Unfailing Love & Joy
When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy.
Today, I am challenging you to live in the true reality that there's complete uniformity of concrete experience available in the progression of the words in these verses. When your "foot slips" - either your actual foot or you just "feel like you're slipping" - stop and do nothing and wait for an actual, practical experience of His unfailing love to bubble up from within you. When anxiety feels great and overwhelming within you, I personally challenge you to stop what you're doing and talk to Him and wait not only for His peace (which will come, by the way) but even, far more fantastically, for Him to lift your heart unto a joy that conquers the world: His own joy!
These are the offerings He has for you. Unfailing love and Joy.
“Spiritual power is seldom found because it is so often sought. It cannot be found if sought directly. If sought directly for itself, the seeking will be tinged, most likely, with desire for spiritual power for purposes of personal success in religious work, for the acclaim that comes to anyone who spiritually excels. This introduces a fatal element. Spiritual power is a by-product of something deeper. It comes out of inward fellowship with God and abandonment to his purposes. Most of us have no spiritual power because we are not abandoned. ‘Blessed are the pure [literally, the single-minded] in heart: for they shall see God.’ We are not single-minded, hence we do not see God in inner fellowship and in outward power. It is not that we do not love him but that we do not love him completely. We give to him, but do not give up to him.”
E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of Every Road
Nothing Else Compares
Then the devil took Jesus up and showed him all the kingdoms of mankind in a sudden vision, and said to him, “I will give you all this power and magnificence, for it belongs to me and I can give it to anyone I please. It shall all be yours if you will fall down and worship me.” Luke 4:5,6
Satan will show you whatever it takes to sway your heart away from Jesus. Whether it be “the kingdoms of mankind,” wealth, possessions, power, sex or influence, it’s his favorite practice to see which axe will fell the tree of our belief. So what are we to do? How can we steel ourselves against his alluring voice?
Brothers and sisters, we must become so practiced in dwelling in the midst of our Kingdom-inheritance that we’re absolutely ruined for anything less. We must daily walk the hallways of Heaven and know the glories that are actually already ours through Christ, so that nothing else compares!
How's that as a barometer for your "quiet time"?
No Inheritance But...
These are the inheritances which the children of Israel took in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed to them, by the lot of their inheritance, as Yahweh commanded by Moses, for the nine tribes, and for the half-tribe. For Moses had given the inheritance of the two tribes and the half-tribe beyond the Jordan; but to the Levites he gave no inheritance among them. (Joshua 14:1-4)
As you'd be told if you kept reading till Chapter 18, this was because the Levites' duties as priests, their access to Yahweh Himself, were the inheritances they were meant to enjoy and delight themselves in. What an important reminder for us! Whether you read these words as one with great earthly wealth or as someone struggling to get by, your only real inheritance – the place from which you should derive all your identity and joy – is your access to Jesus and, by Him, His Father. Everything else is as nothing. His love - and the service of that love - is everything.
"But you are God’s 'chosen generation,' his 'royal priesthood,' his 'holy nation,' his 'peculiar people' — all the old titles of God’s people now belong to you..." 1 Peter 2
Defeats into Victories
“The System gnashed on them with its teeth, struck out at them and broke its own arm in the striking. The disciples smiled their way through threats, rejoiced their way through stripes, sang their way through prisons, and triumphed their way through death. And the multitudes watching found themselves wanting the very thing the disciples had. This freedom! This poise! This moral power! Here religion, while on the offensive, was not offensive; it was winsome, compelling. Their weapons were strange indeed – they turned other cheeks, went the second mile, gave the cloak also, refused to do anything but love their persecutors. And they won! Of course they did. What can you do with a thing like that? It never knows when it is defeated, for it turns its defeats into victories and it turns its Calvaries into Easter mornings.”
E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of Every Road
I've been reading Exodus lately and was struck this week by how the enslavement and discouragement of the Hebrews led them to revolt against Moses's earliest interventions on their behalf. In Chapter 6 especially, Moses hears directly from Yahweh about His plan and His power and His love, and yet, again, because of their circumstances, the people won't hear a word of it.
