Archive for the ‘Spiritual Growth’ Category

Are You Prepared to Climb the Mountain?

          “The record is one thing, but standing on top of the world is just the best feeling you could ever imagine.” This was the recent quote from Jordan Romero, age 13, who recently became the youngest climber to ever scale Mt. Everest. The feeling of being unique, accomplishing the unbelievable and the realization of a dream come true must be an experience that he will never forget.

          I have heard many times the description from Christian teachers and preachers of mountaintop experiences associated with spiritual moments. Mountaintops in our spiritual walk tend to be places we can visit but not reside. Much like Jordan Romero’s description, spiritual mountaintops provide for us “the best feeling you could ever imagine.” These are times of close proximity with our Creator. At these moments all of our doubts and fears seem to fade away and we know that God is God, and at last we find peace. Have you had such an experience? Are they fairly rare in your Christian walk? If so, you may need to ask yourself if you are prepared.

          If you look at the laundry list of items required to scale to the summit of Mt. Everest you will find that a considerable amount of equipment is required. The list pertaining to just footwear alone is quite extensive. The needed equipment is designed to provide protection, comfort, necessities of life, tools to accomplish the climb, shelter and the items necessary to travel with and move all of this gear. These are just the material items needed. In addition the climber must be physically and mentally equipped to withstand the harsh conditions of the climb. So it is with the life of a Christian.

          As a follower of Christ we must be equipped for the journey God has designed for us. He offers all that we need for protection, security, comfort, the necessities of life and the tools needed to accomplish our goal. His great plan includes other believers around us who have also been equipped by Him to help us in our walk. The real challenge lies in the effort we make to appropriate what we need. This effort includes time alone with God, reading and studying His word. Then we must pray, submitting our requests to Him, asking for His guidance and petitioning that He will instruct us regarding areas in our life needing surrender. We cannot ascend a spiritual mountain with our own strength, it cannot be done. Each challenge encountered on the way up the mountain must be met in reliance upon His power otherwise we will not succeed. Israel wandered in the desert for forty years and an entire generation perished because they did not accept God’s view. Paradise awaited them on the other side of the river but they could not move past their fear. What a tragedy that so many Christians today really are not living in total reliance upon Him. Anyone that has received the gift of salvation but fails to persevere through spiritual preparation misses the best that God has for them. It’s comparable to wandering in the desert and perishing from this life never knowing the abundant life promised by our Savior. You just plain miss “the best feeling you could ever imagine,” the “peace that passes all understanding.”

A Godly Response in a Time of National Judgment?

          Perhaps the largest personal clue for discovering our spiritual temperature is evidenced by the content of our prayers. Biblically we are to search the motivations of our hearts.  “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.” (2Cor.13:5) Often we come before the Father and ask for things. Other times we ask for Him to change our circumstances or to bestow peace upon us or happiness or kindness or self control or any number of identifiable desires we feel in need of. It seems natural to ask of Him in this way and it becomes easy to develop routines of this kind in our prayer life.  I have met people who don’t feel that they should bother God with the trivial things in life and others who revel in the fact that they do. So what should our prayers consist of? What does God desire them to be like? After all, we are told that He knows our needs before we even ask (Matt.6:8). So perhaps one question is, “should we ask” and if so, why?

          These are valid questions and we all tend to wrestle with them from time to time. Let’s begin by examining how Jesus modeled prayer for the disciples. I believe that the Lord’s prayer is a starting point for us to consider and our prayer life can grow from there. He began with worship as the focal point of the prayer as well as reverence for the person of God. His named is to be “hallowed”, that is respected. Then He called for the fulfillment of God’s covenant asking that “His kingdom come” including a request that His will be done in heaven and on earth. Notice that the focus up to now has been on God, not ourselves, but after worship, reverence and His desire, Jesus teaches us to bring our concerns. These concerns are brought forth based upon our immediate needs, “daily needs”, such as forgiveness, protection from evil and the basic essentials for life.

