Elevated Eyes

Look above: Fix your eyes on Jesus and see life from a different perspective

Tag: #bible

It’s not a manual for life.

I do not like the metaphor that the bible is an ‘owners manual for life’

I have never enjoyed reading an owners manual, whether its for a car or a toaster, owner’s manuals just aren’t that fun. To limit the word of God to a manual that helps us succeed at life does a terrible disservice to the bible. We can’t just pull the bible out when things are going wrong. It is not meant to be a book of quick life fixes.

I believe the bible is a story, it is a story that is still unfolding, it is a story that we have a part to play in.
We have to embrace the Bible as uncensored, wild account of people experiencing the king of kings. It is not something pulled out when we need a problem fixed. It is a messy, exhilarating story of life change.

It has people doubting, arguing with, worrying about, reconciling with, loving, worshipping, thanking and following the one true God.

We cannot put it in a box, we can’t tame it.

The bible is about real people in real places at real point in time writing about their growing understanding of who they are and who God is.

Truth meets us wherever we are yet there is something powerful about seeing the historical contextual significance of the story.

For example, Paul writes to Timothy about women being saved in childbirth and he is making a direct reference to the goddess Artemis, whose temple was just down the street to Timothy who was based in Ephesus.

Artemis’s followers believed that the goddess saved women in childbirth. Paul’s writing has a big social and political impact. He is basically saying that the goddess Artemis is a fraud.

 

The writers of the bible are speaking in a language that the readers of the day will understand. The bible has authority and God is speaking into real space and time. The bible is a story that shows us what it looks like when God interacts with ordinary people. The point in the book of Acts isn’t the early church. The point is that God is using people to change the world. He is using ordinary people to represent His love, power and authority to the world.

We have a choice today to believe that the same God that was at work in the bible is at work in the world today.

He is the same God doing the same kind of things.

Ask God what He is up to in your world today?

Partner with the King of kings and allow the story of God to unfold.

Live life with a green light

One of the main questions I’ll get asked by teenagers, students and adults in my church is how do I know I’m in the will of God? How do I know that the decisions I make and the things I do are in the will of God for my life.

Who should I marry?

Should I take that job?

Should I move city are questions we all think about.

If we see our lives as a set course and the will of God like a program that we walk along then it is very hard not to be troubled by these questions.

The will of God is not one little road for your life, it is a way of living and it is a state of being.  If Jesus is our good shepherd that gives His life for the sheep. If through His love He welcomes us into the pasture and provides us with fullness of life. Do we have freedom in the pasture? Does the Shepherd bring a blade of grass to us, and then when we have eaten that, He brings another one and then another. Does He direct what we are allowed to do.

Paul says in the letter to the Corinthians that where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.

How is this way of living in the pastures of our Shepherd freedom?

This is often the lens that we interpret and see the world through.

When God is ready He will speak, guide and direct us to that ‘next thing’. And yes of course He speaks, guides and directs but He also gives us the responsibility to live our lives with wisdom in the power of the Holy Spirit.

There’s so much more freedom than we realise.

I believe that as we enter the kingdom, through the good shepherd we’re given freedom in the pasture. We’re given the green light, to eat, enjoy life, live and learn to love well.

So if there is so much freedom and it isn’t about a pathway through life. What is the will of God?

Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.’

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

The will of God in Christ Jesus is to

rejoice always

pray continually

and give thanks in all circumstances.

This is the same that any good husband would want for his wife. We are the bride of Christ. Does our good husband Jesus want to control us with one clear, set pathway. We say to our loved ones  I want you to be happy, communicate and that you are content. Jesus is saying to us, be happy, communicate with me and be content. That is His will for us it is a state of being.

‘For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.’ Philippians 2:13

God is in you and is working out his will in you (A state of being) for his good measure.

‘I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ Romans 12:1

What is God’s will for you? To have your mind renewed and transformed from the way of the world.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.’  James 1:5

We are in God’s will and now.  It is a state of being in Christ Jesus. We are in the flock the pasture and now you need to ask for wisdom. The will is a state of mind, when you are in the will you need to ask for the wisdom of God.

The apostles lived with a green light. They didn’t spend their lives waiting for the green light as to whether to serve, help, preach or pray. They went, they lived and the loved. They spent their lives living in the green light of the Spirit of God that says I am with you, you are my representatives on the earth and I give you authority to represent me well.