In some ways, it reminds me of where we can get sometimes. In fact, let me take Yahweh's words from Exodus 6, update them to suit our New Covenant reality from Jesus's lips, and show you what I mean:
"I am the Lord. I appeared to men and women just like you as Jesus of Nazareth, so that by the Name of the Lord I might make myself known to them. I also established my New Covenant with them - and with you - to give you the Kingdom of Heaven, where you are to live as naturalized citizens. Moreover, I always hear your prayers - and the groanings of the Holy Spirit on your behalf - and I always remember my personal covenant with you.
"Therefore, I say to my followers: 'I am the Lord Jesus, and I have brought you out from under the yoke of Satan, sin, death and the world. I have freed you from being slaves to them, and I have redeemed you with an outstretched pair of arms and with mighty acts of love. I have taken you as my own people, and I will be your God. Now you may know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the yoke of Satan, sin, death and the world. And I myself am the Way that will bring you to the Kingdom I swore with uplifted, nail-riven hands to give to my sons and daughters. I am giving it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.'"
Jesus said all this to His disciples, His followers, those called "Christians," but they did not listen to Him because of their discouragement and their bondage to the ways of the world, sin, death and the evil one...
Friends, is this the story we want our lives to be? Don't we want to fully appropriate what's already ours? Today is the day for doing so!
Remember today: A heart that loves and seeks to serves others has the potential to touch the whole world. But a heart that loves and serves only the Self immediately has no impact; the beginning of that love is its end.
On three Sabbath days Paul argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and quoting passages to prove the necessity for the death of Christ and his rising again from the dead. “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you,” he concluded, “is God’s Christ!” Some of them were convinced and threw in their lot with Paul and Silas, and they were joined by a great many believing Greeks and a considerable number of influential women.
But the Jews, in a fury of jealousy, got hold of some of the unprincipled loungers of the market-place gathered a crowd together and set the city in an uproar. Then they attacked Jason’s house in an attempt to bring Paul and Silas out before the people. When they could not find them they hustled Jason and some of the brothers before the civic authorities, shouting, “These are the men who have turned the world upside down and have now come here…” Acts 17:2b-6
Which is certainly my favorite accusation against the Early Church that we ever get to hear of. ἀναστατώσαντες: these men have "unsettled" the world; have shifted the ground beneath the world’s feet; have upset the established way of doing things, doing normalcy, doing life…
Yet before we start thinking in the wrong direction – how we need to start being more “outspoken,” more “visible,” more “radical” – let’s remind ourselves of how, to date in Acts, Paul and his companions have gone about “unsettling” everything. They have proclaimed Jesus in Jewish synagogues and, when asked to, before whole cities of people interested to hear of this Gospel. They have, at times, persevered in cities where they weren’t wanted and, at others, simply gone with the flow and left. They have performed physical healings; encouraged people; shown tremendous spiritual courage; endured hardship; and seen people the world around them chooses not to see. When you read all that – the content of the first two Missionary Journeys – who does it start to sound like?
Paul and Silas, Luke and Timothy, Barnabas and John Mark – The whole Early Church – “unsettled” the world because they were a direct living extension of the actual life of Jesus. There were no other tricks up their sleeve; only His alive life. And coming up against that, the world had no answers.
Since you probably know that I don't particularly admire "apologetics," here’s a thought to consider: Rather than trying to “defend our faith,” what if we just got down to living it, living HIM, so that all the world’s counterpoints become indefensible? Because what unsettled the Thessalonian populace was not really “these men,” it was the shining contrast of Jesus standing back of them. It was like experiencing the Mount of Transfiguration after a lifetime of darkness.
Just as He took on flesh to become Himself - the Man, Jesus of Nazareth - so, today, that same Son will be attempting to take on your flesh, attempting to just as fully live His life again in you... if only you'll let Him.
"Everything that my Father gives me will come to me and I will never refuse anyone who comes to me. For I have come down from Heaven, not to do what I want, but to do the will of him who sent me. The will of him who sent me is that I should not lose anything of what he has given me, but should raise it up when the last day comes. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and trusts in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up when the last day comes." John 6:37-40
How often we hear people say, and even say ourselves, "Oh, I wish I knew the Lord's will" for some decision we need to make, or crisis, or question we’re presently pondering. But in those last two verses, Jesus tells us the Will of God: 1) that He "should not lose anything of what [the Father] has given [Him]" and 2) "that everyone who sees the Son and trusts Him should have eternal life." THE Will of God is to possess and redeem. How stunning!
