A personal walk with God and stuff learned on the way

He lives in us

As every Christian knows, when a person makes the decision to become a believer in Jesus Christ, that the Holy Spirit come to live in us.  This is how we are able to live the life that God has given us to live. Consider the following scriptures:

 John 14:16-18

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth …. He lives with you and will be in you.

Romans 8:11

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

As a believer, it can be easy to take this truth for granted.  This may be because we don’t have a background in the old testament Jewish culture.  Before Jesus came and died for us, God was not approachable in the same way as He is since the death and resurrection of Jesus.  He appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai but no-one was allowed to touch the mountain or they would die

(Exodus 19)

God’s presence went with the Ark of the covenant, but it was to be treated with absolute respect. When David put the Ark on a cart rather than carrying it on poles as he was supposed to, God put Uzzah to death for even touching it (2 Samuel 6).

God’s presence dwelt in a fire and a cloud (Ex 13:21) a tent and after the temple was built, in the Holy of Holies.

But for all this time, God remained largely unapproachable and distant.

—–+—–

After Jesus died, the curtain in the temple was torn in two  showing us that God had removed the separation between Him and His people and had opened up the way for us to come to Him through faith in Jesus.

Hebrews 10: 19-22

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

Now God does not live in a man-made temple or in the Ark of the Covenant. He lives in our hearts.  This once distant God has made Himself available to us by living in us and it is His presence in our lives that makes us Holy in his sight.

God has not changed. He is no less holy and magnificent and worthy of praise. He is still everything the Old Testament describes, but the difference is
He lives in us.

This means that where we go, whatever we do or say is done in His name as His representative God goes and whatever we do to any believer we do to Him (Matt 25: 40)

It means we get to see ourselves and others differently and act, speak and think differently. We get to treat as a Holy thing His presence in our lives. It gives us life but it also means we are careful how we live and do not treat His Holy Spirit in us lightly.  It is the power to those who believe.

You yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives among you.

(1 Corinthians 3:16)

All things are possible

Christians will often tell you that God speaks to them through the Bible and there are times when a familiar passage has brought new meaning to them at a specific time.  Even though they have read it before, for some reason, one day, it has new meaning and the words leap off the page.

Every believer has had this happen to them at some time or another.

A recent example for me was the following verse from Mark 10.

 “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

I understood this to mean that, while men are limited, God is not. When we are unable, God is able. He holds the world in His hands and He can do anything he wants when he wants. This is similar to another passage in Jeremiah.

“Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. Jeremiah 32:17

Recently, however, I read this in a different light.  Although we are unable to do many things on our own, when God is with us, we can do anything God requires of us, like in Philippians 4

 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Phil 4:13

This means that God’s grace working in us can empower us to do what we would be incapable to do without Him.

2 Cor 4:7 describes us as ordinary jars of clay jars with an extraordinary treasure inside. We can go beyond our natural strengths because God is working in us. Bible history is filled with examples of those who were weak in themselves, but when God got hold of them, they became fearless and capable:  Paul, Moses, Peter, Gideon, Samson, David and Solomon are just a few. I have also found that God won’t move on our behalf until we ask Him in.  He will let us wear ourselves out until we get to the point where we are at the end of ourselves.  In my experience it’s better for me if I admit that early on and ask for God to help me before I become unstuck!  The power available to the greats of the Bible is available for us if we ask Him, but we need to ask Him.

With God, all things are possible.

Not by works

As Christians it is important for us to see things the way God sees them.  This can be difficult for us when God’s ways differ from those of the world and what we are used to seeing around us.  For example, when someone commits a crime and goes to prison, there is an expectation that they must be rehabilitated before they can be let out again. In short, they have shown to have changed their ways and can be trusted not to re-offend. They have to show they can go back to being a productive member of society.

In the Christian life when we sin, we are required to admit to God that we’ve done wrong, ask for forgiveness and do an about-turn in our attitude and behaviour. However at this point we can often get off-track because our thinking is rooted in the world’s system and not in God’s economy.

