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Abundant Life

On Whom His Favor Rests

On whom His favor rests.

The Christmas angels sang from the Heavenlies, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

The angels give us the main purpose of Christ’s coming. That God might be glorified and men would receive the peace of God.

We often think the purpose of Christ’s coming was the salvation of man. There is no doubt that He came to satisfy the penalty of our sin that we might have salvation by faith in Him as our propitiation. But even Christ said His reason for coming was to give abundant life. Eternal life will follow, but His desire is for us to have abundant life in the here and now.

Peace is the key to this abundant life. The peace of Christ that He desires for us is to be so much in the will of God that we stop making decisions that ruin our life, to be so confident in His power to deliver us that troubles do not push away our peace, to be so consumed with His goodness that we are not upset about the unfairness of life. Christ’s peace is a pervading peace superior to any problem, attack, mistake, or the unknown. Christ wants you to have this peace.

This peace comes as a result of God’s favor resting on us. If God’s favor doesn’t rest on us, His peace will neither be in our corner. So, what is it to be favored? The angel told Mary she was highly favored.

Mary’s state of being favored is usually equated with being chosen to be the mother of God. Truly, this was a huge honor. But this blessing came with lots of responsibility. Can you imagine being Mom to the Messiah? We might think it easy since he was supernatural, but He did not perform His first miracle until He was 33 years old. Mary really wasn’t quite aware of His power. She saw Him only as a child that needed to be cared for, fed, and protected.

All Moms worry about making sure nothing happens to their babies. They don’t want to be bad Moms. But imagine how much more intense Mary would have felt being the mother of the Messiah. She would have felt the pressure of making sure he never got hurt, never got taken, always protecting Him in every way. I can only imagine how she must have felt when he got lost in the teaching of the Temple and was not with the family when they returned from Jerusalem. “I’ve lost the hope of Israel. I’ve lost the Savior of the World. What if he is hurt? What if he has been kidnapped? What if He has learned from false teachers?” Mary and Joseph could have easily been extremely stressed with the responsibility that came with this honor.

The word ‘favored’ means ‘to be made gracious.’ To be favored is not the honor of receiving some great gift from God. To be favored is to be transformed from our selfish sinful nature into our grateful, gracious nature. Mary’s favor was two-fold. It was the blessing and the responsibility of caring for the blessing forcing her to set aside her desires, wants, dreams to do what was best for her son.

Mary was already a righteous woman, but she was perfected more as the mother of Jesus. She had to learn to love better, to put his priorities ahead of her own. Later, when Jesus was an adult, she could not even get in to see her son and he did not make it happen but his calling was greater than their relationship. But through it all, she understood Christ was never a blessing for her to own, but to be nurtured.

All blessings come with a responsibility to care for that blessing. Whether it is a monetary blessing or an emotional one, the blessing must be nurtured to help it remain and prosper. The blessing of a husband or wife comes with the responsibility of becoming less selfish and more gracious and giving to ensure the health of the relationship. A new job comes with new responsibilities that require selflessness for its success because success must include pleasing the new supervisor, the new customer, the new investor, or the new staff. Every blessing comes with a responsibility that will create moments where we must choose between our selfish desires and what is best for others. The process is designed to be transformative.

A selfish person focuses on what they do not have. They get upset if you do not give them what they desire whatever that may be. If you don’t act the way they want, react, respond, do, feel, dress, the way they desire, they are disgruntled and fully focused on what they don’t have and what you haven’t done for them.

But a gracious person is focused on what God has already done for them. Rather than being bitter for what they don’t have, they are joyful for what God has already given. We are born in a sinful nature and God favors us with the transformational process of blessings attached to responsibilities to care for the blessings.

To be favored is to be entered into the process of transformation, not receiving gifts, honor, or status.

For us to have the peace of Christ, this favor must rest on us. It must remain on us. This means we must accept this process. When we want the blessing, but reject the responsibility of caring for the blessing, then His favor does not rest on us. It may visit, but it doesn’t remain. A peace that remains comes from acceptance of this transformative process. We are grateful for what we have, trust God uses the responsibility to shake our selfishness and pour into us His graciousness.

God is gracious. He is giving. He gives to us when we don’t deserve it. When this sinks in, it creates gratefulness within us for what He has done. Out of our gratefulness, we want to honor Him. To honor Him, He calls us to be gracious just as He is gracious to us. So we begin to give to people who don’t deserve the blessings we give. We give to our friends, neighbors, children, spouses, exes, and even our enemies whether they deserve it or not. We become gracious.

The Bible says we are saved by grace. It is the power of receiving extreme kindness unmerited that draws us to the Lord for salvation. When that graciousness is working through us, it draws people to us and to God. Our relationships improve and others are brought nearer to God because of our actions. We become a gift just as Jesus was a gift.

How do you respond to the process of being blessed with the responsibility to care for that blessing? If you want the good thing, but don’t want to care for it so that it continues, but want to waste it on selfish desire, then you are pushing the favor of God out of your life. But if you can accept the responsibility that requires separation from the natural selfishness in us to a graciousness that puts others first, then the blessing will remain in your life and you will become an even greater blessing to those around you.

 

Prayer: Lord, help me accept the moments I need to set aside my selfishness to foster the goodness from that blessing. And let me become less selfish and more gracious. Let your favor and your peace rest on me.

 

Biblical principles Christian Counseling

What Does the Bible say about Depression

What Does the Bible Say About Depression

What Does the Bible Say About Depression?

There is much sin that carries shame.  Shame is only increased when we see ourselves struggling in an area that Christians are just not supposed to struggle with.  What do you do when you can’t seem to overcome even though you know you are supposed to be an overcomer?  What do you do if you struggle with depression when you know that Christians are supposed to have the joy of the Lord?

Before we go too far, it is important to note many Christians suffer from depression.  You may think that I am only speaking of those Christians who don’t really go to church, pray, or read the Bible, but I’m not.  Pastors suffer from depression.  Pastor’s wives suffer from depression.  You may go to church and look around at all the smiling faces and feel that you are the only one in your church suffering from depression, but it’s simply not true.

Who in the Bible Suffered from Depression?

We know that many strong, Godly characters in the Bible trekked their valley of sadness.  From Hagar to David to Elijah, depression is seen in the lives of people who loved God and whom God showed favor.  Martha’s depression led to anger.  Job wept and cried aloud.  Jonah was bitter in depression.  Moses suffered deep depression for a long period of time.

One of the greatest tools of the enemy is to make us believe we are the only ones that feel the way we do; that we are the only ones who struggle as we do.  But the Bible is clear that no temptation has seized us that is not common to man.

What is Depression?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, depression is a “mood disorder that is marked by varying degrees of sadness, despair, and loneliness and that is typically accompanied by inactivity, guilt, loss of concentration, social withdrawal, sleep disturbances, and sometimes suicidal tendencies.”  To use the word ‘disorder’ can be overwhelming.  It can seem as if there is no hope and that is exactly what a person feels.  Depression is negative emotions pressing down upon our spirit, weighing us down.  We can’t find our joy, our smile, our laugh.  And even if we appear to have joy and laughter, it is surface only.  Deep down, the pain and despair ominously rule our hearts.

Depression is to be pressed down emotionally, mentally, and physically with the weight of issues and problems big enough to destroy our life while we are helpless to stop it.  It is the outlook and estimate of a future that promises increasing hardship to the point of blinding a person from the present blessings.  A depressed person is unable to enjoy the goodness of God they already have because of the shadow of what will soon be lost.

Depression is a mental posture toward life that challenges our faith.  It is a perspective.  I don’t mean to diminish depression one bit.  I do intend to define it for what it is and now allow it to be more than it is.  It is a powerful grip on the negative reality in the absence of faith that God can change things.  It is the focus of our minds.  It has a death grip on our attention strangling joy and peace to death.

Depression is not is a rival to God and His mighty power working in us to create an abundant life for us.  Despite how deep it may exist and how powerful it runs through our veins; it is no match for the healing power of God.

What Are the Causes of Depression according to the Bible?

The Bible would teach us that depression is an issue of directional perspective.  God’s plan for us is what we have not seen, and depression establishes itself in what is seen.  We get depressed when we see the tragedies and coming nightmares that we feel we can’t avoid.  We want to see God change the things in our life.  We want Him to reach out and change our circumstances and bless our environment so that we can get out of the depression.  We look to be blessed outwardly to inwardly.  God’s ways are higher than our ways.  He doesn’t bless from the outside in but from the inside out.  Depression is the hopelessness that comes in the absence of God’s blessings.  We look outwardly first and when things are not good all around us, we get depressed inwardly.  God doesn’t work that way.

Ok, sometimes, He does bless us when we are down and depressed.  He blesses us outwardly to support our inmost spirit.  He does something good in our life to give us hope in our spirit.  But if our relationship with God was dependent upon everything around us being good, or at least more good than bad, we would become like spoiled children who want what they want no matter what.  We would be unable to praise God until He blesses us outwardly.  We would take Him for granted and worship Him for His gifts.

Therefore, the Lord allows every human being to walk through their own blessing desert.  Sometimes, He will make us experience a lack of outward blessing and see what we will do.  When we stop praising and start griping, stop worship and start complaining, He is revealing our spoiled rotten hearts that only follow Him for what He will give to us.  But true life abundant comes when we can praise Him in the dark hours of life.

Depression Presents an Atheistic Viewpoint

If depression had a voice, it would say, “God is not going to change anything.  He is not really who He says He is.  The God you read about in your Bible is not real.  He’s made up.  Nobody and nothing is going to make things any better so just get used to it.”

Depression creates a response in us that suggests there is no God.  We act and respond to life as if there is no God who loves us, who can change things, who wants to change things, who even cares.  But the truth is that God is alive and well.  He is still the God who replaces the spirit of despair with a garment of praise.

Jesus presents Himself as the truth.  The truth is not what we see or feel but what He says.  Jesus said in this world, we will suffer through some magnificent pain, but we can still have hope because He has overcome and will help us to overcome as well.  The Bible teaches us that He even uses the worst moments of our life to create change in us and around us necessary to bring us into greater blessings.

