24. Celebrating the wilderness.

In this world there are a variety of esteemed rewards given to people in fields like academics, literature, art and science. Every year the movie world is rewarded in multiple ceremonies, one more glamorous and entertaining than the other. Achievement is celebrated – public and extravagant. The glitzy parties ooze expectation, and unavoidably disappointment. For each of these a host is carefully selected and announced, who has to add to the sparkle of the event with well-prepared entertainment.

We have already talked about seasons and days to count time and measure life – a fact as old as the concept itself and as certain as every daybreak and sunset.

In the past few weeks God has alerted me again to the “beaten track”, if I may call it that, of the life He prepared for me. In the life of a child of God, nothing is coincidence, a twist of fate or mere luck – good or bad. We know the Author of our story [Hebrews 5:9]. The confirmation of this in Ephesians 2:10 gives deeper insight into the flawlessness of God’s plan for your life.

For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in

Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them

[living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].

God is the perfect host of our whole life and He receives us at pre-planned festive occasions where He awards us the trophies with which we build the confidence to even greater things.

This is a deep truth and a challenge to our renewed mind. We can only truly appreciate our days marked out for us, when we submit to Holy Spirit thinking. Our days are predestined, prepared ahead of time, that we should walk in them. They are prearranged by our loving Father Who is goodness and love. Therefore our days are planned from the Source of goodness and love.

Take a Selah-moment [pause and calmly think about it] for the full implication of this statement to settle in your thinking.

Do you live the good life? Who do you know who lives the good life?

More important – what does your good life require? Will you be able to sit at the table of feasting in the deepest dark days of your life and realize this is the life of excellence that was marked out in heaven for you?

How will you respond to God when He questions your life as He does in Jeremiah 12:5:

If you have raced with men on foot and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? And if [you take to flight] in a land of peace where you feel secure, then what will you do [when you tread the tangled maze of jungle haunted by lions] in the swelling and flooding of the Jordan?

What is the nature of the life of excellence defined by you?

For me, it is, without a doubt, the life God planned for me to live. Then it is up to me to walk in the days set before me, whatever those days may bring.

Please walk with me through the old favourite, the too familiar Psalm 23 – the story of life in God.

The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack.

A shepherd was one of the most common sights in Biblical times and is even today in the near mid-East. It is to be noted that a shepherd never drives, but always leads his sheep to safe grazing. In the dry climate of the Middle East the sheep requires to be led to water. The sheep are fully dependent on the shepherd for their livelihood and protection.

Typical in the Hebrew idiom, the phrase is repeated to explain the truth from another angle. I shall not lack, says the Psalmist with confidence. He knew his history.

Deuteronomy 2:7:

For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand. He knows your walking through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.

And for the future, God promised:

Deuteronomy 8:9:

A land in which you shall eat food without shortage and lack nothing in it; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper.

Psalm 34:10:

 …but they who seek (inquire of and require) the Lord [by right of their need and on the authority of His Word], none of them shall lack any beneficial thing.

 TROPHY #1 – provision for everything in everything.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet water.

Abundance for the child of God might be a wilderness in the eye of the unbeliever who cannot discern the higher way of God for a life of excellence and greater good. God’s hierarchy is super important.

My spirit submits to the Holy Spirit, my mind (will, intellect and emotions) submits to my spirit and my body follows. The body will always follow the mind and the secular world always thwarts this hierarchy to make the body dictate to the mind. For the spirit-filled child of God, the Holy Spirit determines decisions, not his fleshly desires. The more the Holy Spirit dictate, the more we grow in Christ.

According to this Kingdom dynamics the world’s wilderness will become my green pasture and waters of peace and quiet.

Philippians 4: 6:

And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

TROPHY # 2 – peace always, in all.

He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him—not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake.

Isaiah 40:29:

He gives power to the faint and weary, and to him who has no might He increases strength [causing it to multiply and making it to abound].

Proverbs 4:11:

I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.

Strength for your path and confidence for the road you are on – without a doubt – a life of excellence.

For His name’s sake – not because we earn it – because He is good and acts according to His character.

TROPHY # 3 – strength for all, in all.

Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me.

A valley is often fertile giving higher harvest yields than regular fields. Your deep and dark valleys will yield the fruit of righteousness, experiencing God’s provision and protection.

