I once read somewhere of Dr. Sangster, the great Methodist preacher of a former generation writing of a memory. He was at a joyful celebration where fireworks were being set off. He looked away from them for a moment and saw behind him the most awesome sunset sky. He could hardly believe the colours he saw. Most of the crowd never saw it because they were enthralled and excited by a few crackling jumping squibs.
Never get so enamoured by some aspect of church life or even your own Christian experience that you fail to notice the glory of Jesus in His dying and rising. Fireworks can be exciting. Feeling excited is a good feeling not to be despised. Sunsets and awe are better by far. (Photograph by Steve Taylor, Skye: shared on Facebook.)
“…yet it was the will of The Lord to crush him…”
…thoughts run out…hit a buffer…silenced…
“Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart and you shall find rest unto your souls…” Rebelling against the yoke the Father places on us, the yoke of His will and purpose is much more tiring than meekly accepting it. The Father placed “everything” upon the Son, the salvation of the world, the building of the church, etc but meekness gave Jesus access to strength and energy to carry it all. The one who carried everything is worth learning from. As a pastor I met so many Christians who had no set of soul, and meet them still. They were restless and created commotion around them, disturbing others.
In Matthew 11, Jesus teaches that rest come from two things:
Firstly, rest comes from knowing His Father as our Father – a revelation that only Jesus can give, for He claims to be the only theologian: no one knows the Father except the Son. Only He can bring us to know His Father as our Father.
Secondly, rest comes from having the heart of “The Son” who meekly does the Father’s will; a revelation that only the Father can give by the Spirit, for no one knows the Son except the Father. He can work in us the heart of a child who loves to be about His business and who accepts each charge from Him with meekness. So much strength is lost through bolting from the will of the Father like a horse, or stubbornly resisting the will of the Father like a mule. As the Father reveals the Son to us and in us by the Spirit, Jesus the Son frees us to live in the joyful meekness of being a child of God. He gives us not only the authority to know the Father but the power to live as a child of God rather than an independent adult determined on following our own plans and visions.
Active passivity is a vital part of moving forward in the things of God. It was very much part of the way Jesus triumphed and overcame the world. It is a vital part of the many lessons to be learned from Holy Week. Look at how much was done to Jesus in the will and foreknowledge of the Father. Jesus did not rebel but gave his back to the smiters and his face to those who pulled out His beard. He was like a sheep, dumb before the shearers. Those who teach passivity is always a bad thing need to tweak their teaching in the light of the story of Jesus, the Son of the Father who carried everything to the cross. There is a vital link between passivity and activity in the spiritual life. They co-exist positively in Christ. on the Jesus Way. We cannot have rest of soul without both.
Abram’s words to Lot: “The whole countryside is open to you. Take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate. If you want the land to the left, then I’ll take the land on the right. If you prefer the land on the right, then I’ll go to the left.”
Over the years as a Pastor I have met so many people who have caused themselves so much angst by trying to control too much around them concerning themselves. It has meant contention with others and inner lack of peace. A spirit of control does that.
Have faith in God. Abraham is the Father of the faith-full. Trust in Abraham’s God and don’t fear the choices others may make even this very day. If we try and control circumstances and others too much, paradoxically what we are seeking to protect and defend concerning our own life and wellbeing gets stolen from us. Fear of others and Control of others are not our friends. Time to kick them out the temple of your life, the dwelling place of God? If you do, your life will be a House of Shalom.
By the way, I fully understand if this thought seems extra hard for some of us to embrace. I am thinking of those whose experience of life makes it seem that “control” is a necessary weapon of defence. Let me say in love that sometimes the strategies that help us survive have their malevolent and harmful side too. ‘Control” may have helped you survive, which in itself has been no mean feat for you to accomplish. But don’t let survival be your final resting point. God has more for you, namely Life in all its fullness in Christ. To step more fully into that, it may well be that trusted survival strategies have to be relinquished. May God help you to do that when the time seems ripe and right for that to happen. Take a deep breath…it may be the time is right and ripe today
As I wrote that last sentence, I was remembering the first time I jumped off the highest diving board at North Berwick outdoor swing pool which is sadly no longer in existence. I had been up the steps for a look a few times and stood right at the edge but failed to jump. Then, one day, I climbed the steps, stood at the edge of the board, looked as I had done several times before…and just did it….just jumped. There were no new facts that helped me make that jump. I just decided to do it. I eave that thought with those of you for whom leaving “control” behind and jumping in abandon into the care of God seems extra hard.