He’s either God or He’s not.  If He is a liar, then He is not God.  Depression is a fight in the arena of our faith.  Can we believe God is still good when everything seems bad?  Can we trust a God who seems to have abandoned us?  Can we grasp any hope when it seems that all is lost?  This is what faith is all about.  It takes no faith to praise God covered in blessing.  We only need faith in the absence of blessing.  But it is the amount of faith we have that determines what blessings we can handle.

If I only praise God when things are good, then I will respond to God not with love, but with a demand to do what I want.  In this case, I am God and God becomes my servant.  There is no salvation in this mindset.  To ensure that I have faith in Him as God, I must live in dependence on Him, leaning on Him as the giver of every good and perfect thing.  Dependence however is born out of lack.  Without seasons lacking in goodness, I will diminish God to my personal slave.  But in hard times, I am forced with the decision to really believe or truly doubt.  The moment I choose to keep responding to God as if He really is God is the moment my faith increases.  I choose to believe what He says more than what I see.

Depression is overcome when I understand that blessings do not flow into me from my environment but out of me from my faith.  Depression requires a change of mindset.

Is Depression a Sin?

Depression is the sadness evolving from patterns of thought which do not reflect the existence of God as we know Him through Scripture.  We usually define sin as a willful violation of the known will of God.  Depression is sinful in that it is keeping you from rejoicing always as the Lord has commanded, but it is different in that we don’t choose to be depressed.  The word for this in Scripture, which is often translated into the word ‘sin,’ is ‘iniquity.’  Often in the King James Version, this word is used.  David, in Psalm 51 said, “Wash away all my iniquity.”  Iniquity is unchosen sinful thoughts that lead to unchosen behavior.  So we are doing what God has commanded us not to do, but it is not a choice.  In fact, we would give anything to have the power to stop doing what we are doing.

Depression is the emotional state developed because of spiritual cognitive distortions.  Cognitive distortions are habitual patterns of thinking that are not accurate with a negative outlook.  But often, depression is caused by things that are very true and very real.  When I say depression is a spiritually cognitive distortion, I am referring to a blindness to the unseen reality of things.  Let me give you an example.

In Scripture, the prophet Elijah kept receiving word from the Lord that he relayed to Israel’s king that allowed them to know exactly where the enemy was going to attack.  Every attack was thwarted.  The opposing king was so angry when he found out that Elijah was messing everything up that he took a huge army to Elijah’s home to kill him.  Elijah’s assistant walked out of the door to see their home surrounded by this army and he was scared out of his mind.  But then watch what happened:

2 Kings 6:15-17
15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.
16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (NIV)

As Christians, we are taught there is an unseen reality as God works above our circumstances.  We can’t see this realm, but we have faith it is there.  To think that all is lost is to ignore the unseen reality of God’s chariots of fire coming to our rescue.

Depression nevertheless is something we want to confess to the Lord.  Confession is simply the acknowledgment that we are struggling and need the Lord to help us.  It is our commitment to get better, to change our thought patterns, to increase our faith.  And when we make this commitment, the Lord honors our faith and gives us the strength we need to have faith in the unseen reality of God even when all we can see with our human vision is darkness and trouble.

The Bible says God covers Himself in darkness, but it also says He is the Light.  So, which is it?  The answer is that it is both.  God understands like a good father that raising a good son or daughter requires both reward and discipline.  Discipline is found in the dark times of life, but God is still in the dark.  He is still working for our good.  It is just that at that moment what we need to move our us toward a more blessed existence is a little bit (or a lot) of darkness.  But don’t think for a minute that God has abandoned you.

 

How Do I Overcome Depression?

Depression is what occurs because of spiritual cognitive distortions, or a lack of faith that God will do what He has promised.  Increased faith, however, does not turn to joy.  Increased faith must first bring us to a place of peace.  We must trust that the Lord has us in His hand and find peace knowing that even if He allows some hard times, He will not leave us there.  He will lead us all the way through the valley of the shadow of death into the green pastures and still waters (Psalm 23).

The path to peace first begins with an understanding that what we feel may not reflect the true status of the moment because we are blind to the unseen reality of God.  What we may feel can cause us to believe that what we see is all there is, but the fact is that there is more to our situation than what is visible, there is more than what we know or understand.  God is everywhere all the time.

The path to overcoming depression must first come to a place of peace.  So how do we find peace?

Philippians 4:4-7

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

It may seem empty to say rejoice in the Lord when it seems the problem is the inability to rejoice.  But we are not commanded to feel joyful here, but to rejoice.  There is a difference.  To rejoice is to go back in your mind and find some things that God has done in your life.  If you are having a hard time finding anything good, keep looking.  Ask someone else to help you.  Don’t make a list of good and bad at the same time.  That’s not rejoicing.  To rejoice, force yourself to be thankful for what good things God has done.  Maybe the only thing you can come up with is that He gave you life now and died on the cross so you can enjoy Heaven later.  If that’s all you got, it’s still big.  Don’t let how you feel keep you from saying the words.  Keep saying them.  Learn to give thanks for every good thing you see.

Be gentle.  If you want to overcome depression, you cannot allow how you feel to dictate how you act around other people.  Often, depression will make us withdrawn, snarky, or just in a bad mood.  Gentleness means to be mild in manner, appropriate in response, and fair-minded.  Depression can cause negative behavior towards someone who doesn’t deserve it.  You are just in a bad mood.  Well, again, force yourself to not be this way even if you feel it.

It may seem like I am asking you to be fake at this point, but that’s not it.  I am asking you to obey God instead of your own emotions.  Who is your God?  Are you God or is He God?  Your behavior will answer that question.

The next step is prayer.  Prayer is a conversation with God.  The Holy Spirit is our comforter, but we encounter the Holy Spirit when we go to God even if we are just telling Him how we feel.  When Elijah told God that he felt alone and abandoned by God, God responded by letting him take a nap, then sending an angel with a hot meal.  I am not promising you steak and potatoes, but what I am saying is that God will meet you in prayer and His goal is to comfort you in your pain.  Cry out to Him and let Him meet you in prayer.

We are supposed to pray with thanksgiving.  So after, you have confessed your sadness, your negativity, your depression, remember the good things God has done and let those memories remind you that God has brought you through hard times before.  Remember that there are lessons necessary for future blessings that can only be learned in the dark so give thanks even for the darkness.  Give God thanks for trying to teach you something that will benefit you later and even benefits your children and their children.  Give thanks.  If you pray, this is good, but you must move in your prayer to a place of giving thanks.  Again, it is not what you feel, but what you do.  You may feel depressed but give thanks anyway.

God’s promise in Philippians for those who practice this behavior is to release supernatural power from Heaven to bring a type of peace that should not be present according to the visible situation.  It is a peace based on the unseen reality.  It is a peace based on the faith that God will keep His promises.  God will remove the spirit of despair and dress you in a transcendent gown of peace even though nothing you can see or know has changed.  But your faith has increased, and your vision has shifted.

 

Should A Christian Take Medication for Depression?

Many Christians, pastors, and teachers are against medication.  I am not.  I believe the Biblical approach to overcoming depression requires us to be able to think clearly.  We must be able to take captive our thoughts and force them in obedience to the truth of God taking into account the unseen reality of work God is doing on our behalf.  Gaining control of our thoughts can be difficult when the emotions run too hot.  There is a place when the emotional struggle of depression prohibits a person from having the ability to take captive their thoughts and focus on God’s truth.  When it gets to this point, I believe it is a place for medication.  Never take depression medication or any other medication without consulting your physician.  You may need an appointment with a Christian psychiatrist to get a prescription.

It is true that many people are over-medicated.  However, a Christian psychiatrist will help you to find the balance you need.  But the medication must also work together with Christian counseling.  Medication without counseling will not end well.  To overcome behavior, we need to learn the psychology of the behavior and find interventions to curb and finally stop the behavior.  When combined with regular Christian counseling, along with the pattern given to us from Scripture I have already shared, the medication will more than likely be a temporary help to think clearly so you can comprehend the principles being taught in counseling.

 

How to Take Captive Your Thoughts?

If you have been in church or listened to any sermons at all, you know how you should think, but actually forcing your mind away from traumatic and overwhelming thoughts combined with powerful emotions can be daunting.  I want to walk you through the principle of taking captive your thoughts.  First, I want you to see where this principle comes from:

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (NIV)

Depression is a battle.  It is a battle of the mind.  We are fighting for the peace Christ has given to us.  He has given us this gift, but like a purse snatcher, the enemy comes in and tries to steal what God has given.  We have to fight to get it back.  This passage of Scripture says we have been given the weapon to demolish strongholds.  What is a stronghold?  If you were in my office and trying to leave and I reached out and grabbed your shirt so you couldn’t leave, that is a stronghold.  An emotional, mental, or spiritual stronghold is something that is keeping us from where we want to be in our spirit.  It keeps us from the gifts God has given.  But we have a divine weapon.

This Scripture says that we demolish arguments and pretensions.  In other words, our divine weapon is our ability to take captive our thoughts and refuse to allow anything that sets itself up against the truth of God to remain in our mind.  But how do we do this?  Let’s take a look at this passage from the book of James:

James 3:3-6

3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (NIV)

Talking, using our words forces our minds to move in a different direction.  Like the rudder of a ship, your words will move your heart, mind, and soul.  When you are experiencing the hopelessness of depression, go through the process we discussed from Philippians above, but do it out loud.  Use your words.  Move your tongue.

When we speak, it forces our minds to focus.  When we don’t speak, our mind is able to entertain many thoughts at once.  Often Christians just keep telling themselves to stop thinking about the negativity in their life.  But this is not enough.  You must also consider the unseen reality of God and His promises and verbally remind yourself of the truth according to Scripture and the promises of God.

When we use our tongue, it forces the thoughts from one side of our brain to the other side which is not as emotional.  The tongue literally forces us to move to the other side of our brain in our thoughts.  This side of the brain is more analytical and not emotional which also gives us a greater ability to ponder the promises of God and apply them to our situation.

Depression is not easy.  Don’t get frustrated if you begin to do these things and you continue to struggle.  Remember the Bible says not to despise a small beginning and God finishes what He starts.  So hang in there.  Be consistent.  It will be difficult at first and seem like nothing is happening.  But the Word of God does not return void.  If you follow these Biblical principles, you will come out of it and the Lord will help you before you know it.