The staff and rod were instruments of protection and guidance. Moses did wonders with his staff before Pharaoh and by the sea that parted [Exodus 14:16], he called the plagues down on Egypt with his staff, [Exodus 8:16,17, 9:23, 10:13], Aaron’s rod blossomed and bore fruit in one day [Numbers 17:8] and was one of the three elements in the Ark of the Covenant – just to name a few examples.

In Proverbs [13:24] this wonder-rod is mentioned in the protection and guidance of children. Discipline protects children and the instruction of a parent should be the guidance of a young life. (It has nothing to do with corporal punishment). God’s rod is His word and guides our path. Psalm 119:105:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

TROPHY # 4 – protection always in all.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my [brimming] cup runs over.

Seriously? Psalmist – do you mean what you say?

A table of feasting in the valley of the shadow of death. Truly!

In your darkest hour you are received by the ultimate Host of all ages with heavenly hospitality and glorious abundance of love and grace, while you feast on the fruit of the valley. God’s favour is public and unmistakable – in the presence of your enemies.

TROPHY # 5 – feasting in favour and fruitfulness.

Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and through the length of my days the house of the Lord [and His presence] shall be my dwelling place.

Your future is guaranteed. All your days are covered with goodness and mercy and unfailing love from the Source of all goodness and love.

The key – to live in the house of the Lord – the presence of the Lord – forever. The presence of the Lord and our dwelling in it is our trademark. It separates us from powerless, name-only Christians and unbelievers.

Exodus 33:15,16:

And Moses said to the Lord, If Your Presence does not go with me, do not carry us up from here! For by what shall it be known that I and Your people have found favor in Your sight? Is it not in Your going with us so that we are distinguished, I and Your people, from all the other people upon the face of the earth?

Goodness and mercy will pursue us like two bloodhounds on our tracks – that is the promise. It will cover our past and determine our future. My past is under the Blood and the content of my future is the promises of God.

TROPHY # 6 – guaranteed success for the future

Psalm 84:12:

O Lord of hosts, blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man who trusts in You [leaning and believing on You, committing all and confidently looking to You, and that without fear or misgiving]!

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23. Check the cartridge.

How could we ever measure love? Is it an all or nothing, a little bit when things are rough and a lot when we feel accepted and valued?

We are studying the role of the Holy Spirit in our life and learning the immeasurable love of God by realizing the riches of His glory in our inner being. How then do we respond to such an abundance of source to our disposal with immediate availability at all times?

The chapter on the gifts of the Holy Spirit starts out with a discussion on the functioning of a body and its members, comparing the body of Christ to the functioning of a physical body. We all know exactly what the stringent requirements for unity of purpose and unquestioning support in our physical bodies are, since we live and move and function effectively when our bodies are healthy and body parts support each other unconditionally.

A sick and suffering member is immediately provided for and held up by other members. A left hand stretches its ability beyond anything previously though possible, when a right-handed person injures that dominant hand. An injured leg is allowed to rest and be cripple while the other leg work much harder. The brain does not question the new demands in times of fear and injury; rather, it makes split-second decisions to ensure survival.

What does the church of Jesus look like today? We should be the victorious church of Revelation, clothed in white, rich in golden testimonies with our eye on the prize which is Jesus in His fullness and functioning as the extended hand of our loving heavenly Father.

We are not talking denominational church here. We all belong to the universal church of Jesus Christ, His body here on earth. The local church, which might be of various denominations, is not the full picture. I have no doubt that born-again, Spirit-filled individuals can rise above the constraints of denominationalism and make the rational decision to walk in unity. Unity is not a feeling or dogmatic superiority. It is a decision to reach out and love beyond the confines of human arguments and stubbornness.

The church Jesus came to save and restore, was loveless, arrogant and exclusive. They did not recognize their Messiah, although everything in their history prepared them for His arrival. They tested Him with arguments, they questioned His ministry in every possible way – stunned by His numerous healing miracles and angry and aggressive when He forgave sins. They did not even realize how far off the mark they were, not aware of their own sin, but very aware of everybody else’s. It was a church feared for condemnation and punishment, without mercy and far from the haven of security it was supposed to be, clinging to ancient rituals to please a God from whom they were far removed by the hardness of their hearts.