          What about the request for non-essential items? How about the things we just plain want, not need? Let’s turn to Jeremiah 45:5. In this section of scripture Jeremiah is dictating prophecies to Baruch. The prophetic word comes as a judgment against God’s people because of idol worship and Baruch is greatly troubled. In verse 5 God asks Baruch. “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.” God was looking for a response of faith from Baruch. Instead of focusing on his aspirations of greatness which caused his distress Baruch should have praised the Lord for his life and offered up a faithful attitude. The question that should be considered in our prayer life is; are we seeking God for Himself? In the midst of national crisis are we more concerned about losing our lifestyle than serving God’s purpose? Whether or not we achieve anything remotely close to greatness is in His hands, not ours. It is also He that defines true greatness. Our lives were given by Him and belong to Him to direct as He pleases. The danger lies in having a pre-conceived notion of how life is going to unfold. Seldom does life follow that kind of script.

          Our relationship with God should not be based upon the things we think He can dispense to us upon request. Rather it should be based upon His person. I believe it is inappropriate to ask God for patience or self-control or kindness or any of the items individually that are listed among the fruits of the spirit. When we seek His presence and are filled with His spirit then the entire list becomes immediately available to us. It’s sort of an all or nothing deal. Walk in the spirit and have the fruit of His blessing. You cannot expect to walk in the flesh and have God dispense patience for you while you do so. Maybe we are fearful to ask for our wants because He might say no. Our faith should assure us that His “no” is the best answer for us at the time.

          These are the things I believe are elementary in having a productive prayer life. First, I was taught at any early age that prayer is a “heart to heart” talk with God. He wants to have an intimate relationship with each of us. We should always begin by honoring the person of God, praising Him for His nature and His creation. We should seek His presence and His desire for our lives. I do believe we can approach Him for little things and big things and things we just want but always having faith that He will answer and His answer should be acceptable to us. The scripture states that man makes plans but God directs steps. Submit your plans to Him with thanksgiving for your life and a faithful attitude that He will preserve it for His great purpose as long as you remain available to Him.

Life in the Rear-view Mirror

          szo0343One thing is certain, life is forever changing. Each season of life presents new challenges, emotions and its own share of confusion. Just when we think we have figured it out a whole new set of circumstances comes along and presents us with a new and sometimes different view of life than what we had expected or maybe even desired. This has never been truer for so many Americans than during the past few years.

          While there are those natural seasons that life passes through such as the dating season, the child rearing season and the empty nest season, there are also those external circumstances that can alter life’s path. Financial issues, health issues, job changes, relocation, family concerns and a host of other possibilities may come along and upset our apple cart causing us worry and stress, producing a level of anxiety we would much rather avoid. It is during these moments when we are tempted to reflect back on a happier more stable time. We may long for life to be the way it used to during “the good old days”.

          It is our human nature to long to go back. We desire to return to the comfort of an existence that is familiar. Sometimes that existence may not have been all that wonderful but it was one we understood. When God delivered the nation of Israel out of the land of Egypt and into the wilderness, their view of life changed dramatically. After four hundred years of captivity He freed them and intended to take them to the “Promised Land” but they soon felt challenged, bewildered and afraid. They longed to return to their life in Egypt. (Num.14:4) Human nature caused them to desire their previous life of hardship rather than to obey and trust God to cross the Jordan River and receive their inheritance, a land flowing of milk and honey. Because of their disobedience God caused them to wander in the desert for forty years. It would be the next generation that would cross over and inhabit the paradise chosen by God for His people.

          Looking in the rear view mirror may give us a distorted view of the past. While I think memories are healthy and wonderful (I personally love nostalgia) we must be careful not to focus too intently on life as it was. Such a focus may cause us to remember only the more pleasant aspects while forgetting the unpleasant ones. Worse, it may cause us to miss what God is trying to do in our lives because we are too busy wishing to recreate the past rather than trusting in His promises. Only by understanding our own nature can we come to a place of faith and trust in His nature. Reliance upon human nature will only cause us to continually repeat the mistakes of the past. The nation of Israel repeated the same mistake time and time again until they were completely disbanded and disbursed as a nation in 70 AD. They were scattered all over the world from that time until May 14th, 1948 when once again they became a nation. This was the fulfillment of prophecy in accordance with God’s Holy Word.

