156. Fight the fortress.

They talk of conventional wisdom.  I know it is defined as traditional or customary wisdom.  I think the context often implies modern wisdom or current wisdom. I admit that wisdom changes with the accumulation of knowledge.  Medical science can attest to that, to name only one example.  If wise living changes with the times and advances in the natural and human sciences, then how would we know how to make decisions to the benefit of our communities?  What is the measure?  How will we know what is right and wise?

Wisdom is ultimately the application of knowledge.  It is defined as follows:

Wisdom, sapience, or sagacity is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight. Wisdom is associated with attributes such as unbiased judgment, compassion, experiential self-knowledge, self-transcendence and non-attachment, and virtues such as ethics and benevolence.

It is a mouth full of words – wonderful words.  As I read it, I yearn for living like that.  It sounds good, it IS good and it will be good – no doubt.

The first important principle is that thoughts and action go together.  Wisdom is expressed in action.  The inner being of a human is directed by his thoughts and is demonstrated in his actions.

Thoughts are private – actions are public.

That with which your mind is occupied, is manifested in your being and defines you as a person in community.

Wisdom is the guide to determine and take control of our mind.  It is our topic under discussion – a big one indeed!  Thoughts and decisions from our inner being shape our lives.  We have talked about the significance of mind-contracts that establish something that has never existed.  Out of these flow tangible and real consequences.

The Bible has a lot to say about our thought-life.

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, he who rules his [own] spirit than he who takes a city. (Proverbs 16:32)

We have talked about Romans 12:2.  The change in our inner being takes place with the renewal of our mind.  Paul is very outspoken on this subject.  Sharp and clear he says:

The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will.

 The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture.We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.

 Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6, The Message)

Not only does this Scripture describe the world in which we live with its culture of scandal and outrage, but also enlightens us to the fact that our thought-world is under evil attack.  Our enemy plants thoughts to paralyze our action.  I have heard it being said that the devil cannot be accused of laziness, as he is always ready with an attack of fear and confusion. He will pounce on every weak moment to sow anger and fear.

In all this we are equipped by the Word of God to fight on all fronts, clearing the ground of every obstruction.

Verses that I cling to like a desperate being drowning in the flood of fear and dejection of this world are the encouragement and comfort to be found in Philippians 4.

Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life,  then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ. (TPT)

The Amplified says: Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything…

 There it is – the disease of the day – anxiety.

How will we saturate our day with prayer?  It is a challenge especially when life’s demands swallow us just to spit us out dead tired at the end of a day.  Prayer is to call the Lord of hosts, of heaven’s armies into our thought world and truly live verse 8.

So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always.

There is much to say about this.  I will continue in the next piece to discuss the implications of these wonderworking and life-changing words.

Until then, there is a lot to think about.  Think what you are thinking.

Are you caught up in the culture of outrage and scandal?  It often feels as if this culture is a vicious monster feeding on people through the very willing media and social media.

Grace, goodness and justice are foreign concepts to this frenzy that needs constant sensation in the name of the so-called right to know and transparency.

 

 

 

 

 

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109. And you? What do you have to say?

Talk is cheap, says the old saying. I know it refers to promises made in words and not kept in deeds. For me, it also implies the gossipy chatter about something or someone in the public domain; the safe talk of anonymity that could never commit any person to an opinion that might be quoted or published. Simply put, gossiping about someone famous.

Shakespeare was first to call a person a gossip, describing a person who delights in idle talk; also called a newsmonger or tattler. Very soon the word came to mean the talk about others as news in a small community almost always involved other people. Going so much further back than the times of Shakespeare, one can just imagine the talk in Judea. Maybe news travelled along the tell-a-woman-network, before the telegram or telephone and long before our cable news networks and smart phones with information overload today. The tell-a-woman-network was one of my dad’s favourite jokes.

Whatever we call the chatter, the babble, the prattle of people – it was alive and well in the first century and one of the most important news sources. No wonder Jesus was literally the “talk of the town”. There was just no escaping the lengthy conversations as well as the shorter “have you heard”-versions of any move He made.

People and their opinions were even more so during the times of Festivals. The Festival of the Tabernacles, mentioned here in John 7 took place at the end of September, beginning October, one of the three Fall festivals. Every adult male within a radius of 15 miles of Jerusalem was under obligation to go and all devout Jews from all over. The festival lasted eight days. Jesus’ brothers wanted to convince Him to go, but He was not doing anything He did not see fit for the moment.

