More on Listening and Love.

I’m speaking today to God – no, I am continuing to try to really learn what it means to listen. First I ask Him to purify my mind, my heart, my tongue – forgive me for every wrong thought and inappropriate word and action I have done.

“Help me to empty my mind of all the thoughts churning around in my head that I am thinking [that means what I am saying to myself in this constant conversation I have with me] because this stops me hearing You speak Lord. Especially the worries and cares of this world (Mark 4:18,19).” Here I am reminded of teaching I had during a course we did to become Life-Line counselors, where the basis of their counseling is listening. What they said, and listen carefully now, because we don’t hear so good do we? “If you are thinking what you are going to say to the person while they are still speaking, you are NOT listening to them”. Ouch – so if you are speaking to yourself while you say you are listening to the Lord then you are not listening to Him.

To show you have been listening properly to your client and to help them to see their own problem, we were then told to feed back to them what you have heard them saying. So it would go something like this “so what you are saying to me is xyz?” (The aim of that sort of counselling is that the client should work out solutions to their problems themselves with you just playing a part in active listening). Now how do we do this, give feed back, when we are listening to God? Well quite simple actually, keep a journal and write down what you feel He has been saying to you, with the scripture references or even the passages written out in full. This will enable you to crystalize what you have “heard” Him say to you.

At he end of my time with Him I write in my journal, “So what is this saying to me today?” as I seek to condense it into action for that day.

Now I want to get back to my discussion last time on what it means when we say “God is love”. Our interesting discussion at our early morning prayer meeting with Ludwig was that we can only know God in as much as He has revealed Himself to us. Thus we know God is love because of many actions He has taken favouring us, like and especially, sending His Son to die for us. The story of Tim Keller of the two bushes in Jerimiah where he was saying that we should love God for who He is and not what we can get from Him through our relationship with Him, refers to an attitude where we seek God merely to receive from Him what we desire. So that means it is quite an OK part of knowing God by seeing His revealed actions as a revelation of who He is.

A picture of the Songs of Solomon then comes to mind, of the love of the bride and the groom for each other. I seem to hear The Lord saying to me “Remember the most exquisite moments of your relationship with Emily, how you felt then. Now multiply that by many times and that is how I feel about my bride, each one of the people who make up that group, and that includes you”

But God’s love for us needs to pass on further, not stop with myself. So what does that mean? lets look at that passage in 1 John, where he repeats twice that God is love. John is warning the readers that their love for Jesus will be known by their love of others revealed, in their actions. It is not enough to say “I love you”, one has to demonstrate that. The problem his readers had was that they claimed to be Christian yet were being nasty to some other Christians. Sound familiar?

I am reminded of a revelation I had many years ago about the meaning of the word “attitude”. This was the definition I found: “An attitude is a way of seeing others in relation to ourselves and it is expressed in actions”. So our experience and appreciation of God’s love for us is demonstrated in the attitude we have towards others in relation to ourselves. OK that means not only to family, not only to other like-minded Christian brothers and sisters, but to every one of the people we interact with. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, says our attitude should be like that of Christ Jesus. We should consider others better than ourselves (Phil 2:3) .

Wow – does he really mean that? Its easy to regard the good, nice, distinguished people, especially those who love us, as better than ourselves, but Paul is saying “everyone”. The meanest, the lowest, the dirtiest most detestable, cruel ??? Jesus said in Matt 5:43 we must love even our enemies. Can I do that? Can you do that?

I have good news for you. The gospel isn’t about trying to do the impossible, just trying harder and harder every time we fail. No, the gospel is – first experience God’s love for you, Really experience it believe it and receive it and from that flows the power and desire to love even the most unlovable. Will we fail? Of course. Should we try harder?…. NO the gospel tells us when we fail we go to Jesus, the foot of His cross, confess our failure and draw again from His love and go out. And no matter how often we fail, that is the Good News, He will always forgive us and fill us afresh with His love. Read 1 John, first chapter, that explains it.

Dear reader there are so many of our brothers and sisters who are trying so hard to be good Christians, but it is no more than legalism. The Good News is that we have been transformed by Jesus, filled with His love, all we have to do is go out in that knowledge and strength of the Holy Spirit and do it.

Hallelujah that is why it is called “The Gospel” in other words “The Good News of Christ Jesus”.

God is love.

The mist is dense outside, like a thick grey blanket. Cold? or Warm and covering you like a blanket?

At the end of my journal entry for yesterday I wrote, following Paul Tripp’s poem on God’s pleasure: “One day my deepest pleasures are nowhere to be found in creation and only to be found in the Creator and He finds pleasure in His glory.

