17 July 2018

Seek and Find

"And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart."
Jeremiah 29:13

My boys and I headed out to Mission beach early this morning for a little metal detecting.  The weather was overcast and cool, and before 9am we had cleaned the beach of tent pegs, coins, nails, bottlecaps, keys, and even a mobile phone.  We weren't the only ones scouring the sands of Mission beach:  because of the low tide many others searched the wet sand for hidden treasures.  I have found metal detecting to be a bit more consistent than fishing.  I have been skunked many times without a bite whilst fishing, but every time I have headed out with a metal detector I have found something - even if every target turns out to be junk.

I've had some interesting finds during my time detecting, but I'm still waiting for a discovery of monetary value.  This is in sharp contrast to the discoveries I have been blessed with when I have sought the LORD:  every discovery and revelation concerning our great God is beyond price.  You can't find buried treasure unless you put forth the effort to search and dig with persistence, and seeking God requires intentional effort as well.  Prayer, reading and study of the Bible, and fellowship with other Christians are keys which aid us in seeking the LORD.

God has chosen to reveal Himself to those who seek Him.  The great irony is we believers can drift from God and become a bit stale - even though we have sought the LORD and discovered Him in various degrees.  No matter how much a person knows of God and His Word, we have a desperate need to continue seeking Him.  We cannot look to our previous closeness with God to validate our current walk (or lack thereof!) with the LORD.  When we sense we are drifting from close fellowship with God, we must repent and return to God and seek Him as we did at the first.  Only then will we seek and find Him, when all our heart is captivated in the search.

Praise the LORD He delights to be found!  Unless He revealed Himself personally, we could never discover or know Him.  We never need to be empty handed or without hope of a future with a great God like ours, for He knows our every need.  Should He be concealed from our gaze or seem far away, this should quicken us to draw near to Him with increased tenacity.  For us, He is our life!

10 July 2018

Embrace the Season

When God created the heavens and the earth, He placed the sun, moon, and stars in the heavens.  He established days, months, and years - but that wasn't all.  He made the earth to experience seasons which are opposite in the northern and southern hemispheres.  The varied seasons are a part of ordinary life we can almost take for granted.  People usually have a reason for their preferred season, yet if a season went on forever, it wouldn't really be a season.  There is blessing in the contrast.  The earth experiences a cycle of seasons, and church ministry does as well.  It is easy to ignore this and assume everything should continue as it has in the past - only more, bigger, and better.

Let us read again what Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, and it would be a shame to reserve these timeless truths for funerals:
"To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a  time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to gain, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace."
There is a time for winter, and a time for summer (spring and autumn too).  God has built into nature growing seasons and a time to harvest.  If there was only planting and no growing there could be no harvests!  We get how this is essential for nature, and we ought to recognise the seasons of life and ministry serve God's good purposes.  How freeing it is when we realise even dry times have their purpose, as well as blazing bush fires and freezing cold.  All of our times are in God's hands, and He has designated different seasons and times of life to serve His purposes.

Reading through Solomon's list, I suggest we would all have our preferences which seasons we like and why.  We like gaining more than losing; we likely prefer dancing over mourning, and laughing over weeping.  But even losing, morning, and weeping can be redeemed and wisely employed by our good God to fulfill His purposes - not ours.  Let us embrace and enjoy the current season God has ordained, whether we prefer it or not.  The upcoming season always brings with it great reason to rejoice because God's plans are greater than anything for which we can ask or think.  He has made everything beautiful in its time, and the future is ever brighter for children of the living God.

08 July 2018

From Sorrow to Joy

"Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him. 11 Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!"
Psalm 32:10-11

Negative symptoms help accurately diagnose illnesses in those who are sick.  There can be sorrows of heart where the cause is not physical but spiritual in origin.  The psalmist said "many sorrows" shall be to the wicked, but the one who trusts the LORD shall be surrounded by mercy.  The weight of sin is a heavy burden the wicked do not realise they carry.  Other times people experience guilt due to their sin and sorrow over being in bondage.  Even followers of Jesus experience sorrow and suffer, for Christ Himself was described as a man of sorrows.  Suffering is not reserved for the wicked, yet they have no healing balm to ease their pains.

In contrast to the wicked whose sorrows are increased, those who are righteous have profound gladness and joy.  The joy of the believer is enabled when we are brought into a healthy relationship with God through repentance and faith.  David began Psalm 32 with saying in verses 1-2, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit."  No one is righteous by their own merit, and only the blood of Jesus Christ can wash our hearts clean of sin.  In David's day sins were atoned for by the sacrifice of animals according to the Law of Moses.  Blessed was the man to whom God did not impute iniquity, and more blessed still is the one to whom God has imputed righteousness through faith.  God has sealed every Christian with the Holy Spirit who indwells our hearts, God's glorious presence contained in these earthen vessels.

The Holy Spirit convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment.  The conviction He brings is not to be sorrowed of because it produces the fruit of repentance.  Psalm 32:5 says, "I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah."  Think about this!  To plead guilty to sin in a human court of law means a lesser sentence but the perpetrator remains guilty as sin:  when we confess our sins and repent of them before God we are forgiven and deemed righteous by faith.  We are sinners who God declares righteous on account of Christ's sacrifice, and this is something to celebrate and rejoice over.  There is nothing we must or can do to earn God's approval:  we are accepted into the beloved when we admit our sin and forsake it.  Even when we fall as God's precious children He is merciful to draw near when we cry out to him.

Let's be glad in the LORD, all you His redeemed!  What joy is ours when we trust in the LORD.

07 July 2018

Into His Hands

I am continually amazed by the things Jesus said and did.  Reading through Old Testament passages can also shed further light on the implications of the words of Jesus.  For instance, I did not always know Jesus was quoting the first line of Psalm 22 when He said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  The devout Jews who heard these words would have been familiar with what followed.  The scripture was being fulfilled by the promised Messiah right before their eyes, and the words of Jesus were signposts pointing to that reality they refused to acknowledge.

Another compelling statement is found in Luke 23:46:  "And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, "Father, 'into Your hands I commit My spirit.' " Having said this, He breathed His last."  If one reads these words in the KJV there is no hint this a quote from the Psalms as well.  I was blown away when I came upon these words written by David as inspired by the Holy Spirit in Psalm 31:5:  "Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O LORD God of truth."  Jesus only stated the first half of the verse, but having identified Himself with the first part He proclaimed the second.  When Jesus breathed His last it appeared to His enemies their schemes had prevailed, but death had been swallowed up in Christ's victory.

When we read Psalm 31 from the perspective of Christ, one who is described in Isaiah 53 as "...despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief," how encouraging and awesome are the promises for those who fear God.  Those who mocked Jesus as He died on the cross would be silenced forever, but the mouth of Jesus still speaks as our risen LORD.  David wrote in Psalm 31:19, "Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men!"  A violent death does not seem good, but God redeemed the death of Jesus Christ by providing atonement and salvation for all.

And see the glorious exhortation through the lens of Calvary in Psalm 31:23-24:  "Oh, love the LORD, all you His saints! For the LORD preserves the faithful, and fully repays the proud person. 24  Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the LORD."  The God of heaven and earth is worthy to be loved, having purchased us as His chosen saints.  If you have chosen Jesus to be your LORD and Saviour, than He has chosen you.  God preserves the faithful, though He kills and makes alive, and He strengthens the hearts of all those who hope in Him.  Jesus showed immense courage in the face of certain death knowing His redemption was more sure.  Praise the LORD for His redemption of all those who commit themselves into the hands of our Redeemer.