Friday, 13 June 2014

He Leads Me

“…He leads me beside the still waters…”  Psalm 23 NIV

I find that often I read a sentence or passage in Scripture without giving it a whole lot of thought, particularly if it is very familiar to me.  The twenty-third Psalm is rich with phrases that provide much comfort and encouragement and a good example of the familiar verses that I tend to gloss over.  I am reasonably good at explaining that which is to most, a blinding glimpse of the obvious, i.e. telling you that which someone with an IQ of 50 would understand.

Consider todays verse.  This tells me that God is not walking behind me, shoving me in the way I should go.  He is not walking along side of me, trying to keep pace with me.  He is walking in front of me, but He is not pulling me or tugging me, He is leading me.  I told you I could interpret the very simple.

These few words tell me a few other things.  He doesn’t run ahead of me although that would be incredibly easy for Him to do.  He is allowing me to dictate the pace at which we move forward, at least to some extent.  Because the waters are still I am assuming all is going rather well in most aspects of my life.  These are times when quite often I am not as vigilant in seeking Him out.  Sadly I am much more aware of His presence when the waters are not so still.

Then there is the real obvious.  The King of Kings, the Creator of the universe, the Great “I Am” is leading me.  He is taking a personal interest in me.  If I follow Him I know that I will go exactly where it is best for me to go.

Enough of the obvious, but it demonstrates that even small fragments of Scripture can have a powerful meaning.  When we read a verse such as Ephesians 5:33 “Husbands love your wife as much as you love yourself, and the wife must respect her husband” we have the comfort of knowing that He is there to lead us.

Frankly we are incapable of carrying out that command without the help of the Holy Spirit.  When as a couple we seek God’s direction for our lives, when we pray together, when we spend time with Him individually we have the assurance that He will never leave us or forsake us, and that He will lead us.

 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Labels – are You Wearing One?

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love you one another” John 13:34-35 NIV

I was recently listening to a pastor out of South Carolina who talked about the clothing labels we wear.  His point was that the labels we choose to wear say a lot about us.  There are many of us who will choose to wear a Ralph Lauren polo shirt, or wear Tom’s shoes.  In both cases we are making a statement.  In the first case we are saying “I enjoy the finer things in life.”  In the second case we are saying, “I want my purchases to not only meet my needs but also to help out someone who is less fortunate.”

This made me think, which is always painful and dangerous.  Surely labels must apply to more than just clothing.  If someone has a reputation and/or a characteristic behavior they might receive a label from people who know them.  “That person is a great encourager.”  “That person is not the sharpest tool in the shed.”  “That person always goes around with a frown on their face.”  We also have particular stereotypes which lend themselves to being a label.   When someone uses the term liberal or conservative a particular set of values flashes through our mind.  We may have a particular opinion about a certain Christian denomination, a specific political party or people who are conscientious recyclers.   I even know some football and hockey fans who have some rather unflattering labels for people who cheer for the other side.

Frankly if you are a Christian you should be wearing a label, the label that Jesus has asked us to wear.  We should be labeled as a follower of Jesus Christ not based on the clothes that we wear, or the political party we vote for or the team for which we cheer. It is our love for one another that should label us.

How do your family members label you when you are not present?  What about your friends?  Are you known as a person who is inviting and loving?  Are you known as a person who is filled with grace?  Are you an encourager?  Are the Fruit of the Spirit readily observable as you go about your daily routine?

When the final curtain is drawn the only label that is important is whether or not we are “a child of the living God.”

 

Monday, 9 June 2014

Disappointed?

“The earth is filled with the love of the Lord” Psalm 33:5  NIV

In their book Love & War, John and Stasi Eldredge identify the core of much of our unhappiness.

The human heart has an infinite capacity for happiness and an unending need for love, because it is created for an infinite God who is unending love…Every woman now has an insatiable need for relationship, one that can never be filled.  It is an ache in her soul designed to drive her to God…A man aches for affirmation, for validation, to know that he has come through.  This also explains his deepest fear – failure.”

We tell ourselves that we deserve happiness and we look to blame someone or something when we are unhappy.  We live in a world in which most things are upgradable.  The Eldredges remind us that

“Your spouse’s unhappiness doesn’t mean you’re an “F” as a person, as a spouse.  Your spouse’s unhappiness – and yours’ means you both have a famished craving within you that only God can meet.”

So the core of our unhappiness is that God created us with a need for love, a love so vast that only He can completely fill it.  Our attempts to have this void totally filled by another person, an addiction, power, money or prestige will always fall short.

We cannot experience such a love by merely believing in God.  Many good people, and some not so good people, have an intellectual understanding of who God is.  Our knowledge is not sufficient to experience of God’s unconditional love.  We still look to our spouse or something else to make us happy.

What we need is a personal relationship with Him.  We can cultivate a personal relationship with God the way we developed our relationship with our spouse, children or close friends, i.e. we spend concentrated time with Him.   Spend time in prayer.  Spend time in His Word.  Spend time sitting silently and listen for what He may want to say to you.  Get involved with people who love the Lord, who reflect His grace.

Gary Thomas is famous for saying that God is more concerned about our holiness than our happiness.  That does not mean that God doesn’t want us to be happy, but rather God would prefer that we be filled with joy, where God is the source and object of our joy.