141. Hear…the sound of abundance

[Christmas 2018]

I wonder whether we hear anything these days.  When I was growing up my father taught me that ignoring people is bad manners.  I had to look someone in the eye while that person was talking to me.  It was almost like rejection or at least grave insult when you did not greet properly on arrival and departure.   When we give our attention we give value and acceptance to the people around us.   Today people might easily continue on their phone or tablet without looking up, or concentrate on the TV while their kids and family are around. Where is our attention? What do we hear?

Jesus often talked about ears and hearing. His regular warning statement: let him who have ears, hear, is repeated in every message to the churches in Revelation, in other words the church today.  Jesus also quoted the prophet Isaiah (6:9,10) in Matthew (13:14,15).

‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
 For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.’

These words of Jesus bug me.  He links healing to hearing.  Is this not a very good time to fine-tune our hearing?  In the humming and drumming, the clamour and confusion of Christmas shopping and songs, the true message – the healing of your life by the baby in the crib – gets lost.

Christmas is important.  It is “our” feast, we Christians, even within the secular hijacking of the elements of this birthday of all times. We are never victims of this world.  We give Christmas content and we are in control.  We celebrate with the voice of the Holy Spirit in our ears.

My excitement every Christmas and Easter is compounded by my decision some years ago to trust God to learn something brand new about Him and the Feast I am busy with.  I wait for a “new” word from His mouth.  We cannot be satisfied with what we know.  We press on for new things.

God is faithful.   He never disappoints!  I am writing the word that burns in my heart.

A few weeks ago I switched on the television on Daystar Canada, a spiritual channel.  Coincidentally I hit the beginning of a programme of somebody I knew from long ago.  He is not one of my favourites, but before I flipped the channel, I thought it would be interesting to see where his ministry is now.  It is always very encouraging for me to see ministries develop and grow over many years.  One day I will stand before the Throne with all of them and say the precious words of Paul:

 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)

So many of my friends have rejected the faith of their upbringing.  They have fallen into the trap of post-modernism and rejected the truth of the Gospel and everything of value.  It is such a privilege to say: I have kept the faith.

Back to my television programme.  The preacher opens his Bible and reads from one of my very favourite chapters about Elijah and the slaying of the Baal priests.  I often think on my unbelieving friends and the false gods they worship.  Priests of false gods spread the lies that keep people in bondage even today.

As he reads the chapter in 1 Kings, the words of the Word wash over me and I truly “hear” the Lord speak to me. It is indeed a spiritual tingling of the ears!  God’s word is mighty to penetrate between body and soul and joint and marrow. (Hebrews 4:12)

The story needs background to know the impact of the miraculous words of Elijah.  In a nutshell it goes like this:

Ahab is king in Israel, one of the two kingdoms, which is formed after the death of Solomon.  Judah in the south with the two tribes, Judah and Benjamin had twenty kings; only eight of them did good in the eyes of the Lord before they were taken in exile by the Babylonians in 598 BC.  Israel in the north had nineteen kings – all bad before they were taken in exile by the Assyrians in 722 BC.

Throughout the years of decline and backsliding, there were prophets active in both kingdoms.  God always made sure that the remnant of people who stayed true to Him and His precepts was cared for. The call of the prophets went out to the backslidden and sinful people to repent and turn back to God. (2 Kings 19:30,31)

Ahab is described as:  Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. (1 Kings 16:30)

Ahab’s wife was Jezebel, a Phoenician princess from the splendour of the palace built on the peninsula in Tyre, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  She was a Baal worshipper and to satisfy her needs, Ahab built a Baal temple in Samaria, much to the dismay of his people and the utter vexation of the prophet Elijah who was called to bring God’s word to the regressive religion of Israel.  Elijah was not quiet and therefore a most hated man in the palace.

As a result of the sinfulness of the people and their king, Elijah announced a drought over the land.  God provided for Elijah…

So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. (1 Kings 17)

After the brook dried up, Elijah resided with a widow in Sidon in ancient Phoenicia, modern day Lebanon.   Her son died and Elijah prayed him back to life, blessing the whole household with enough through the dry years.

After three years, Elijah announced himself at Ahab’s palace, since God said that He would break the drought and send rain to the land.  Elijah invites the king and all the Baal priests to Mount Carmel for a showdown.   God’s power had to be demonstrated to the people in such a way that there would be no doubt about the superiority of God above all other gods.

Elijah conducts the events like a maestro. Two altars are built with the sacrificial animals upon each, but no fire is made.  Fire had to come from God and Baal.  The Baal priests go along with this whole show, which is amazing in itself, as they were not used to miracles.  Maybe they also wanted to find out about the supernatural power of their god.  They pray and beg and cut themselves as was the customs of worship.  They crawl in the dust and do everything that they ever practised in the worship of their god for most of the day. Elijah stands by and mocks them in the process.  Read it – it is an amazing account of that day in Israel.

When his turn comes he commands the altar to be soaked with water so that even the trough around it is drenched.  There could be no doubt as to a spark of fire somewhere.  Elijah kneels and asks God to light the altar.  Let us pray with him:

And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said,

Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this daythat You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.”

