The threefold nature of success

Nature

Just like you had no control over what parents you have, the colour of your eyes or hair or where you were born, so also you do not have control of the talents you were born with. God the Father gave them to you and expects you to use them (Matt. 25:14-30).

Nurture

We are all given opportunities to develop at least some of our talents.  Hard work is a key to success when directed along the path of our natural God given talents.  It is Jesus who enables this also though.  As Paul said: “I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Cor. 15:10)

Anointing

If someone could bottle and reproduce the form of Leicester City in the Premier League or an athlete breaking a world record when they are not on drugs they might be able to capture the thing many observers call “flow”.  Flow is something that seems most akin to anointing by the Holy Spirit.  David knew it as did the prophets and we can know it too.  It is that difficult to explain thing that causes upsets in competitions and enables anyone to make the fullest use of their God given talents and hard work.  Ask and you will receive.

The Lord is my Shepherd

The image of us being sheep and God being our good shepherd is sprinkled lavishly across the Scripture both new and old.  Whole chapters are devoted to the idea (Psalm 23, John 10).  Men are like sheep to be slaughtered, lost sheep and scattered sheep.  Sheep bully other sheep.  The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.

sheep

There are 7 billion people on the earth.  Of those a tiny fraction are ever in the news personally.  Often groups of people are mentioned and people are tarred with the same brush, but that never tells the story of a single soul.  There are wars and rumours of wars and too many people live in absolute poverty and in ignorance.

But lift your eyes from the news and see what God has done.  There are 7 billion people in the world and most of them are at peace.  For many the Lord is their shepherd and where that is the case they lack nothing, He supplies good food, He leads them in peaceful places and restores their souls.  These ones – and I like to count me and my family among them – walk in righteousness so as not to bring shame to the character of Christ.  Yes we go through bad times but He is always there with us.  He uses the long, thin rod of discipline to keep us on the right path at such times and we know that His staff is strong enough to beat away all wolves.  Even in the midst of the devil and his angels, thrown down to the earth and as angry as hell, we still enjoy His presence and our lives are full and overflowing.  He takes what we are and have and anoints us to bless us and cause our works to multiply.  As we go on with Him, we leave a legacy of goodness and mercy behind us.  It is truly wonderful to know that this living with Him continues forever.

The grace of God has abundantly produced good in this world despite the depravity of man.  Let us think about those things instead of always watching and believing the news.

Worship

I believe worship is primarily presenting our bodies a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) before God.  Worship is surrendered presentation of our bodies, an out poured soul and an entering into the joy – sometimes ecstasy- of the Holy Spirit’s rejoicing in the finished work of Christ.  He spends all His time rejoicing and we enter into that when we worship.

Corporate worship is something better again.  This is worship together, ascending to the assembly of the first born in heaven, the spirits of just men made perfect and, again, the blood that speaks a better thing than Abel’s did – the vengeance was poured out on Christ and now, His blood, forgive them, oh forgive, it cries!

18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”[c] 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”[d]

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks.

[Hebrews 12:18-25]

So when we worship together we join angels and others worshiping around the world as well as those who have died in Christ.  But our focus is on the mercy seat where the blood is sprinkled (Daniel 7:13,14) and the Father is satisfied and comforted in the work His Holy Spirit is doing in His creation.  For He is making us those who lift Him up, he sits enthroned on our praises (Psalm 22:3).the-church-of-the-first-born-hebrews-12-23

More about Jesus

These lyrics from “When Love Sees You” by Mac Powell of Third Day capture Jesus’ way while on the earth.  He is still that way today:

Blessed are you as you weep on your knees
With perfume and tears washing over My feet
And blessed are you, beggar, hopeless and blind
Calling for mercy when I’m passing by

Blessed are you, shaking your head
At two tiny fish and some bread
And blessed are you as you tremble and wait
For the first stone thrown at your sinful disgrace

Tell Me your story, show Me your wounds
And I’ll show you what Love sees when Love looks at you
Hand Me the pieces, broken and bruised
And I’ll show you what Love sees when Love sees you

Blessed are you, walking on waves
To find yourself sinking when you look away
Blessed are you, leper, standing alone
The fear on their faces is all that you’ve known

Blessed are you, lonely widow who gave
Your last shiny coin to Yahweh
Blessed are you with your silver and lies
Kissing the One who’s saving your life

Tell Me your story, show Me your wounds
And I’ll show you what Love sees when Love looks at you
Hand Me the pieces, broken and bruised
And I’ll show you what Love sees when Love sees you

I see what I made in your mother’s womb
And I see the day I fell in love with you
I see your tomorrows, nothing left to chance
I see My Father’s fingerprints

I see your story, I see My name
Written on every beautiful page
You see the struggle, you see the shame
I see the reason I came

I came for your story, I came for your wounds
To show you what Love sees when I see you

 

The most beautiful name

Jesus is the most beautiful name of all.

