Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Finding higher ground...

What is it to find higher ground and why is it important?

Exodus 33 vs 11 "The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

There is a song which goes "Down at your feet oh Lord is the most high place..."

There was something about this two men that set them apart.

First, we'll look at Moses:

Psalm 103 verse 7 - in the literal translation from the Greek (www.scripture4all.org) says the Lord was making His ways known to Moses and to the children of Israel He made known His activities.

My ways and my activities are two slightly different things; if you know my ways you will really get to know me a bit better, you will understand my thought process, where my heart is and have some depth into why I do the things I do but if you only know my activities - you know less about me, you have seen some things I have done but we don't have intimacy which would give you an insight to my heart - you have no idea about the what that makes me tick. 

Moses knew God intimately:
  • They talked like friends as we see in vs 11 of Exodus 33 
  • Moses asked God to teach Him his ways - he was hungry for more of God. "if you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you" in verse 13a 
  • Moses did not just stop at teach me your ways or talking like friends, his hunger for intimacy was far more, he asked God a question, He said in verse 18 of Exodus 33 “Now show me your glory." 
  • I also noticed something really interesting: God ENJOYED Moses too! The feeling was very much mutual. When Moses asked God to blot him out of his book if he would not forgive the sin of the Israelites in Exodus 32 vs 32. The Lord replied in vs 33 this way "Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book". Do you notice how The Lord did not directly respond to the request? It reminded me quite a bit of my mum when she ignores a question and responds to a different question than you asked. I got a sense of God not willing to let go of Moses! Under no circumstances am I letting you go son. The one who speaks with me, who carries my people on his heart for me, faithful in all I send him, who just spent the last 40 days with Me and just Me. No I won't let you go because I enjoy your company!

Now lets look at Joshua. Joshua was not a big prophet like Moses was when we see him in Exodus 32. He was just Joshua, Moses's helper. He didn't speak to God face to face, He wasn't a leader but this man desired more of God. Joshua did not let his current level of revelatory knowledge or position keep Him from God. Even when Moses was not at the tent of meeting, Joshua remained. I got a sense of someone who just said to himself "you know what The Lord may need someone to go get Moses from the camp so I'll just hang around here so he can use me".

Lord I am ready to be your butler, your houseboy, just tell me what you need Sir.

Joshua had a hunger and a value for God. He stewarded God, He knew the presence of God was precious, so he was just gonna hang around and steward Him incase He needed him for anything. This kind of attitude really helped Joshua, so much that when the camp fell and the people of Israel turned to idols. Joshua was oblivious to all of it because he was too busy stewarding the presence of the Lord.

He didn't get caught up with "The God was taking too long ideology" or "I want to be just like my neighbours ideology". Having his focus in the right place shielded him from satan's temptation which fell on the camp, this is higher ground - abiding in God's presence always so that you don't get carried away when satan throws his storms and waves of temptation.

See, it's so easy to read the Bible and judge our predecessors and say "this Israelites were so stiff necked". However I think it is important that we stop to think to ourselves and say how can I keep myself from falling where they fell? To ask ourselves about those that did not fall, and find out how did they achieved it knowing that we are all susceptible to temptation. As it is a wonder to me, how they could fall so far after the red sea was parted and they were brought out of Egypt with signs of 10 mighty plagues, and still turn around and serve an idol.

I wonder how differently things could have been if they had sat around the fires and talked about the might works of God and praised His name - shared testimonies of things He had done in times past whilst they waited on Him and on Moses's return from the mountain - where God was busy working stuff out on their behalf!

Some things I learnt about Joshua:
  • Joshua never took God's presence for granted 
  • He stewarded God's presence with the heart of a servant 
  • He was fascinated by God, He regarded God 
  • He didn't want to be like everybody else unlike the children of Israel who wanted to be like their neighbours not understanding that satan was exposing their nakedness and making them a laughing stock - see Exodus 32:25. Joshua always defined himself by God's standards. It was Joshua who said in Joshua 24:15 "As for me and my house, we will serve The Lord"! Today so many of us want to pattern ourselves against the world standards, we think we are meant to be the same - talk about the same things, copy their way of doing things and import it into the Church regardless of the impact or appropriateness to God's palate and agenda.
  • He didn't let anything limit him, it didn't matter that he didn't talk to God face to face like Moses yet or part the red sea, eventually this same Joshua commanded the sun and moon to stand still (Joshua 10:12). He was able to do this because persisted in his pursuit of God, he had a great regard for God's presence. 
Abide in the presence of the Lord - there is no-one more fascinating than God! Nothing else compares! It will keep you from being shaken when the world is being shaken and sift like wheat. It will deliver you from evil and keep you from temptation.

Pause and think about it.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

John The Baptist's Style of Ministry

John Chapter 1 vs 6-8: There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

John Chapter 1 vs 19-22: Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

The message I felt impressed upon to share today is simple, I was reading through John 1 last week when I felt The Holy Spirit draw my attention to John the baptist's style of ministry. His ministry constantly pointed to Jesus, the Bible notes that he confessed freely that he was not The Lord Jesus Christ. As a minister of God and witness of the testimony of Jesus, we must always point those we disciple or preach the good news to on to Jesus Christ. We can not disciple people on to ourselves, they must be discipled on to Jesus.

What is it to disciple to Jesus?

John Chapter 1 vs 35 - 39: The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.

We must teach intimacy with The Lord. In the above passage we see two disciples of John the baptist after learning the identity of the Lord Jesus as The Lamb of God from John, they went after The Lord themselves, they followed him until He noticed them and they inquired further to know where He lived; they did not just stop at knowing the address of His house, but they went in and spent the day with him - that is intimacy

John Chapter 3 vs 26 - They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.”

We need to understand the same way John the baptist understood that Jesus is the bridegroom, His church is the bride and as a minister of God (a worker in God's vineyard) our role is to ALWAYS point others to Christ and NOT to ourselves.

We all must learn to know God for ourselves. My job is not to get you to know me but to get you to know Jesus and develop your own relationship with Him. The reality is that God does not have grandchildren, He has only children, therefore it behoves us to develop our intimacy with Him.

Intimacy is to spend time with God - in worship, prayer and His word - we must prioritize that above everything else along with obedience to Him.

As Rev Patrick would say - cheek to cheek - let God know you cheek to cheek, He is your Father.

For the minsters of God (all His children who preach Christ in one way or the other - on the pulpit, as a worship leader, on the street corner, in Bible Study, to our friends, our families, our children) - we must like John learn to say - I am not the answer but I know someone who is - discover Him for yourself, my job is to introduce you to Him and then you must learn to run with Him.

The weaknesses we see in the body of Christ today are as a result of many not racing to know God for themselves and the lack of the message of intimacy. 

I am not Jesus, my job is to get you to Him and for you to understand that you can and must know Jesus for yourself. The disciples in John 1 vs 35 - 39 quoted above, left John and went after Jesus, they spent time with Him, they desired to know Him.

If there is one message we must learn to preach, it is the message of INTIMACY.

It is written: No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. Hebrews 8 vs 11