He talks about “My time”. There are other places in John where he talks about time and uses the word ōra, which means God’s designated time. (John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:27). Such a time was not moveable or avoidable. Here He uses kairos, which means the opportune time, the best time, the fullness of time. He is saying this is not the time, which will give Him the best opportunity for what needs to be done.

So much of life is measured in time. It is luxury to have time off – literally. It gives us a few hours or days for relaxation. Our lives are truly “wound up” in time like old-fashioned clocks and “winding down” is what relax really means. We decide about time. Days are marked on the calendar for holiday, for birthdays, for weddings and other special occasions. That is our chronos time, countable time.

Jesus decides about His time on a much deeper level. His calling and ministry determines when He does something. He does not mark it on an earthly calendar. He lives according to God’s calendar – the best time (ōra). When God’s timing determines the outcome, it is in the fullness of time – kairos time.

Jesus goes to Jerusalem in His own time. He diligently attended the Festivals. He knew that everyone of them would be fulfilled in His life, death, resurrection and second coming. He went privately, avoiding public scrutiny by arriving late. By choosing His time and He will not be pressurized into anything He does not feel works the best for His mission.

This is important for our dedicated and full trusting relationship with our loving Father.

  • It is impossible to force the hand of Jesus. His disciples wanted Him to show what He can do in the greater Jerusalem. Jesus does not win people’s approval, but the people themselves. Jesus works God’s way.

 

  • It is impossible to treat Jesus with indifference. His brothers were in tune with the world and did not find it uncomfortable. Jesus’ life was a condemnation of the world and His presence would make a big difference in the ordinary ways of things.

In the next verses (7:10-13) various reactions and responses to Jesus are recorded.

  1. His brothers treat Him with tolerant contempt, almost mocking Him.

 

  1. The sheer hatred of the Pharisees and priests shows. Jesus eposes the rivalry between them. They are so desperate to unite against Jesus, they suddenly stand together. They loved their own systems and hated anything that could diminish their standing in society. The Sadducees were political. All the priests were Sadducees. They did not observe the Pharisaic rules. They collaborated with the Romans and lived very luxuriously. Their interests were much more important than God.

 

  1. The deep desire to eliminate Jesus (John 7:30,32) develops within the various groups. Every person can either submit or destroy. Christ is higher than anything else. Neutrality is not possible.

 

  1. An arrogant contempt for His teaching is expressed. Jesus had no right to lay down the law. He did not know the culture, no training in the rabbinic schools. They were academic snobs. We have to remember how many of the great poets, artists, writers and evangelists had no training at all. We never look down on training and studies, neither elevates it to superiority to save and redeem. It is not always the key.

 

  1. The reaction of the crowd is mixed. Some show interest (7:11) and some initiate discussion (7:12).

To argue the good and bad of a matter can shape your thoughts. Could a person progress from discussing to knowing? Religion can often be a matter of argument. There is an important difference between gossip and discussion.

What is gossip? Is it always negative? Maybe just that change of tone in the voice could make the tale your telling a lie. Do we always convey the words of others truthfully in the same spirit it was said? Difficult!

We should stay away from idle talk says Timothy (1:6) and Titus (1:10) and categorize the idle talkers with the deceivers.

Not everything we say about other people is necessarily bad. I have often complimented someone knowing that it will be repeated to that person. It was my way of showing appreciation for someone. Words could be so wonderful and encouraging, building up instead of breaking down. Please read James 3.

One of my favourite verses in the Bible is on talking about the Lord and the magnificent consequences of “good gossip”. A wonderful action by the Scribe of Heaven when the Lord listened in to a “good gossip” – for sure not idle talk, which is defined as foolish and irrelevant talk.

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another,
And the Lord listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the Lord
And who meditate on His name. (Malachi 3:16, also 17,18)

Let us go back to John 7 and look at the outcome of the discussion and the verdict. Some said:

  1. He is a good man (7:12). He was so much more than that.

 

  1. He is a prophet (7:40). A prophet says: God says. Jesus says: I say. Jesus was not acting in delegated authority. He was indeed God Himself.

 

  1. He is a deluded madman (7:20). He was either the only sane person or mad. He chose a cross over power. He was a suffering servant instead of a conquering king. He turned the world’s standards upside down. He brought supreme sanity into a mad world.

 

  1. He was a seducer. He was leading people away from true religion. He was accused of every crime against the religion of the day: Sabbath-breaker, glutton and drunkard, having disreputable friends and destroying orthodoxy.