Not the letters in the name or even the sound of the name itself.  No, it is His character that is the most beautiful.  The ideal image of a man as portrayed in movies by any hero strives to capture His character but never can fully.  Only Jesus has that combination of absolute authority, compassion, vulnerability and humility that comes with being the Son of God and Son of Man.

No one else can compete with Him either imagined or real.Superman

Prophesying in the name of the Lord

The Lord makes a point about prophesying in the name of the Lord in Jeremiah 23:34-40. He says that that phrase: “Thus says the Lord” and others like it have been misused so much that they now bring dishonor to His name. People have used this kind of phrase to give authority to their own ideas and in so doing have turned the words of God on their head.

However God is clearly saying in the same passage that we ought to ask each other what the Lord is saying.  It is the attitude expressed in the response that matters.

In Jeremiah 31:34 God says no one needs to teach those who know the Lord. You don’t need to say “Thus says the Lord” or anything like that to a listening ear. If it is the word of the Lord it will speak for itself.

Resting in God’s Protection

The Psalms have several recurrent themes.  One of them is that God’s protection is around those who trust in Him.  I have found that trust is an active thing on my part – I have to actively trust God by committing things to Him, praying to Him, spending time with Him and, very importantly, obeying what I believe He is saying to me.  I can’t just carry on my own way and then say that I am trusting God.

There are things I have to do deliberately to ensure that I am trusting Him.  One of these is to discipline my time so that I have set aside times in the day and the week to spend time praying alone with Him and reading the Scriptures.  Another is to obey the commands that I am not to worry or be afraid, that I am to rejoice always, pray without ceasing and in everything to give thanks.  These are not always easy commands to obey and work is required to carry them out.

We have just finished a series of studies of James at Open Arms.  Works and faith go hand in hand.

Watch your heart!

Spirit Radio’s word for today was from Proverbs: “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23.

I’m reading through the bible again and again there is this ongoing theme throughout about the first commandment:  Love God above all and first of all.  A walk in the woods

Time and again (and again and again) the message comes through “Don’t worship false idols”. This is a matter of the heart’s direction. Take it from me, after 35 years I know what this means. My heart and its leanings have determined the course of my life. It is the same for everyone.

So what does it mean to “Guard your heart”? To me it seems obvious that it means to keep it focused on obeying those commandments that Jesus said sums up every commandment:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart……”

What direction are you going in?

Believe

There is a wonderful Hebrew word called “aman” from which we get our word “amen”. According to Strong’s Concordance it means “Be established, firm”. But it can also mean “Believe” and shows the connection between stability and faith that James talks about in James 1:
“6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

There is a place for being absolutely dogged and firm when it comes to doing and thinking what we believe is right. Faith, in a deep sense, means to stand firm (cf. Ephesians 6).

Not my will but yours be done

Wouldn’t it be great if our wills and God’s were always perfectly aligned like Jesus’ will is?

Oh, wait, he did say “Not my will but yours be done” on one occasion.  I guess then that makes him more like us than would otherwise be the case.Prince of Peace Hillsong

“Not my will but yours be done” I’ve said to my Father about a thing I don’t want to do.
Just so you know, it doesn’t compare in any way with what Jesus had to go through, in fact if I told you what it was you would think, wow, can I do it instead if you don’t want to?  In fact I am competing to do it.  The only similarity is that I don’t want to do it but I believe my Father wants me to do it.  Mind you that wouldn’t be the first time that happened sadly.

No one – except God – can really share your pain and neither can anyone really know your joy.  We are all so different.  But His love surrounds us when our thoughts wage war and all our emotions are like a volcano inside.  He is the Prince of Peace.

Not my will but Yours be done!