Have We Deformed Our Worship

Have We Deformed Our Worship?

Have We Deformed our Worship?

Have we deformed our worship? What is worship? How can a finite flesh and blood being connect with an omnipresent being existing outside of time and history who is Spirit?  How can man know how to commune with God?  It is impossible for man to know, but this God, who desires communion, has taught us the secret of communion with Him: Worship.

Many believe worship to be evident of a narcissistic God who simply wants or worse, needs people to praise Him and tell Him how wonderful He is all the time.  Yet, this perspective comes from the relegation of this all-knowing God to a simple human being.  Yes, if I or any other human called for others to worship them, they would be the classic narcissist.  Names like Jim Jones and David Koresh come to mind real quick.  But they are mere humans unworthy of this kind of praise and worship. 

The Bible teaches us that God has inserted Himself into our heart and mind.  Logos, which is translated as ‘Word’ represents this concept of a Spirit-God revealing Himself to a finite humanity through the bodily existence of Himself in Jesus Christ.  But more than this, God has given us His Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is God.  The Bible is clear on this.  Just as God expressed Himself in the Son through Jesus Christ, the bodily existence of Almighty God living as a man, God has also expressed Himself through the Holy Spirit, who is the person of God existing in the spirit of every man.  The Son and the Spirit work to reveal, to unveil, the identity of the Father to humans.

Because God made us in His image, having spirit, and has inserted Himself into each of our spirits, we commune with Him in spirit.  We must turn inward that we might turn upward.  Communion with God happens when we become more aware of His presence in us allowing our spirit to embed itself in His Spirit.  It is like inviting in a friend into our home for some coffee who has been knocking at your door for some time.  The Lord is continually at the door of our heart waiting for us to invite Him for fellowship.  He is always with us by the Spirit.  For those who have been reminded of what the Son has done to make this possible and receive this gift, the room of their spirit is opened and the God-guest knocking at our door enters into our living room.  This is salvation.  Worship then is to sit down and have come coffee opening our hearts and listening to His.  Communion is spending time with the God who is continually ready for fellowship in our hearts.

But why all the praise?  Why does the Lord call for us to continually sing His praises?  I would suggest to you that God is not the only presence within us.  In my spirit, there are many others because every human is spirit so when I connect with someone or have a relationship with someone, they too connect with me on a spiritual level.  My spirit is connected to my wife, my children, my parents, my sister.  At any time, I can become aware of how much I love my wife and how much she loves me and be overwhelmed by affection for her even if she is not in my immediate presence.  This phenomenon occurs when my mind is filled with thoughts about her.  The same is true for any.  Worship and praise is turning my mind specifically to the Lord remembering who He is to me.  These thoughts turn my attention to Him in my spirit.  My spirit communes with Him when my mind is stayed on Him.  Worship and praise is not for God to hear how good He is.  Worship is for me to remind myself and turn my attention to the Lord so that I can commune with Him.

Worship in Spirit and Truth

Now that we understand the nature and purpose of worship, let’s look deeper into how God calls us to worship.  Man is so much lower than God, we do not have the knowledge and understanding of how to commune with God.  We must follow the path to Himself He has laid out for us. 

 

Many would say there are many paths to God but man can not create a path to a place He knows not where it is.  God exists in transcendence beyond the limits of human existence.  How can we know the way to a place we have never been.  The different paths that many would hold on to our merely man-made attempts to find the location of God who is everywhere.  

What is Hinduism and what do they believe?

Hindus believe that all reality is the Supreme Lord Brahman.  Brahman is in everything and is everything.  Anything that appears to be impure is called Maya or “play.”  This Hindu thought is that all of the suffering and pain in the world is not real and to commune with Brahman a person must connect with Atman, who is Brahman in the human soul.  This is achieved by separating oneself from the world and living a life in deep contemplation absent of sensory activity and thought processes.  Connection is found by emptying oneself of all thoughts and separating oneself from a sense of individualism, but recognizing the all things are one.

 

This path has some similarities to the Christian God.  A huge difference however is that God is everything compared to the Christian God is not everything but exists in everything.  It seems as if there is no difference at first, but it is a profound difference.  In Christianity, God is in me, but I am not God.  In Hindu, communion with God comes with a realization that God is everything.  The belief that the atman, or true self of a person is God, allows each person to define God has they choose, which is why the Hindu god of Brahman has over 330 million different forms also called god.  

What is Islam and what do Muslims believe?

Muslims also believe in only one God, Allah.  Islam, like Christianity, is a much less ornate religion than Hindu because of it montheistic nature.  Instead of having millions of gods or a God who takes on millions of forms, Islam, like Christianity believes in one God.  However, Allah is very different from Yahweh, the God of the Bible that we also know as God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Allah has no other forms.  Communion with Allah, according to Islam, occurs when a person is in submission to the Five Pillars of Islam: Testimony of Faith (saying you believe Allah is the only true God), Prayer, Giving, Fasting, and the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.  In other words, communion with God is found through obedience.

 

Though many of the tenets of Islam are honorable, communion with God is by lifestyle, but there is no spiritual connection.  The word Islam means ‘submission.’  Islam does not teach a spiritual connection with God as a God who loves, but the necessity of obedience to please a God who rules over us without forgiveness if we don’t do everything required.  Christianity teaches God is a forgiving God wiping away our past and giving us a fresh start no matter how rebellious we have been.  There is always hope.  Much too often, Islam produces a fear of God, not a love for God.

What are Jehovah Witnesses and what do they believe?

Jehovah Witnesses hold the Bible as their sacred text just as Christians do.  However, they have their own translation and these translators remain anonymous.  This is significant because any other version of the Bible reveals a history of who translated it from the original Biblical languages of ancient Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.  Because the translators of the Jehovah Witnesses remain anonymous, it is impossible to know if these translators were actually experts in these languages.  This is significant because the New World Translation used by Jehovah Witnesses changes the meaning of Scripture significantly with just a few words.  For example, in John, the Bible says, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”  The New World Translation changes the end of this phrase to “the Word was a god.”  They do not believe Christ and the Father are one in the same.  Muslims commune with God through a combination of faith, good works, and obedience.  Though the Bible calls for Christians to do good works and obey, the only requirement for salvation is faith.

What is the Significant Difference Between Christianity and other world religions?

Of all world religions, Christianity is the only one that claims to be revealed by God, not man.  Christianity is revealed by God the Father through the history of the Old Testament and the nation of Israel, the Logos or revelation of Christ who is God in man.  Different from Hindu, the only man who was God was Jesus Christ.  God is in every other man, but every other human being is not God.  All other world religions have been revealed, according to their own beliefs, by men who have found their way to God.  Muhammed, a man reveals the path to Allah, but Muhammed never claimed to be God.  Charles Russell revealed the path to God for Jehovah Witnesses by he took the revelation of God written down about the only man who claimed to be God that led to a major religion and changed the meaning of that revelation to reject what Jesus said about himself.  The Hindu revelation of God comes from what is called the Veda.  The Veda is said to be sacred writings, but the writers are not considered to be God and they do not explicitly teach who God is or how to commune with Him.  Whereas the Bible is man writing down their experience with the supernatural presence of God in the Old Testament and their experience with the only man who claimed to be God that was not later deemed to be mentally unstable.  In fact, every major religion in the world esteems Christ as a high prophet and Christianity goes further to say Christ claimed to be God.

How does What we Believe about God Form or Deform our Worship?

If worship is the pathway to communion with God, it would make sense to follow the path that comes from the only man who has ever claimed to be God.  It was CS Lewis who first put forth the thought that Jesus had to either be a liar, a lunatic, or Lord.  When Jesus claimed to be God, the Jewish religious leaders who did not believe this worked to put Jesus to death.  Because Israel was under Roman rule at the time, death had to be approved of by the Roman government this death would have been crucifixion where being nailed to a wooden cross would cause internal bleeding killing the person as they drowned on their own blood, a process that could take days.  Jesus could have escaped this horror by simply recanting.  The fact that He didn’t means if it wasn’t true, He was a liar, but also crazy.  Who would hold on to a lie when it meant a death such as this?  If He was a lunatic, then why do so many world religions hold His teaching to be superior wisdom and his life to be an example of a life lived in existential peace and love?

Christianity is the only religion claiming to be revealed by God Himself through Jesus Christ who said He was God in the flesh.  Why would we trust other men who did not even claim to be God?  How can we trust mere men who claim there is no god?  How do they know?  Of course, this is a matter of faith.  We must believe in God and then we must choose which religion is the revelation of God.  But from a logical sense, if you are going to choose between many religions claiming to know the path to the supernatural, choose the one whose revelation comes from the one who claims to be God with miracles and wonders, including resurrection from the dead to testify that He was God.

 

We must find the truth.  Jesus taught us to worship in spirit and truth.  Just because something feels right, looks right, and sounds right, it can still be deformed worship.  God alone has given us the true path to communion with Him.

Have we fooled ourselves through Deformed Worship?

In 1 Chronicles, Chapter 13, we see King David going to restore Israel to the presence of God which rested upon the Ark of the Covenant.  In a sense, because of Israel’s disobedience, deformed worship, God was with them, but not in communion with them.  He rested upon the Ark and the Ark had been stolen in battle by another nation.  But now, David is King and he is going to return the Ark to the center of Israel’s culture and life restoring communion.  As he and his men go to return the Ark to its rightful place, there is singing and dancing.  It is a huge celebration.  It would have felt like communion, but what we feel is not always true.

Often, in today’s church culture, we have associated worship with singing and dancing, celebrating.  We attend church services and conferences in this new culture of praise and worship.  We are filled with a euphoric sense of God’s presence.  But we learn from David that worship is not just about how we feel.  We can sing and shout, pray and praise, and feel what we believe is God’s presence, but in reality our worship is deformed.

