Pure joy

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“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,” James 1:2 NIV

This is the attitude and thought processes of God in Christ. When troubles come, they are not considered problems or negative experiences, but positive. In fact, the attitude is an expression of joy. Joyful thoughts and feelings about the painful events in life, is not the natural human way. We would seek to avoid trouble and do everything in our power to get out of painful situations. The Christian is here encouraged to embrace the sufferings and as they lift their eyes to their father God, to be thankful. Even more – to rejoice. 

Paul says, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Philippians 4:11

That is quite a skill and we will not learn it without the work of the Holy Spirit in our minds and souls. This is not a Stoic resignation or a putting up with what I have got. This is a deep trust in God that He does all things well.

These trials are of all kinds – physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual. The Christian is not spared trouble. Trouble does God’s work of sanctification like nothing else. Trouble makes the Christian strong, resilient, persistent, courageous, empathetic. God does not save us to shut us up in an ivory tower. We are out there in the battle field until the day He takes us home. If our faith is going to survive and thrive, We must face the furnace of afflictions.

The first trials are very painful because we have not experienced them before. But as we learn to use our spiritual muscles, we get stronger and we use the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, with greater accuracy. We also become more and more aware that we are not alone. God is with us always, when we feel His presence and when we don’t. This all builds faith. 

As trials get more and bigger, so we respond in Greater faith and we begin to see that God’s Word and promises are unflinchingly true. This is how strong Christians are built. Not by going to church, seminary, Bible college, involvement in church, or any “religious” setting, but by the exercise of faith out there in the evil world, where there is no refreshment apart from Christ. This is the Christian’s joy. When they find out that Christ is enough, it is so powerful and motivating. This will produce the courage to step out and step up for a God. Fear flies in the face of faith. 

So, pure joy turns out to be something we did not expect. Something so wonderful it will travel with us even into the heavenly Kingdom in all its power and glory.

The lowly Lord

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Isaiah 53:1-3 NIV1
Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2He grew up before him like a tender shoot,and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

This passage from the prophet Isaiah is very precious to every daughter or son of the Kingdom of God. Isaiah is very clear about who he is talking about and lays these words down as a marker for God’s people who are to come.

Isaiah speaking Gods words asks a question. Who believes the Word of God, and to which people is the strength of the Lord revealed? The answer of course is no one. No human has any interest in the way of God or in any manifestation of His love and power. We cannot take it in without the same power of God working in our minds and hearts.

The phrase “arm of the Lord”is used throughout scripture to represent the might and powerful strength of God, which He exercises according to His sovereign will and purpose. Although we are sinful creatures and have no interest, God will reveal that power in all its night to the sons and daughters of the people in this fallen world. They will all see it, but not all will respond in faith and devotion. This power is shown to those who will believe and recognise their God and Saviour.

Jesus name is not used here. “He”is the Saviour, the rejected one, who will redeem His people. He is the humble and obedient Son. Jesus the eternal Son of God is the fresh and green plant that grows up before God, in this desert world. He is the new vine, the only living thing in the wilderness scene. Jesus is the one who can give new life and the growth of His vine will fill the whole earth. This fresh growth of the Kingdom of God is a root in a dry ground. This root will grow and take hold and bear fruit for eternity.

Jesus was born in the meanness of a cattle trough. He grew up in Nazareth.. “ can anything good come out of Nazareth.?” John 1:46. Jesus is the unsuspected Saviour.

There is nothing in His physical appearance that would attract us. There is nothing in His action or demeanour that would cause us to suspect any beauty or majesty, never mind deity. As we look at Him, we look away, because He is not appealing to our earthly tastes. In fact, we despise Him. He is nothing like our idea of God. The way He conducts Himself is not the way we think of as “holy.”

This Saviour gives continually. He helps all who come to Him. He exhausts Himself for the poor and undeserving people. He doesn’t lift Himself up, put Himself forward, and detach Himself from ordinary people so that He is perceived as “great.” We cannot understand the humble King, the humble God!

He lives among us a perfect and holy life and we cannot appreciate it in any way. He challenges our view of ourselves and what a holy life is like. It causes us feelings of guilt and inadequacy. We don’t like this. We don’t like Him. The emotional and mental suffering of the Lord Jesus, as He walked this earth must have been acute. To suffer the slights of the people He was to die for, must have been very painful. To suffer the ignorant judgment of the very creatures He made, must have been humiliating. Listening to the slights and complaints in the minds He could read, would turn Him to prayer. Prayer was His only comfort.