1. Repentance is a gift from God

Rom 2: 4 God’s kindness leads you toward repentance

God is so good to us that it is He who opens the door for us to come back to Him after we have done wrong.  He wants to be in relationship with us and so the sense of sorrow and regret that brings us back is from God. He is drawing us back into fellowship with Him.

2. We cannot stay on the straight and narrow on our own

Work out and fully complete your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling, self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience and watchfulness against temptation; Not in your own strength, for it is God Who is all the while at work in you, creating in you the power and desire, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (taken from Phil 2:12-13)

Doing an about-turn when we realise we have wronged God is our part, but without God’s abundant grace and enabling working in us we can be sure we cannot keep from going back to do the same thing again. This is SO important for us to understand. We CANNOT live the Christian life without repeatedly relying on God’s help to keep us from falling.

 3. (This is the most important one) We don’t have to “work our way” back into God’s good graces

 Psalm 103:12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Here’s the thing. Forgiveness is just that. It isn’t parole or probation like in the world’s system. We’re not let out on good behaviour. We don’t have to earn the right to get back in with God before He can accept us. He already DOES accept us. Repentance must be genuine and we need to rely on God constantly to help us stay away from our natural weaknesses having the run in our lives, but afterwards we don’t have to work to get back in with God – like a penance – Jesus death was the end of all that. Trying to get out of the dog house by being a better person is like trying to earn your salvation. It can’t be done and God won’t let you succeed! The way we are saved is the way we live the life that God wants – by grace.

Accept God’s gift of grace and forgiveness

How big is God?

Lots of people have an interest in the mysteries of space and science fiction and whether there might be life on other planets other than our own.  When thinking about the stars and the vastness of the known universe, I came across the following quote on a website recently and it caught my eye.

If we talk about “space” as being anything in the universe outside the atmosphere of Earth, then space is very, very big indeed.  How big?

The diameter of the Earth is 12 000 km.
The distance from the Earth to the moon is 400 000 km.
The distance from the Earth to the sun is 150 million km.
The diameter of the entire solar system is about 8000 million km.
The distance from here to the nearest star (other than our own sun) is 40 million million kilometres (4.2 light years)
The distance from here to the centre of our galaxy is about 250 000 million million kilometres (26,000 light years)
The distance to the great nebula in Andromeda, the nearest galaxy is 15 million million million km.  (1.5 million light years)
And the distance to the edge of the known universe is around 100 000 million million million km. (10.5 thousand million light years)
 

“Space is big.  Really big.  You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is.  I mean, you might think it’s a long walk down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.” (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy)

(Taken from http://www.stellar-database.com)

In truth, we are unable to comprehend the size of even what we know is out there, never mind what might be even beyond that. Our minds are too limited to imagine it.  Recognising how small and seemingly insignificant we are compared to how big everything out there is might lead us to believe that we are too small and unimportant to God.

David recognised this and spoke of it in Psalm 8


When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, 
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
Ps 8: 3-4

David knew how much God cared for him because he had been rescued many many times from life-threatening circumstances, and yet he knew it was only the unsurpassing greatness of God that had caused Him to reach down and come to David’s aid so often.

God has pursued a relationship with us by having Jesus take our place of punishment in dying for us and He wants to be involved in every single area of our lives.  He is the God of the immenseness and beauty of all of creation but He also actually wants us as individuals to draw near to Him and to be completely involved in everything that we do!

Now THAT is vastly hugely mind-boggling!

How great is our God

Relax, this is only a test

One certain thing about the Christian life is that it has its ups and downs. Nothing goes our way all the time, but we don’t struggle constantly either. Paul calls it abasing and abounding.

I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want. Philippians 4:12

Both are important to balance out life. If life were all trials, we could become discouraged, give up and not finish the race. If everything were good all the time and we always got what we wanted, we could become lazy, selfish and greedy.  Added to which, we probably wouldn’t care much about other people either.

The key to getting through the ‘abasing’ times is our attitude. Grumbling and complaining will not give us the grace we need to go through, whereas maintaining humility and trusting God opens doors for Him to work.  I have found, however, one of the important keys to go through these times successfully is to recognise what is really going on. I stop and ask myself:

“Is this a test?”