          His plan always is the best plan. His promises never fail. If we gaze too intently in the rear-view mirror while navigating the highway of life we are heading for calamity. Choose to look forward in expectation of what might be rather than what has been. Faith requires us to move forward without seeing. Faith requires us to trust God for the future. In the words of Jesus (Luke 9:62) “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Actually, two things are certain. Life always changes, and God is always never does.

Is Satan Hijacking Your Spiritual Life?

         winter trip 044 The beatitudes tell us that it is “the pure in heart” that “see God”. Have you ever seen God? Are you pure in heart? Well do not despair as this is a struggle for everyone and much depends upon our understanding of what this verse actually means. A change in our perspective will help us to better understand what the spiritual life is and what it is not.

          If you read Oswald Chambers entry for March 27th “My Utmost for His Highest” he states the following: “When the devil elevates you to a certain place, he causes you to fasten your idea of what holiness is far beyond what flesh and blood could ever bear or achieve.” We know that holiness means to be set apart for God, set apart for His purposes and available to be used by Him for the building of His kingdom. With this in mind, we often feel less than holy as each day progresses due to the fact that we recognize things in our life that are inconsistent with our view of holiness. When we lose our temper with someone we do not feel holy. When we have an impure thought we do not feel holy. Sometimes we do not feel like spending time alone with God or reading His word and that also makes us feel less than holy. I could go on and on with a list that never ends of the many things that make us feel less than “pure in heart” and as a result we do not “see God”. So perhaps it is in these very items that we need to change our perspective. When these things cause us to live by our feelings of futility then we can be assured that the above verse from Mr. Chambers is spot on, and we are most assuredly fastening our view of holiness on something unattainable by flesh and blood.

          In essence these are the very things that provide us the opportunity to enter into the presence of God and to achieve a holy life. We should think of ourselves as having two distinct areas of life, an “inner sanctuary” and an “outer court”. We are the model of the ancient Israelite temple. God came to live amongst His people and resided in the inner sanctuary of the temple just as He now resides in the life of a believer in the “inner self”. It was in the “outer courts” of the temple where the everyday person gathered to be cleansed of their sins by the sacrificial offerings presented to God by the priesthood. Scripture tells us that we are a “royal priesthood”. We now have the right to come to the throne of God and He has provided the sacrifice for us. We can make a claim of purity based upon the sacrifice of Jesus, not on any righteousness that we think we may possess. (We have none.) So it is in the outer courts of our life where we experience these issues that confirm that we are less than pure. Rather than feelings of inadequacy and defeat we need to recognize that God allows us to have these experiences as an opportunity to realize our need for Him. We need to see these events in our everyday life as our need to immediately turn toward Him in thought, word, and deed. Through prayer and repentance God will allow us to enter a state of being pure and holy in His sight. It is in this process that we “see God” with spiritual clarity. When we surrender to the deficiencies we see in our daily life, we immediately have a blurred view of God. (see “My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers”, 3/26).  Therefore it becomes, for the Christian, an urgent need to realize these occurrences and immediately do business with God. By developing this habit we have a clear sense of closeness with God and discover the blessing of peace in our lives in the face of all types of trials.

          My dear friend and brother in the Lord, Pastor Scott Hobbs authored and recorded a song which continues to bless me and I believe echoes the process that I am speaking of. The chorus goes like this, “I will run, I will run, with a passion I will run for I want to see the face of God.” When we encounter the deficiencies that draw upon us everyday, we need to run with a passion to see the face of God. When we don’t feel much like it and recognize that God doesn’t seem close we must develop the discipline of running toward Him. I believe this is the key to walking in the Spirit and God will welcome us time and time again with open arms. Ironically, it’s the negative things of life that present the best opportunity for fellowship with our loving Creator.

Children Want to Know!

        thumbnail Recently I was asked about the subject of explaining God and heaven to children. It’s an excellent question because it exemplifies how our hearts should be towards those who do not have a relationship with our creator. When we are in a right relationship with God and we can see what that relationship produces in our own lives, we naturally want others to share in our new found freedom. How do we share our faith? What transpires that actually has an effect on another human being?

