Contact and Communion

The seed is cast by the farmer into the field and may lie full of pregnant life, yet never in the soil.  The human and the divine may be as near as the seed to the ground yet they may never apprehend each other.  A person can be in touch with truth yet not free, in touch with life but not alive.  God may be near in this world, but to many that is but mysticism, for he is not active in their soul.  Cain comes in before God with his apples and pears and has contact but not communion.

A person can walk up the worn steps to the sanctuary, bow in the eternal presence, take the communion cup, sing a covenant hymn, raise holy hands yet not have communion – contact but not communionThere may be interest but not inspiration, there may be a touch but not a grip, and there can be a grip of the garment yet no fellowship.

The Lord comes in various ways to many people.  They have contact but no communion. He came to Bethany and Martha had contact but Mary had com­munion. A rich young man came to Jesus and Jesus loved him, yet he went away sorrowful having made contact but not established communion.  Pilate made contact, and washed his hands, but did he have commun­ion? A Pharisee invites Jesus to dinner.  He makes contact but not commun­ion.  He fills a chair but not a heart; he fills a space but there is a void in the soul.  Curiosity is not communion.

Men can be in­trigued with Jesus but not inspired by Him.  Having Jesus about the place does not mean he is about our soul.  It can feel good to have Jesus at your table but even better to have Him in your soul.  The eternal light can shine yet we can be in darkness. Jesus the living bread is available yet our soul can be famished.  Living water is streaming forth yet we can be parched.  

This woman of the streets – “a sinner of that city” – a prostitute of evil trade, had communion whilst others had contact. Where people make not only contact with God but establish communion with Him, history is written. Mankind misunderstands greatness.  This prostitute came into the house and was immediately considered unworthy as she was born wrong.  She lived wrong and was the wrong person to associate with Jesus, especially in a Pharisee’s house.

When people think of rank they think of royalty, the higher realms of breeding.  Position is mistaken for purity.  The Pharisee was, in his eyes, obviously higher in life than this fallen woman. Jesus brushed aside Simon’s natural inclination, turning his opinion upside-down, valuing this loose woman over this tight man.

God ranks men according to faith and humility.  The Lord resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.  Two men to the temple, one hung his head and the other hung himself by praying aloud in proud self-confidence “I am not as other men” ‑ His rank was rank bad manners.  It reeked of conceit and arrogance.  This Pharisee sat cold and quizzical to investigate this carpenter, the woman came not to analyse but to adore.  She might be amongst the lowest according to human law, but to God she came highly recommended for she had found forgiveness and grace.

Our position in life is measured by our capacity to understand God, and that is based on faith. Our rank is of the highest, Peter says: “But ye (are) a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light”   (1 Peter 2:9).  Our position is guaranteed in God, and the worse we are the higher we can go.  In God’s eyes he who is a doormat or doorkeeper has a better chance of promotion than he who dwells on the pinnacle of a temple.

Just before this incidence in the house, Jesus was calledwinebibber and a friend of sinners” (Luke 7:34) – friend of prostitutes and pimps, not of their sin!  The Pharisee said thus: “This proves that Jesus is no prophet, for if God had really sent him, he would know what kind of woman this one was!”  Even as contact is not necessarily communion, so rank is not necessarily royalty.  Divine royalty is a sinner saved by grace

Standing Firm Before our Enemies (Psalm 20:7)

Prayer Enlisted for Victory

David had come to the tabernacle to offer his petition and praises before a battle.  “Neither the crown on his head or grace in his soul could exempt him from trouble”[1]  This liturgical Psalm was written for the people of the congregation and the priests to take up prayer on their king’s behalf. The congregation of Israel was encouraged to pray for David’s victory against the Ammonites and Syrians, who were at war against them, and who would fight with great numbers of horses and chariots [2 Samuel 10:6-8; 1 Chronicles 19:7]. It was the cavalry against foot-soldiers and logically the Israelites stood no chance of victory. The prayer was because of the overwhelming situation against them that needed God’s intervention. He did it at the Red Sea when He fought against the Egyptians, would He do it now?

We pray for our King when we say “Thy kingdom come.” We are looking for Him to reign over all and defeat every enemy that threatens our covenant of love with the Father. Our praise and worship combine to exalt the Lamb and cause disquiet in the dark realms of Satan’s kingdom. Where there is unity on earth there is disunity in the heavenly realm of darkness. Conversely, where there is disunity on earth there is unity in the reign of darkness.

We all have Days of Trouble

This was, as the Psalm starts, “A day of trouble” for Israel, and sometimes for individuals in their common life. “For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble spring from the ground; Yet man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” [Job 5:6, 7]. David knew this from experience and in a later Psalm remarks thus: “For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer.” [Psalm 32:4].  

This “Day of trouble” is a searching and sifting time when we begin to assess those things which are of highest value and those things which can be safely relinquished.  Jesus speaking to Peter said this: “And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. ‘But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.’” [Luke 22:31, 32]. All of us have those times and need God’s hand upon us.

