So Then, Let’s Listen to Jesus.

Jerusalem – I am pondering on Jerusalem – I have a picture of the biblical version – a golden city with a magnificent temple and a glorious palace for the king (Solomon) and I find myself comparing that to what I saw when I was there – a broken city, only a wall of the once magnificent temple remaining, a mosque planted where it used to be – no sign of a palace or a king, torn by strife.

“Jerusalem represented my presence in the world – it was there that I introduced Myself to the world – I chose a people to whom I would show myself, introduce Myself to, so that the world would be able to come to know me and to meet Me. However because their hearts turned to other god’s and they gave their love to inanimate things and to worldly relationships – I took them away – to show them what it would be like if they were separated from Me. Nevertheless there was a remnant who loved Me and to them and to the rest of the world I brought my human presence, in the form of a man – Jesus. He came to bridge the gap and make it possible for Me to have a people who loved Me again and in the process He has replaced Jerusalem and the temple and the palace, they are all gathered together in Him – yet this is not the end because there is still a Jerusalem – a heavenly one – which is beautiful beyond description and imagination, mainly because I Myself am there. In the meantime keep My aroma around you, let it rise as incense to the heavens and let those around you smell the beauty of My presence”.

Now this was my interaction with the Lord yesterday on His day. I am sharing it with you today because of what happened afterwards, which was such a wonderful reminder of His reality and the fact that He still communicates with us.

So in my reading in the psalms I skipped a few which have the same theme and decided to read Psalm 19. What a wonderful surprise it was when later at church, Sean announced that he was going to preach on Psalm 19. So my ears were doubly pricked up and as usual I wasn’t surprised to realize that the word I had heard from the Lord fitted with message of the Psalm.

So why don’t you read Psalm 19 and here are a few relevant remarks: The Psalm speaks of 3 voices -vv 1-6 The voice of creation, vv 7-10 God’s voice through His law (the scriptures) vv 11-14 the response from the servant (probably David). So although the heavens declare the glory of the Lord… (and therefore man is without excuse if he denies him Romans 1:19.20), it has no voice vs 3. IOW it cannot explain itself or what it represents and what lies behind it. For that to happen man must hear God speak and He has done just that. The psalmist calls this revelation ‘His law, statutes, precepts, commands and ordinances’, all describing the same thing, the words that God has spoken to introduce Himself to His created beings. The psalmist finds these words even sweeter than the sweetest thing known on earth – ‘honey from the comb.’

What effect do they have on the one who hears them and understands them? ‘They revive, they give joy, they give light and most important they show where we are going wrong in our lives – our hidden faults and our willful errors so that we may live a blameless life’ . The purpose of all this is gathered in the last vs, which is the ultimate response to this revelation of God.

So friends, do you see the connection between the Psalm and the word God spoke to me? His aim has always been to make Himself known to us who are the pinnacle of His creation. From the beginning He has been demonstrating His glory in His creation, Jerusalem represented the site which He chose to come and to give His law and to show Himself to mankind through the whole sacrificial system and the the prophetic utterances, and ultimately the crowing glory, His very own Son who called Himself “the Word” (John 1:1). These are the ways He has been revealing Himself progressively to us and there was a stage where Jerusalem was key, but not anymore, long ago already . The beauty of His law moreover is only so sweet, perfectly sweet because it represents His perfect word to us, but the beauty lies not in the Word, but in the One who spoke it, the One who became that very Word.

So friends, once again, we listen eagerly, don’t we? We listen eagerly to hear Jesus speaking to us. That is the sweetest voice we will ever hear. We don’t just read the scriptures to learn how to be good. We read them to meet our Saviour. When we look up at the beauty of creation, we don’t see just that beauty, but the much greater beauty of the One who created it. So “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord my Rock and my Redeemer”. Lets go on listening to Jesus together then, shall we?

More on being Filled.

As I sat down this morning to blog with you, I had this warm sense that our blog has become like a group of friends who have one thing in common, their love for Jesus, sitting around a crackling ingleside chatting about this precious, common love we have for Him.