Church of Jesus, what do we look like? Will we crucify Jesus if He comes today and reach out to our hurting and wounded members? It is easy to rest in the armchair of history and judge from afar with a smirk of satisfaction that we are not part of all those glaring mistakes.

We need the eye salve of the Holy Spirit [Revelation 3:18] to focus on the right things and above all, truly see the things in our lives that will cause us to miss our Messiah. Turn with me to a disturbing story in the Gospel of Matthew [25: 1-13].

Jesus tells a story of the wise and the unwise. I have an insatiable desire for wisdom – as it is defined:

the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise,

and especially the second part of the definition:

the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment.

I would like to know exactly what to do and how to do it at exactly the right time. It sounds like so much to ask, but it is what God promises, without reproach, in James 1.

Back to the story. Ten virgins with lamps are all expecting the bridegroom. Five virgins have oil for their lamps and five have nothing extra. The cry comes at midnight to meet the bridegroom and while all trim their lamps, the foolish virgins’ lamps fade and they have to leave to buy oil. In the time they are gone, the bridegroom comes and the five wise go in to the marriage feast. The foolish virgins come back to a shut door. They knock and get the shocking answer:

‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

This is not what we would like to hear from our bridegroom.

The story speaks of virgins – to me it implies holiness and commitment. To be holy is to be set apart for a specific purpose. They had lamps. I get the impression their lamps were all burning. They had reason to relax and think they are prepared. They were with other virgins in unity of purpose. They were all expecting the bridegroom. The facts are given in such a way that we are inclined to think that the ten were all the same. Still, in the very beginning they are called wise and foolish – a fundamental differentiation.

The key is the oil. Oil has always been symbolic of the Holy Spirit. The priests had to be anointed with oil to be marked as separate and special. The oil in the lamps of the Holy of Holies in the Temple is the Holy Spirit illumination on the Word [the Table of Showbreads – see Pebbles number 6]. It is only in the divine light of God’s spirit that we read the Word of God with insight and understanding to restore life and renew energy. It is our action for divine healing.

Mark 6:13:

They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

James 5:14,15:

Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.

What a promise of divine intervention when we pray and believe! This passage leads up to the wonderful words of James:

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

I will always remind you that your righteousness is not your own doing or efforts. We are all made righteous in the sight of God by the blood of Jesus. To accept this and be made righteous, you need to make a conscious, rational decision to give your life to God and accept Jesus as your Saviour who died for your sin. Through His blood you are forgiven and made right with your loving Father. Your prayer will be powerful and effective.

 Faith is NOT a feeling. It is a decision to trust God and take His word as truth. Expect His divine intervention. Expect a miracle. Expect healing. Talk to God. Even if you have never talked to Him in ages or only in formal prayer. Talk to Him as you would to the dearest family member you can imagine. Surrender and break up before Him.

Psalm 51:17:

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;

    a broken and contrite heart

    you, God, will not despise.

Are the foolish virgins still worrying you? How could the bridegroom not know them? How could they be shut out? They were virgins with lamps expecting the bridegroom.

Keep in mind that God always finishes something He has started. Philippians 1:6:

…that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;

This is a full guarantee of the Alpha and Omega, the Beginner and Finisher of your faith, the Author of Salvation in His almighty capacity upholding your life.

The foolish virgins had oil in their lamps, but only for immediate use, no reserves. When crisis came, they had to buy more. They are Christians, living a life in Christ but it is a hand -to -mouth -existence. We cannot only be disciples, we have to watchful and filled-up disciples – ready for attack and strong in the face of adversity, which comes, like the bridegroom, unexpected and unannounced.

This story is about being prepared and gifted [charismatic means operating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit] Christians. The bridegroom that comes is the crises and problems of life. In each of them you will know your bridegroom better and meet God at a deeper level, than you ever thought possible in smooth times. When you walk into an exam with a fountain pen, you have at least one cartridge to spare. Life is full of spiritual exams. Check your cartridge-levels.

We are people living in the continual, miraculous supply of the Spirit within. Therefore we should take all possible steps to bring us to the knowledge of that fullness now.

Jesus is the source – the only Source. Talk to Him. He is the key. He baptizes in the Holy Spirit. He brought us the Promise of the Father – the Spirit in us.

Until next time – be greatly blessed.