A short reflection on the relationship which is so much better than any kind of religion. From Matthew 6:14-15.
What is the best way to approach God?
Enter His gates with thanksgiving; go into His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His Name. For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and His faithfulness continues to each generation.— Psalm 100:4-5 NLT
Life has its challenges but God is constant, entirely good, loving and ate naive to us, His children. In faith we can honour God with our praise — and put ourselves spiritually and powerfully in agreement with His solution.
The news recently has been all about the worst economic downturn for 300 years, with the shared burden meaning lower income and higher tax for all. And we are told that there’s a long way to go before the pandemic restrictions can be lifted.
What we are experiencing is not good. However, God IS good through and t through, and on the basis of that goodness we approach Him with thanks and praise.
Emotionally, that is confrontational. What we see in front of us is one picture. What we join with in heaven seems like a different reality, detached from our struggles. It doesn’t seem honouring to the ones who have lost their jobs, who have lost in come and also the sense of belonging that comes from being part of a workforce. Part of us would rather agree with the problem.
But praise IS honouring to God. His character has not changed. His goodness is not diminished. His love, which unlike ours doesn’t come and go with circumstances, is still as strong as ever. And in praising Him in the words of this verse, that “His faithfulness continues”, is placing ourselves in spiritual agreement with the solution. Faith tells us there is a solution. Faith tells us that God is already at work with His remedy, even though we may not have seen it yet.
Where we are, in our world, doesn’t feel like a solution. Even when we are queuing up in the winter cold for the jab that brings us relative immunity, it is a global disaster that put us there.
But let’s not forget that just a few months ago, we were praying for a breakthrough. We were doing our best to bless the work and insight of researchers. And in a fraction of the usual development time, effective vaccine have been developed and are being released for public use.
The traditional experience of church has been impacted. We have to keep at a distance and we can’t sing. But people unfamiliar with technology have overcome their anxiety and become amazingly proficient at video conversations. Many churches have discovered new creativity in their live-streaming. They have found the small screen to be a more intimate and less formal way to connect with people, than standing in front of a lectern looking over a crowd. Preachers have discovered short, sharp messages. There’s no dress code, social barrier or cultural expectation in joining in via a link.
Many people are asking faith questions and having spiritual conversations that weren’t part of their lives before.
God in His goodness, faithfulness and merciful love has His answer to our many combined prayers for His help. Praise, through the exercise of faith, makes a connection with that answer before we see what it is. Some of that answer will look different from what we have been used to. The time is well overdue for churches to change, and become relevant to those who don’t belong to their particular club. The climate is such that people who have not known God are realising their need of Him. Where there is seeking, there is also finding.
A revival of personal, life-giving faith in God through turning to His Son Jesus might turn out to be the real healing that God wants to bring. An answer to the presenting problems around lockdowns. But also a healing from the greater pandemic of spiritual apathy and humanism.
Praise is powerful. There is real spiritual power in expressing praise to God for His goodness, in the face of an experience of pain and difficulty. Find opportunities to praise God for who He is and seek how it changes.
For a suggested prayer based on this verse, head over to this page on http://glowweobley.com
Why should I pray?
“LORD, help!” they cried in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He sent out His word and healed them, snatching them from the door of death. Let them praise the LORD for His great love and for the wonderful things He has done for them.— Psalm 107:19-21 NLT
God is loving and He is also powerful — powerful to save us when we cry out to Him. In Jesus, death has lost its sting.
One of the earliest things we learn as children is to “ask nicely”. It is a fundamental way of relating. We soon learn that the way to get what we want is to frame the request the right way. Demanding, stealing, and expecting to be given without asking (and grumbling when it doesn’t happen) are ways that, if they work, come with a penalty. It’s not mature behaviour.
The description of us as children of God — the way those who have received and trusted Jesus are seen in heaven — is apt. We are in a Father — child relationship. We have free will, we can behave with respect or in rebellion, we can take notice of Father’s guidance or push the boundaries of our own independence. What we learn as children belonging to parents, holds good in this spiritual relationship. It is even more the kind of love which is unconditional.
“Asking nicely” is good. It expresses our attitude in this relationship. It is not demanding, or grumpily expecting. It shows us, who are doing the asking, are willingly reliant on the Giver. It also shows we have the understanding that we will always be received well and heard. The Giver is renowned for His generosity.
I am writing this on a day when 519 more deaths have been reported. Nearly 55,000 people have now died prematurely from the effects of Covid-19. Everyone who is older, or in less robust health, or both sees this threat as stalking them. It feels like war. And in this one context alone, these words right out like a joyful peal of church bells on a cold winter’s day.
“LORD, help!” they cried in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He sent out His word and healed them, snatching them from the door of death.”
