In my church small group we recently read through the book of Job, highlighting anything which stood out along the way. Not always the most uplifting book to read, but at the same time I found it to bring some comfort and also new revelation, which I wanted to share in this post. Have a look at this…
He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food. But now you are laden with the judgment due the wicked; judgment and justice have taken hold of you. Job 36:16-17.
Several things stood out to me as I read this verse. Firstly, the idea of God wooing us away from a place of distress into a place free from restriction. How often in life do we allow our focus to be on things which cause us anxiety or fear, which, the more we look at it, the greater the distress it causes us. God is inviting us to move away from that place and to sit at our table in comfort. He is our comforter and provider, yet we all too often can forget that.
The second one is this – “judgment and justice have taken hold of you” – judgment is reserved for God, and yet we take it upon ourselves to judge or demand justice for situations out of our control. Before Adam and Eve ate the apple, humankind had no knowledge of good and evil, no ability to judge what was good or evil, fair or unjust. The bible mentions several times to leave the judgment to God, and yet we choose to allow the judgment mindset to take hold of us, choosing rather to trust our own abilities and judging rather than God. Living with this mindset creates distress in our lives, so can we give it to God, and trust that His judgment is just and timely? That can be easier said than done, especially when we feel like someone has done wrong to us, or if we have gone through a hard season, but we need to adopt the opposite mindset, that of love, rather than judgment.
I don’t believe it was Gods intention for us to live under the mindset of judgment, as this passage says, but that He want to woo us out into an open space, a place where He has laden our table with choice food.
This morning, as I left the train station for a meeting, I noticed a rather angry looking and sounding seagull above me on the street light. As it loudly squawked at me, it then began a series of dive bomb attacks on me, each time getting a little bit closer to making contact. As I made a hasty get away from my attacker, I couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculous situation I found myself in, made even more funny by the conversation I had with a friend only last night. This friend is an anaesthetist, and was telling us of how common it has been during his time working in A&E for people to come in exhibiting seagull related injuries, from overly aggressive birds.
Later on in the day, as I returned to the station for my train home, this time with a work colleague ( safety in numbers), we noticed the same seagull sitting atop its perch on the street light. As we approached, we laughed at the thought of it once again preparing for attack, and my colleague made the comment of how can we fear being attacked by a bird, even though it was relatively big, but by comparison to us, it should be an easy victory for us. Sometimes the attacker seems to be indestructible, swooping and squawking at us, we can become intimidated and forget that actually we are more than capable of victory.
Really it’s the same in our lives when faced with an attack from Satan, the enemy. Whether it be by words, thoughts, feelings, fears, doubts, whatever his tactics are of trying to intimidate us, remember that we already carry the victory. Our God is bigger. Through he may make loud noises and swoop down to try and scare us off, he is, in fact, nothing more than a pest, a scavenger with the sole desire of pushing us off course. Well, today I choose not to allow fear to cause distress or anxiety for the road ahead.
We sometimes make the mistake of thinking the devil is on the same level of God, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
A couple months ago, I had the opportunity to preach up in Aberdeen with a team from bethel who were out for a mission trip. It was the first time I had preached since losing our son last year. I wanted to share with you what I spoke about that night…
Recently I have been enjoying spending time with God whilst cooking dinner, and so as I was cooking and asking God what to talk about, I heard two words from Him- Go Again.
These words were actually words we said to one another after Elias died. We can’t stay here in this pit of despair, we have to keep moving. As the Psalm states, we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we don’t sit down and make camp. Sure, we get knocked down and taken out, but we need to get back up, to move forward, to go again.
Romans 8 is one of the most encouraging chapters in the bible, and it’s what I focused on in my sermons a couple months back.
We were saved by hope, but hope that is looked at is not hope – for who hopes for what they look at? But since we hope for what we do not look at, then we look forward to it with endurance. Romans 8:24-25
The word Hope Paul uses in the Greek language is Elpis, which means “joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation!” Though we may go through struggles and trials, we live with the hope of what we cannot yet see, this eternal salvation. That’s Gods promise to all who come to Him. It’s what has kept me going these last few months, the confident knowledge that, one day, I will be reunited with Elias, in eternity. What we see here is only temporary. The pain and grief of loss is not permanent. As Abraham said once, we are merely aliens passing through this land, we don’t belong here. And yet, we experience pain, loss, uncertainty, but with the promise that all will be restored to us.
The word Paul uses for endurance in this passage translates to mean “in the face of aggression”. Regardless of what we face, we hold on to this Elpis hope, this confidence that one day every tear shall be wiped away as we enter into enteral salvation, through Jesus.
In the same way also, the Spirit takes hold together with us in our weaknesses – we don’t know how we are to pray so that our prayers will correspond to the need, but the Spirit intercedes with deeply emotional heartfelt groanings.
Ever felt like you don’t have the words to pray? Here Paul tells us that even in that moment, we have the Holy Spirit interceding for us when our words fail us. God wants so much for us to succeed that He instructs Holy Spirit to pray with us and for us when we don’t have the words. The word for groanings there is a violent ailing and loud noise, it’s not a passive prayer.
If God is for us, who can be against us? … he will also give us all things as a favour, as well as giving his own son!
Guess what? God is for you! He is so for you He sent His son to die in your place so that you would not die but have eternal salvation. Whatever you’ve been through or are going through, have confidence that God is for you and with you and has good things for you!
I know what it’s like to go through stuff, trust me, these last few months have been horrendous, but we have determined to hold on to the truth from Romans 8, God is faithful, and He is calling us to get up, to move forward, to go again.
