Wednesday, August 31, 2005
My son recently told me he was struggling with prayer. He said it embarrassed him to pray. It seems the embarrassment was related to his comment that it is hard to believe in God because he can’t see him. Isn’t it amazing how Satan can cause even the most sincere child to be uncomfortable with God?
My response was to encourage him to talk to God alone when he thought about it even if he didn’t feel comfortable with it. It’s like a new friendship. The deepest of friendships often begin with some awkwardness especially if one individual has obvious superiority and respect in some area. I assured my son that he would feel more comfortable with God as he spent more time talking to him.
This week, after confirming that talking to God in your mind is prayer, my son informed me with a great deal of enthusiasm that he’s been praying more. He said all his doubts are gone and he feels much closer to God now. Then came the question: “Will Satan talk to me less as I get closer to God?”
That sounds logical but reality is just the opposite. My son and I then entered into the conversation of how to distinguish God’s voice from Satan’s voice. My logical son gave me an example of Satan’s voice – mean and rough with a scowl on his face.
Again, that seems logical but not reality. Satan is called a liar and deceiver. His desire to rule in place of God drives him to use many schemes which most often appear “good” – at least initially or for a “good” cause. How easy it would be to choose God’s way over Satan’s if every “evil” temptation were obviously mean and rough and caused us to have a scowl on our face.
God is not human. The deity of Jesus Christ was not in his humanness, it was in his Godness. The easiest way to get to know God is to read and study his written word – the Bible. Every thought God places in our minds will be in line with his character which is revealed in scripture.
Fortunately, my son likes to read. But the Bible no longer has to be something of dread to read for any age. I still prefer The New International Version for my everyday reading but often go to The Message or New Living Translation when I’m studying a topic or section of the Bible. Christianbook.com has a good article to help understand the large variety of Bibles to choose from today.
I recently bought my son a New Testament called “Magnify”. It has a fun cover and full of games and even has Codes to read with the 3-D glasses included. I gave him the same suggestion I give adults. Start with one book – I recommend the book of John – read it like you would any other book. Read for enjoyment. Stop when something jumps out at you. Meditate on those words and talk to God about them. What do those words tell you about God and his relationship with you?
The way to recognize the ideas of another person is to get to know that person. The Bible is God’s life story. Enjoy getting to know him in print so that you can recognize his ideas planted in your mind.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
On my walk with God this morning, I told him I would give my life for him. His response, “Would you give your pride for me?” Ouch!
Until recently, “to die is gain” has been the more attractive option of the above verse. But over the past year or so I’ve experienced a deeper understanding of “to live is Christ”.
It is overwhelming to attempt to comprehend that Christ lives in me. I want everything I do to be Christ’s work not my human efforts. Obviously that is easier said than done. But the concept is wonderful.
I’ve been basking in this new enlightenment for several months. I thought I’d given up my pride because I have stated I am willing to look foolish (in my or others opinion) for the sake of Christ. I’ve stated I am willing to fail (from the human perspective) in order to see God’s perfect power through my failures and weaknesses.
I thought I was over what my husband and I have titled “prideful humility.” That’s the pride that says, “Oh, you go ahead, I don’t need that, you can have it.” Or “I’ll just be unseen; you go ahead and do it your way.” It’s the pride that makes you feel like you have put others first when in reality you’ve simply said, “I’m better than you because I can do without.”
Truth is: without Christ, I am nothing. That truth applies to everyone. When God sends someone in my physical path that thinks they need something more than Christ, am I willing to give up my pride and allow Christ to live in me at that moment?
An issue came up yesterday that greatly irritated me. My prideful humility would say “just let the idiots do it their way and don’t stir up anything that will make them think I need more Zoloft.” But that’s not what I heard God saying in my walk this morning.
Ignorance most often stems from inexperience or just the need to have someone show (not tell) the person how the thoughts apply to their life.
Telling others my thoughts is not too difficult. But, I tend to withhold some thoughts if I sense rejection. Showing takes more time. It takes willingness to listen and understand the experiences of the “ignorant” person (no offense intended). Then I can relate my thoughts and experiences in a way that they will see how it applies to their life and not just mine.
I don’t know exactly what God is leading me to after this. I was pretty proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone a year ago. The pride of that has worn off. I’ve settled into another comfort zone. I guess it’s time to step out again. Maybe I’ll leave the pride behind this time. Oh, that’s a scary thought.
Proverbs 11:2 (New Living Translation) Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
That’s a tougher choice than the Philippians verse. I’m a bit ignorant on true humility but Christ certainly took the time and painful effort of showing what it looks like. Now will I choose to apply it and gain wisdom or stick with my ignorant head knowledge?
Philippians 2:5-8 (The Message)Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death--and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
1 Kings 8:27 (NLV) – Solomon’s Prayer
"But is it true that God will live on the earth? See, heaven and the highest heaven are not big enough to hold You. How much less this house which I have built."
1 Kings 9:3
"The Lord said to him, I have heard your prayer which you have prayed to Me. I have set apart this house you have built by putting My name there forever. My eyes and My heart will be there always."
I’ve been in a few conversations recently about the eventual fall of the
Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 8 and God’s response in 1 Kings 9:1-9 give me hope for our nation. Yes, there is the promise that God will remove his Name if his people turn from him. But there is also the promise that God will always be with us. When his people or foreigners turn to him, confess his Name and turn from their individual sin; he will hear from heaven and forgive them.