After listening to the song “Father not my will but Yours be done”, I heard the following:

“My will has, as it were, two parts – there is the grand part where My will is to gather a people for Myself – My kingdom subjects – those who are going to make up My Bride – to this end I am working globally in every corner of the world – from the Muslim countries which don’t allow Christianity to the Western countries where many Christians have become lazy, ‘fat cats’, overweight physically and spiritually obese as they greedily keep My Spirit and resources for themselves. Then the other part of My will concerns My relationship with you – here I am wooing you into a bridal relationship, I will not force My will on you but hold out My love and grace as I draw you to Me and am preparing you for the role I have in mind for you in My final kingdom. As you grow closer to Me you are surrendering your will more and more to Mine – and I am leading you constantly in this quest. Ultimately the measure of your Christianity is perseverance and not momentary emotional experiences.” Father not my will but Yours be done.

Reflecting on what Paul has to say in Colossians on fulfilment, I have been thinking about what he says in Ephesians on fullness and being filled. When I was in the Charismatic environment much was being said about fullness and being filled, often focusing on Ephes 5:18b. The picture, as I understood it then was sort of passive. A person was like a glass of water. You needed to keep praying that God would fill and keep the glass full and if it was really full it would spill over and affect those around you.

We need to understand firstly that this was a letter sent to several churches and so the theme of the letter, although it obviously addresses individual needs and responsibilities as well, is mainly addressed to the church. So in ch 1, Paul shows how each Christian has received everything that God gives, in the Spiritual realm, with His attitude of love and grace to each one. Our need is to understand the extent of what this gift really means is highlighted in the prayer in vs 15ff. A communal understanding, if grasped fully will reflect in the church as a body which demonstrates and experiences Christ’s fullness as He fills everything (vs 23).

In ch 3 from vs 14 Paul prays a prayer which is firstly a prayer for the church, for power to remain Christian and to experience the full extent of Christ’s love, which will result in them experiencing His fullness (3:19). Obviously this prayer involves the individual as well, but the focus of Paul is the church.

The first part of ch 4, 1-16 is a beautiful picture of how Christ’s church should function, demonstrating complete unity. When the people are all using their gifts correctly for the benefit of each other, the church will grow into maturity, vs 13, reaching the whole measure of Christ’s fullness, fulfilling thus God’s desire for His church as laid out earlier.

Paul then goes on to show how it is necessary for us to be obedient if the purpose of the church is to be fulfilled, finally coming to he statement in ch 5:18, which is often concentrated on without taking the context of the whole letter up to then into consideration. So look now: vs 15, be careful then how you live – iow, continue to practice all I have said up to now about obedience, using all the opportunities God gives you to contribute to the functioning of the church. Vs 17, don’t be foolish, but understand. Reminding us of the prayer in ch 1:15,16, how important understanding and knowledge of God’s will is, through the means He has given. And now the crunch – don’t get drunk on wine, instead be filled with Spirit. This is actually not really an either, or situation. He is using the example of how wine controls you when you have had too much, in a similar way you should allow the Spirit to control you. That really means much more than a few words can explain, because into that goes our whole relationship, as described in ch 5 Galatians for instance. It is a life, governed by knowing and interacting with Jesus and being obedient in His strength to His guidance.

To sum up then; while it obviously starts with our individual relationship and walk with Jesus, the concept of “being filled” in Ephesians, is best experienced and expressed in the interaction of the Christian community. These are just a few thoughts and not an exhaustive study but showed me again how important our church relationships and functioning are.

God’s Majesty meets our Humanity.

“No matter how vast and glorious My creation is – so complex and in 99 % of cases incomprehensible to you – you need to be reminded that in that relationship – you are the principle – you are the reason I have created – I have created you in My image so that I can have a relationship with you – yes you are not like the angels – they do not have a free will – they are messengers who act on instructions. The greatest mystery to you is the one of free will – you have the ability to do and to think what you like – however, even in that I am operating – on the one hand showing you the Inferno, that you should flee from it and on the other hand – opening My arms in love to welcome you into the safe haven – but you have a choice – all your life that choice continues – but it is also continuously tempered by My grace and My love as I mould you into becoming the perfect partner to fulfil the relationship I have been planning since the beginning of time – in a mystical way which you cannot fully understand – nothing is by chance – yet you are completely free – Once you have made the decision, I welcome you into My arms and wrap them around you. But remember you are part of a community – so My Bride will be huge and be community – you will not and should not feel and act alone.”