Was thinking about visiting Lewis in June, God willing, and the history of the Hebrides. How our outlook and attitudes can change. Nowadays, we more than likely think of the sea as a barrier stopping us getting somewhere. The Vikings and their ilk thought the opposite: “We can get there because of the sea.” The sea that is now regarded as an obstacle to be negotiated was seen as a superhighway, giving access.
I think there is a positive spiritual lesson to be drawn from that, and I probably will when I get to Lewis as we think together about what attracts the presence of God to a life or a community. But for now, I am not thinking about what I might say in lLewis. I am thinking of you and me right now. Is there something in life at this point in time, that presents itself as an obstacle to progress, an impediment to living, a limiting factor that seems to have a hemming in effect? Well, see it as a superhighway into the resources of God, a direct route into His promises, His help, His unfailing and merciful love. A change of outlook can have powerful results.
Do you find you are always finding fault with everybody and everything in the Christian world that seems to be blessed with life and fruitfulness, to the point that anything apparently successful is looked upon as suspect in its theology and practice? At times in the pride of my own thoughts and theology in the past I effectively rewrote Jesus words in John 15 to say this: “In this is my Father’s glorified, that you are fruitless.”
Of course there are times and famous examples of those who have laboured faithfully for years without obvious success, but let’s not turn that into saying that failure and stagnation are the normal sign of an individual or a fellowship that is truly abiding in Christ. Could it be we are too quick to take refuge in Remnant theology instead of allowing God to search our hearts and our ways? Thinking out loud as I type… and as I pray: “May your life and ministry and mine be fruitful for Jesus sake, this Lord’s Day and every day.”
In days when a casual, chummy approach to God is seen (wrongly) as a sign of intimacy, it is easy for anything that smacks of anything to do with outer signs of commitment as simply “religion.” One of the earlier prophets, Amos writing before the judgement of God fell on Israel and Judah delivers this message from God: “You caused the Nazarites to sin by making them drink wine.” Sometimes God may ask from you a particular sign of commitment which He may not require from everyone, and you know He has asked you for your willing compliance. It may indeed be to not drink alcohol. It may be a particular discipline in terms of bible reading and prayer. It may be something to do with T.V. or computer use and viewing.
Don’t let anyone talk you out of a particular commitment God has asked of you. They may scoff, they may try and say you are guilty of legalism and be seeming to want to set you free…don’t listen. Only listen if God Himself says you can relax that particular discipline.
The principle behind being a Nazarite is still one God employs. A few years ago in Charismatic circles in Scotland that principle was adopted in too literal a way imho, in an almost copycat way, and led to a lot of long haired men going around the place. I felt at the time they were misguided in outward practice, though I admit freely I might be wrong about that and would not argue the point. I think many of them came to see the same. However, I also felt they were on to something real, and honour them for that. They were rightly trying to observe the important permanent principle involved in being a Nazarite.
A.W. Tozer once visited a “Holiness Movement” Church. The leaders humbly asked for his advice. They shared that perhaps it was time to relax some of their age old standards that were meant to be outward signs of devotion to a Holy God and separation from the world’s ways. They asked him for advice as to what they should change as maybe the old standards had gone too far. He told them, “Change nothing! I am fed up visiting churches that have not gone far enough.” I find myself often thinking about that little incident. It speaks volumes.
Here is the publicity for the Conference on Lewis, 7th to 9th June: 7th and 8th. Conference, 9th. Morning and Evening Services if you can stay on.
Delighted to be sharing the speaking with R.T. Kendall. It won’t be about the story of Revival of 70 years ago but will commemorate it. Revival is Sovereign, but Scripture makes it clear that there are several things that attract the Dove….attract the Fire..attract the Hurricane of God.
The cost of the Conference is very low. Well done Martins Memorial for not being part of the trend to fleece the sheep!
Why not consider coming? I know there are costs to do with travel, accommodation etc., but some low cost options are in the publicity. Some have told me that they have already booked and sorted out travel.
I consider R.T. Kendall to have the most accurate Prophetic voice I know. Why? He simply believes the Word of God and tells what it says without fear of man or even fellow believers.
So, why not come?