What do You think? What are You saying, about what is on my mind?” In conversation generally, we need to draw out the quiet person. We have to show that we are listening. We have all been trapped in situations where no one is listening and we don’t see any point in putting forward a view just to be shouted down.

Does God struggle with our strong opinions and prejudices? Because it is as if we don’t care about His perspective.

Have you ever tried to participate in a conversation where you held the high ground in terms of knowledge or experience, but no one would listen? They were all too busy offering their theories, over-assertive as people who are unsure of themselves often are. It’s like a hospital doctor trying to help someone who is full of having consulted “Dr Google”, or a traffic cop trying to talk down gently someone three times over the limit.

That can be our approach to God, which blocks His wisdom and disrespects His all-seeing, all-knowing higher perspective.

When we agree “How precious to me are YOUR thoughts” we are putting ourselves in the right place to listen.

How does God share His thoughts with us? The first way is through His word. Often He draws our attention to what He has already said, and giving it a sense of how it applies to us. So to make this prayer approach, we need a Bible (or online Bible or app) ready.

God is always speaking and the second way is by an impression in our spirit. Occasionally this can be so strong that it is almost audible, but often it is more of a whisper. We’ll need to check it out in the word — He never contradicts Himself — but God also uses the principle of “two or three witnesses”, in other words, He repeats Himself and uses more than one avenue. When we are hearing the same thing from slightly different sources, this gives us confidence to believe what God is saying.

The third way is through other people who love Him and hear Him. It could be a Christian friend, a preacher, or through spiritual gifts.

“How precious are Your thoughts” is a way of asking for God’s wisdom. James, in his letter, says we should ask but should not doubt what we hear, but act on it James 1:5–8.

It all starts with our relationship with Him. This needs to be the Jesus kind of relationship, the personal belief and trust and connection. This is how we count His thoughts precious and receive them as life-giving.

Prayer

O God, Your thoughts are precious, of incomparable value by the measure of man’s wisdom. You see all, understand all, and know the end from the beginning.

Help me to be a hearer and a doer of Your Word1. Where my thoughts crowd in — my anxieties and doubts, my wrong judgments and the opinions I proudly uphold‚ forgive me, help me to quiet my soul and — to make space for You to speak and me to hear.

My way too often proves to be no way, but Your way is life and salvation. Your words are like gold2 and taste sweeter than honey3.

Thank You, holy and Almighty God, that You delight in speaking to me as I come to You in Jesus. Amen.

Take away

  • Find a time and place to be quiet. It could be at home, out for a walk, even driving the car — or a quiet spot in a church building.
  • List your most pressing concerns — the thoughts You are full of — and park them with God.
  • Commit the listening time to Him, ask the Holy Spirit to help you and read the Scriptures mentioned again. And note down whatever God shows you, whether it seems to make sense or not.
  • Be open to God speaking to you subsequently and give you confirmations, like Scriptures that go with what you sense you are hearing. To share this with a pastor or trusted Christian friend can be very helpful.
  1. James 1:5–8 []
  2. Psalm 12:6 []
  3. Psalm 119:103 []