True Value

We can become quite distracted by our desire for certain things we hold dear for one reason or another. Different cultures and families tend to value certain things at different times.

Think about growing up. As a child you desired food or toys or ability to feel important or valued. In youth you may have focused on competing with others, your appearance, getting ahead in life or achieving academically or romantically. 

Once married your desires may focus on getting ahead in life, or family, plus the new car, house, gadgets and pleasures of young adult life. With a growing family your desires may focus more on family needs, solving problems among children, and so on.

With each new season there are new things to be distracted with.

In the West we can have materialistic desires and first world problems, unknown in places where the road is a goat track and the hut holds no luxuries at all.

Each of us finds value in the things we are currently distracted with, based on our age, culture, upbringing, and so on.

With that as background, let’s ask what is ‘true value’. 

Is the new car really a matter of true value? Is getting a higher test score than others really true value?

Is true value in the food you eat and the home you live in? Is true value in buying the latest technology? Is true value in diagnosing the physical ailment you struggle with in old age?

Does your family need more gadgets or more time with you, or better education, or a bigger house, or ??

I had a quick impression many years ago of two images that contrasted each other. The first fleeting impression was of a beggar boy standing in rags on a pile of rubbish. The boy’s bare feet and legs were spattered with dry mud.

I understood that this lad, having nothing of this world’s goods, had faith in Christ, probably through some Christian outreach to slum dwellers.

The image was immediately replaced by the face of a man I knew from Australian history. He was a strong political figure, highly educated, enjoying high office in the international arena, and he mocked God.

As soon as these impressions flashed through my mind I felt a question inside me. “Which of these do you want your children and grand-children to be?”

Obviously none of us wants our children to be paupers and live with empty stomachs and a miserable human existence, but of the two options I had no hesitation choosing my descendants to live impoverished lives on earth then enjoying eternal blessings in God’s presence, than to be hailed and applauded on earth, living a high life, then spending eternity in hell.

“What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? What can a man give to buy back his soul?” Matthew 16:26

God has no problem seeing people blessed. He gives rain and sunshine on everyone, including evil people. God is generous and pours out an abundance over and over again. I am not in any way suggesting that being blessed is evil.

My question goes to where you place your sense of value. Are you pursuing true value?

Jesus promised that if we seek His Kingdom we will be provided with all the other things we need anyway.

“Take no thought for what you will eat or drink of how you’ll be clothed, for your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. But seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be provided to you.” Matthew 6:31-33

Realise that chasing the wrong things doesn’t lead to good outcomes. Be warned by what happened to the Israelites in the wilderness.

“They lusted exceedingly in the wilderness and tempted God in the desert. And God gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.” Psalm 106:14,15

They got what they were hankering for, but they lost out on the deal.

Here’s another unhappy example. King Hezekiah was told by the prophet Isaiah he was going to die. Hezekiah pleaded with God to have his life spared. Isaiah was told by God to go back and tell the king he would have an additional 15 years of life.

Happy outcome? Maybe not. Twelve years later Hezekiah had a son, Manassah who turned out to be the wickedest king in Israel’s history. See Isaiah 38 and 2Kings 20,21.

It could be argued that Hezekiah and Israel would have been better off if Hezekiah had accepted his lot and died when God said he would.

God wants you to have true value in your life and all you turn your hand to.

I urge you to keep before the Lord the question of what is true value in your life and situation, for yourself, your family and the Kingdom of God.

Don’t spend your life on that which is of no true value.

“Why do you spend money for that which is not bread and your labour for things that don’t satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in good things.” Isaiah 55:2

Claiming Blessings

Most people come to Christ something like this. The recognise they are sinners in need of forgiveness and they learn that God provides forgiveness when we put our faith in Christ. So they pray and ask for the salvation that is available to them through Christ.

By that simple process they have claimed a blessing from God. God has already provided the blessing, through Christ’s death. So it already exists. But sinners don’t have it, despite its existence, because they have not asked for it. They have not ‘claimed’ it.

So it should not be hard for Christians to understand the process of Claiming Blessings.

First we discover that the blessing is available to us from God. We might read about it in the Bible or have it explained to us such as in a sermon or by a testimony from someone.

Then we simply ask for it, believing God will give it to us.

It’s not particularly complicated.

