Archive for March, 2010

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?