         The process of leading others to an understanding of salvation is a partnership. It’s a partnership between each of us and God. We have the responsibility to bear witness to others as to what God has done for us and the supernatural part of drawing someone to a saving grace belongs to God. Our part is simply explaining what God has done for us. The interesting part of the question regarding children is that Jesus said “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3)  It takes childlike faith to believe. Not one person can enter into a relationship with God by logic, reason or mental assent. It’s truly a supernatural transformation. That’s why it is so hard for some to believe.

          Someone said that each generation will be judged by the spirituality of the next. We should therefore be concerned about the spiritual development of the next generation. So the question of explaining God to our children is all important. As the father of three grown children I can only speak from my own experience. All three have grown up in the saving knowledge of Jesus and now it is their turn to pass it along to our grandchildren. Teaching has its place but teaching alone is not enough. There is a saying in Christian circles that “Christianity is caught, not taught”. Children tend to evaluate parents actions more than their words, so what we model to our children has a tendency to impact their belief system. The old parental adage “do as I say not as I do” isn’t based upon sound doctrine and children can see through the hypocrisy.

          Another important analogy about child rearing is this. In the beginning it’s a dictatorship but as they grow you had better gradually grow into a democracy. Don’t misunderstand, parents must remain responsible for their offspring until they are of legal age but to develop into mature people children must gradually be given some freedom. This may even include allowing them to make an occasional mistake. Some times our mistakes teach us more than all the lectures in the world.

          Last but not least, we must be willing to admit our mistakes to our children. Sometimes this may even require an apology from us for misjudging their intentions or for an overreaction on our part. This may be a bitter pill for some parents to swallow but it is an important part of letting a child know that they are valued and respected. What does all of this have to do with explaining God to children? Just this, we all struggle in this life and we are all imperfect. Confession and reconciliation are good for the soul. Loving others as yourself requires our open honesty and transparency. If we show others, especially our children, how to cope with the difficulties presented us in this imperfect life, just maybe it will become contagious.

What is the real “good news?

          untitledFar too often we are prone to think of our relationship to God in terms of whether or not we will make it into heaven or be banished to an eternal existence in hell. Our understanding may be tainted with the idea of our position with the almighty Creator and our view of the “good news”  is limited to the view of our “standing”  with Him. As much as we might want to think of this as the “good news”  it really isn’t. The truth is that God himself is the “good news” not the things He has to offer.

          The stark difference is in the direction of our thinking. When we focus on our standing and how it might eternally benefit us, we our thinking foremost on ourselves. God loves each of us unconditionally in spite of our condition and desires to have a relationship with us as His children. Who among us would want our children to value us only on the basis of what we can give them. “Mom, I really don’t want a relationship with you but I do want you to cook and clean up after me”. Imagine how such actions must grieve God’s heart. We are instructed to love God with all our heart, soul and mind. Jesus said that this was the greatest commandment. ( Matt 22:37)   Unfortunately this love doesn’t come without constant and continual effort on our part. How often have any of us come to daily devotions as a sense of obligation rather than a longing to spend time with Him for the sake of spending time with Him? When we make the effort to come into His presence something unexplainable happens. Our demeanor changes, His peace comes upon us and we are renewed spiritually.

          When we are apart from Him we cannot even begin to sense His presence or recall the wonderful experience of being there. His peace is a gift that He is willing to give over and over again. Sometimes we rely too heavily on church alone to gain a spiritual renewal. Our frequent gathering together is very important. During the past couple of weeks we were unable to have church services due to blizzard conditions. I truly miss the time of fellowship and prayer and praise we regularly enjoy on Sunday. I look forward to those times, we usually arrive early with an eager anticipation of the service to come. Sadly, in almost every church across America a large number of people lumber in during the first fifteen minutes of the service. At the beginning of the service only a remnant of the group is in place anxiously awaiting the start of worship. This I believe is a picture of the condition of our hearts and how we have come to reduce the “good news” to a status quo and an obligation. As an alternative we need to seek His presence every day and seek His peace and renewal as a way of life. As a result perhaps we will run toward Him at every chance, especially on Sunday desiring to be in His presence. Why not run toward our “heavenly Dad” for the sake of being with Him rather than reducing our relationship to the mere gifts He has to give?