The Bible explains this process in various ways. Jesus told us to ‘ask and keep on asking’.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7,8

Greek students tell us that the tense used in these verses means to ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking.

The idea of being persistent in prayer was also explained by Jesus, in a story about a widow who persisted in asking for justice.

“There was a judge who did not fear God or regard man. A widow came to him saying, Give me justice. At first he refused, but afterward said to himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; yet because this widow pesters me, I will avenge her, lest she wear me out with her persistence.” Luke 18:2-5

Another key is that of asking in faith. God’s gifts to us are grace, undeserved, and we receive God’s grace by having faith in God.

“By grace you have been saved through faith” Ephesians 2:8

So Jesus explained that we are to ask in faith.

“Whatever you ask for in prayer, believing, you will receive.” Matthew 21:22.

Believing is having faith. Being confident that God is listening and will answer.

So the process is to ask God for things in faith, believing God will answer.

The next question might be, “What are we allowed to ask for?”

Jesus gave us clues to this when He gave us the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), including “give us today’s needs – our daily bread”, “forgive our sins”, “lead us not into trouble but deliver us from evil”.

We could also look at prayers others prayed that God happily answered, such as the Prayer of Jabez. 

“Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, and cause your hand to be with me, and keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted his request.” 1Chronicles 4:10

Some Christians think it is wrong to pray for things we want, but we see in both the Lord’s Prayer and Jabez’s prayer that we are to ask for things for ourselves.

However, we also see that it is wrong to ask for things so we just satisfy our greed and lusts.

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, for things to indulge your selfish interests.” James 4:3

You can safely ask for anything God provided for you through the sacrifice of Jesus. That means forgiveness, peace, rescue, salvation, protection, health and blessing.

Jesus died for our sins and his physical wounds bring us healing.

Jesus “bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live to righteousness: by his whipping (stripes) you were healed.” 1Peter 2:24

When Jesus died God created a huge store of Grace for us. These are miraculous things we don’t deserve which come from the victory of Christ over sin, death and the devil.

The Apostle Paul, who had been taken to heaven, described a virtual storehouse of God’s grace that is so full it will take all of eternity to show us what God has achieved for us in Christ’s death and resurrection.

“God raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: So that in the ages to come he might display the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6,7

The way I understand Paul’s statement is that in heaven we will have a constant revelation of the abundant things God provided for us through Christ. Those things are already in God’s storehouse.

Let me give you some background to what Paul is saying, firstly from the words of King David

“You show me the path of life; in your presence there is complete joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures – pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

Note that these pleasures, or delights, are at God’s right hand. Link that to what Paul says about Jesus.

“If you have been raised with Christ, seek things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Colossians 3:1

This is just one of many verses describing Jesus as God’s right hand.

“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 1:3

Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God, Acts 7:55,56. See also Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12; Hebrews 12:2; 1Peter 3:22; Matthew 22:44; Acts 2:33.

So there are eternal blessings for us at God’s right hand. Jesus achieved eternal blessings for us through His death and resurrection. Jesus is seated at God’s right hand. God has abundant grace for us achieved through Christ. God’s blessings for us are ‘in Christ’.

So I like the picture of God having a storehouse of grace at His right hand, grace of amazing and miraculous things achieved for us through Christ, which we access by having faith and asking God for those things.

“By grace (out of God’s storehouse of grace) you are saved (blessed with all of God’s blessings) through faith”.

What is included in that storehouse of grace? Apostle Peter gives us an insight.

“According as God’s divine power gave us all things relating to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to glory and virtue: By whom we are given exceedingly great and precious promises: by which you might partake of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2Peter 1:3,4

All things pertaining to life – means all the things you need in normal human existence, while all things pertaining to godliness – means all the things you need to be a Son of God for eternity.

That summarises a huge raft of things God has for you in His storehouse of grace, at His right hand, that is ‘in Christ’, achieved for you already. You can access those things by asking in faith. For you receive grace by faith (Ephesians 2:8).

Think again about claiming God’s blessings.

By God’s Grace

Paul testified that he had become an Apostle of Jesus Christ despite being unworthy, having persecuted the Church before his conversion. He declared that he really should be the ‘least of the apostles’.

“I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” 1Corinthians 15:9

Yet, Paul goes on to explain that he was able to become an apostle despite his past and his disqualification “by the grace of God”.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am” 1Corinthians 15:10.