But did you notice that each of these will-of-God statements is binary, meaning they’re composed of two parts? The first part in each was different, but the second was the same: He will "raise [them] up when the last day comes." The word John uses there for "raise up" means just that - "to raise up" or "raise from the dead" - but it also has a lesser definition that goes beautifully with what we know to be one of the truest definitions of our lives-in-Him: "to produce a witness."
THE Will of God is to possess and redeem, that we might be raised up - raised from the dead, in fact - and produced as witnesses of what we know and have seen of Him.
“But, Eugene,” you might say, “it would still really help to know His particular will in this one particular decision I’m trying to make.” Well, here’s your decision-making grid: “I have come down from Heaven, not to do what I want, but to do the will of Him who sent me.” The “wants” of Jesus were nothing when compared to His delighted, intimate, listening, waiting-upon expectation of having the will of God daily revealed to Him. Can’t you see Him out in those lonely places in the pre-dawn hours, simply waiting and receiving word of the Father’s particular will for each particular day?
May it be so for us as well!
The Democracy of Pentecost
“Pentecost showed us the way to a spiritual democracy that would have saved us from contentious centuries during which Christendom struggled over orders and validities and supremacies. When the question of validity of orders and successions is being discussed I find myself falling asleep. I am simply not interested. It is all so irrelevant. For here at Pentecost the highest was open to a person as a person, and Peter and James and John stood in a position not one whit different from the humblest of seekers and believers. The Holy Spirit was given alike to all, and this directly and immediately without the intervention of anyone. For it must be noted that when the Spirit came no one was leading the meeting.”
E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of Every Road
Common & Splendid
O Timothy, guard most carefully your divine commission. Avoid the Godless mixture of contradictory notions which is falsely known as “knowledge” — some have followed it and lost their faith. Grace be with you. (1 Timothy 6:20,21)
In verse 20, J.B. Phillips translates the text as “guard most carefully your divine commission,” while the NIV has it, “guard what has been entrusted to your care.” The actual Greek is better than both: “guard the deposit committed to you”; the picture of treasure hidden away in some strong vault somewhere. Yet you and I know that we’re not supposed to be vaults and we certainly know we’re not meant to be hidden away! So what’s the best picture of what we hold and who we’re meant to be?
Consider 2 Corinthians 4:7 – “This priceless treasure we hold, so to speak, in a common earthenware jar — to show that the splendid power of it belongs to God and not to us.”
That’s my prayer for you as you approach this day: that your eyes would be entirely on His “splendid power” and “priceless treasure” and that you would allow His Life to supersede your “common earthenware jar” life. What a joy it is to watch His Life pour forth from us!
Here's a simple way to describe what we could be after today:
Psalm 48:8a - "As we have heard, so have we seen..."
Let's spend today in expectation of seeing, experiencing, and living those beliefs that we have always heard so much about. Rather than listening to a sermon, nodding our heads, and going out the door into our "normal lives," let's listen with a heart that will expect all those truths to live in our lives in reality.
For either this Jesus is truly alive and ready to minister in/through us by His Holy Spirit... or we should stop pretending that we believe what we say we believe.
Power By Which To Live
“Draw a line through the New Testament and on one side is spiritual fumbling, hesitancy, inadequacy, defeat, and on the other side is certainty, courage, adequacy, victory. That line runs straight through Pentecost. When we read the Acts of the Apostles, which is taken up with the doings of the apostles after Pentecost, we are struck with the incongruity between the apostles and their acts. Here were very ordinary men doing extraordinary things, thinking in an extraordinary way, leaving an extraordinary effect in the changed lives of men and society. The very temper and spirit of their lives was extraordinary. They seemed to have found power by which to live. And far from being rampant emotionalism the striking thing is their amazing balance and sanity. They burned with zeal, but they met issues and crises of the most far-reaching consequences and met them with poise and insight. They picked their way through intellectual and moral bogs and quagmires and marked out paths which we today tread with safety and salvation. And, more than that, they brought to bear upon life a power that redeemed men and made them immediately God-conscious; that changed the moral and spiritual climate; that turned dull, drab life into the spiritually delightful and taught a sad world to sing..."
E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of Every Road