Coming under authority

Belief inthe Bible is good, but incomplete.  Satanbelieves the Bible!  We are constantlyurged in scripture to come under its authority (Josh 1:8, II Tim 3:16).  This is simply measured by the degree towhich we apply it to our lives.  As an example, a doctor could not claim to begood if, having learned masses of medical knowledge, he or she chose not to useit, but rather gave random advice!

Some of theways we need to apply scripture go against the modern grain.  We want to chill and enjoy life, reassuringourselves that we have a committed heart. God looks on the heart, we remindourselves.  But how can I say I amcommitted if there is no evidence? “You shall know them by theirfruits”, said Jesus.  When I show nocommitment to local church, have no personal disciplines, and am fleshly in mydealings with others, what does my commitment mean? 

Try livingout a marriage relationship or a business relationship like that!  Myra is not impressed that my heart is fullycommitted to her if I am not willing to make any changes to my life to make ourmarriage work.  In the same way, walkingwith God involves letting go of my rights to exercise my freedom (which we allconstantly want to do) and exercising His rights on my life.  Remember those?  Given when we exchanged death for life?

Come underHis authority.  It is where we belong.

Growing in maturity

The life and conduct of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 17 teaches us much about mature thinking and behaviour. He removed the ungodly influences in the land. His behaviour resulted in him being respected. He taught others, and showed that influencing others is a true mark of leadership. He provided for peoples’ needs.

In our lives, of course we do well to move into increasing mature thinking and behaviour. But how can we assess where we are?

Anger is a litmus test for maturity. I believe how we handle it tells us where we are. Firstly, check that we are believing the truth about the situation (James 1:19). Next, we do well to realise that our reaction feels worst if directed to those we love. So be on guard when they are the object of anger.

Scripture indicates that if we have been harmed, anger can be a correct emotion. But it needs the right framework to be expressed or it destroys relationships, even if it is not expressed. The reason is that burning anger smoulders through bitterness and hardens into hate. As us medics say “it bleeds through”. Wise people avoid this.

How it is expressed is vital. It is right and proper to explain how a situation has angered us. But the explanation needs to happen through love and kindness. The slightest hint of bad feeling contaminates, and relationships then go downhill!

But best of all, respond, rather than react. In fact, His love enables us to avoid anger for as long as possible. Agree with criticism as far as you are able! Agree with any truthful statement others say, ignoring it’s angry package

The fact that someone is angry with me doesn’t mean that I have done wrong.

Coping with this needs to be learned – it is another feature of maturity.

How are you doing?

Friendships

Friends are very sustaining. In fact it is possible to feel lonely in the midst of a busy life without one or two real friends. A real friend loves you no matter what (Prov 17:17). A real friend accepts you and will not show a critical spirit towards you.

We all need to handle these precious bonds with care. Jesus said that some friendships are so strong that a man might lay his life down for his friend.  But sadly friendships can evaporate through carelessness. The tongue is the commonest way to kill a friendship.  Words can wound, no matter to whom they are spoken. Parents can deeply hurt their children.  Children can wound their parents. Husbands and wives can easily offend each other.  Whilst scripture tells us that wounds from a friend can be trusted, friends can ruin what they have enjoyed with foolish words. These words are often spoken “in truth and love” but in fact convey neither!  Worse still, gossip is guaranteed to separate even close friends (Prov 16:28)

Rather, we can show love to our friends in small deeds of kindness.  We can show our integrity by being loyal to them. This may involve having enough courage to take sides on occasions. We can bring some joy to them by bringing out good things in the other.

None of us can create friendships – they are more organic than that.  But as they grow, lets not be passive and wait for the other to call, but lets nurture them and protect them.