It is only by God’s grace that we become anything other than a sinner bound for eternal judgement. We can take Paul’s words “by the grace of God” and apply them widely.

Only by the grace of God have you been saved. 

“For by grace you are saved, through faith” Ephesians 2:8. 

You did not deserve it nor were you even close to God’s salvation. It took the death of Christ to make you right with God. That is pure grace.

Only by the grace of God can you live with God’s blessings today. 

“Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3

“God’s divine power has given us all things relating to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to glory and virtue: By which we are given exceeding great and precious promises: by which you can be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2Peter 1:3,4

Do you have peace? It is by God’s grace.

Do you have purpose? It is by God’s grace.

Do you have fruitfulness? It is by God’s grace.

Are you respected? It is by God’s grace.

Has God used you to bless others? It is by God’s grace.

Since it is “by the grace of God” that you enjoy all the things you do, you can’t pretend that you deserve them, or are more worthy of them than others. There is no room for you to take the glory.

“For who makes you different from others? And what do you have that you didn’t receive? If you received it, why do you boast as if you didn’t receive it?” 1Corinthians 4:7

God offers us grace all the time. He calls us to respond in humility and to allow Him to work in and through us. It is up to us to respond to that opportunity.

Isaiah saw the Lord in the temple and was immediately humbled by seeing himself as he truly is, unworthy. 

“I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. … Then I said, Woe is me! I am undone; because I am unclean, and I dwell among unclean people: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 6:1,5

That response of humble repentance opened the way for Isaiah to offer himself to service for God and become one of the greatest Old Testament prophets.

God calls each of us to faith in Christ, obedience, humble submission, service of God, holiness, power in the Holy Spirit and much more. Each time God prompts us He is offering us His grace. We need to respond and allow God to move in and through us, then we receive the grace of God that empowers us to be what we have not been before.

By the grace of God you are who and what you are.

So there is no room for you to boast and put yourself over others. Instead you could help them receive God’s grace and become who God wants them to be.

And you are perfectly placed to keep receiving God’s grace, as you respond to the promptings of God in your life, stepping out of your comfort zone and allowing God to call you to new things, such as new freedom inside you and new capacity to help those around you.

But in all that, it is “by God’s grace”.

The Jacuzzi Blessing

I was praying this morning for a Jacuzzi. Not a real one, but as representative of something valuable from God.
Let me explain.

Some years ago a Pastor friend in New Zealand told me how blessed he was by one purchase in his life that he really did not intend to make.
His father was moving house and offered to the son, my friend, a Jacuzzi hot pool. My friend had never thought of installing such a pool in his home. He had two sons just coming into their teenage years, so, since he had the offer to buy the pool cheaply, he decided to buy the pool and install it on his back deck.

By the time my friend relayed this story to me the two sons were young adults. Through those teenage years the pool proved to be invaluable to the family, especially in relation to the boys. Instead of the boys being off with their friends all the time, away from their parents’ observation, all the friends wanted to come around and soak in the pool. My friend  often soaked in the pool with his sons and their friends, and so he and his wife became good friends with all their sons’ friends and maintained strong relationship with their boys through those crucial years.

Another wonderful benefit for my pastor friend was in the form of ministry. He shared with me that many times through the years, often late at night, one or other of their sons’ friends would open up, and share about personal issues they needed help with. He smiled remembering how often he found himself giving serious counsel and solving difficult problems while soaking in the Jacuzzi.

I love that testimony, and realise that often we don’t know what is best for us. We have our own likes and dislikes and our own plans, but God sees the whole picture and knows what is best. So, rather than always telling God what I want and what I want Him to do for me, I often ask God to take charge and give me what He knows is best.

So, this morning I prayed once again for a Jacuzzi.
Not a hot tub, but a blessing that God knows is best for me, even if I don’t recognise it at first glance.

God tells us His ways are far above ours.
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8,9

Yesterday afternoon I sat relaxing in my yard, enjoying the trees and birds and breeze. I tried once again to get my thoughts together for things that will open up this year. I know there will be change and it could be quite dramatic, so I want to get my thinking primed for what is to come. Yet each time I sit and muse about such things I get nowhere.