Connecting to the spiritual realm produces euphoric feelings.  The spiritual realm is not, however, the person of God.  The spiritual realm can be entered into through art, music, dance, poetry, dramatic plays, even Hollywood movies can get us in touch with the spiritual.  Alcohol is sometimes called spirit because the influence of alcohol and drugs move us into a different realm.  We are moved beyond the flesh and blood of our existence into something more.  We cry, laugh, stand under the waterfall of emotions.  It is a spiritual experience.  Spiritual experiences however do not equate with communion with God.  There are many paths to the spiritual, but only one path to the throne of God.

Have you Deformed your worship?

As we have seen from the formation of other religions, it is easy to form god in our own mind and then convince ourselves that we have the right idea about God.  The existentialism of God makes it difficult to wrap our little brain around the depth of His essence.  In revealing the pathway of communion, He formed worship as the only one who would know how humans so far below can commune with God so high.  When we begin to see worship as a path to communion to a specific being with personality, character, and identity just like we have, then we see the need to follow the right path.  If God can be whatever we decide He is, then any old path will do.  But if He is who He is regardless of how we want to form him in our mind, then there is only one path and He formed it.

He formed worship in the Old Testament with a view into the New Testament.  In the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, we see man’s original state of continual communion with God.  Adam and Eve spoke with God, walked with Him, heard His voice.  They were in relationship existing together in one place.  The sin of forbidden fruit dismantled this intimacy.  Knowing this would happen, God had devised a plan to restore this communion with man.  Sin had entered through one man so God’s plan was to come to Earth as a man, living as a man who resisted every temptation to sin.  He was never sinful, never selfish, jealous, lustful, or vengeful his entire life.  He had every opportunity and suffered at the hands of people to be tempted to refuse forgiveness, hold on to a grudge, and hate them, but He resisted every time.  His perfect life qualified Him to stand in the gap accepting the punishment of God for Adam’s sin.  Had Jesus sinned, any punishment He would have received from God would have been for His own sin.  Because He never sinned, He alone was qualified to stand in as a substitute for our sin.  This was what the cross was all about.  This made communion possible.  Communion is a two-way street requiring each party to do their part.  Christ did His part to allow us to do our part and that part is worship.

Worship was established in the Old Testament looking forward to Christ’s death in our stead.  The path of worship was specific in substance, attitude of heart, and methodology.  A certain type of animal had to be sacrificed at a specific time on specific days being prepared in a specific way by a specific person.  The specificity reminds us that there is a specific path to communion.

The presence of God had to be approached a specific way.  When God established His presence atop the Ark of the Covenant, He laid out the specifics of how the people were to approach His presence.  At that time, the nation of Israel was wandering the desert so God had specific ways to travel and to facilitate the movement of the Ark. 

The Ark was to be carried on the shoulders of the priests or priestly families using poles slid through circular rings attached to the Ark.  But when the Philistine nation had stolen the Ark, they did not worship God who rested on it and they were struck with sickness and disease.  They wanted to get rid of the Ark so they put it into a car pulled by oxen and sent the oxen away.  The oxen carried the Ark back to Israel, but not the right city.  But because the Philistines had moved the Ark in a cart, David thought Israel could do the same.  He had forgotten the specific way God had prescribed for them to approach and move the Ark.  This was deformed worship. 

 

The result ended in a man dying because he reached out to make sure the Ark did not fall out of the cart when the oxen stumbled.  Why did David, who knew better do this?

Our Worship must Exalt God

The Old Testament worship called for sacrifices that were first lifted and waved to God representing that He was God, higher than man.  God had prescribed the Ark be lifted above the head of man when moved to reveal this same principle.  We no longer offer sacrifices since Christ became the ultimate sacrifice and the Ark is no longer in existence, but the principle remains part of the specific pathway to communion.  God must be exalted above man.

When we live our life as if God is not really the God of all, the One who holds our destiny in our hands, the Judge of all Creation, then we are treating Him as if He is nothing special.  Sing, shout, pray, and praise all you want, but if you do not live a life that exalts God higher than yourself, you have deformed your worship.  If God is higher than we, then we will listen and follow His wisdom for living life.  If God says follow me and you will find abundant life and through our lifestyle, we say, “No, I’m ok.  I’ll do things my way and I am sure it will work out.”  Then we are essentially saying to God that He is not really God or at least that He is not our God.  Communion with God is impossible when we call Him a liar by rejecting His claim to know the best path for our life.

When we read in 2 Samuel 6 and 1 Chronicles 13, we see that David approached God as if he were king and the Ark, which represented the person of God, was a possession He could use for his own benefit.  His attitude of superiority allowed him to reject God’s prescribed path to communion.  He lowered the Ark instead of lifting it high on top the shoulders of the priests.  This was deformed worship.

Let us exalt God for who He is.  He is the One who has made a way for us to return to Eden in communion that we might experience all that He is in our life.  He is worthy of our praise because He opened this way by His own blood standing in our place of execution that we might be exonerated from our guilt. 

Our Worship must be Sacrificial

David’s first attempt to restore communion with God to Israel failed.  He had not given God the rightful place exalted above man. Another way this was seen was the lack of sacrifices.  In the Old Testament, God required animals to be sacrificed as a means of worship, restoring communion.  These foreshadowed the death of Christ on the cross and allowed Israel to remain in communion with God.  But the first time David attempted to restore communion, there were no sacrifices given.  He had deformed worship.

Again, we no longer offer animals, but the principle of sacrifice remains.  Those animals represented a forfeiture of value.  We exalt God by giving to Him that which is of value to us and we don’t give what we are comfortable with.  The specific path to communion requires sacrificial giving.

When we give money to the Lord, if we only give what we can afford, it is not a sacrifice.  If we only give what’s left after we get everything else we want and need that month, there is no sacrifice.  It is not the amound per se, but it is the affordability.  When we give an amount that is difficult to give according to our budget and lifestyle, then our hearts are on the specific path of worship and communion with God.

If we only give to the Lord the time leftover after we finish all of our earthly obligations, then it is not sacrificial.  The specific path to worship calls for us to spend time daily with the Lord, to pray and talk to Him throughout our day, to gather with other believers for worship at least every seven days.  These represent to God a sacrifice of time given to Him.  When we stop to read the Bible only when we feel we have time, when we only go to church when we don’t have something else to do, if we only pray when we want something, there is no sacrifice.  This is deformed worship.  Deformed worship produces separation from the life God gives.  The spirit of death works its way into our lives and we begin to experience depression, sadness, anger, bitterness, and the like.

The Bible teaches us that God requires a sacrifice of praise.  If, when you sing and praise God, your heart is not in it, then it is only lip service, but it is not sacrificial praise.  If you are worried about what people think of you if you sing loud, weep, shout, raise your hands, dance, then there is no sacrifice of reputation.  It is deformed worship.

The specific pathway to communion requires sacrificial worship.

Worship must come from a Servant's Heart

The first time David attempted to restore communion by bringing back the Ark to its rightful place in Israel, he lowered God and exalted Himself.  Though he would have told anyone that God was greater than he, his actions reflected his own disposition as King and God as a servant or enchanted possession to garner blessing.  This was deformed worship and continued the absence of intimacy.  When David returned to do it right, he did not come as king, but as a priest.  He took off his kingly attire.  Laying aside his royal robes, he dressed in a linen ephod.  This was a specific garment worn by priests in their time of worship.  There was nothing ornate about it, but represented absolute humility as a servant before the King of Heaven.

When we fool ourselves into thinking we are worshiping God, we can easily deform our worship by treating God like a genie in bottle only to be called upon when we need something.  We live as if we are the king of our life and God is a useful instrument for us to get what we want.  Worship must exalt the Lord as King which means we must humble ourselves as His servant doing His work.  We do not ask God to bless what we want to do.  We are blessed by God when we do what He wants.  When we try to get God to bless our agenda instead of sacrificing our agenda, we deform worship.

The Lord has a Divine Appointment for you to do great things for Him.  You are His minister carrying in you the wisdom and power of God to help people overcome their past, their fears, their anxiety, their depression, their anger to find the perfect peace of God.  You are ordained a miracle worker for God.  He has called you to insert Him into the lives of others by your words, prayers, love, and service to others.  David recognized this.  When David finally reformed his worship, the Ark was returned.  He was so ecstatic that he danced violently, so much that some of his clothes fell before the people.  His wife ridiculed him, but David was fully aware that God was calling him to be used by God to do miracles for the nation of Israel.  The thought of being God’s chosen instrument to deliver Israel overwhelmed him to the point of dancing as he worshiped God.  He told his wife that he would become even more undignified in his passion for the Lord.

Our Worship must be Passionate

David was willing to ruin his reputation by dancing so engaged in God’s presence so much that he lost his clothes. Passion is the willingness to suffer to honor and love someone else.  The crucifixion of Christ is called the Passion of Christ.  He was willing to die for us, loving us so intensely, knowing His death was the only thing to make it possible to be in communion with us again.

The first time David went, there was singing and dancing, but not from David.  He remained exalted in his eyes and the eyes of his servant.  He acted as the king of his own life.  He was not passionate and his worship was deformed.

When we embrace our calling from the Lord fully convinced that we are going to be used to do miraculously wonderful things, it fills us with a joy unspeakable.  But there will always be someone or something that makes us aware that some people think this is dumb.  They will say it is dumb to sing to a God you can’t see.  They will say it is dumb to give your time in service to the Lord.  They will say it is dumb to give your money to the church.  The enemy wants to keep your worship deformed.  He does not want you to have communion with God because He knows once you have tasted the glory of our God on a higher level, you will only want to go higher with God.  You become more than a conqueror and continually, you will ruin his plan of destruction.  You will crush the devil’s head just as Christ did.

Worship Him with all your heart.  Sing with passion.  Serve with sacrifice.  Exalt the Lord as the King of your life.  And You will no doubt see miracles in you, for you, and through you for others that you love.

God of the Old Testament Jesus of the New Testament

The God of the Old Testament compared to Jesus of the New Testament

I know for some, this seems like a strange question.  Jesus is God and Jesus actually said that if we had seen Him, we had seen the Father.  This is true, but few would argue that the God of the Old Testament seemed quite different from the Jesus of the New Testament.  We must be clear in our doctrine.  Jesus is God and God is Jesus, but the doctrine of the Trinity also makes clear they are also unique to one another.  In this way, God the Father, who is Jesus, is nevertheless unique to Jesus and vice versa.