Unity through Differences…

Roadtrip          For me, last week was a week of involvement with kids. On Tuesday I conducted the chapel message for a group of 5th through 8th grade kids at our school. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed interacting with the students and feeding off their enthusiasm. I spoke to them about differences between people and how God created all of us to be unique. Too often we allow the differences we find in others as reasons to separate ourselves rather than exploring and understanding what makes them different. When you think about it, the world would be a pretty boring place if everyone was alike.

          One of the first things I did with the kids for an ice breaker was to ask them to form two groups. Much to my surprise all of the girls went to one group and the boys the other. Basic difference! Wow, it’s been quite some time since I was in grade school and I had almost forgotten the social parameters of that age group. They are growing up in a time that has changed drastically from decades before. When I was their age we were still watching black and white TV with rabbit ear antennas trying to negotiate a less than fuzzy picture on one of the three stations we had to choose from. (There seemed to be more to watch than I can find on the several hundred stations of today.) People generally had one car, soda and milk came in glass bottles, there was one movie at the cinema that ran for three days, gasoline was pumped by the filling station attendant (who also would check under the hood and clean your windshield) and kids played outside after school. Life was somewhat different then but the challenges of interpersonal relationships may be much the same.

          On Saturday we ventured back to Maryland to watch the grandkids play basketball. It’s slightly ironic but one thing that has changed is teams that consist of both boy and girl players. Hold the phone, doesn’t this violate the laws of nature concerning the social protocols for that age. Maybe we are bridging the difference gap after all. This could take some getting used to. In my day it would have been hard to show your face after having your shot blocked by a girl. Maybe some old ideas need to be changed. Perhaps the world would be a better place if we all tried to find the good woven amongst the differences we find in others. Most of us are familiar with the Ten Commandments, however Jesus condensed them all in to just two. (Matt. 22:37-39) Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. It’s a very simple formula for what can be a very rewarding lifestyle.

          Our great difficulty on Saturday was cheering for two teams in the same game. You see we had a grandchild on each team so we were the recipients of excitement on both ends of the court. It was great watching both of them learn the game of basketball especially at the considerate direction of both of their coaches, my two sons. As our family (including my mom and dad) hoarded most of the seats at one end of the arena, I thought about the terrific opportunity we have to pass on values to each “next generation”. We had four generations present at one kids basketball game representing a lot of memories and marking the passing of time.

          We are all unique. Our situations are unique, our family structures are unique, our spiritual gifts are unique and God’s purpose for each of us is special in His great plan. He calls for us to compliment each other by using our differences for the greater good. We are meant to fit together like a pieces of a puzzle. Even when we disagree, He grants us the ability to be one in unity. This miraculous commodity can only be found in the center of His grace. Not by striving to make it so, only by accepting that it is so.

“You shall not go out with haste,…”

As a culture we customarily equate New Years with resolutions. We resolve to eat better, exercise more, spend more prudently, improve the important relationships in our lives and generally begin with high expectations for a better existence than we have experienced before. Unfortunately most of this resolve gives way as the New Year progresses and we often find that life resembles the failures of the past and we begin to settle for the old anthem of “things are what they are”.  Perhaps our well intentioned desires for change are grounded more in the symptoms that we desire to treat rather than the root causes of our behavior. Perhaps there is something deeper in our nature that needs to change before our will to change can have the power it needs to survive.

tn_cake20121There is a reason that most cash registers in most stores are surrounded by candy bars and other gimmicky items. This marketing strategy relies upon the customer’s impulsive behavior. Impulse spending is nothing new to our society. It extends far beyond candy bars into more serious ventures such a car purchases, home purchases and daily spending habits. In the land of easy credit, self-gratification reigns and we are often tempted toward the indulgence of the moment. Such decisions are based upon a mental satisfaction created in our minds when we are confronted with our desires. However, we soon find that the reality doesn’t quite equal the expectation and we may have created financial burdens that far exceed the enjoyment of the moment. We all desire to feel successful and relevant. Many of our decisions are designed to promote and fill these needs and desires in our lives. The candy bar may be our way of rewarding ourselves on the spot while the larger ventures are meant to make us feel better for a longer period of time. So how do we know what choices are good for us and which ones may be more destructive?