Yesterday the Lord nudged me with a thought that saved me my fruitless endeavour. It struck me that when the time came God was going to give me all the leading I need and all the explanation I need, when it is due. So I can give up trying to get myself ready, and simply continue to walk with Him, relying on Him to be my constant source no matter how things turn out in the future.

So, in my abandonment, I am trying not to plan much at all, just respond to what God puts in front of me, confident in Him, and aware that some things He presents me with are outside what I was expecting but may just be the Jacuzzi blessing He knows is best.

Why not stop right now and ask God for a Jacuzzi blessing in your life? Maybe in years to come you can look back and see how wonderful it was that God prompted you to something you weren’t planning, but which met needs you didn’t even know you had.

Stop Chiselling

One of the challenges of our Christian walk is to stop relying on ourselves and doing things our own way.

An allegory of this is found in the building Solomon’s Temple. The site of the Temple was holy. So all preparation of materials had to be done off-site. There was not to be the sound of chiselling of stone on the Temple location. The stonemasons had to know what they needed, shape the stone at the quarry and bring it to location ready to fit in place.

“And the house, under construction, was built of stone made ready before it was brought to site: so there was neither hammer, axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was being built.” 1Kings 6:7

Chiselling the stone can speak of our own efforts to make things right. In God’s holy temple there is not to be human effort to make things right.

You, as a believer in Christ are the ‘temple of the Holy Spirit’ (1Corinthians 6:19) so there is not to be human effort in your walk with God.

Another allegory is the comparison between Hagar, Abraham’s Egyptian slave girl, and Sarah, Abraham’s wife, and thus Ishmael, Abraham’s first born son to the slave girl, and Isaac, Abraham’s son born to his wife according to God’s promise.

The Apostle Paul links Hagar to human effort and Sarah to God’s blessing in the fulfilment of God’s promises. 

“His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh (human effort), but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.” Galatians 4:23

Abraham tried to fulfil God’s promise by a human idea, having a child born to Sarah’s slave girl. This represents the times when we try to bring God’s blessings by our own ideas and energies. All we do is create a problem, as Ishmael was to Abraham and Isaac.

You might at times hear a Christian turn down a suggestion of doing something to help God out, by saying “I don’t want to birth an Ishmael!”

Another reflection of this is Ezekiel’s vision of Jewish priests who were not to wear garments of wool, so they would not sweat.

“They are to wear linen headwear and have linen undergarments around their waist; they will not wear anything that causes sweat.” Ezekiel 44:18

There was not to be sweat in God’s presence. That is to say, we are not to work up a sweat trying to make things happen, but to walk with God, relying on Him. 

Sadly many Christians fill their lives with chiselling, birthing Ishmael’s and working up a sweat. Then they wonder why their lives are so full of problems and complications.

A Christian man came to me many years ago trying to offload a property he had developed. He had tried to pass it off to many others before he came to me. He had a vision of something he thought was a good idea but it turned out to be of no value or interest to anyone. He created an Ishmael that was a problem to him and of no value to anyone else. Maybe you have a few of those in your life too?

God is your source and there is no better source than God, Himself. 

God is your protection and there is not better protection than God, Himself. 

God is your guide and hope and there is no better guide or hope than God, Himself.

Yet is that a chisel I see in your hand? Is there an Ishmael running around your camp? Is that sweat I smell?

Put down that chisel and ask God to forgive you for trying to make things happen without simply relying on Him. 

Ishmael was cast out, since he had no part in God’s blessings. You may have to shut down something you have started that is not of God. If you keep and protect it you will simply be making trouble for yourself.

And stop sweating about things. If God has everything under control what in the world are you fretting about? Trust Him! Renounce your fear and insecurity. Commit your way to Him. Cast your cares onto Him. Let God be God in your situation.

God may not solve things the way you want Him to. He may not give you what you want. But He will only do you good. Even if He rebukes you, it is for your good. So trust Him and abandon yourself on Him. Give Him your problems and challenges and allow Him to tell you what to do. And, if He takes His time, trust Him in the waiting. Don’t birth an Ishmael, thinking God isn’t going to give you an Isaac.

Your other risk is that you will achieve things, thinking you have advanced your cause, but there will be no blessing in what you gain. What have you truly achieved if you gain the whole world and lose your own soul? (Mark 8:36)

For everyone’s sake, I urge you, Stop Chiselling!