 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. 

Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!”  (1 Kings 18:36-39)

Elijah and the people killed 450 Baal priests that day to rid the land of the lie they represented.

After the slaying of the priests, Elijah says to Ahab:

“Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.”

The words cut into my heart.

It is Christmas.  There are all sorts of sounds: the bells, the tills, the carols, the excitement of children, the shuffle and shoving in shops, the voices around us asking about plans and menus and gifts.

What do you hear?

In the aftermath of the miraculous events of that day, Elijah hears something nobody else hears.  He hears the unfolding of the Word of God, which he received in a prophetic word, of which there is NO proof or sign.

The king goes to eat and drink, but Elijah and his servant climb the mountain to pray.  There is NO sign of rain.  He prays seven times and sends his servant seven times up the mountain to see if there is anything remotely indicating the coming of rain.  Only the seventh time his servant reports a cloud as big as a man’s hand.  That is enough for Elijah.  He starts running. He acts because his faith senses are sharp and he knows rain is coming to Israel – big time!

Let us pray for God to anoint our ears. I want to hear what God is doing and I do not want to miss His word in this very special time of the year.

Then the Lord said to Samuel: “Behold, I will do something in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.(1 Samuel 3:11)

Are your ears tingling with the sound of abundance?  Abundance is immeasurable and uncountable.  Can you count the raindrops?  Can you count and measure the abundance of God’s creation?  That is exactly what our scientists are doing over centuries and centuries!

Think on God’s abundance.  Believe His abundance is for you.  Give away the abundance that He has already blessed you with.

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.  (2 Corinthians 9:8)

 

 

God’s abundance does not sound like anything you have heard before.

When the Lion had first begun singing, long ago when it was still quite dark, [Uncle Andrew] had realized that the noise was a song. And he had disliked the song very much. It made him think and feel things he did not want to think and feel. Then, when the sun rose and he saw that the singer was a lion (“only a lion,” as he said to himself) he tried his hardest to make believe that it wasn’t singing and never had been singing—only roaring as any lion might in a zoo in our own world. “Of course it can’t really have been singing,” he thought, “I must have imagined it. I’ve been letting my nerves get out of order. Who ever heard of a lion singing?” And the longer and more beautifully the Lion sang, the harder Uncle Andrew tried to make himself believe that he could hear nothing but roaring. Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed. Uncle Andrew did. He soon did hear nothing but roaring in Aslan’s song. Soon he couldn’t have heard anything else even if he had wanted to. And when at last the Lion spoke and said, “Narnia, awake,” he didn’t hear any words: he heard only a snarl. And when the Beasts spoke in answer, he heard only barkings, growlings, baying, and howlings.

 

FromThe Magician’s Nephew

Compiled in A Year with Aslan

 

The Magician’s Nephew. Copyright © 1955 by C. S. Lewis Pte., Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1983 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Year With Aslan: Daily Reflections from The Chronicles of Narnia. Copyright © 2010 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Extracts taken from The Chronicles of Narnia. Copyright © C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. 1950-1956. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

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26. Our perfect host – come and sit.

We are so self-sufficient. We care for ourselves, we have access to food and drink and entertainment on an individual, my-choice-above-all basis. We live alone, by choice or necessity. We control the community in which we live at arms length so that nothing and nobody enter into our space except by invitation, when it is convenient.

In spite of city living, millions of people are lonely amongst so many, having left family and community behind for of the demands of modern living. In primitive societies survival was dependent on community. Hunting and harvesting were team efforts. Today we hunt and harvest alone. Our living space is not so open and relaxed as in the villages and tribal communities of history. We lock the door and disappear in privacy. If you don’t have God, you have to compensate constantly with hobbies and work. It is rare for people to live in utter isolation. Usually the few living completely off the grid are somewhat odd.

Faith in God and full surrender of our life to our loving Father is the single-most powerful choice towards a fulfilled life. Loneliness can kill, quite literally. Secular society knows that and always emphasizes connection to community. A well-known quote from the poem by John Donne:

No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

In Jesus we are invited into community. He established the invisible Kingdom of God on earth and declared Himself the Way in. He perfected the path for the desperate, lonely and the sick to enter into the ultimate community on earth, to be welcomed and healed. He Himself is the open door, the perfect host, extending a royal welcome to enter into His rest.

So, do come in….and sit please.

These are mostly our words of welcome when we have invited guests over in our home. It is very fine words to hear. Something has been prepared and we are ushered in, invited to sit and enjoy what is offered. This involves planning and preparation by the host.

What a magnificent plan was announced in the beginning of time when God proclaimed our ultimate victory over sin in Genesis 3:15. Since then the plan was in motion, the table set and the people invited. Centuries of planning and preparation culminated in the baby born in Bethlehem, but some did not come to the party. It was so unexpected and the people were set in their ways, convinced that they know how to please God. The ministry of Jesus was revolutionary. He introduced his Father as a loving dad, intimately involved in everyday life, willing and waiting to graciously give all that is good.