 

  1. He was a man of courage (7:26). He defied convention and was different. He had the physical courage to bear pain. He had the courage to stay the course when people abandoned Him. When He entered Jerusalem triumphantly, He knew He was entering the lion’s den. He feared God so much; he never feared the face of any man.

 

  1. He had a most dynamic personality (7:46). He went into His arrest empty-handed. Power flowed from Him. His arresting contingent was more bewildered.

 

  1. He was Christ – the anointed One. It is a fact – plain and simple.

 

There were other reactions as well:

  1. The crowds reacted in fear (7:13). The word used for talking is literally “murmuring”. It was muttering, jumbled speech just like the grumbling of Israel in the desert. We should not be afraid to speak out.

 

  1. A certain number of the crowd believed (7:31). They could not deny the evidence. They overcame the prejudice and fear.

 

  1. Nicodemus defended Jesus (7:50). He was a lone voice. If we stand up for Jesus it is for our own strength, not for Him. God does not need us as His vindication. Our own testimonies as well as those of others strengthen us. When we talk about the Lord, our own spirit and soul benefit.

 

The words of Wisdom in Proverbs 8:

Listen, for I will speak of excellent things,
And from the opening of my lips will come right things;
For my mouth will speak truth;
Wickedness is an abomination to my lips.

All the words of my mouth are with righteousness;

Nothing crooked or perverse is in them.

 

Pray with me the words of the Psalmist (19:14):

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

 

 

 

 

 

29. Come take a bath for a change.

We live the fast life. Morning routines with school-going children and office hours fill the house with hasty showers, wet hair and the smell of shampoo rushing to spend a few minutes on breakfast before the duties of the day chases them out the door. Mothers stand guard, remind, encourage and pack food with one eye on the clock, no time for self-indulgence.

Evenings are better for a slow bath – thinking, meditating, judging… yes sharp and strong judging of the particular challenges that day. It takes time; sometimes the luxury of bath oil and something fragrant added – something to look forward to. A bath is the full immersion of the body in water that was used throughout history for personal hygiene, a religious ritual or therapeutic purposes.

Greeks invented showers; Romans used communal baths for socializing. Personal cleanliness took time and was constantly upgraded and modified to ensure more effectiveness and personal luxury.

We can take a spiritual bath and I would recommend the private, slow method with the fragrance of the Word of God in the water.

Ephesians 5:26: [Amplified]

26 so that He might sanctify the church, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word [of God],

[NLT=New Living Translation]

to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.

The full immersion into the Word of God, cleansed by the Blood, resurrected by the Power, spending time to hear His voice, soaking in the Presence, so that we can be clothed in white robes [Revelation 3:18] all dishonour washed away and equipped for every good work, are the elements of a victorious prayer life.

2 Timothy 2:20,21:

20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.

Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.

The Word of God cleanses us from dishonour and makes us vessels of silver and gold, worthy of the calling. [Ephesians 4:1]

Let us open the taps and prepare to indulge.

James 4:8:

Come close to God [with a contrite heart] and He will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; and purify your unfaithful hearts, you double-minded people. [Amplified]

Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. [The Message]

What a shame to be called double-minded. The NLT explains:

…for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

Double-minded people give Christianity a bad reputation. People who live the church life unconsciously, all the trappings of secular society comfortably embedded into their lifestyle. For sure, a nasty, slimy piece of dirt waiting for some Word-water. In the chilling words of Jesus…

John 8:44:

You are of your father the devil, and it is your will to practice the desires [which are characteristic] of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks what it natural to him, for he is a liar and the father of lies and half-truths.

What brings about this sorry state of affairs? Distance from God, no doubt. What distances us from God? Sin.

We are called into holiness, set distinctively apart for a heavenly purpose.

It is not fashionable to talk about sin. Do we proclaim legalism or slavery under the law? After all, Jesus came and we have a gospel of grace, redemption, forgiveness and victory. Don’t be so negative and talk about sin…

James talked about sin straight and strong. The word used is: hamartolos, used to describe hardened sinners, those who live in the company of lawlessness. He talked about sin in the same breath of talking about drawing near to God. What is the connection?

The solution for this distancing from God is to draw near to God – a simple command. Drawing near from a place of sin, shame and guilt is a simple act of confession. Sin hinders God’s closeness. Repent and come clean. The assurance of God’s forgiveness is full guarantee of Him drawing near to you.

1 John 5:17:

All wrongdoing is sin

1 John 1:8,9 en 3:4:

 If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude ourselves and the truth is not in us. [His word does not live in our hearts.] If we freely admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just [true to His own nature and promises], and will forgive our sins and cleanse us continually from all unrighteousness [our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity with His will and purpose].