J John says a friend is:

1 Committed (Prov 18:24). Have few and be loyal to them

2 Considerate (Prov 19:22). Show your love

3 Confidential (Prov 11:13). Able to keep secrets

4 Candid (Prov 24:26 & 27:5). Open and honest

5 Constructive (Prov 27:17). Brings out good things in the other

6 Consistent (Prov 17:17). Faithful no matter what

7 Jesus is all of the above. The friends we are will shape the friends we have.

Dealing with failure

Satan only has a few plots against believers.  I imagine that he has them on well-worn clipboards. One is doubt.  Others are disunity, suspicion and grumbling.  Then there is greed and lust.  But a big one is failure, discouragement and a sense of worthlessness.  Somehow he manages to take a fact (we fail) which God accepts and loves us despite, and tempts us to feel unacceptable to God. Satan

So how are we to respond to our failings?  I can’t prove this, and scripture only gives us a glimpse, but I think its something like this.  We are in training for a larger service in eternity, and our place, standing and even capacity to experience there may depend on the development of our souls here and now.  And He often chooses difficulty as His tool to develop us.  So, somehow in God’s amazing wisdom and power, His Bride, the church, the object of so much of history, will be spotless and pure and without fault, because He will bring it about.   When we think of our own failure, we need to realize that we are in good company. Some of the most important Biblical figures were real failures!  Take Moses, David, Peter and Paul.  Between them they wrote 22 of the Bibles’s 66 books.

Moses had a temper (broke the tablets of commandments Ex 32:19), and was a murderer (killed an Egyptian – Ex 2:12) David was an adulterer and a murderer (Bathsheba & Uriah her husband – II Sam 11) Peter was a hot head, liar, faithless. Episode of walking on water. Denying Jesus. Absent at cross – had run off! Paul was a murderer – consented to Stephen’s stoning (Acts 7).

So failing, apparently, is not an issue in God’s eyes, rather it’s what we do when we’ve failed. “For the righteous man falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked are overthrown by calamity” (Prov 24:16). God sends disillusions to breakdown our illusions in order that we might see the truth. Our sorrow and pain often increases our capacity for joy.

He calls to us “only acknowledge your guilt” (Jer 3:13). I have to face up to it and admit it, firstly to myself! I need to stop telling myself how righteous I am! Then I need to tell Him. And that’s costly, because confession to Him goes hand in hand with confessing to others (when a wrong involves them), and forgiving others, without exception!!

Admission of failure purges pride, reputation, self-sufficiency and self-righteousness if we are honest with ourselves and God, eager to be changed. God can then work “for my power is made perfect in weakness” (II Cor 12:9). Inner concealing of it makes us feel defeated and static if we say it isn’t a problem … “Its just the way I am” …. “His family have always been moody” …. “She knows I love her, my cross words are soon forgotten”.

God says “Only acknowledge your guilt”. To myself; this part of me is not as it should be. To God; I acknowledge that this is wrong —> genuine repentance will result in apologizing to others. Healing forgiveness will flow, provided I forgive others unreservedly. The process repeated as a lifestyle will see me changed!

Forwards or backwards?

We live in tough times.   As we move towards the final times, we know it will get harder.  We can be sure we are moving in that direction by passages such as 2 Tim 3:1-5 “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them” Is this not true now?

Mat 24:7 – 13 tells us “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. … at that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other ….. because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved”

So it is understandable that sometimes it feels tough.  But read Heb 10:39 “We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved”  It is an interesting passage, sandwiched between two others.  Before it goes one of the starkest warnings against backsliding (Heb 10:26-31), and after it goes the best catalogue of faith in scripture (Heb 11).

I felt the Holy Spirit encourage me that this is a test for us all.  We are either moving in faith, and therefore moving forward, despite difficulties (and faith doesn’t become faith except in difficulties!), or we are allowing sin to drag us back.

The wonderful thing is that while none of us has the power to move forward, this means we have to rely on Jesus, and let His life be formed in us.  This means trusting Him, and having real faith for real situations. When He begins to appear in our brokenness, then we begin to find real life.  Surely this is what Paul meant in Col 3:3 “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God”