It’s been a while since my last post on this, and to say that a lot has happened since then would be the greatest understatement of all time. Perhaps, in a later post, I will try and unpack it all, but for now it’s all a little too fresh.
Today I want to write about living from Gods peace. In John 15:27, Jesus says this;
“I am leaving you peace- I am giving you peace – I am certainly giving it to you but not in the same way that the world gives it. Don’t let your hearts be disturbed, and don’t be cowardly.” (Source translation)
This word for peace here, the root meaning of it is Eiro, which means to join. Jesus is offering a peace that it to join with us, not something that gets taken away or that is finite, but something that will remain with us through whatever situation we face.
Jesus then tells us not to let our hearts be disturbed. The peace we join with will overcome the anxiety we face. Peace is internal while anxiety is based on what our eyes perceive about a situation. It’s our choice whether to remain at Peace, or to allow anxiety to imbed itself in our hearts. And this is what Jesus is warning us about here. You have the power to choose what your hearts feasts off – peace or anxiety. The anxiety we have towards something will always grow the more we feed it. But the same is true about peace. The more we seek peace the more we have of it to get through the stuff life throws at us.
Jesus’ final instruction here is to not be cowardly. These words are the same as the parting advice Moses gave to Joshua at the beginning of the book of Joshua, right before he led the Israelites into the promised land. We have not, as Paul reminds Timothy, been given a spirit of cowardice, but one of power.
So, choose to grow in peace today over your situation, live from that place and guard your heart against any anxiety. Move forward with the courage and confidence that God is for you, that Jesus’ words here are true.
Each day we have a choice for what we are going to partner with. Several times over the last few weeks, I have caught myself having anxious thoughts, and in that moment, my choice is whether or not to continue with these thoughts of anxiety. I was listening to a sermon by Shawn Bolz, and something he mentioned really stuck out to me. He was reading from Philippians chapter 4, which gives insight into how to remove any anxiety from our minds before it has the chance to take hold of our lives.
Do not be preoccupied about anything, but let the things you ask for be pointed out to God by means of prayer and earnest requests with gratitude. And the peace of God, which conquers all processes of thinking, will keep watch over your minds and what you think about by means of the Anointed One Jesus.” Philippians 4:6 (The Source Translation)
There’s a couple things I love from this passage. Firstly is Paul’s encouragement to not become preoccupied or filled with anxiety over what is or isn’t happening. Instead, we should point our requests out to God through prayer and thanksgiving. Thanksgiving releases us from anxiety. Feeling anxious over your week? Begin to give God thanks for what is about to happen. Press in to God for more.
Second thing I love from the passage is that the peace of God will actually watch over our minds, even as we work through our situation, waiting for the breakthrough we have been pressing in to. Peace that transcends all knowledge and understanding is available to us in place of anxiety.
So next time anxiety comes your way, flip it on its head by giving God thanks, by allowing yourself and your mind to be filled with His peace that will more than sustain you through any situation you may find yourself in.
Throughout the NT we see many occasions where Jesus instructs and encourages us to ask of Him anything we want, and it will be given to us. Its an invitation to partner with Jesus, as we bring forth our requests to Him, He in turn brings it before the Father. Paul talks about our partnership with Jesus in 1 Corinthians 1:9, we were created for this very reason.
The trouble is that for so many of us, we feel guilty asking for something from God, thinking we just need to work for it, or earn it, or that perhaps it’s too big or not important to God. If it’s important to you, it’s important to God.
Jesus gave us the ultimate gift, through the work on the Cross. He set the bar pretty high and still invites us to ask of Him the desires of our hearts. The danger is that when we don’t ask, we miss out on joining with Jesus and receiving all that God has for us. God wants to lavish us with gifts and provision, but if we don’t ask and seek, then why should we expect to receive anything from Him? The whole point in Jesus dying on the cross for us was so that we could experience an intimate relationship with the Father, and what Father doesn’t want to give good things to his children?
It’s time to get specific when we ask God for something, press in for it. It can be too easy to ask and then move on, without pressing in for an answer or for breakthrough. Write out in your journal all the desires of your heart, all that is on your mind, then lock yourself away with God, press in to Him for answers, for breakthrough, for provision.
One of my favourite passages from the bible is from John 14:27:
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.
Jesus is addressing the fact that the disciples are becoming scared and worried at the prospect of Jesus leaving them, and so He comforts and reassures them that they will have all that they need.
He gives them His Peace, He gives not as the world does, not with condition, not with limitation and not with works. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, imparts His peace onto the disciples, onto us, without limitation.
If we have been given His Peace in abundance, with no restrictions, then that must mean that we live from a place of peace. Peace is the standard from which we live. If that is true, then nothing that comes against us can rob us of our peace, not unless we allow it to. The enemy only has power in our lives if we give him the authority.
For peace to become a standard from which we live, we need to constantly train ourselves to recognize what we are allowing to take authority in our lives.
When we live from peace we live with the expectancy that God will bring us through each and every situation we are faced with. The world would love to rob us of our peace, but if we allow Jesus to fill us, from the inside out, with His peace, then nothing, no-thing, can stand against us and cause is to stumble.
Peace is not the only standard we, as Christians, need to learn to live by. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he talks about how we can do the best things, be the best at encouraging others, speak in the tongues of men and angels, but if we don’t have love, then it counts for nothing, it’s just loud noise in an already noise-filled world. Love has to be the standard. Nothing else matters. Whenever we are doing something that is not from a place of love, we need to question why we are doing it.
So, what is the standard from which you live you life?