Resolution number one for Christians should be for more ardent prayer and reflection. If we truly want to see lasting change in our lives we need to go to the source of our power. Jesus said He came to give us life, an abundant life. In order for us to receive this life we need Him to truly be the Lord of our lives. We need to develop the ability to listen and follow as God speaks to us through His word and his Holy Spirit. In Isaiah 52:12 we are told, “You shall not go out in haste,…”. This would clearly put an end to impulsive behavior. Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that you hold up the line in the supermarket while you drop to you knees and ask for God’s direction as to the purchase of a Snickers bar. What I am suggesting is that we need to seek God’s intervention in our lives well before we find ourselves in the moment of trial. The verse goes on to tell us “for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard”. He will provide the strength necessary for overcoming self-indulgent desires and to protect us from the mistakes of the past.

Our need is not what He can do for us. Our need is for Him personally! Being a Christian means having a relationship with Christ. We are to be totally dependent upon Him and trusting Him to deliver us from ourselves in moments of weakness and temptation. It doesn’t work well for us to begin developing that relationship in the moment of concern rather we need to build that relationship daily in times of prayer, devotional study and submission. Even Jesus spent a year of preparation before going out to minister. We need to develop this discipline now before we can grow in His peace and power.

Christians! Please Stop Persecuting Christianity…

Crucif15While recent comments voiced by Rev. Pat Robertson touched a nerve in the very pit of my being please know that I believe none of us escape the foul of misrepresenting Christianity from time to time. Whether through our actions or words, we all come up short, and that strikes at the very essence of my point. We serve a merciful God who cares for us and loves us beyond our imagination and only by His grace do we exist to serve Him another day.

Rev. Robertson commented that the people of Haiti are responsible for the earthquake in Haiti and that it is some form of retribution for a pact they made long ago with Satan. While I believe his comments to be well intentioned I fear that they are more harmful to the cause of Christ than helpful. One of the great misconceptions regarding our faith is that many of our brothers and sisters believe that our standing with the Father is based upon our goodly performance or lack there of. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Our standing with the Father is based upon nothing less or more than the shed blood of His son Jesus Christ. Any other addition to or subtraction from this point is foolish arrogance on our part.

In terms of human logic, Christianity isn’t logical. In a world that values a “what’s in it for me attitude” the message of the Gospel doesn’t measure up. That God, the creator of the universe, would sacrifice His only Son to restore me to fellowship with Him for free is almost beyond comprehension. When we consider the enormity of the universe or the intricacy of microbiology how dare any of us contend that we know the mind of God? We can know His will in those things stated plainly in scripture; beyond that we are left only with blind trust in Him who created us and loves us beyond human reason.

How do we get to the place where we can decide for ourselves the mind of God? Often it is because we regard knowledge more than we should. After all, wasn’t this the original sin. In Genesis three Adam and Eve ate from the “tree of knowledge of good and evil”. Since that time mankind has measured the balance between good and evil perhaps with too much human wisdom sprinkled in. Beyond wisdom we as Christians often rely too heavily upon our emotions and feelings that arise from our own fallen nature. Christian immaturity is costly to the kingdom. It isn’t attractive therefore it inhibits our witness for Christ. When we place our personal feelings above that of God’s desire for us, then we act as if we know the mind of God. When we fail to get our way in church and leave for another setting, far too often we commit the same foul. When we are members of a church and fail to wholeheartedly support the leadership we offend His nature. When we find ourselves being critics, we need to back up and take stock of our own spiritual condition.

To the extent that we display our arrogance, our ignorance or our immaturity we harm the Kingdom. Before we empower ourselves once more to “do ministry” for Him I ask that you just STOP! Please let me burden you with the voice crying from the scriptures. Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…”. The great commandment spoken by Jesus himself implores us to first “…LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART…” and second “…LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF”. The order is clear. We need to have a right relationship with Him first and then “He” will empower us for the ministry to others. Far too often in the name of Christianity we gloss over the first part and empower ourselves toward the second.

I have met Pastors who confess that they do not regularly read God’s Word. I have participated in many men’s ministry groups where men confess they do not have the time to study God’s Word. I have read hundreds of prayer requests that seek God to do this or that, heal this or that, fix this, fix that or show up here or there, however far too often they do not include or simply ask to know Him more. Too often they do not suggest an attitude of surrender and acceptance of His divine providence.