If you were an ambassador in a foreign country and every time you’re asked to help and see an opportunity make the country better you said “I need to wait and double check if the country that has sent me will allow me to help” you wouldn’t be a very good ambassador. As an ambassador you have been given authority by the home nation to go, make a difference. In Life we have been given authority by the king of kings to go.

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.’

Acts 16:6-8

The apostles lived with a green light, they heard go and they are going, they are healing the sick, preaching the good news and casting out the demonic. Then as they are going they are asking for wisdom and guidance and they’re then blocked by the holy spirit. They are directed by a vision in the night. The direction came as they went, not as they sat and did nothing.

We’re not supposed to live in fear of being blocked and redirected. We’re meant to have a green light, enjoy the pasture. We aren’t meant to let anything hold us back until the holy spirit redirects us.

Ask for wisdom in the process,

live life not questioning the will of God,

live life with the green light of the Holy Spirit,

rejoicing always, praying constantly and always being thankful.

Free Will V Predestination

This is a great infographic on ‘Free Will and Predestination’. It’s from Cris Cruz at Equip the Saints.  Equip the saints in an amazing website. Make sure you check it out and enjoy the fun graphic.

Freewill-VS-PredestinationCHRISCRUZ

 

Cultural Sandcastles

Culture is constantly changing and reshaping, how are we meant to build something that can make a difference, how are we meant to live a life that’ll last in the middle of so much uncertainty.

It feels a little bit like we are building on sand, that is always going to change. God calls us in the book of Hebrews to be a people that are of a different kingdom, an unshakable kingdom.

We live in an unstable culture.  As we look all around we see huge shifts in mindsets, pressures in society. There is a cultural earthquake happening all around.

I believe that culture is shaking and soon there is going to be a revealing of a people that is unshakable.

Hebrews 12:26-13:8

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Sacrifices Pleasing to God

13 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. 4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. 5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”

7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

We’re called to be a rescue team reaching in and saving those trapped and hurting in the earthquakes of culture we see all around us.

Hebrews, I believe is written  by Paul in prison to Jewish Christians in Israel.  Before this text was written, the Jews had risen up against Rome, and the emperor was fed up. So the emperor dispatched his best general and the might of the Roman military machine to crush the zealot rebellion.

The Jewish people knew what was coming they knew the destruction that was on the way.

The Jewish nation was about to live through the reality of Roman destruction.

There was a push from the Jewish Christians to leave the sect of Christianity they were being squeezed on every side. Their world was being turned upside down.

photo-1413977886085-3bbbf9a7cf6eThey were afraid, there was massive upheaval on the way. You know what we all need to be ready, we need to be ready for change we need to be ready for hard times we need to be ready to face tragedy and disaster.

We have been called as the rescue team, as the ones reaching down into darkness disaster and pain and being a rescuer. Being a movement of God here on earth.

The writer gives us 4 things to do at this time and in these moments.

  1. HAVE COMPASSION. You are to keep the compassion of God burning in your heart. Hebrews 13:1-2 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

It is easy to become bitter, to become resentful and angry. Do we judge those that are shaken or do we have compassion on them?

  1. FOCUS ON COMMUNITY. You need to turn away from self-interest and turn towards community Hebrews 13:2-3 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.

What do we see in countries around the world hit by devastation? In times of trouble we need to remember to stand alongside each other, to embrace those in greatest need. When everything else is being broken, you need to tend to community. In times of trouble it is not good to isolate ourselves and we need to fight that impulse and build each other up. People want to feel community that is stable. They want some where to call home. A place to find identity to find calling.

  1. WE NEED TO CONNECT PEOPLE TO THE BIGGER STORY. As earthquakes shakes the world, peoples security falls. What they build there identity in, there security in, there jobs there families it crumbles. We need to show people that there is a story bigger than us. As the world around us shakes and falls remember there is a Connection story that connects you to all of the people of God down through the ages, that connects you to all the Christians who love the Lord. There is a bigger story there is more than your here and now. There are seasons coming that you needed to be prepared for and this is a preparation time. Hebrews 13:5-6 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

 There is a bigger picture here, let me show you. Keep holding on keep moving forward. This is happening for a reason, but the Lord is faithful throughout it. We need to show people that there is a connection story that there is something bigger happening. Something that is not about loss but about redemption.

  1. BE A COMPASS POINTING PEOPLE TO CHRIST. Where do we go when there is confusion, when the maps are no longer clear. I believe as a rescue team we are called to point people to Jesus to give them a stable and secure compass. Be a Compass pointing the way Hebrews 13:8 ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever’ follow the one that is unchanging and teach others to do the same. Be a disciple. You have the spirit of God living in you in the midst of a shaking world. We are the people of God. Remember who you are. Point people to Jesus. It is all about him.