We all, not only king David, face times of distress and opposition, when we all need a prayer said on our behalf like this one. Jesus knew that mankind was the same underneath, and spoke words of encouragement like this: “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” [Matt 11:28]. “In prosperity there are many helps, but in adversity there is but one. God is the true refuge.”2  

Mostly our trials come from a partial understanding of Christ’s victory. Paul writing to the Galatians points this out: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” [Galatians 5:1]. We must not let any enemy put chains on us again, we have been set free.

Human Help Ruled Out

Israel was forbidden to have chariots and horses by law, so that they couldn’t claim victory in their strength, it was God who fought for them. “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. ‘With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.’ And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.” [2Chr 32:7, 8]. Their weaponry was to be divine intervention.

David defeated Goliath by a stone and sling, not by the sword. [1 Samuel 17:45]. This principle still applied and in the eyes of their enemies God would obtain great glory.   Unfortunately man’s first recourse is to enlist human help, and vest their confidence in man-made instruments of war and destruction. Mankind is plagued with a reliance on the visible and touchable rather than the invisible and divine. As long as we live among a self-reliant people, with initiative and ability we will be tempted to put our trust in chariots and horses. God does not need our help, suggestions or plans, He devises His own strategy. Each generation brings greater methods of destruction and yet all God needs to do is use hurricanes, volcanoes and torrential rain and the world is finished.

The Favour of God

“Surely there is an end [or future], and your hope will not be cut off.”[Prov 23:18]

Most intelligent people would want God’s favour and there is no doubt that many of the righteous who regularly attend God’s house, participate in corporate prayer and diligently conduct home worship, may find that their faithfulness seems somewhat in vain, as they wait for God’s ultimate favour on their lives. At the weekly services they tarry in expectation for a special visitation or revelation from God’s word, or possible encouragement in the unity of worship or perhaps a spoken word from a colleague – is this or will this be their hour? But, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”  [Pro. 13:12]

Some who know the sonship of salvation live as a servant, feeling the condemnation of the law, although set free by grace. Rather than walking in the glorious liberty of the sons of God they stumble in hesitant freedom, failing to live in the privileges promised at Calvary. But we know that the living word is adamant: “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” [Gal 4:6-7]. Therefore as our text affirms, at some God-designed time, “Surely . . . our hope will not be cut off.” The future is safe in his favoured hands. “My soul, wait silently upon God; for my expectation is from him.” [Ps 62:5].  Our expectation is not from man, no matter how influential and powerful, but only from God.

Firstly, our expectation is of sins forgiven and all that means in practical and spiritual benefits. God sees me as he sees His son, righteous. We cannot be more righteous, we are as clean as Jesus. If God were to look at us in our own righteousness, all he would see is sin, guilt and pollution, but casting aside all our own worth, we stand in Christ alone; he then sees the sacrifice and the blood of Calvary and pronounces us clean.

Not only did we receive pardon and justifying righteousness, but adoption privileges for we are now his children. “Among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” [Eph 2:3]. But, our new-born sonship admits us to his house, not as domestics or servants but sons. We sit at His table and have constant access to His august presence. “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me is love.” [Song 2:4]

Secondly, we have peace in death, not joy, although some will have that.  The process of death can be slow and painful, but the Bible says: “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.” [Ps 37:37]. We can now, in death, glory in eternity which is  a sure promise and provision: “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.” [Rom 6:22]. Life will start in eternity, which is the reality of salvation. This life on earth is but a stepping stone to the glories that are to come. “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” [Matt 19:29].

Thirdly, we are therefore heirs: “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” [Rom 8:17]. This is part of our father’s last will and testament that cannot be broken [John 17]. An inheritance voiced by Christ; entitled by sonship and sacrifice, and therefore he can bestow, and will share with his children; “He shall see the travail of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.” [Isa 53:11]. Being ‘joint-heirs with Christ’ we have riches abundant; riches of humility, holiness, grace and eventually glory; fixing our eyes on present privileges that the gospel has provided.

 

Real Treasure

Last week we had a baptism service by full immersion and at other times we dedicate children to God, which is called Christening in other churches. In HICC we dedicate the child to God for His preserving and keeping power, praying earnestly that he will keep them safe and bring them to faith early in their lives. As we do that we cut off the previous generations, generations that can interfere with their full and faithful life. I am of an opinion that if I can inherit from Adam original sin, which I did, that would plunge me into hell, then I can inherit from my earthly father a disposition that would or could mar my life with unwanted and dominant factors. This is what I call a ‘soulicial glip’. Just as a child can inherit a physical disorder depending on their genes, so they can in their emotional life.

It is the only thing that explains why in a family all the daughters or sons follow the lifestyle of their parents, all get divorced, or all follow a life of crime and disorder. It is more than just environment, for when twins are parted at birth often they reflect the same disorder irrespective of foster or adoptive parents. Salvation does not cure it, or a multitude of Christians would not be dogged daily with acts that dismay them and which they find are beyond their ability to control.

Looking into the faces of the babies we sire, we wonder what treasure is there, within that feeble earthly frame. What have we and God sown into their lives, what expectation and destiny will they fulfil? We can well say they have this treasure in earthen vessels.  Rough and unworked, but over the years they grow to maturity, they can become a shining example of what God can do with someone wholly dedicated to His will.