In the current series that I am teaching, Undignified, I discuss the importance of understanding the uniqueness between the Father and the Son that we might have the right attitude in worship.

The foundation text of this series is found in 2 Samuel, Chapter 6 where we see the Ark of the Covenant which was the chosen place of manifestation for the Spirit of God to be with Israel is being carried on a cart.  This had been forbidden by God, but David, in his zeal to recapture the Ark to its right place, overlooked or ignored God’s prescribed way of moving the Ark.  Consequently, the oxen pulling the cart stumbled putting the Ark of the Covenant at risk of falling over.  A man by the name of Uzzah reached out to keep the Ark from falling.  His intent was to honor the Ark and the Presence of God.  The need for him to steady the Ark came out of a deformed method of moving the Ark and consequently, God struck Uzzah dead.  We never see Jesus striking anyone dead for what seems to be a very small infraction.  After all, it was not Uzzah’s decision to put the Ark in a cart and he was only trying to help.  Nevertheless, we see what we could characterize as an extreme reaction from the God of the Old Testament that appears to contradict the character of Jesus in the New Testament.

The Old Testament is full of times when God acts in this way.  After the battle of Jericho, it was discovered that one man out of the entire army had taken some loot from Jericho after God commanded everything be destroyed.  God’s command was for this man to be stoned along with his wife, children, and animals.  Would the Jesus of the New Testament ever do something like this?  Jesus brings to our mind the love, mercy, and compassion of God, not Judgment.  In fact, Jesus said He did not come to judge or condemn, but to give abundant life.

Each person of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, reveals different traits that all belong to the one true God.  Jesus reveals to us the compassion, love, kindness, and mercy of God.  And the God of the Old Testament is all of these things.  For example, when Uzzah touched the Ark, God could have condemned King David since it was his decision. Because David represented the whole nation as King, God would have been justified to destroy the entire nation, but instead, He was merciful.  The God of the Old Testament is Jesus and has within all the characteristics we see in Jesus, but in the Old Testament, God, in the Old Testament, reveals a unique characteristic of God that can be found in Jesus, but it is not as prevalent.  God reveals His unapproachable holiness.

Jesus is holy, but compassion and kindness are His forte. God, in the Old Testament, is compassionate and kind, but His forte is unapproachable holiness.  He hates sin.  In fact, Scripture says He cannot look upon sin.  On the other hand, Jesus actually walked with sinful people, purposely engaged with sinful people, and became our sin on the cross.

The amalgamation of both persons of God reveals more of God than either would without the other.  God is holy.  He hates sin and He calls us to perfection, to perfect holiness.  This is not hyperbole.  God expects us to do exactly what He has commanded us and there are consequences, sometimes severe when we disobey.  Jesus emphasizes forgiveness when we disobey.

If we only knew God through Jesus, it would be easy to compromise, to take Him for granted, to obey when it served our purpose, and ignore His commands when we could see no benefit.  For example, God commands us to have no other gods.  When Israel took other gods, the Lord let them be defeated, destroyed, annihilated.  But when we put our trust in our own money, and our ability to make money by taking on extra work that keeps us from the command of gathering together with the saints, we really don’t expect any kind of punishment.  Knowing God through Jesus alone deforms our worship where we give God less honor than He deserves.

The New Testament church is enamored with the Jesus of the New Testament but we have forgotten the God of the Old Testament.  We must be reminded that God never changes.  The God of the Old Testament who had a high standard for our worship did not change in Jesus.  Jesus is the Good News that we are forgiven, but we can’t abuse God with deformed worship because of the grace shown in Christ’s forgiveness revealed on the cross.  Our worship needs to be reformed so that along with loving Christ for His love and compassion, we do not take God for granted as if disobedience in what we believe to be small areas is not that big of a deal.  Deformed worship causes distance between us and God and we lose some of all that He is.

What Does God Think About Abortion

What Does God Think about Abortion?

We have heard from preachers and politicians telling us what God thinks about abortion, but what does God actually say in the Bible?  I want to share with you from Biblical principles the many-faceted angles of abortion and what God thinks about it.

Jeremiah 1:5
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. ” (NIV)

This is the word of the Lord spoken to the prophet Jeremiah. God knew Jeremiah before He was formed in the womb.  He knew him.  He was familiar with him.  He knew his name, his personality, his essence.  These words remind us that abortion is taking the life that already existed in the eternal realm that has been placed in the womb to become flesh on this Earth.  Nevertheless, what doesn’t exist cannot be known.  God knowing Jeremiah before the womb reminds us that conception in the womb is life.  It is known by God and for man to take this life is not acceptable to God.

We read how John the Baptist, still in the womb of Elizabeth, jumps for joy within her belly when Mary, pregnant with Jesus, comes to visit her.  John and Jesus knew one another in transcendence before their physical bodies were fully formed.

So many Christian articles about abortion are simply statements of why abortion is wrong or a sin.  Anyone with faith in the Bible as the Word of God, along with the logic that nothing can be known that doesn’t exist, makes it clear that abortion is not godly.  Nevertheless, should the question of right or wrong be the focus of believers?  Should our focus be in the politics and polity of abortion laws?

 

 

Should I fight to make abortion illegal?

Not everyone considers abortion sinful.  The Bible clearly teaches us not to judge those outside the church.  If someone has no issue with abortion, it is not productive to argue the point with them.  Biblically, we know the laws of a nation can bring blessings or curses down upon that nation so working to make abortion illegal is a noble cause. Telling someone who has had an abortion that they have sinned against God or holding up signs that say “God hates abortion” doesn’t really convey love to those who may wonder if God can still love them after they’ve had an abortion.

The response of the church to abortion must be anchored in love then morality.  Many will disagree with me here, but Jesus’ morality is wrapped in transformation.  Jesus did not require the woman caught in adultery to confess her sin, renounce it, or even ask for forgiveness.  He prioritized mercy above morality.  It is not that He was not concerned with morality because His command to her was to go and sin no more.  He first gave mercy, then morality.  Isn’t this God’s way?  He died for us on the cross while we were yet sinners.  This love draws us to Him, makes us want to listen, to follow Him.  Then comes morality as He teaches us to be holy as He is holy for this is the way to abundant life.  Love followed by morality strengthens a person’s sense of being loved.  Morality before love makes the law of God more important than the child of God.  Jesus criticized people like this in Scripture telling them their actions were the same as putting a stone around someone’s neck and throwing them into the sea.

God’s compassion for us comes out of His understanding of the original sin that we often forget.  We don’t sin because we are bad people.  We sin because we were born with the condition of sinfulness.  If a baby is born with a defect that disallows them to walk, we are not angry with the baby.  We have compassion for their condition.  With sin, we forget it is a condition that we must be rescued or saved from.  Too often, our view of sin doesn’t span wide enough.  We act as if there is no condition causing sin, but the Bible clearly teaches there is a sinful nature.  All of Scripture is not about people no longer sinning as much as transforming them in the Spirit so they are set free from the law of sin and death, the sinful nature.  God breaks the chain of our slavery to sin.  Our greatest concern must be the condition that leads to sin more than the sin itself.

Political posturing to make abortion has great merit, but has the church become so consumed with this that it has forgotten our first calling from the Lord is to minister to individual people as they suffer from the pain of sin.  We can walk and chew gum at the same time.  We can be active politically in the abortion arena.  Our first priority must be loving those whose lives have been hurt from the effects of abortion.  Changing the law is important for God’s protection over our nation, but it will not save a single soul.  To be active politically but absent in personal ministry is an earthly response to a spiritual issue.

 

How can abortion be sinful if God commanded the death of the unborn?

For many, the struggle is found in the Christian message of love from a God who commanded the death of many people including pregnant women and children.  The average Christian has lost sight of God’s command for Israel was to defeat the city of Jericho and kill every man, woman, child, and animal.  Surely, in a city this large, there would have been many pregnant women.  How can a God who protects the sanctity of life destroy the unborn?  Another difficult passage is the Old Testament ceremony regarding the suspected infidelity of a wife.  The priest was to take bitter water and give it to the wife whose husband is unsure of her fidelity to Him and then declare:

Numbers 5:19-22
Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. 20 But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— 21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse —“may the LORD cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. 22 May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.” (NIV)

Many outside the church claim the Christian stance of God’s sanctity for life has no basis because of passages such as these.  What they miss is that God and God alone is Judge.  He has the authority to dispense consequences though none of us do.  In the human realm, it is the same.  If I see someone robbing a bank, I can call it wrong.  Perhaps, I can make a citizens’ arrest.  But I don’t have the authority to condemn them to prison for any number of years.  Only those endowed with this authority can do this.  But we allow judges to hand down punishment even though they, themselves are not perfect.  It is a necessary, though a  highly imperfect, system in an attempt to maintain order.

Remember, the Bible places people into two categories: perfect and imperfect.  The first group only has one member.  His name is Jesus.  The rest of us belong to this other group.  Judges have authority to hand down consequences because it has been given them by man.  God’s authority, however, is based on His perfection.  Only the one who has never sinned can justifiably condemn those who have.  Like any kind Father trying to help their children live their best life, He motivates us with a promise of blessing to our children when we live according to His statutes, but the absence of these blessings, which is what a curse is, when we don’t follow this way also fall upon our children.  It is not that God does not value life.

He is the Good Father using both reward and punishment to help his children take the best path that He alone who is omniscient can know.

 

Is it ever ok to have an abortion?

A person’s lack of understanding of God’s authority to bless and curse must not be allowed to deceive us into believing that abortion is acceptable to God.  We should, however, have a posture of patience and mercy for those who do not understand.  Abortion is not acceptable to the Lord.  No person, no human being, has the moral authority to take the life of another innocent human being.  Judges may give the guilty a death sentence, but this is a man-made government attempting to establish order.  This is controversial enough, but to sentence to death an innocent baby is so far beyond what any human has the authority to demand.