In His great plan of salvation and restoration for us His number one purpose is to have a relationship with a people of His own possession. When we fail to strive (work out our salvation) toward the ultimate goal of having this relationship, then by default we misrepresent and persecute our own faith. We are living in an urgent time. God desires to wake up the church. He desires authentic Christianity. He desires us to be ambassadors for Christ. This can only come through the surrender of our self nature in blind obedience, faith and trust in Him who loves us in spite of what we have become. If the recent earthquake is God’s judgment on the people of Haiti then perhaps we should all walk in fear of His wrath for we have all been found wanting.

God genuinely desires for us to know Him. We can begin be knowing His nature a through the scriptures. READ THE BOOK! Study it and He will change your life. Is this logical? I think not, but for me I choose not to “lean on my own understanding”.

God Made Us to Need Him!

ReadmuchAccording to Proverbs 3:5, we are not to lean on our own understanding. Why? Because our own understanding of things will always come up wanting and short sighted. We are limited at best in what we understand and our natural desires are more powerful than our natural reason. Emotions and feelings taint the true picture. When David gazed too long at Bathsheba he relied on his own understanding. His judgment became clouded and the consequences were dire. When the nation of Israel reached the banks of the Jordan for the first time, they began to reason. They questioned the next step, sent spies into the land and based on their own understanding of the situation made a disastrous determination. Was David without knowledge of God? Did the Israelites not see the miracles of God? Yet in both instances, regardless of what God had previously done human nature was allowed to reign and once again people superimposed their will over the will of God.

          All moral failure stems from the same problem. As we seek to be in control and in charge of our lives we run the danger of allowing our own understanding to rule. Rationalization and justification take over and leaning on our own understanding seems to be the right thing to do. Scripture tells us that “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death”. (Prov. 14:12)  So there must be a better way. There must be a method by which we can reach decisions that work well for us and please God. In short, we need Him, He made us that way. Think about it, the God of all creation created us to need Him and to seek His favor yet we dare to expect that we can do it better, that we can know more, that we can be in control. Not only is our nature misguided but arrogant as well. It is inherently hostile to the things of God. This is why there is only one thing that God asks of us and that is complete and absolute surrender of ourselves to Him. Once we do this He is ready, willing and able to intervene on our behalf. His power is demonstrated only in our weakness. It is incredible and it defies the logical reason of man that we can know and hear from the God of the universe yet there is no other way to have spiritual life with God but on His terms.

declaration-independence-smThe first meeting of the Continental Congress was opened with several recited prayers, Bible reading and an unscripted prayer by Rev. Jacob Duche, an Episcopal clergyman. When he read Psalm 35 it electrified the assembly. It’s a Psalm of reliance upon God, a call for vindication by God and a declaration of His righteousness. What did they know then that many do not now? They thought it wise to pray and seek the council of the Lord. They thought it wise to lean on His understanding rather than their own. The so-called enlightened wisdom of today’s governing body says there is no place for leaning on God’s understanding in fact there is no place for God. How did we get here from our reverent beginnings? It was fairly easy. Some along the way stopped reading God’s word. Some read it but stopped meditating on it. Others twisted it’s meaning. Many allowed foreign idea-ideologies to creep in. Most lost their personal relationship with their Savior. When a person doesn’t have that right relationship with God then they cannot behold Him in reality. When He is no longer real then they cannot trust. They are then left with nothing else but “to lean on their own understanding”.

          The  full verse of Prov.3:5 commands us; “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding”. Only two of the spies sent by Israel had a different view. Joshua and Caleb wanted to cross the Jordan and enter the “Promised Land”. They trusted in the Lord and refused to lean on their own understanding but the Israelites chose the view of the eight spies. This view reasoned that the circumstances were too difficult. They allowed fear and emotion to taint their worldview. As a result they were found by God to be disobedient and were left to wander in the wilderness for forty years. The entire generation above the age of ten perished in the wilderness, never seeing the fullfiment of God’s promise, except for two men. The only two adults left alive when Israel entered the “Promised Land” were Joshua and Caleb. Their relationship with God remained in tact and He did not forget them. They trusted in the Lord with all their heart and refused to lean on their own understanding. God made them to need Him and they recognized their need. Do you?