So today I spend time meditating on the fact that I must love the Creator for Who He is and not for what He has done and will do for me.

So who is my God? mmmm 1 John says twice that “God is love” 1 John 4:8,16. What does that mean? Can we define what that means without the context of what John says in this letter? Because John’s definition is all about what God has done through Jesus for us and in us – urging the reader to take this to heart, by demonstrating the same sacrificial care for one another that God has shown for us, which is original. That is He demostrated His love for us unprovoked by us or any merit in us. We are to love like that.

So I quietly ask God “what does the statement “God is love” mean intrinsically to His character? The thought comes to me that His whole being is wrapped up in the benevolent attitude which He has demonstrated and is demonstrating towards His creation. His anger is only demonstrated towards those who reject Him. Further to that I think of the only picture in the bible where we get a glimpse of God is in Revelation 4, where it is all about His holiness and His glory.

So I consult “The New Bible Dictionary”. Their discussion starts with the revelation of God’s love for Jesus which has existed since before creation. John 17:24 “Where Jesus prays “Father I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see My glory, the glory You have given Me, because you loved Me before the creation of the world”. Notice the link between glory and love.

Jesus is also the only one of whom it is written that He is God’s beloved Son. eg Mark 9:7 “This is my Son whom I love.”

Furthermore they say that God’s love can only be known to men as it is revealed in Jesus Christ and our redemption by Him (Romans 5:8). It is the very nature of the God-Head – Jesus Christ, who is love incarnate and personified (1Jo 3:16) and is God’s Self revelation.

Heh and that is not all. There is an emotional aspect to God’s love – revealed especially through the book of Hoseah where God gets Hoseah to marry a prostitute so that He can experience the pain God feels when his bride is unfaithful to him.

There is more, but lets leave that for the moment. Just something more to chew on. In Malachi 1:2ff He speaks about some whom He hates. Read that and ponder and we will speak again about it and if you have the courage post your thoughts on the idea that God is love on the blog.

May you consciously experience that unimaginable love in a special way as you read this and consider it.

Wisdom shown in the way we use words.

Its cold this morning, skeins of mist and rain drifting past to hide the magnificent view of Table Mountain in the distance. The patio is wet and the bushes and trees are dancing to the tune of the icy wind which is reminding me that it is the first sign of spring. Easy to be depressed and down-hearted? Yes? But how we process what we see will determine our mood. Do we see the weather? The cold and greyness? Or do we see a wonderful Creator who is behind every mood of His creation. The very fact that Spring is here is a reminder of His faithful dependability.

As I become quiet and nestle up to my Father, he seems to be saying to me “look at the rainbow – the rainbow symbolises my presence – remember the covenant that I made with Noah? Well the seal on that covenant was the rainbow and every time you see a rainbow it should remind you of that covenant, the first one mentioned in My Word, which was looking forward to another one which would be sealed by the Sabbath and that one was again looking forward to the one introduced by my Son, The beautiful Lord Jesus, which was sealed by the Holy Spirit. You are part of that covenant! I planned and chose you and crafted you before all time to be the person you are. I have shed abroad my love for you through the mighty act of Jesus. Experience my “Chesed” (covenant) love constantly and Ian, this message is for you personally, but also to be shared with all who read this blog. It is My message of love and hope to every one of my beloved children”.

The next pillar of wisdom is “watchfulness with words”. The book of proverbs has much to say about words. How important words are. The words of God bring life. (Prov 10:11) Our words can do the same or they can or they can cause a hurt that lasts a lifetime (Prov 12:16).

For me today this is a special warning as I am so prone to blurt out words before thinking carefully what effect they may have. Dr Phil often used to say “you can’t undo stupid”. I would like to change that to “you can’t undo words once they are spoken”

Then in my imagination I see this person staggering through the desert without water, weak and voraciously thirsty, tongue and lips swollen and dry, caked with sand and spittle. Longing for just a sip of water. That is me, struggling through the desert of this world, the only water that can refresh me is the “living water” which only Jesus can give. That has the power and insight to help me to rise up above the stumbling struggle of every day and mount up with wings as an eagle – into His very living presence. That is reality, although I cannot see it! (Isaiah 40:31).

And a timely reminder the means of His Spiritual Water is the Word of God – that is how He refreshes us!

Oh glorious Lord what a privilege to know you!

Wisdom expressed in Perseverance and Hope.

This morning I couldn’t help but burst into jubilant laughter during my time with our Lord. But lets begin at the beginning. I awake with a sense of optimism as its getting light. What will the day bring? What will this week bring?