Sin is breaking God’s law. It is the source of all evil. Anyone who walks in the light of God will be aware of his own sinfulness. A transgression [parabaino in Greek] is the rejection of trust, rebellion against truth, disobedience and a willful change of course away from the right way. Sin will cause you to lose purpose and waste your potential. It is a decision, once off or repeatedly, that will rob you of the excellence of the life of faith.

No Christian can ever get away from the Cross. The Cross is not for first-time believers only. It is the core of our existence and our daily bath from all wrongdoing. Your distance from an awareness of the Cross and the work Jesus has done there is a good indication of your sensitivity to unrighteousness. In the brokenness of a cursed earth, the Cross is the ultimate remedy for all wrong.

This is James prescription – 4:10 [Amplified]:

10 Humble yourselves [with an attitude of repentance and insignificance] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up, He will give you purpose].

Don’t you feel like jumping and shouting for joy?

Psalm 13:5:

 But I have trusted and relied on and been confident in Your lovingkindness and faithfulness; My heart shall rejoice and delight in Your salvation.

We have the solution for double-mindedness. We have full control over sin. A humble and contrite heart, bowing before our God empowers us to triumph in Christ. First and foremost, let us repent of pride and arrogance and humbly submit our lives to Holy Spirit inspection. We do not need to guard our honour. God will lift us up and honour us His way.

James 4:10 [The Message]:

Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.

In the Garden of Eden, sin exposed their nakedness and they had to hide. The devil smirks when we are humiliated by our sin and become a public spectacle of shame. God’s covering of grace and forgiveness protects us from this humiliation.

Psalm 37:5,6:

Commit your way to the Lord;

Trust in Him also and He will do it.

He will make your righteousness [your pursuit of right standing with God] like the light,

And your judgment like [the shining of] the noonday [sun].

The Cross is our gateway back into the Garden, the full enjoyment of His presence. Praise God, our sins are forgiven. We cling to the Cross, like the people of Israel to the animal sacrifices in the prescribed rituals to remind them of their sin and the forgiveness through innocent blood. The Holy Spirit will convict you of sin in perfect love and give you the bath you need. Of Him Jesus said:

John 16:8:

And He, when He comes, will convict the world about [the guilt of] sin [and the need for a Savior], and about righteousness, and about judgment…

Come let us consider sin, identify it, face it, confess it and leap into liberty with exceeding joy!

Pride refers to an inflated sense of one’s personal status or accomplishments.

Greed is inordinate desire to possess wealth, goods, or objects of abstract value with the intention to keep it for one’s self, far beyond the dictates of basic survival and comfort.

Know that everybody must earn money. Money is not the solution to your problem, even if your problem is a money problem. God is the solution to your problem. He is the Source of all wealth. Submit all money matters to God and His kingdom principles. Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God and everything will be added...Matthew 6:33.

Lust is an emotion or feeling of intense desire in the body. The lust can take any form such as the lust for knowledge, the lust for sex or the lust for power. It can take such mundane forms as the lust for food as distinct from the need for food. Lust is a psychological force producing intense wanting for an object, or circumstance fulfilling the emotion.

Envy (from Latin invidia) is an emotion, which “occurs when a person lacks another’s superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it”.

It is normal that feelings of jealousy and dissatisfaction with your own level of success in life come over you. Get over it quickly by counting your blessings and grabbing hold of an attitude of gratitude. Envy can rule your life and destroy relationships around you and with God. Again: Seek first the kingdom…. Back to James 4.

Verse 11:

Believers, do not speak against or slander one another. He who speaks [self-righteously] against a brother or judges his brother [hypocritically], speaks against the Law and judges the Law. If you judge the Law, you are not a doer of the Law but a judge of it. 

The Message:

Don’t bad-mouth each other, friends. It’s God’s Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You’re supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others?

Gluttony, derived from the Latin: gluttire meaning to gulp down or swallow, means over-indulgence and over-consumption of food, drink or wealth items to the point of extravagance or waste.

Anger or wrath is an intense emotional response. It is a normal emotion that involves a strong uncomfortable and emotional response to a perceived provocation. Often it indicates when one’s basic boundaries are violated.

Sloth is defined as spiritual or emotional apathy, neglecting what God has spoken, and being physically and emotionally inactive. It can also be either an outright refusal or merely a carelessness in the performance of one’s obligations, especially spiritual, moral or legal obligations.

God will correct and balance your life. Lean hard on Him and break free from the bondage. Our God reigns!