Be the rescue team of God reaching into a hurting world. Show compassion, demonstrate community, connect them to the vision and redemptive story, and lead to the unshakable one who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

God gave us a Story.

I wanted to spend some time unpacking two types of study that hopefully can help you in your understanding of the bible.

There are two main types of theological study.

Systematic and Biblical theology

Systematic theology groups theological study into specific topics. So if you were studying theology in a systematic way you would likely study, atonement theory, the doctrine of salvation, doctrine of the Holy Spirit, Eschatology and the doctrine of the church. You will begin by searching the bible for everything it says on a topic and then sharing views and opinions on it. It runs through the beautiful story of the bible drawing threads together to form a viewpoint and an opinion.

I’m not convinced that studying a systematic theology is a good way to learn about the Bible. It has it’s uses but it also limited. It is a bit like a big net, you will pick up a lot from a systematic study but the net has holes and a lot is missed.

photo-1429032021766-c6a53949594f

God speaks to us in a story, His revelation to us is anything but systematic.

The story is messy, it’s complicated, it tells the story of people who mess up, of God who gets involved in the life of his creation. The Bible narrative is compelling; sometimes exciting, sometimes hard and complicated but it is not systematic. God did not give us a system, he gave us a story. Trying to force something that has so much life into a system can squeeze the life out of it.  It’s His Story

Biblical theology looks at the story of the bible as a whole, it examines the truth of the bible in it’s historical and contextual position. Biblical theology recognises that the there is a progressive revelation of the nature of God throughout the story. Strong biblical theology puts us in the context of the writer and the reader and asks the question “What would this have meant to the writer?” “What would this have meant to the reader?”

Biblical theology helps us see the Bible as a unified narrative, rather than as a collection of unrelated points.

When studying the bible I believe we need to

1 . Have a solid historical and contextual interpretation.

2. Understand that God is revealed progressively throughout the bible.

As you read and study the word of God, ask God to reveal himself in it. Recognise the process of the nature of God being revealed to the writer as it is written. Ask yourself what would this passage have meant to the writer and the reader at the time and how does this help me understand the big picture of the story of God.

 

 

 

 

Open Heart Surgery

When we look at the news it is really easy to see the pain, devastation in the world.

There are some terrible things happening in the world and as Christians it is hard to see what is God’s heart for people that do these things.  Do we serve a short-tempered angry God, or is God a loving father even to those that are evil.

I’ve been thinking about the Heart God has for people. Because as Christians it is so often the heart that God works on and changes.  Maybe God wants to open our hearts up again to love.

Have you ever read the book of Hosea?

In the book of Hosea God begins to paint the beautiful picture of love. Hosea has suffered and faced rejection and God has drawn this parallel to himself and the nation of Israel’s rejection of him.

Hosea 11:8b 

My heart is torn within me,
    and my compassion overflows. (NLT)

It’s almost as if God  is saying  “I’m torn, because I am just and righteous, and sinless but I am merciful, and long-suffering, patient, forgiving and sympathetic. I’m torn.”

Many scholars believe this is similar to the covenant He made to Noah when He said I will not flood the earth any more.

God is still just, God is still righteous, at the end of this life because of who God is there will be a judgement, but because of this illogical and irrational love that pours out of our king, God desires that all are saved.

When God said I love the world. He meant it.

In sending His son He was saying, “I love all of you. I am sending my son not to judge the world but that the world through him might be saved.”

He is not the great critic but the great cure. He is a God of Love and His heart’s moved by His children.

There is evil adulterous behaviour in the heart of the Israelites, yet God is looking at them and saying, I chose to love. In the midst of the darkness He shows mercy.  In the middle of rejection He shows forgiveness.

We need to be a people who emulate the heartbeat of our heavenly father, where mercy triumphs over judgement every time. 

So what does this Heart of God look like for us

1 John 3:16-17

 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? (NLT)

I love how John just brings this home. He speaks directly into our day-to-day lives. We have just made this leap from the son of God laying down his life for us in verse 16 to if you have a bit of money and see someone in need then help.

It’s powerful stuff. He just says if that is you (that shuts up your life to those in need) then how can the love of God be in you?

I believe that through this passage we can see that God’s love is not shut up, but God’s heart is open to all. If there is a being in the universe that has a right to shut His heart to some it’s God. He would be right and just to say my heart is open to one and it’s shut to another.

But His mercy and His grace and His love push through and His heart remains open to all humanity.