Even those who claimed to love and follow Him, eventually left Him alone. He was despised by those He taught, loved, healed, resurrected and they considered Him a castaway.

And yet He took it all and still loved and never wavered from His task. Though He was surrounded by negative and blatant evil, He continued in the way of the cross and bore away the sin of those who believe. He is the ever loving Lord. How unlike the big people who are lifted up today in the “Christian” media. He did not seek His own glory, but avoided any trappings of recognition that would divert His attention from the work He had to do. The pictures we have of His glory are veiled and for those with eyes to see who He is. It certainly wasn’t through looking at Him, what He wore, or any human credentials.

If we are to be like this man – this model of how to be, we must renounce all earthly credentials, put off the filthy garb of importance, and see Him. We will not be popular. We will labour looking only to Him, and that’s how it is supposed to be. If our Saviour Jesus was not esteemed, why should you or I be? We are too worldly minded and think the trappings of worldly ways will expand our work for God. Many are jumping on this bandwagon and forget the way of Christ.

We think we see the “arm of the Lord”being revealed. We seem to get “results.” We measure these results according to earthly manifestations of success.  But maybe we need to return to these Old Testament prophets and see the beauty of the Lord, as He shows Himself, not as the pomp of this wicked world parades its chosen “gods”

Attraction to the real Jesus, the humble God and Creator of the ends of the earth, will lead us in quite a different way than the gaudy ways of this world. Maybe the measure is that if people are lauding you, you might not be on the right track… if you find it difficult to get people to “help” in what you are doing for Christ, you are probably spot-on!

“Despised”we may be despised and even rejected, but it’s not forever, and it’s only people in this world. Humility and obedience will win the day, and glory comes in the everlasting kingdom and straight from the humble Lord. He will be lifted up on that great day and also all those who love His appearing.

Deep waters to swim in

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“The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was trickling from the south side.

As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross. He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?” Ezekiel 47:1-6 NIV

 This is a curious vision that God has sent Ezekiel. It is full of encouragement for the Christian believer. At the centre of the picture is a huge gushing stream that runs out and becomes a huge expanse of water. This mighty stream runs out from the temple of God as a fresh water river bringing life and refreshment. It is symbolic of that river of life that flows from the throne of God in the Apostle John’s vision of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. This river will dispel every drought and quench every thirst, most especially, in a future time of blessing that the prophets looked forward to.

It comes out from under the door. The water starts at the inner sanctuary of the temple – the absolute glory of God and the provision of His salvation to a world of sinful people. The water comes from the Southside of the temple, to the south of the altar. It is described at the start as a trickle of water, which grows into the abundant outpouring from the altar of God. The day of grace was coming and Ezekiel saw this manifestation of it. We Christians in the end times, live in this day. God’s mercy is poured out to all people like never before. What a privilege to be part of it.!

God’s mercy must be experienced and our failure dealt with. The altar is the place of sacrifice. It is the place where the sin offering is placed to pay the dreadful penalty of sin. The streams of mercy can flow from it, because the price is paid. The Lamb has been slain and people can be forgiven. God’s mercy flows to us through Christ, the one sacrifice for sin forever. When God’s law is satisfied and the restitution for sin is made, the mercy flows.

A man goes towards the East with a measuring stick. He measures out almost half a kilometer and the water reaches to his ankles. He measured another half kilometer and the waters are knee high. Move on another half kilometer and the flood has reached the waistline. Another half kilometer goes forward and the waters are now so deep that the bottom cannot be felt – we can swim in this water. The river is now so wide that no person can cross it, without swimming in the depth of its flow.

This river is the picture of the holiness of God. It is given to people who have been shown mercy and are forgiven from sin and rescued from death. God’s mercy flows out to all people, and we must seek Him, if we are to experience it in our lives and to grow in holiness. Holiness flows from the throne of God. It grows in our lives as we draw near to Him and become increasingly like Him. Holiness grows in our whole being, as we progress to heaven.

No one can be too holy. Holiness is actually something that cannot be measured, and something so valuable that we must give up all to get it. It is not a commodity that we can buy somehow, but is a heart condition that we must foster. The Christian must seek this holiness if they are to see God. No one enters heaven with anything less than holiness.