What about in the case of rape, incest, or the danger of the mother?  These are beyond difficult situations.  Secular society will rationalize these moments, but the Bible calls for faith in the heart of a Christian.  Should I walk into my wife being raped, would it be acceptable to God for me to kill the rapist?  Yes, it would be.  I know that is going to throw many of my Christian brothers and sisters, but Scripture teaches this:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-3
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal, (NIV)

We can not equate rape with abortion however because we know God allows and disallows our behavior according to the hearts of men made clear by their pattern of behavior.  In other words, a rapist is trying to do great harm, perhaps kill his victim.  A baby in the womb has not such intention so this comparison is apples and oranges.  Those who criticize the pro-life community will often use against this group, their support for the death penalty.  This is an unfounded comparison.

The pain of having a child from rape is more than what I can know or that anyone could know who has never gone through such a nightmare.  However, the principles of Scripture remain.  The Lord would call for us to lean on Him remembering that He is the God who makes streams in the desert, pathways in the wilderness, and brings life from death.  He would call for us to lean upon His promise:

1 Corinthians 10:13
13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (NIV)

What is this escape but a way to move out from underneath the pressure creating temptation.  For some, this may be allowing the baby to be adopted.  For some, it may be raising the baby as a way of overcoming how our spiritual foe, Satan, would want to steal our joy, peace, and love.

This is so much easier for me to say this than for someone to endure it.  This is why I have no right to judge, neither does anyone else.  It’s easy to say a mother should stand up in court and offer forgiveness to the one who murdered her little boy because that is what Jesus would do.  But woe to anyone who judges another without walking in their shoes.  This is why the Bible says not to condemn one person for a speck of dust in their eye when we have a whole plank of wood in our own.  But the error of me judging someone who struggles to put their faith in the promises of God does not change the promises of God.  In all of these, the Lord calls upon us to let Him strengthen our faith.  Faith in His promises allows Him to take what was meant for evil and use it for good.  He takes that born in the spirit of death and subjects it to the spirit of life.  He reverses and defeats evil that all people might know that God is alive and His way is true.

 

How to minister to someone who has had an abortion?

Those who have had an abortion must be loved before they will believe that God still loves them.  As we love them, they will learn to trust our love for them.  They will be confident that our priority is their well-being.  Trust opens the door to speak of the dangers of immorality.  These will be words of life, not condemnation.  Those consumed with guilt because of abortion need to be reminded that the only sin that keeps the Lord from receiving them into His arms is their rejection of Him.  He will never reject anyone who comes to Him, but He will not force His way into the heart of someone rejecting Him.  They need to be reminded that their action was not the end, but the Lord has made provision for those who perish before reaching an age of understanding.  They need to know they will see their baby in the Heavenlies.

Love before morality opens a hardened heart to hear the truth of Scripture regarding forgiveness and the Heavenly reunion with babies they have never seen.

The Bible teaches morality without a doubt.  The Ten Commandments clearly reveal this and of course, the sixth commandment is “Thou Shall Not Murder.”  Christ, however, has not called us to be moralists, but Christlike.  The priority of moralists is to declare what is moral and what is not.  However, our priority as believers is not to teach morality, but to love.  Often, these will overlap.  For example, the negative consequences of abortion ranging from physical complications, emotional anguish, and mental health can be destructive to someone.  If we love them, we will guide them away from all destructive behavior as we ourselves attempt to live away from these same behaviors.  The separation between morality and love is found in the intent.  The intent of morality is to decide, teach, promote, and demand the right behavior.  Of course, to demand the right behavior without love tears people down.  Christians are commanded to build one another up.  The intent of love is heart transformation, so a person experiences the abundant life Christ has for them.  This distinction should affect our response to the issue of abortion.  Christians should care about the laws of the land and whether abortion is legal, but a higher priority is to help those who are suffering from the injurious effect of abortion.

Morality is truth regardless of impact, but we are taught to speak the truth in love.  Love is patient.  Love is kind.  It does not bring up past mistakes to do harm.  God does not break a bruised reed and neither should we.  We should never beat down someone who is already deeply hurt.  The power of God’s love is the message it sends to a sinful world.  The cross symbolizes God’s love for us even at our worst.  The Bible says we love God in response to Him loving us as we are in all our imperfection and sin.  Love transforms.  Morality without love embitters.

 

How to deal with the guilt that may come from having an abortion?

Many of you reading this may carry a weight of guilt because of an abortion.  I want to clearly say to you today that God loves you just like you are.  His compassion eclipses His wrath.  And I want you to know that the Bible teaches us that we all need God because all of us have broken His law.  As humans, we have placed greater emphasis on certain sins, but the Bible does not teach this.  Consider this passage for example:

Romans 1:29-32
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (NIV)

Even though the human imagination supposes some sin is worse than others, it is only the immediate consequence of some sin that is greater than the immediate consequences of others.  God is more concerned with the long-term effect than the immediate consequences of any sin.  He considers all sin equally dangerous because the ‘little’ sins open the door to ‘bigger’ sins.  There are no ‘big’ sins without preceding ‘little’ sins.   This is what Solomon meant when he said it was the ‘little foxes that ruin the vineyards.’  What we see as little sins may actually be more dangerous because they are equally corrupting to our soul but much harder to detect.  If I killed a man, I would be fully aware of this, but I can easily justify and turn a blind eye to a small lie told to someone to make myself look better.  The way human society assesses sin, including the church many times, is not Biblical.

So when it comes to abortion, the human consequence is greater.  This is true, but God gives us a list in Romans that all lead to the same place of destruction.  There are some that seem ‘small’ such as gossip and disobedience to parents and some that seem ‘larger’ such as hating God.  God judges all of these as equally wicked and perilous to the good life He wants for us.  The only person who is perfect enough to judge you is God and He does not see abortion as somehow beyond redemption.  In fact, God has already forgiven you.  When He died on the cross, He died for all sin.  If God knows how many hairs are on the top of every head in the world, He surely knows every sin each person will commit.  In foreknowledge, He knew every sin you would ever commit and He died on the cross for your forgiveness.

Don’t let anyone, not even other Christians, convince you that God will not forgive.  Forgiveness is a gift that He has already left on your porch.  Like an Amazon package, it is waiting there for you to bring into the home of your heart.  It is a free gift.  The only unpardonable sin is to refuse to open the gift of forgiveness.  Let today be a new day.  If God is Judge and He has forgiven you, then who are you to condemn yourself?  Let God be the Judge.  Accept His judgment that all sin was crucified on Calvary and thrown into the deepest sea.  His blood shed on the cross has made you clean.  Accept His forgiveness.  Stop beating yourself up. Start living a new life in the grace of His mercy.

Now, go and live blessed because you are, then go and be a blessing to others because they need it.

Biblical principles Christian Counseling

test every spirit

Test Every Spirit

So Many Mixed Messages

Convolution has become the norm.  Like a tsunami, words, news, ideas, theories, plots, and conspiracies incessantly crash down flooding our emotions.  They drive us with force inland away from the open space of calm and serenity.  Experts on top of experts with graphs and graphics all intended to influence us to one side or another on every issue.  It might not be a problem, but so many of the significant issues of the day come at us from a plethora of directions.  The right, the left, the conservative, the liberal, the religious, the non-religious, and everything in between.  Everyone has an opinion of what is right and they all expect us to accept what they say and follow along like little baby penguins waddling behind their mother.  But how can we know what is true?  How can we be certain?  Do we believe this anchorperson or that?  This article or that blog, which is true?  The Scripture warns us to test every spirit.

Are these things that seem to have no eschatological relevance really spiritual?

 

Everything in the Physical Originated and Exists Within the Spiritual

The simple answer is yes.  We do not live in a world existent outside of the spiritual realm, but a world enclosed by it.  Before creation was, the Spirit of God hovered over what was to come.  The Bible says that everything has been made by God, who is Spirit.  The Spiritual created what we see.  The Bible also teaches us that God created a world and has always been involved in it.  Adam and Eve heard God walking in the Garden of Eden.  Angels and demons continually make an appearance throughout Scripture.  Modernity has given scientific and psychological terms to phenomena arising out of spiritual activity, but we must never suppose our world and existence to be void of spirit.  We are the physical manifestation of spirit.  Our soul is eternal.  The physical body we see simply houses our true self, that which is immortal and will spend eternity in the presence of God or outside the presence of God, but the spirit in us will never cease to exist.  The Word of God, the Bible we read is described by the Apostle Paul as the breath of God.  The word breath in the original language means spirit.  Luke in Acts reminds us that every move we make is by Him and in Him, the God who is Spirit.

Not only this but we are taught that Satan, the once high angel now fallen, is the god of this age.  The culture, the movements of society, thought, and philosophy is under the dominion of the Great Serpent still deceiving us to partake of the forbidden fruit.  The old commercial State Farm commercial suggesting if it is on the internet, it must be true sarcastically taught us not to trust everything we see and read.  We must test the spirits.

1 John 4:1-3
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. (NIV)

 

Because everything manifested in the physical originates in the spirit, to test every spirit is to discern the origin of thoughts, ideas, philosophies, theories, and arguments.   Once we discern, we are to take captive every thought, argument, precept, concept that sets itself against the Word of God.  This is not always easy.   Not only can we not blindly accept what we read and hear, but we also cannot blindly reject the same.  We must educate ourselves.  To form our opinion about a situation or moment in time based on one report, blog, or article is quite dangerous.  How many times have you been led to believe one thing only to find out later there was more to the story.

 

Is the Intent Godly?

To know whether we accept or reject, we must look at the motive of a particular idea, theory, or news story.  What is the intent of the information?  What is the purpose of the theory?  Is the goal God-worthy?  In other words, if something is posted intended to create havoc, discord, fear, or hate, that’s easy.  It’s not from God.  I remember watching a video of one of the first reporters beheaded by radical Muslim terrorists.  No doubt about the spirit behind this video.  It was intended to create fear.  But what about some other issues that are not so clear.  Not all pieces of information that have good intentions are from God.