John writes, He died for you, He opened his heart for you, and He gave His son for you. If you see someone in need don’t you shut your heart up.

Maybe as His ambassadors as His representatives here on this earth we could be a people of an open heart.

We need to look at the father, because He had an open heart He goes to extraordinary illogical lengths to demonstrate His love even though He knows many will not take notice. He was a God of the open heart.

What is it that you can do today that will demonstrate the open-hearted Love of God?

Father,
perform open heart surgery on us,

expand our hearts,

expand our prayers,

Help us to love the least, the last & the lost.

Threads part 1: Jesus.

The bible is like a massive tapestry, it is so vast, complexed, sophisticated, unique, beautiful and powerful.  As Christians we spend some much time focussing in on little stories and areas, we focus in on individual chartaters and events this is great, though in doing this we can sometimes miss the over-arching threads, storylines and pictures that run through the bible.  Over the next few posts we are going to be look at different threads that run throughout the whole of the bible, I encourage you to take a step back, see the bible as the vast story that stretches across humanity. God longs for you to join him, to take up the threads in the bible run with them and have incredible God adventures as well.

 

Ultimately the bible is His story, and it is now also our story. The bible is about God and it is about us. It is a story of Jesus relationship with humanity, it has the highs, it has the lows. It is a story about God’s never ending pursuit of those he loves. He is never going to give up because he is hungry after you. He is desperate for you to experience His love.

Throughout every page and every story we can see the person of Jesus lovingly outworked.  We see pictures of Jesus the whole way through the bible.  I encourage you to look for Jesus in every area of the bible.  Look for him, as you read the stories how can you see a picture of Jesus and what He did for us in it.

You can see here in the story of Abraham and Issac in Genesis 22 an amazing picture of the love, mercy and grace of Jesus.

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

How could God command someone to sacrifice there own son, yet ‘For God so loved the world that He gave his only son John 3:16  God asked no more of Abraham than He himself was wiling to give.  God gave up His son Jesus who He loved very much out of chose because of His love for us.

Just looking at the picture here of Jesus, the area called Moriah where they traveled to is actually now where Jerusalem is built, it is interesting to see them traveling in on a donkey, then hundreds of years later Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey as well. In little subtle ways we can see that God is making hints for us laying down the ideas that this God of the heavens is coming, a Son so much greater so much more faithful a son which will be the sacrifice for the whole world.

We see in the story that the wood for the sacrifice was placed on the back of Issac, can anyone see any other similarities between this and Jesus?  Later the father placed the cross, the wood for the sacrifice on the back of Jesus and He carried it.

Later after God has provided a ram for the sacrifice we see Abraham saying in Genesis 22:14 ‘ So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”’

Thousands of years later on the same mountain range, the Lord did provide again, He provided eternally when the son of God stepped in. He didn’t provide a ram or offer a lamb for the offering but He provided the lamb of God the son of God Jesus Himself.  The provision of Jesus for us and for our sins was something that He had planned before we were even born.

This story of Abraham and Issac, just shows us that God knows what it was going to cost him, yet He went ahead with it anyway. God helped Abraham and Issac understand something that day.

God wanted His people to live and not to die.

God wanted to rescue His people and not to punish them.

But they must trust in Him.

God promised Issac and Abraham that one day someone would be born into your family, and He will bring happiness to the whole world.

God was getting ready to bring an amazing gift to the whole world, it was going to be Gods way of telling His people ‘ I LOVE YOU ‘

Many years later another son would climb that hill, he wouldn’t struggle or run away, He would trust his Father He was the lamb of God.

We can see the person of Jesus in all the old testament hero’s we see Him in Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David.  We need to remember that this isn’t neat joining of dots to together, this is a rich and glorious truth, it is the salvation plan of Jesus being worked, in the lives of individuals in the old testament. Just like Jesus is weaved into the lives of these individuals in the old testament He is being weaved into our lives

God has laid messages, a love letter throughout the whole of the old testament about the fact that one day God himself was going to come. He was going to come not to punish his people but to rescue them. God was getting ready to wipe every tear from every eye, the true party was just about to start.

How today are you letting the story of Jesus be outworked in your life?  In everything we do we must let the love of God, the grace of the king and the power of Jesus flow out of our life. We carry the king of all with us into the darkness of the world. Just as the story of grace and truth outworked in our old testament hero’s was just a shadow of the king pointing to Jesus to come, our lives are meant to be the light that points people to life.

 

‘Christ in you the hope of glory.’ 

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