Once I have figured out that I am just being tested, it’s a lot easier to handle. It’s like when you are having a bad dream.  Sometimes you realise in the middle that you’re dreaming and after that you’re not worried any more, because you realise that it’s not real.

 

 

We have tests every day and most of them are part of every day life.  These are the petty little annoyances that get us wound up on a regular basis.  Everyone has them and everyone knows what their most frequent are. Mine usually involve people being slow when I’m in a hurry; most trips to the supermarket and any display of poor manners. Whatever your personal list includes, realising that we are being tested is the key to passing them.

We can choose our response and our attitude. We can choose what we think and not to give in to our feelings. We can choose to be patient and long-suffering. We can choose to be calm and self-controlled. This is how we pass our tests. If we fail, God will make sure we re-take it … again and again.


If we repeatedly pass our tests, however, then the thing that used to drive us mad suddenly doesn’t seem such a big deal any more, and more importantly, Satan’s power over our lives in that area becomes weaker and weaker to the point where he can’t push our buttons and use that against us.  This is all part of what it means to win our spiritual battles and defeat the enemy. So the next time you are aggravated, ask whether this is sent to test you before you choose your response.

Relax, this is only a test.

Back in 2002 the BBC broadcast a programme called Great Britons in which they listed the results of a poll to find the 100 greatest Britons in history. This made quite interesting viewing because it showed that there were men and women in history who, by their lives or work or example, often paved the way for us to live the lives and even enjoy the freedoms that we enjoy today.

One of the memorable entries on this list for me was the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst who lead the movement to give women the vote in the early part of the 20th century.  The programme also told the story of Emily Davison who, whilst attempting to highlight their cause, died when she threw herself in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913.

I was amazed at what these women went through in order to simply have the right to vote. Emily Davison, in particular, was an example of someone who paid the ultimate sacrifice for something she believed in. I don’t consider myself a political person, but when elections come around I remember these women and think that if they endured all that they did, to not vote myself diminishes what they sacrificed to give me.

Jesus, of course, paid the ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross.  When we were separated from God by sin we had no ability to bridge the gap between us and God. Instead Jesus had to do it and, in dying, He gave us what we couldn’t get ourselves by any amount of effort on our part.

John 10:10 tells us that Jesus came for us to have life and have it abundantly. If we don’t take hold of everything he provided for us, every promise, every blessing, every provision, we are diminishing his great sacrifice and living our lives at a lower level than the one he intended for us.

Philippians chapter 3 describes our response in the light of this

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Phil 3:12

Since Jesus endured the suffering that he did to free us from sin and to give us this abundant life, to not seize hold of what he died to give us dishonours and belittles what He went through.

Seek to live a life that honours Jesus’ sacrifice

Thou art with me

There are many parts of the Bible that are universally familiar, even to people who have never stepped inside a church or don’t consider themselves religious at all.

One of these is Psalm 23: David’s most famous psalm. It is used in funerals, it has been set to music. Everyone knows this passage of scripture as it is a source of comfort to those who feel lost and speaks of provision and protection for those who trust in God.

The part of this Psalm that speaks to me most often is verse 4

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

This says to me that when we go through the valleys and trials of life, we don’t go through them on our own. Everyone has wilderness experiences in their life; times when the going is tough and we find our faith stretched to the limit; times when we have to hang on and use everything we have and know to survive. We are tested and tried and we think it will never come to an end.

However, this verse promises that at those times God is right with us in the middle of ALL of it. I used to think that in trials, God sets us off at the start of our difficulties and then goes to the other end waiting for us to come out the other side.

This would make the whole experience much like a game of pooh-sticks, when you drop a stick off a bridge into a river and then rush to the other side to watch it re-emerge – only sometimes your stick got caught under the bridge and never makes it.

God promises that He is right with us during our most difficult times of life and isn’t waiting for us to come through the trial so He can say, “Good, you made it through that one”.  He hears our prayers and provides for our needs so that we will make it though. He is our God and He is with us whether we think He is there or not, whether we can feel Him is not. We may be going through, but we are not doing it alone.
Life is not a game of pooh-sticks!

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