As I become quiet my Father focusses on the word “hope” – yes, ultimate hope – focusing and culminating in the “marriage supper of the Lamb” – but hope here on earth as well. I see a picture of a tree lined avenue with a bright light shining at the end – it is the HOPE God is speaking about. He reminds me of Romans ch 5 – standing in His grace – suffering producing perseverance which produces hope. My impression is that I mustn’t just mark time and wait for the end, but must bravely and with expectancy look forward to His working in this world now. He reminds me that the coming together of a number of small things is a sign of His presence, however He is busy with something much bigger. I sense though that I mustn’t try and predict and run ahead, I must wait on Him. I am reminded of the passage in Habbakuk, you know the one? “Though the fig tree does not bud ……Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour (our lovely Lord Jesus)”. This is not negative, it is a reminder to enjoy and worship God for who He is, not what we can get from Him. Yet I must carry on doing the mundane things He has called me to every day, diligently.

So the reading is in Proverbs 21:1-15.

The question is, what determines our path?

vs 1 God can and does direct even the most powerful person when He wishes something to be done.

vs 2 It is the motive and decision which arises from our hearts that determines the direction, the decisions we make and that is important to God.

vs 3 He is more interested in us doing the right thing, having the right attitude towards His word and decrees than in making sacrifices, iow doing our thing to try and please Him and win His approval.

vs 4. Pride hinders our relationship with Him and prevents divine guidance and is abhorrent to Him.

vs 5 He desires us to think carefully before we act and not make rash decisions.

Now I take up Selwyn Hughes’ book. The theme is still diligence despite difficulties and my eye falls on the following statement: “Listen to what the apostle Paul says in Romans 5:3-4; ‘We rejoice in our sufferings, [why} because suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character and character hope'”.

Can I ever doubt that the precious Lord is speaking to me with such a clear message? My heart was overflowing as I burst out in joyful, ebullient laughter.

There is hope for all of us. Not a wishy washy word of hope, a dynamic powerful word of promise from the God who created the whole world. Let us rejoice and be glad in Him and accept the hope as a sign of His love but worship Him ultimately for who He is and love Him with all your heart.

My prayer for you and I, all of us, is from Ephesians 1:17 ff “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so you may know Him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you (us), the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and the incomparably great power for for us who believe”

Wow – praise His glorious Name!

Wisdom as Diligence.

This morning my heart is filled with thankfulness and I just draw close to my Father and sit in His presence till I sense He is enveloping me in His love – He feeds my heart with His presence – my heart is filled with thankfulness.

The next of the 7 pillars of wisdom is “diligence”, which is expressed among others as perseverance.

Prov 4:10 – 23 The central issue of this passage is vs 23 “Above all else guard your heart, it is the wellspring of life” . As we have said before and needs to be repeated: the heart is the source of all our motivations which lead to the decisions we take. In his case it is to take the “path of righteousness vs 18.” But how do we guard our hearts? two things come up:

v 10 “Listening”. Tired of hearing that yet? You see we have not listened properly till we have “accepted what God says”.(v10) (I was recently told that research shows that if we are fed a barrel of words we only really hear a teaspoonful.) And then, the passage says we need to “Hold on to that instruction” v 13. You see we will only hold on to God’s instruction if we have really heard, believed and trusted in Him fully.

Then, secondly, v 25 “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you that will lead to you having level paths before you (v26,27). Why are the eyes so important? Well it is through our eyes that we are first tempted. Look again at the example of Eve in the garden Gen 3:4 ff “”You will not surely die” the serpent said to the woman, “For God knows when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good from evil”. when the woman saw that he fruit was good for food and pleasing to the eye she …what? Took some and ate it!

Confirmation back in Prov again, Prov 23:26 “My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep from wandering”. So the path of wisdom is one of diligence, keeping to the path of righteousness, because we are constantly being tempted to leave it, to give up or deviate.

This is confirmed in James 1:2-8, where James makes the connection between trials, perseverance, faith and wisdom. Read it and let it soak in.

So what is Jesus (Wisdom) saying to me from this? In the path ahead I am going to be tempted (many times) to give up, to give in to self-pity and discouragement. My eyes will look and long for an easier path, however the trials I am going through are intended for the opposite purpose, to help me develop an attitude of perseverance which will lead me on the path to maturity. I need to hear this in my heart which is the wellspring from where the courage will come from to proceed. I can only really hear this so that it will bring change and strength to me if I draw the supernatural power from being close to Jesus (Ephes 1:17,18).