There’s a human-centred attitude that argues, if God is good, why doesn’t He just save us from this? Some might speculate whether He sent it in the first place. There’s a sense of entitlement in us which feels we should be on a better deal — like the council should mend the potholes and provide free parking at Christmas. But there’s a big difference. We pay our council tax and expect a level of service in return.
The heavenly relationship is the opposite way around. God has given everything for us. He has given His one and only Son, to live in our world and take on Himself our world’s harshest treatment. That led Him to an undeserved, horrendous death in our place.
So we are not entitled to anything! But it pleases God immensely if we turn and recognise what He has done — and then “ask nicely”.
“So lift your hands and give thanks to God for His marvellous kindness and for His miracles of mercy for those He loves!”Psalm 107:21 TPT
- God doesn’t need us to ask, as if He didn’t know everything, but He likes to hear us ask, and know we take nothing for granted. How will you do that differently?
For a suggested prayer based on this verse and theme, head over to this page on www.glowweobley.com
How do I get peace in my thoughts?
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”— John 14:1-4 NIV
There is already a place of eternal rest and peace prepared for us — and when we turn to Jesus and believe in Him as Saviour and Lord, that promise and its peace becomes ours.
Biblical joy is more about the first sentence than the exuberance of fans at a big event. It’s knowing we are loved and accepted — knowing that we belong. Knowing that our destiny is settled and we don’t have to earn it!
There’s an interaction here between the three Persons of the one God we call the Trinity. We believe in Jesus, who He is, His unique role and giving His life to give us new life. That opens up the Father’s house to us and we receive His welcome and His acceptance. The third person is not mentioned, but His special interaction is there: it’s in “Do not let”, “believe” and “you know”. The Holy Spirit works in connection with our faith.
We have to choose to shift our perspective from ‘seeing is believing’ to ‘believing is seeing’. It is unnatural to the natural human mind to believe what we don’t understand. But the spiritual part of us works in the opposite way. And the Holy Spirit helps us with this, as we ask Him. We make a choice to take what we don’t fully understand and believe it anyway — and then we are enabled to see it differently and understanding comes.
This verse is about belonging — belonging to the fellowship of heaven. Belonging to Almighty, majestic, holy God Himself such that we can know Him as Father.
And it is about knowing that we belong. How do we know that? By faith, with the Holy Spirit doing the knowing inside us by lighting up our belief. And as we do, faith and the Holy Spirit together enables us to see into heaven, to know God and to understand how it is that we belong because of Jesus.
It takes quite a lot of words to attempt to describe what one glimpse reveals. But once we see that, once we know that we belong, the troubles of this world are cut down to size. They have not gone. We are still facing the same difficulties and they are real. But we are part of something that we know to be so much greater. And we know we belong the One who has all the answers. Who is committed to taking us through with Him.
- How will you look at the day’s statistics and challenges differently, from belonging to another place with a different kind of security?
For a suggested prayer based on the verse, head over to this page on www.glowweobley.com
In all the politics and insubstantial theories, who has the true message?
“You are My witnesses, ” declares the Lord, “and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me no God was formed, nor will there be one after Me.”— Isaiah 43:10 NIV
Coming to know God is a transforming experience and you don’t need to be a confident public speaker to tell others about it. The Holy Spirit in you will lead you in it.
There is a responsibility that goes with knowing. I’m talking about knowing what God is saying. Every Christian who has a restored relationship with God through Jesus has a sense of what God is saying.
This verse tells us we have a responsibility to act in what we know — especially in making it known. This is a time of uncertainty and anxiety. God is not observing this passively. Quite the opposite — He is asking for our attention, so He can speak His compassionate words of hope, lift us with His encouragement, at a time when we really need it. And we who know Him, are His messengers… His witnesses.
We read about the call to be witnesses in the NT. Jesus’ last words, recorded by Luke, were about testifying to others who Jesus is and what He has done for us:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” — Acts 1:8 NIV
Jesus’ last words the way Matthew recorded them are saying the same thing, talking about who we know and what we know — passing it on.
“Now wherever you go, make disciples… and teach them to faithfully follow…Matthew 28:18-19 TPT
Surveys show that a majority of people say that they believe in God and a majority pray to Him at times. But as we know, they don’t attend church.
They won’t come to hear the message there. They won’t get it from the BBC, ITN or a newspaper. But they may be open to hear it from a friend or a neighbour who is a witness to Jesus— not in a religious way, and not in a religious setting. That’s the point. Witnesses simply share from the heart what they have themselves received.
Not everyone wants to be a preacher! However, everybody can share (and the preachers who share their experience of Jesus are witnesses with a real message, not a dry homily).
Sharing is powerful because no one can deny your personal experience, when you share it. When you know God, and you can share that experience, people come to know God. When they begin to share their experience, revival is happening!
- Who are the friends and neighbours who might hear about the goodness and grace and hope of God — through you? Begin praying for the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts and have questions for you!
For a prayer based on this verse, head over to this page on www.glowweobley.com