So I have been meditating on Psalm 8 since yesterday. You may have picked up some of the thoughts from that psalm in my meditation with our Father. On reflection it became more and more obvious that this Psalm acts as a sort of middle point to the whole story of the bible. The story of God and man.

This is why I say that: The backdrop to the whole psalm is God’s majesty (v1 and 9 which bracket the whole psalm) which is reflected and shown to us through His creation (v 3 ff). This is surely also the backdrop of the whole bible. The story of the bible revolves around God and His majesty. One of the ways He has chosen to reveal himself is in and through His creative genius. The pinnacle of His creation is surely then Man (v 4). Created in His own image. Man has a unique role – to rule over the creation, responsibly (v 6 – 10).

Two things not so obvious, are David’s reference to God as Jehovah Adonai in v 1 and 10. that name is of course unique, as it is God’s name for His covenantal people to use and denotes His special relationship with them. The other thing is that right in the middle is the reference to man’s creation as being a little lower than the angels. The New Testament writers, in a number of instances have interpreted this reference to a “Special Man” to refer to the Messiah who will be man’s ultimate representative.( eg cf Hebrews 2:5-9.) His death on our behalf has entitled us to be crowned with glory and honour (Heb 2:9).

I found v 2 rather intriguing. It reminds us of the infernal war that is going on between God and the His “adversaries, foes and avengers” in the world. The solution is interesting It is the praises, here defined as coming from children and infants, that will drown, will silence these enemies. Now I take this description as symbolizing the weakness and vulnerability of those who sing these praises. Why? Because these are the one’s who recognize their dependence on God. cf Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Our praise and enjoyment of God will be so great that it drowns the acrimonious declarations of hatred and vengeance of God’s foes.

For me today, as I have been meditating on it since yesterday this is such a beautiful picture of what is going on in the world as we know it that it continually fills me with continual wonder and awe. May I devote my life to be a singer of praises to Jehovah Adonai and his Son the Messiah, Jesus.

Colossians and Fullness.

“Jesus” – I contemplate the name Jesus – that name that has come to mean so much to me – that name that makes me feel warm and loved – that name that is bandied about by many who have no regard for it and who He is.

“Yes I chose that name which represents My main purpose in the world – Saviour – but being a saviour means so much more than plucking you out of the torrent of this evil world – it means making you my ‘friend’. Yes I am your Saviour – but first I am your Friend, I am your Shepherd, but first your Friend, I am Father, Brother, King, Lover, but in all this I am first your Friend. Friendship has so many facets to it – each of which I fill – now I want you to be my friend – to fill up that space I have kept in My heart specifically for your friendship to fill – and through Me you can spread My friendship in the world to others – because I am a friend to everyone who professes My name – Jesus”.

Now Lilly has asked me to comment on the beautiful passage in Colossians 1:15-20. So here is how I see that passage fits in to Paul’s letter and why it has been put there.

When I was a new Christian in the 80’s, very involved with the “Charismatic Renewal movement”, there was a buzzword – “fullness”. The message was that, “Yes its wonderful that you are a Christian, but to really enjoy your Christianity and especially to have the power to serve the Lord through His supernatural Spiritual gifts, in other words to experience His fullness you needed to be baptized in the Spirit”. Everyone who hadn’t received that baptism or ‘second blessing’ as it was often known was missing out and somehow a sort of lame Christian.

Now there seems to have been a similar message being preached by various False Teachers after Paul had left to the Colossian church. Teachers offering a fuller experience of Christ through some other means. So this is Paul’s reply to those teachings. If you read through the letter and look for them, Paul has played with the word ‘Full’ or ‘Fullness’ in several places.

But here is the basic basic message: In 1:15-20 He presents Jesus. Who He is and what His relationship with God is and what He has accomplished while here on earth. The key vs is 1:19 “God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him (Jesus)”. In other words everything God has and is and can give, was and is present in Christ. Now move to 2:9 he repeats this “For in Christ all the fulness of the Deity lives in bodily form” and now comes the crunch 2:10 “and you have been given fullness in Christ”. So every Christian, when he receives Christ, receives everything that God has available to give. Just meditate on that incredible fact. We have it, we have everything already, that God can and will give, the moment you become a Christian.