We enter the Christian life in faith, and we progress in faith also, and grow like our Saviour, Jesus.

We can paddle around, wade in the waters, stand in the flood as it engulfs us, or launch out into the deep. Swimming in the mercy of God and being buoyed up by His holy power, is the way we are supposed to live. Are we too hesitant to strike out for the distant shore, knowing that only holiness of life will get us there?

What kind of Christian will you be?

Playing in the shallows?

Striding through the water or

waist deep waiting for the plunge?

Or will you give yourself to that mercy and swim out into the deep waters with God. Swim in His love and mercy, and with every stroke getting closer to the far off shore. You are safe. No ill can befall those who trust in Him and are not afraid to be in those deep waters. Christ our Saviour has been there before us and we need not be afraid.

O to experience that utter abandon as we give up all our care and the safety nets we put around ourselves, and to rest in our God.! The complete security of being in those deep waters is the faith that will bear us up all the way. The swim to the far shore will mark a life-long journey with God – a journey of increasing holiness and the godly character crafted by God’s mercy.

Spiritual psychosis

This disease of the soul is linked with what Paul talked about in the book of Romans… I don’t do the things I should do and I do the things I shouldn’t do. Psychosis is a state of mind where a person thinks and acts contrary to what they are like as a person. Their mind becomes negative, or positive – too positive, and they start to think thoughts that are not true, and the mind gets very mixed up. At times thoughts are recognized as not true, and sometimes, false thoughts are regarded as true. Sometimes the person thinks all the thoughts are real and sometimes they can see that they couldn’t be real at all. It can be confusing and dangerous for the person.

Sometimes in our Christian life we forget who we really are. We forget what we have been saved from and forget what we are supposed to be doing. We stay away from God’s word. Perhaps it challenges us too much, we find it too hard to swallow, and a kind of spiritual psychosis sets in. We start to behave like we are not Christians at all. We certainly don’t think like Christians, we think in worldly ways and justify ourselves. We begin to want the things other people have got. Wanting physical things, and emotional things, so spiritual considerations go out the window.

And so the psychosis takes over our souls. We become not like Christ, and we stop seeking Him. The disease is very dangerous for our souls, because we can get in a state of mind where we cannot discern right from wrong. We cannot discern the things in the world and the things in spiritual life. We become mixed up and confused and we mistake our own deadness for something else. We think we are living in a reality because we are following the way of this world, when we are wandering off the path of the cross onto a seemingly rational and more comfortable route.

We must find the way out of this. To override the fake reason of ungodly thinking is very difficult if the person has changed their life-style to accommodate the psychotic thinking. The most powerful way to alleviate the pain and break the bonds that have grown up around the person, is though prayer. Not one of us can change anything, even the human mind. Not out own, or anyone elses. But the love of Christ can break every barrier and change any mind and heart so quickly.

We try to change the habit and life-style of people in the hope they will “snap out of it” but it never works. We must pray without ceasing for our suffering friends and family. Pray that God will show them the reality and will break the chains that have snapped around their lives. We can counsel all we like, but if the person is unwilling or unable, you will not make a difference.

“It is not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord.”There is really no other way. The question is, are you willing to pray for them? Will you stay up at night to pray? This is the rub, for us. We don’t really understand that we are involved in a spiritual warfare, and only spiritual weapons will do. We don’t see the value in that kind of sacrificial praying. Its no wonder we are so weak…

If it is you in the grip of this psychosis, just ask the Lord Jesus to help you to overcome it. Read the scriptures a bit at a time, and just follow the way you find taught there. He is so kind. He will draw near to you in a very special way, and He will make you so strong and full of love for Him. Don’t give up. He is able to bear you up and lead you and teach you, over time, and you will find yourself changing. The things you don’t want to do, you will have strength to not do them. The things you want to do, but had no strength to do them, you will be strong in the Lord your God. People who fall and fail badly, turn out to have a deep and strong love for their Saviour. They will in turn be the ones who will minister to other sufferers, and so God is honoured in their lives.

Psychosis is a fake state of mind… may our minds be fully engaged with Christ, so we become like Him.

How bad is it?