Satan is a master at presenting wicked thoughts shrouded with good intentions.  Politics is a huge arena where we must test every spirit.  Both parties want what is best for the nation, for the world.  Both say they want to help those who need help.  Let me give you an example.  Conservatives say they want to work for peace, and so do the Liberals.  However, conservatives tend to seek “peace through strength.”  A build-up of the military to make sure our enemies know that any scuffle with America is going to go very badly for them and quickly.  Liberals lean more toward “peace through reconciliation.”  Working with those nations who have shown a history of hatred for America, sending money and incentives so they will see America differently and not want to attack.  Both have good intentions.  And either could be for God at different times.  Remember, God does not always have hard and fast rules that are never to be broken.  We are told to go to those who have sinned against us and talk it out, but we are also told that a wise man overlooks an offense.  Sometimes, God wants us to confront, and sometimes, He prefers we let it go.  Sometimes, we stand strong against our enemies, and sometimes, we befriend them.  But how do we know?

 

Is the Methodology Godly?

If the intent of the idea seems good and right, then we need to move to the methodology at that moment.  This depends on the people involved.  If the manager of a business says he wants to make sure all employees get along, that is good.  If his methodology is to encourage people to never say anything when another employee does something wrong, this is not from God.   To end violence is good, but if the methodology presented to accomplish this leaves people vulnerable and unprotected, it’s not from God.  Employing racism to end racism is unGodly.  Techniques to deal with stress are many.  Breathe deep, get drunk, get high, have sex, take medicine, pray, worship, suicide, watch a rom-com are all ways to deal with stress.  Some of these are acceptable to God and others are not.  Some of these ideas are still being whispered through the hiss of that Ancient Snake, Lucifer.

 

How is the Communicator Motivated?

Finally, we must look at the motive of the person communicating the idea or thought.  Many times, especially in churches, that are Godly ideas presented with Godly methodologies, but the motive of the person is selfishness.  The person is attempting to gain glory for themselves in the process.  Selfishness hijacks God-inspired principles presented with holy methodologies in every area of life.  In this case, we may not want to reject the idea or argument, but we do want to be careful of the potential deformation of all things good.  From the preacher praying for the blessing of his congregation with self-aggrandizing emoting to the politician calling the nation to unity because he is the one that can pull us together, selfishness in the players involved can be very indicative of the caution we need to use as we move forward with them.

Seeing the complexity to test every spirit reveals to us that we will not always be able to make a quick judgment about people, things, or ideas.  That’s probably good.  Snap judgments don’t usually benefit us or those people or things we judge.  Instead, we are forced to become more like God as well as trust in God.  Learning to be quick to listen and slow to judge forces us to seek the Lord’s wisdom and insight being patient as we wait for the Lord.  And we know that waiting for the Lord is faith in God.  And the more faith we have, the more strength and the greater potential for God to work in our lives.

Don’t fall into the temptation of being like everyone else going off on rants based on political or religious views.  Not everything is discerned easily and quickly.  The Bible is clear that we must test every spirit.  We must learn to be quick to listen, slow to judge, and pray for wisdom.

Live Blessed and Be a Blessing!

Biblical principles Christian Counseling

 

 


HOW TO LOVE AN ANGRY PERSON

WHAT IS PRAYER

HOW TO FORGIVE

PASTOR LEE’S BOOKS

 

root cause of pride

The Root Cause of Pride

What is the root cause of pride? We are living in an atmosphere where everyone is convinced that they know everything.  Pride has taken root in American culture like no other time in history.  With so many controversial issues, we would think people might listen more to the other side.  The opposite is happening.  A quick glance on social media reveals the pride of humanity.  People are not only convinced they are right, but they also have no shame in declaring their rightness and condemning all who disagree as ignorant, stupid, hateful, racist, uncaring.

The Bible teaches that pride comes before a fall.  We can literally be certain that when pride prevails, disaster is just around the corner.  But even with this understanding, pride is embedded so deeply in the human spirit, we can’t get rid of it.

 

HOW TO GET RID OF PRIDE?

To root out pride, we need to understand the root causes of pride.  Sure, we can say that pride is connected to the sinful nature, but that doesn’t help us practically.  The Bible tells us to humble ourselves before the Lord.  God would not command it if it weren’t possible, but how?  How do we get rid of pride?  How do we humble ourselves before the Lord?  Today, let’s look deep into the soil of our soul to find the root cause of pride and yank it out.

One of the most audacious examples of pride in the New Testament occurs when Peter rebukes Jesus.  Can you imagine rebuking the Messiah?  Sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it?  Of course, every time we take a course of action that goes against God, we are in a sense telling Him He knows nothing.  We are not quite in His face rebuking Him, but we are being passive-aggressive toward Him.  It’s pride, hubris, arrogance.  And it ruins everything.  As we identify the root cause of pride and how to get rid of it, let’s learn from Peter’s mistake.

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (NIV)
Matthew 16:21-23

              The primary reason Christ has come to Earth as a man is to be the propitiatory sacrifice needed to open a way for sinful man to be restored in relationship with God.  Without this sacrifice, man would not be able to enjoy the love and goodness of God.  Without Christ on the cross, humanity would be forever lost chained to the floor of the devil’s dungeon.  He knew this would be difficult for his disciples to hear so He has slowly been preparing them for this moment.  He lays it out a plan before them that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer.  The key word here is ‘must.’  This is part of the plan, God’s plan.  This is what is necessary and right and good.  And Peter says, “You don’t have a clue what you’re talking about Jesus!”

 

THIS IS WHY GOD WANTS US TO BE HUMBLE

Pride enables us to think that we know what is right or what is best.  Pride conveniently helps us forget that we don’t know everything.  Pride prompts us to correct everyone else because, in our mind at least, we couldn’t be wrong.  The fact is that Peter did not want this to happen.

Anytime there is something that we don’t want, words we don’t want to hear or experience we don’t want to live through, changes we don’t like, we will resist.  We resist because human nature does not enjoy suffering.  Human nature wants to feel good and be at peace in all circumstances.  Of course, life does not allow this.  But our natural response to not getting what we want is resistance.  Then we have to justify that resistance.  Notice how Peter changes the vernacular from ‘must’ to ‘happen.’  Jesus says this ‘must’ happen meaning this is why I have come, and I don’t want you to worry when it happens.  Peter changes the dynamic as if it is something that could happen to Jesus outside of God’s plan.  He completely missed the point.  Pride gives us this unusual ability to morph what has been said or done into something else to justify why we should not have to endure unpleasantness.

This justification sets us up in opposition to God any time what He knows to be good and right might cause some temporary suffering.  Look at the morality of churches today.  So many have morphed Scripture into something that it is not to justify a position that avoids uncomfortable or contentious interactions with others.  Churches have decided that Biblical principles about marriage and sexuality were cultural only applicable during Biblical times.  To hold to the standard would mean being demonized as a homophobic, religious zealot.  Pride gives us the ability to justify the skew we place on Scripture.  Any false teaching that makes following Christ easier and more pleasant is very appealing to us in our pride.  Pride carries us to the other side of the battlefield, and we set ourselves up as God’s opponent with these small adjustments to His word to accommodate our need for congenialness.

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.” (NIV)
James 4:6

 

WHAT IS THE ROOT CAUSE OF PRIDE?

Jesus says to Peter:

“Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (NIV)
Matthew 16:23

              Peter fell to pride because of what concerned him.  In other words, the thoughts that occupied his mind trapped him in his own pride.  He was thinking about human concerns, not Godly concerns.  But what is the difference?

Christ is concerned about what needs to be done to provide a way for sinful man to be reconciled to a holy God.  Peter is concerned about Jesus raising up an army to overthrow the Roman empire and the Jewish religious elite.  Peter’s concerns have to do with his suffering.  He wants to avoid suffering.  Think about when you worry.  Do we not worry most about those things that are messy, difficult, painful?  We hate to suffer.  Pride is in us because of the sinful nature.  We can’t do anything about the sinful nature.  However, by the blood of Christ and the Holy Spirit abiding in us, we have the power to resist sin.  Though pride is innate, we don’t have to succumb, but rooting out pride involves our thoughts.  It is not simply our thoughts, but our priorities.

 

GET THEE BEHIND ME SATAN

The Lord is equating human concerns with Satanic thoughts.  Satan could care less about anything so long as we don’t find salvation in the Lord.  He is working continually to keep us from knowing Christ.  For those who know Christ as their Lord, He is working to discourage us from any kind of growth because our growth means help for others in finding Christ.  One of his main ways to do this is through fear produced by the prospect of suffering.  To root out pride, we must transfix our priorities to God’s priorities.  The cross is the focal point of God’s priorities.

Jesus said following Him means taking up our cross and denying ourselves.  To follow Christ is to suffer.  We suffer in that we don’t get what we want.  We suffer in ridicule of those who don’t love the truth of God.  We suffer in sacrifice living to help others come to Christ.  If we are going to set our concerns on the things of God, we must embrace suffering, not despise it.

I don’t mean that we punish ourselves as some kind of sign of repentance.  I mean that we embrace the suffering that comes with not living life for the earthly things we desire, but for the Heavenly things God desires.  Getting a promotion is not our priority when we go to work.  Our priority is to handle ourselves at work in a way that reveals the goodness of God.  Please don’t go to work tomorrow and stand up on your chair above all the cubicles and start preaching.  This is not what I mean.  I mean go to work and be helpful to others not selfish.  Be a team player, not a solo artist.  When everything hits the fan, let the people be more important to you than the issue.  Don’t allow yourself to have a bad attitude because you are more ‘concerned’ about losing a client than you are showing the love of Christ to your co-workers.

Don’t get in your car to go home and concern yourself with how much time you are spending in traffic.  I know, that’s a tough one.  Instead, handle yourself in traffic in a way that won’t make you look hypocritical when someone sees that Jesus fish on your bumper.  Instead, concern yourself with the things of God.  Let that time help you increase your patience.  Take the extra time to call a friend going through a hard time.  Wave to those sitting in line with you.  And when you are seeing them foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog, pray for them.  Is God more concerned about your level of patience or how long it takes you to get home?

 

A SERVANT MENTALITY

When soldiers go out to battle, they have orders.  These orders relay the priorities of the commanders who have the most information.  This information gives them the advantage of knowing how to fight the battle and win.  God is our commander.  Each day, to concern ourselves with His priorities, we need to get our marching orders.  If we don’t spend time in prayer, reading the Bible, letting the Spirit remind us of God’s priorities, then we can’t expect our sinful brain to do it on its own.  We need to hear from our commander.  This is what our spiritual disciplines are all about.