It is possible to lay up the wrong treasure, which is on earth, due to a proliferating tendency to materialism. Job, speaking in his philosophy of life, states “Surely he will have no respite from his craving; he cannot save himself by his treasure.”[Job 20:20]. Our real treasure is not measurable by earthly standards. One meaning is that the gospel is the treasure above all other wealth, for it contains the seed of unbounded wealth; grace, mercy and forgiveness. We will yearn for satisfaction all our life if we are without God. We were made in His image, and deep calls unto deep.” [Psalm 42:7]. The word says: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” [Matt 6:19-21]. It seems that our heart and our treasure are closely linked, and that is why it is difficult for mankind to be generous with God. If our heart is right with God it means our grasp is for Him not for wealth. The dominant force and persuasion in today’s society is money. Parliamentarians set a bad example of greed which ripples into society, causing discord and fretful envy. Often the church reflects the current philosophy of the world.

The popular interpretation is that the gospel is the treasure, illustrated by Jesus’ parable:  “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” [Matt 13:44].  This is so a man can secure the effects of the gospel and experience new life, and for that will give everything he has to own it. But that interpretation is hardly creditable for man cannot buy his salvation, he is poverty stricken. That he must give his all is without argument, for to accept Christ you have to be humbled at the foot of a cross; Christ, redeemed or bought us from sin and slavery. [1] I think the real understanding of this parable is that the treasure is the church hidden in the world, located by Christ who sold all he had and bought her as his bride. He paid the price for our life, we are willingly his, and now, by virtue of that eternal, undying, unselfish love, he is ours.

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[1] Rev 5:9 – “And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased [redeemed – bought back] men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

Happiness Formula

It now seems that happiness can be reduced to a formula; here it is: [Mx16 + Cx1 + Lx2] + [Tx5 +Nx2 + Bx33]. This was designed by Dr. Todd Kashdan who listed six essential factors which, when put together, will ensure a happy soul.  The letters in the formula mean: M = be curious, C = do something you love, L = think of others, T = nurture relationships, N = take care of your body, B = the formula for feeling good. So there we have it; facts collected and analysed by Transform, a well-known cosmetics surgery company. Dr. Kashdan who worked with them also wrote a book entitled “Curious? Discover the missing ingredient to a fulfilling life.”  He may have unwittingly already answered the question in his title “fulfilling life,” that may indeed be the undergirding aspect of all happiness.

The research by Transform showed that Britain needed “a bit of lift,” and if the qualities above are put together in the right doses it will ensure not only a ‘bit of lift” but ‘lift-off’ into the whole realm of happiness resulting
in – seventh heaven, cloud nine and rapturous exhilaration, just remember and abide by the formula. If only it were that easy. The founding fathers of America stated in their constitution that citizens had the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This means that happiness is not automatic and is not guaranteed; and, it doesn’t explain what happiness is. One may pursue it all one’s life and never obtain it. Then there are those who do not chase it yet possess it.

Researchers have concluded that about 50% of our genetics contribute towards our happiness, 40% by life choices and the remaining 10% by circumstances beyond our control. Your temperament is therefore influenced largely by birth which amounts to half, so you can blame your parents if you need to, and many adult children have to blame someone for their emotional condition. There are some misconceptions on happiness and here are a few to contemplate, starting with the myth that young people are happier than old people. In fact, the pattern is that people become happier as they age. Older people tend to experience emotions with lesser intensity and view situations with more positive than negative thoughts.

The belief that money makes for happiness is mostly untrue. Huge lottery winners often fall back to the level of happiness they had before the acquisition. The satisfaction comes in earning it and giving it away. Happiness is often enjoying the voyage and the reached destination an anti-climax. It is this journey where positive emotions are experienced. It is always difficult to measure what happiness is when we reach our goal or acquire something of worth for which we secretly yearn.

We can, however, define happiness for it is basically “subjective well-being” which is a combination of life satisfaction and having more positive emotions. It is also basically contentment.  My wife used to ask me the question “are you happy?” usually as we travelled by car. My reply would be consistent; “that word ‘happy’ is not in my thesaurus, I never think about it for my life, I’m neither happy nor sad, I’m satisfied. I don’t need or strive for anything, for I am as I am.” Like Paul the apostle “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:” [Phil 4:11-12]. The word contentment can be read comfortable, satisfied or relaxed. Gratitude for the circumstances whatever they are, good or bad, it matters not, for God is sovereign.

The Bible helps for it says “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!” [Ps 144:15 NKJV]. Happy because if he is lord then he will master everything for our destiny and keep us in the palm of his hand. We are in His kingdom which was devised before the world began for us to inhabit and embody. Not only acknowledging him as Lord but owning his Lordship. He is also a God who with his own people had positive dealings. Therefore “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help,” [Ps 146:5NKJV]. Happy because promises were honoured and calling established. A man who had his natured changed so he had power with God and man. I think that would make anybody happy!