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Ezekiel 40:38-43 NIV

“A room with a doorway was by the portico in each of the inner gateways, where the burnt offerings were washed. In the portico of the gateway were two tables on each side, on which the burnt offerings, sin offerings and guilt offerings were slaughtered. By the outside wall of the portico of the gateway, near the steps at the entrance of the north gateway were two tables, and on the other side of the steps were two tables. So there were four tables on one side of the gateway and four on the other—eight tables in all—on which the sacrifices were slaughtered. There were also four tables of dressed stone for the burnt offerings, each a cubit and a half long, a cubit and a half wide and a cubit high. On them were placed the utensils for slaughtering the burnt offerings and the other sacrifices. And double-pronged hooks, each a handbreadth long, were attached to the wall all around. The tables were for the flesh of the offerings…”

This is a clear description of a particular type of room in the temple of God. God gave instructions of how to carry out sacrifice for sin and how to prepare the offerings for His altar. We may question why there had to be an animal sacrifice at all, with the attending killing, blood and gory mess. It seems overly visual and terrible violent to our idea of things. The volume of blood would have caused a dreadful sight and smell in the hot day and would leave a deep impression on the memory of the worshipper.

The killing was by the person who was making the atonement for their sin, It was done at the North gate at the north side of the altar of God. The victim was killed by the perpetrator in the presence of the Priests and the parts to be offered were washed and set out as God stipulated. It would be a harrowing experience and impresses upon the minds of the sinner, the serous nature of disobeying God or ignoring His laws.

We need to see the awful cost for the wrongs we have done in this scene before us. Why did it have to be this way? Because we are sinful by nature, we do not regard our wrongs as that serious. We do not see the effects of our sinful behaviours on the world, or society or even our families. It is easy to forget about our failures and view the day to day failings as not that serious.

This picture we are given of this room in the temple where the sacrifices are prepared, is to shock us and pull us up at the hideous nature of what we do. This room has furniture devoted to killing, cutting up dead animals and hanging bits and limbs on hooks on the wall. The sight and smell of this room, would have been shocking. You would only go here if you really needed to. You were required to prepare the sacrifice, and by being in this room, you would be confronted with the cost of your personal sin.

As we also recognise the number of these sacrifices, we are again forced to think about our responsibility for our sin. The sheer number of sacrifices that had to be made for sin was huge. It was a daily experience for priests to have to come before God with blood offerings.

The wages of sin is death…”Romans 6:23… the animal you brought would have suffered this consequence. You would be reminded of a coming Saviour who would lay down His life and would shed His blood for you. You could not escape the sight of the shed blood. It is because of your sins that the blood is shed. Romans 6:23 …but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  this is our only hope. The shed blood from the sacrificial lamb is the atonement for our sin. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”Hebrews 9:22 ESV

“He died that we might be forgiven, He died to make us good, that we might go at last to heaven saved by His precious blood.” Cecil,Alexander 1848

So the bloody gore becomes something else, it opens the door of heaven to us. As we see ourselves as we really are, so we see the beauty of the Lord Jesus who gave Himself on the tree of Calvary for His people. Our hideousness is hidden by the love poured out as blood, on that cross. It purges away all our sin and makes us clean.

But never let us forget the price paid. The price of death to buy life for human wretches who don’t deserve it. This is love poured out. This is the river of life from the wounded side of the Pascal Lamb. When we come to remember that blood spilt for us personally, around the Lord’s communion table, let us think deeply about the sacrifice of our Saviour. His love took Him all the way to death and hell, for our sake. He suffered the physical death of His body, and the penalty of death in an eternity of suffering to rescue us from the clutches of sin.

“Guilty vile and helpless we
Spotless Lamb of God was He
Full atonement can it be
Hallelujah, what a Saviour..!”  Phillip Bliss 1838

Even in heaven, the Lamb is slain – slain before the foundation of the world. Blood ran from Him to us to be the propitiation for our sin and guilt. The fault is ours, but the blame was what He took upon Himself, that we might be redeemed and never have to be the victim. Yet the perpetrator was the one who took the life of the sacrifice, because it was their fault entirely. It is bitter to think that we have been responsible for the death of our Saviour, but one we should think about to understand what we have been saved from. He took the blame because of the magnitude of His love for His people. He took it gladly.

O the great gulf between the holy love of Christ and the hatred of human kind. And yet He bridged the gap…! He alone was able and worthy to redeem us from the curse of the law. Only by is death are we resurrected to life. Souls once sworn enemies of God are now part of the family. There is no love like this love. We are lost without this love. The folly of rejecting this love will bring every ungodly soul to perdition.