At the time of Solomon, God put his name on the temple. 1 Kings 8:10 indicates that God’s presence filled the physical temple in the form of a visible cloud.
God’s people are now those who honor his son, Jesus Christ. Our bodies are the temple which carry his name. And his presence dwells in the believer in the form of the Holy Spirit.
Our nation has reaped the benefit of God’s presence because of the large number of individuals in the
Yes, our nation began honoring the Name (reputation) of God. But it was the individual leaders who carried that name, not the nation itself. God has given his Name to individuals. It is up to the individuals who know his Name to turn to him and pray; to seek forgiveness for their own sins.
When we speak of our nation’s lack of honor to God, we are assuming that God dwells in our nation as a whole rather than in the individual. Isn’t that the problem our forefathers had with the Church of England? The American rebel is stirred in me when I see those who profess to be followers of Christ acting like the King of England. Our nation was founded on the desire to turn to God and let God draw people to his glory. The intent was to establish a nation of individuals united in God – not united in how they believed. They were seeking freedom to honor God directly rather than through the King.
The strength of our nation lies in the individual believer’s willingness to confess the Name of God, turn from his/her sin and look to God as their leader. Our task is not to force others to seek God. When God’s presence dwells in his temple, his glory will be evident to all – believer and non-believer.
1 Kings 8:59-60 (NIV)
“And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day's need, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.” (emphasis added)
Monday, August 15, 2005
Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." Genesis 22:2 (NIV)
Why would a loving God test Abraham in such a way? I’ve been taught this was possibly to prove Abraham’s faithfulness to himself. That comes from those who contend that God chooses to know everything. That assumption brings more questions than answers to my mind. But I won’t go there.
I’d like to go into a history of the sacrifice but I’ll skip that too so you will read to the end.
Let’s start with a modern definition of sacrifice. According to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, sacrifice is the “forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim.”
Intellectually, any Christ follower would state that God is of the greatest value. In our culture, most would agree that human life is the most highly valued thing we have any control over. But how do we define life? Is it the moving, breathing body or is it something else?
Leviticus 17:11 states that the life of the creature is in the blood and God has given us that blood to make atonement for ourselves. It is the blood that makes atonement for the life. So what is atonement?
Atonement is “amends or reparation made for an injury or wrong.” It is our knowledge of good and evil that makes us aware of our wrongs. But our desire to be like God distracts us from seeing the need to forfeit something we highly value for the sake of God’s claim. Many people want to believe that God is too kind to really expect us to sacrifice anything. After all, isn’t that what Christ did for us? Yes, but he was much more than a kamikaze pilot or suicide bomber.
God’s request of Abraham in Genesis 22 reveals the significance of what Christ did for us.
Genesis 17:15-19 tells us that Isaac was not merely a gift for Abraham and Sarah to enjoy for their own pleasure. God gave Isaac for God’s purpose – for the sake of one of greater value. We may not be the parents of many nations but our children also have purpose beyond our own pleasure.
We fail to comprehend that life is more important than food and the body more important than clothes. (Matthew 6:25) We overlook the truth that the life of the creature (or person) is in the blood, not in the flesh. John 6:63 tells us the Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. Other scripture informs us that our battles are not against flesh and blood. We are to worship in Spirit and truth – the physical entities are not the most significant part of who we are.
Now to the concept of fire and the burnt offering. Throughout scripture, fire represents God’s power. God spoke to Moses in a burning bush. He guided the Israelites by a pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21). God sent fire to consume offerings in Leviticus 9:24 and 1 Kings 18:38. John the Baptist stated that Jesus would baptize with fire and indeed he did. The Holy Spirit appeared like tongues of fire in Acts 2:3.
It seems to me that God was asking Abraham to acknowledge truth. What is life? Is it the joy of interacting with your son Isaac in the flesh? Or is life found in God alone?
We know that in the physical realm, anything left in fire long enough will be totally consumed or melted down to become greater in value. We tend to treasure things that will not withstand fire. Yet God has shown us through Christ that we consist of something not viewable with the human eye that is capable of withstanding the fire of death. Even though Abraham didn’t have the privilege of that insight, he was willing to offer his greatest physical treasure. He feared and trusted God more than he wanted from God.
Are you seeking only the physical pleasures from God’s provisions? What are you keeping from God? Whatever he has placed in your reach is for his purpose. He wants you to participate in his abundant life. But we must be willing to acknowledge the truth that life is in the Spirit and the flesh counts for nothing.
God has given us flesh which we may use and do with as we please. He offers us his Spirit so that we may participate in real life. Do you want control of physical pleasure or do you want life? Life is so much greater than anything the physical senses can comprehend.
Will you submit to his greater cause or will you remain childish and shout “mine” when he asks of you? What do your children or those around you see as your greatest value? Why hang on to toys when you can have the real thing?
The human body as we know it has a short existence. Do you want to go just a short distance? Then continue to use your own power. Do you want to go farther? Be consumed by the power of fire – give up life as you know it and experience real life. It’s not an outrageous request when you discover the true meaning of life.
PROCLAIM the good news; HEAL the sick and oppressed; BRING JUSTICE
~ Luke 4:16-20