Very diligent and eager to please, we set off, living this spirit-filled life with all the responsibility and conscientiousness we can muster. In actual fact, the most important first step for any Christian is a place of rest, a sitting down position and not walking, running or fighting.

Come and sit with me while we page through the letter to the Ephesians. We will become joyfully aware of the richness of our spiritual blessing, supplied to us in abundance. We do not have to DO anything. We have to realize what is DONE.

“By comment consent, the Letter to the Ephesians ranks very high in the devotional and theological literature of the Christian Church. It has been called “the Queen of the Epistles” and rightly so. Ephesians clearly has a unique place in the Pauline correspondence”. [William Barclay. Professor of Biblical Criticism, University of Glasgow.]

There is a strong connection with the letter to the Galatians. The bearer of both these letters is Tychius and more than 55 verses of the two letters are word for word the same. In the tradition of ancient letter writing, letters were delivered by hand, written on papyrus, rolled, tied and sealed They followed a structure of greeting, prayer and thanksgiving, special contents, special salutations and personal greetings.

The letters of Paul to the churches were the writings of a friend to his friends. It was not an academic exercise of systematic arguments or an official legal document. He was writing to meet an immediate situation. A letter is like one side of a conversation. We can only deduct the circumstances to which he responds. Paul had no idea what place his words would occupy in the universal history of the church.

The letter to the Ephesians reads like a religious meditation, a theological tract – a poem in prose. Paul is in prison, near the end of his life. [4:1 and 6:20]. He has time. He leaves a precious legacy of theology.

The central thought is the all-sufficiency of Christ. The concept begins in Colossians and is developed in Ephesians. [1:9-10]

The disharmony of the universe can only be addressed through Christ. Christ is God’s instrument of reconciliation; the Church [the universal church that is an assembly of all believers] is Christ’s instrument of reconciliation.

The letter spells out the doctrine in chapters 1-3 and in chapters 4-6 the emphasis is on practical application of the doctrine. The first part deals with our life in the midst of the world; the second with our conflict with the devil.

“Of all Paul’s epistles, it is in Ephesians that we find the highest spiritual truths concerning the Christian life. The letter abounds with spiritual riches and yet at the same time, it is intensely practical.”

[Watchman Nee: Sit, Walk, Stand.]

The first time we read the word sit in Ephesians is in 2:6:

and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,…

The first independent position of a child in the first year of life is sitting. In our new life we need to sit first and rest. It is the natural order of things. Adam was created on the sixth day. His first day on earth was the seventh day, God’s day of rest.

When we sit we are not even carrying our own weight. Life’s heavy load of worry and work is not felt. It is right there with us in the heavenly places with Jesus and fades in the light of His countenance. We are not bent over by our burdens. We sit and look up and are in a position to hear clearly what is promised.

In the first chapter [1:3] Paul says that Jesus has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

We are saved by grace not by works [2:8]. We did nothing, but surrender to the work already finished on the cross. Our utter dependence on God is our only qualification.

This is important to remember in our walk with Christ after those joyful days of rebirth and accepting Jesus into our lives. We accept a free redemption and thereafter immediately set out to earn His grace by struggling with our flesh and suffering guilt in our weaknesses.

This principle is strongly addressed in Galatians 3: 1,2 when Paul chides the Galatians for reaching back to old, legalistic ways of earning grace.

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Jesus finished absolutely everything, relating to our past, present and future when He declared on the cross: It is finished. Why is it so difficult to cultivate a mindset of receiving? We are moulded into a life of earning and working for reward. Our first principle in Christian living is to receive and not earn. There is a vast supply of abundance already given; only held back by our efforts to work for it.

We need enlightened eyes to see this [1:18]. God gives us rest. He has done the work. Luke 14:17:

At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

Life begins with the discovery of what God has finished.

How then do we receive?

Is it by labour, pleading, self-denial or fasting – NO NEVER.

We receive that which is freely bestowed, according to the riches in Jesus. Ephesians 1:7-9:

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself

What is the foundation for this?

Acts 2:33. God revealed Himself through Christ and in our resting and accepting redemption, Christ is exalted.

How do we become members of the body of Christ?

We were chosen before the foundation of the world [1:4]. We get rid of the old man in baptism [4:5,6]. Our old life is all past tense. [2:5 and Romans 6:6]

We are not born with Christ, but crucified with Him [Galatians 2:20] Union with God begins in death. God included us in the death on the cross. We died IN Him, not with Him.

God puts us in Christ. This divine act is to be accepted, seen, believed and rejoiced in. It is not a struggle. It is a fact.

2 Corinthians 1:21:

Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God,…

The story of the prodigal son illustrates the contrast of receiving and earning mindsets. Both sons are far away from the joys of the Father’s house even though the older son has not left. He is at home with no joy, clinging to his own good works. His eye is on what he earns, his own faithfulness and his own effort.

The younger son is catapulted into a position of receiving, realizing his father’s true wealth that does not even count or think of the money wasted. God is so wealthy; it is His delight to give the robe, the ring, the shoes, and the feast. He is ready to lavish His gifts on your life.

Get yourself in a mindset to receive.

This is renewed thinking – get rid of your guilt and receive the best!