But now the question is: why do we not all seem to experience it and why is it so attractive to us that when we are offered an easy way to receive fullness we often fall for it? In ch 2:11 to the end of the chapter Paul mentions a number of the things that the people were obviously being offered to give them that experience of “fullness”. Well Paul actually answers that question by mentioning three ways that we can get to the point of experiencing fullness.

Ch 1:9 Paul repeats a similar statement which he uses in Ephesians 1:17-19. We need to grow in the knowledge and understanding of the extent of the magnificent gift God has given us in Christ and Paul shows that we need God’s help to grow in the wisdom and understanding of that, not just in our heads but our hearts as well. We need to know what we have received and what it means to us. The more we know the more we will experience it and be led to live by it.

Ch 1:25 It is through the study and teaching from God’s word that that knowledge will be available to us. The study and meditation on the Word is key to getting this knowledge. Knowledge which in many respects has been a mystery and still is to many of us as it is slowly unfolded in His Word. (vv26,27)

Then in ch 2:1 and 3:16, Paul reveals the importance of our interaction as a church, as a group of saints in helping each other to grow in our knowledge and experience of the fullness presented to us through our relationship with Christ. This is a community effort and really, especially with Covid, is so important to remind ourselves of the importance of this interaction and our responsibility to each other so together we can grow in knowledge and obedience.

So to sum this all up; we need not and should not be calling on God to give us more but rather that He show us what we already have and then live accordingly. We need to listen to Jesus. We don’t need more of Him He needs more of us. I close with these words from the song “Yet not I but through Christ in me” “What gift of Grace is Jesus my Redeemer, there is no more for heaven to give”.

God’s Covenant Love.

The picture I have to-day at the beginning of a new week is of God being our Shepherd.

“Yes Ian, I am your Shepherd – I use that picture, that analogy because all my children were like sheep that had gone astray and I have rounded you up into my fold – under My protection. My focus for you today is ‘restoration’ I seek to restore you as the week unfolds – I seek to pick up all the loose threads and insecurities in your life and put you together again to make you ‘whole’, to make you ‘complete’. I will lead you then ‘beside still waters’ of rest and even when the path becomes difficult and dark I will be there leading and protecting you all the way, keeping you together – as we head to the ultimate ‘banquet’ where we will experience ‘full-front’ fellowship. So feel my arms around you and simply follow Me as I lead the way, putting your full trust in Me.”

Today my reading is Psalm 6. I think the key word in this psalm is in v 4. The Hebrew word ‘Chesed’, translated as ‘steadfast’ or ‘unfailing love’, it is a reminder of God’s covenant promise in Exodus 34:5 -7 where God confirmed the conditions of His covenant promises. We see in this Psalm how David is overcome with pain and grief (many commentators believe it had to do with his affair with Bathsheba and the consequences that followed, including his enemies who were mocking him). So against the back drop of his distress David first calls on God to stop chastising him, as he seems to see God being behind his troubles. Then in his great distress he cries out the often repeated call in the Psalms and by many, many Christians, over the centuries – “how long oh Lord, how long?” Voicing a desire for relief which just doesn’t seem to be coming.

Then David reminds himself of God’s covenant love (v 4) and calls out to God on the basis of that, which embodies all God’s goodness and promise of protection for His people. Even as the mourning and weeping dies down, he gathers himself and affirms his faith and trust in the Lord – vs 9 with the words “The lord has heard my plea, the Lord accepts my prayer” and so he voices his expectation of a positive outcome.

So as I reflect what Jesus has said to me, I am firstly reminded that we have an even deeper relationship with God under the new covenant through Jesus who died to make that promise of God’s love for us a reality. So on the basis of that and looking at David’s words here, we have every reason to believe that God will answer our prayers with a positive outcome, which nevertheless may not be what we may expect, no matter how sad and serious our situation may seem. Two questions arise, do I blame God for my troubles, seeing them as part of His hand in chastising or disciplining me? What would be the purpose of that? To grow my faith and trust? And secondly it reminds me again that in many respects God often does seem to hold back His answers and His solutions, probably for the same reason. The comforting assurance behind all this is that we have this covenant relationship with our God and Father through Jesus the Son and we can have full confidence in God hearing and responding, in His time and nothing that ever happens to us is allowed out of evil intent as we are fully covered by God’s infinite love and grace.