“how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?”Hebrews 2:3 NIV

This is the reality of life and death. We reject life and suffer our own death. Or we put our trust in the death of Christ and gain eternal life.

Let the horror of sin drive us to our God. Let us meditate on our failure in every regard, and bring it all to our loving Saviour, Jesus. Let us find rest and peace in what He did for us.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”Acts 4:12 NIV

Jesus has offered the sacrifice of Himself to God, for our sake, and when we come to Him in repentance and faith, He lifts us up and makes us His children.

“Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Hebrews 10:11-14 NIV

The work of salvation is complete. There is nothing more to add. The way to God is open, because of the shed blood, and all who enter in are washed and the power of sin has no more dominion.

We must consider Him.

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3 NIV

When the way gets difficult, we think on Him, who we love. We love Him because He loved us first and opened the door to heaven. We think of His sufferings and know that nothing we feel or go through will ever be like His pains. So, let the river of blood from Calvary’s cross be our cleansing, our power, our motivation, and our eternal glory as we sing the praises of the Lamb that was once slain….
“We sing the praise of Him who died,
Of Him who died upon the Cross;
The sinner’s hope let men deride,
For this we count the world but loss.
Inscribed upon the Cross we see
In shining letters, God is love!
He bears our sins upon the tree,
He brings us mercy from above.” Thomas Kelly 1793

Stand in awe

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Psalm 111:7-10 NIV
“The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are established for ever and ever, enacted in faithfulness and uprightness. He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever—holy and awesome is his name. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.”

Many can see the awe of the natural world and recognise the beauty of creation. We can be over come by the power of the forces of nature and the absolute methodology behind the way natural systems work. The way they work together to sustain life is clearly no accident. To look and really see God’s handiwork is to kneel in holy awe of the Maker of all things.

But there is much more. The sovereign God who made the Universe and the daisies, also rules over a spiritual world of huge dimensions and of huge eternal importance to humankind. God’s precepts work in human society. When we try to break away from that and seek our own freedom, we find a world wrapped in chains of sin and self. We see this everywhere. Once a society starts to loose its grip on holy living, the cycle of sin, rejection and fear takes hold.

As we loose awe in the God of creation, so we loose respect for His ways and our society starts to decline. It is the human way.

God’s way us completely different. He is the faithful one, the lover of souls and the author of the plan to save women and men from the slavery they find themselves in. He is upright. We are not. And this uprightness has led Him to hatch a plan to save us. This plan is clearly revealed in the Holy Scriptures and forgiveness and a spiritual life is for whoever would want it. This is why time itself stays open, so that sinful people who repent can be redeemed from the slavery of sin. We can know and enter into the peace of God but a prayer.

If we wound seek wisdom, let us seek Him. If we would live rightly, we must follow His ways. Many don’t even want to, but a true heart will seek Him only and receive eternal life. Those who seek the Lord and trust in Christ enter into this amazing life with God.

This life has growing wisdom and understanding and a clear knowledge of God’s power and love every day. We see beauties unknown before- the beauty of the Holy Spirit of God, and a desire to be like Him. We see the beauty of the Word of God, and delve deep into its words, by the understanding of the Spirit. We have the ability to fight temptation and overcome. The powers of that hidden world are conquered by the Christian with the Word and prayer. Life becomes a deep river of Holy knowing.

That knowing gives the heart a holy fear of God, as we understand who He is. The wisdom to choose Him and live Him, comes directly from that holy fear. As we continue to understand and walk in God’s ways so we grow in spiritual stature before Lord. Our response is eternal praise to the One who was and is and is to come..

Something

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I am something to God, not a nothing.

The world is full of “put-downs” that make me feel second best.

God does not think of me as a worthless piece of dirt. The value He puts on me as a unique person of His making, is shown in the fact that He Himself, the mighty God, came down to make me His own.

He forgives my wrongdoing and raises me up and brings me into His own family, His daughter or son, and brother or sister with Jesus and heir to the whole creation.

Jesus has made it possible for me to have this as a gift, if I repent from my sins and believe in Him.

I belong to Jesus, and can ask for all things in His glorious name. I am His precious child, and that will never change, because it is by His grace He has saved me.

Some day I shall be made the person I am supposed to be and shall reign over His everlasting kingdom and no one will put me down or label me as second class.

I love Him because He loved me first and bought my forgiveness by shedding His own blood. So I am something to God. And not just something, but someone who will rule with Him forever.

Women who glorify God