We need to get our priorities from the Word of God, from prayer, from meditation, and from the church.  Sometimes, in my pride, I have convinced myself so well that I am right that I can’t see it.  That is when I need a brother or sister in Christ who will speak the truth in love to me and tell me that I am wrong and being prideful.  When we are out of the church and never gather with Christians to concern ourselves with the things of God, the sinful nature will not be impeded, and our natural concerns will be of man.  We will set ourselves against suffering.  We will adapt our thinking according to what we want then let everyone else know how wrong they are.

Battles are not won on the battlefield.  They are won in the strategy room.  Our battle against our own sinful nature was won in the strategy room of Heaven.  But we must go to the throne of grace to get our orders aligned with the strategy to kill this enemy of my soul.  This will root out the spirit of pride from our hearts.

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HUMBLE YOURSELF BEFORE THE LORD?

Humility like pride is a state of mind.  Pride is our natural state.  We don’t have to work at being prideful.  When we look at something, we form an opinion that feels right which makes every other opinion feel wrong.  We don’t have to decide to feel this way.  It is natural.  It is only with some spiritual growth are we able to leave open the possibility that we might not be correct.  Then we can be humble before people and listen to their opinions.  To help us develop humility, God calls for us to humble ourselves before Him:

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (NIV)
James 4:10

              Humility is a mental exercise of reminding yourself in the presence of God that you are lower than He is.  Humility roots out pride.  As we move into a time of prayer and allow our focus to be upon the Lord as He sits on the throne, we imagine ourselves kneeling before the throne recognizing His eminence and our lowliness.  We exalt His wisdom and remind ourselves that without Him, we have no wisdom.  We exalt His holiness and remind ourselves that without Him, we have nothing good in us as the Apostle Paul said.

Humility is so anti-humanity that we can’t expect to have victory over pride easily.  The key is to continually exercise the spiritual discipline of humbling ourselves before the Lord each day.  If we do not do this each day, pride will come back with force.

Pride is part of the sinful nature and the sinful nature will be with us until we are glorified in Heaven.  We cannot kill it forever.  We can only kill it day by day.  In fact, we have to kill it circumstance by circumstance.  When a situation with potential suffering at any level presents itself, we need to make a conscious choice to say out loud, “Lord, I will gladly obey Your way in this moment.”  When we make this confession of our desire and delight in His law, we give the Holy Spirit permission to rise up against our pride and defeat it in the moment.  But it will return.  Each day, be it morning, noon, or night, take time to humble yourself.  Remind yourself of who God is then remind yourself who you are without God.  Then take this mindset into the rest of your day or the next day drawing upon it when suffering seems to be imminent.

 

A NEW PARADIGM OF HUMILITY

To root out pride, we need to humble ourselves but adopt a new paradigm of how the world works.  When we operate as servants concerned about the things of God, God gives us the desires of our hearts.  We often wake up in the morning set to go after the earthly things that we desire.  In fact, this is the American dream.  Dream for what you want, then go and make it happen.

We cannot deny that self-determination can bring earthly success.  But God’s paradigm brings success in one area while loss occurs in other areas.  These past few weeks, we have seen the announced divorce of two of the most successful men in the world.  Both Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates are getting a divorce.  They have more money than anyone but God.  They have been wildly successful from an earthly standpoint, but their marriages are dead.  The new paradigm of serving the Lord moves Him to create success in all areas of your life.  He gives you success with balance, peace, and a restful soul.  God’s promise in James is that if we humble ourselves before Him, He will exalt us.  Here is another Scripture reference:

Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart (NIV)
Psalms 37:4

              Don’t get too excited thinking if you humble yourself, God is going to give you a new yacht.  As we humble ourselves, the Spirit responds to our efforts to do this by purifying our hearts so that the desires of our hearts change.  It doesn’t mean you will not get a new yacht, but all of your desires will be for those things that you will use to exalt the Lord and bless others.  Your heart will no longer be so selfish.  You will be transformed and moved into this new paradigm or humility allowing the Lord to exalt you according to your humility.  Worldly success is wrapped in selfishness, not humility.  Selfishness requires a great deal of effort to go after those things you desire.  But when we seek the Lord and serving Him as our King first, then He goes and gets these things and brings them to us.  We don’t have to become workaholics burning the candle at both ends.  Instead, our life is blessed, and we live in a spiritual, mental, even physical rest.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (NIV)
Matthew 6:33-34

              Humility seems backward in our American culture, but it is God’s way of blessing our life, giving us balanced success throughout everything in our life.  Make up your mind today to humble yourself, exalt Him, and concern yourself with the things of God and see if God won’t exalt you.

 

Biblical principles Christian Counseling

 

 

miracle prayer

Miracle Prayer for the Impossible

It’s so easy to give up in the face of impossible odds.  For so much of my life, fear has stolen opportunities, blessings, and influence from me.  How can we find the courage to keep going in impossible situations?  We look for a miracle prayer for the impossible.  And I encourage you to pray for courage, pray for power, but I also want you to know that God has already given you all you need for courage to keep going.  What if we need only to pray that God would help us take hold of the courage we need to step out on faith in impossible odds?

Whether it is a relationship, a job, a business venture, a ministry, the enemy wants to keep us from reaching our potential for the glory of God.  I say it all the time, but let me say it again.  God wants to do great things for you and through you for His glory.  When God’s blessing and favor cover us and we give Him credit, He is glorified.  When we let fear keep us from trying or make us quit, how are we any different from the world?  Fear can keep us from glorifying God with our life. 

The Bible is full of people who are overcoming all the odds to accomplish the impossible.  This is God’s plan for our life.  It was Jesus who told the disciples that after they received the Holy Spirit, they would do even greater things than He did.  Wow!  Let that sink in for a minute.  God wants to do miracles in your life.  Today, I want to share an important principle to allow to God do miracles in your life.

 

 

POWER FOR THE IMPOSSIBLE IS ALREADY IN YOU

One of the greatest feats in Scripture is the toppling of the greatest nation on Earth by one man.  In Old Testament times, Egypt was the most powerful nation in the world.  Jacob’s sons had become jealous of their brother Joseph because he was their Dad’s favorite.  They sold him into slavery.  Then his new master’s wife accused him of making a pass at her and he was thrown into prison.  It was there that other inmates began to have dreams and Joseph was given the power by God to interpret these dreams.  Later, Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, had some disturbing dreams and none of his magicians could interpret the dream.  A member of his court, who had been in prison, remembered Joseph.  Joseph was able to interpret the dream letting Pharoah know of a seven-year drought that was coming.  This knowledge helped Egypt store up supplies in advance so when the drought came, all the world came to Egypt to buy food and Egypt got super-rich and powerful.

400 years later, Joseph has long been forgotten.  The nation of Egypt, still the dominant nation of the world thrived on the backs of Joseph’s ancestors.  The nation of Israel was enslaved.  It was this slave labor that allowed Egypt to keep building its wealth and power.  Egypt did not worship the Lord.  They worshiped many false gods and their religious practices were detestable to the Lord.  It was during this time that Moses was born.  He was the child of a Hebrew slave at a time when Pharaoh was having all male children born to slave women thrown into the Nile River to die.

Moses’s mother could have just given up.  What could she do against Pharaoh and his army?  It was a hopeless moment.  But rather than giving up, she dared to do something against all odds.  She made a waterproof basket using the mud of the Nile and placed baby Moses in this basket and set him afloat on the river.

It still seemed like an impossible situation.  The Nile was full of all kinds of animals.  The baby could have been ravished.  The baby could have floated until it starved but she took a chance.

 

 

COURAGE REQUIRES RISK

We often think that God wants us to play it safe.  And when we can’t see a successful ending, we choose to do nothing rather than risk failure.  Jesus made it clear that faith in God is a risky business.  In the parable of the talents, we see Christ teaching God’s desire that we would invest our talents, time, and treasure in faith that He will give us favor and increase.  We do not take foolish risks, but rather than letting fear keep us from moving forward, we give it our best shot knowing we might fail.  We start the business.  We go ahead and forgive again.  We give our tithes and offerings.  We don’t quit but find a way to move forward.  Faith in God never reveals the result of success or failure.  Faith only reveals the next step.  In every situation, do not let fear keep you from moving forward.  You may not be able to see the whole path, but that’s ok.  You only need faith for the next step.

Well, if you don’t know the story, the basket floated down the river and the water just happened to move it to the exact place where Pharaoh’s daughter was bathing that day.  Hmmm…and who is it that moves the water?  The baby’s older sister had followed alongside the basket to see what might happen.  When she saw Pharaoh’s daughter take the baby in her arms, she volunteered to get one of the nursing slave women to feed the baby.  Guess who she went and got.  Yep, Moses’ mother got to hold her baby again.  She never thought this was going to happen, but she was not willing to just give in an impossible situation.

 

 

PRAY FOR COURAGE FROM THE COURAGEOUSNESS OF OTHERS

This little girl shows incredible courage at this moment.  Pharaoh’s daughter knew this was a Hebrew baby.  So she also knew a Hebrew slave had disobeyed the order of Pharaoh.  Moses’ sister, Miriam, took a huge risk that Pharaoh’s daughter would turn her in to get the name of this defiant slave woman who refused to drown her baby according to the royal edict.  Where did this little girl get this incredible courage?

For three months, Miriam watched her mother hide this baby.  Her mother did not know what to do, but she refused to give up.  She risked her own life to save her baby.  Every time someone would come near, she had to hide this baby and try to keep him quiet.  She did not only have to do this when Egyptian soldiers came near but also when her people came near.  Anyone might have turned her in and then they would have killed her whole family.  Miriam watched the tense moments of hiding in small places trying to keep the baby quiet.  She saw the worry and fear in her mother’s eyes.  But more than anything, she saw the courage of her mother.  And when the baby was too old to keep quiet, she saw the anguish as her mother put her baby in this basket and set him into the river full of alligators, hippos, and more.  She was inspired by her mother’s courage.  When the pivotal moment came to say something to make sure her brother was fed or left to die, she risked her life and her family’s life again to do something.  

How many people around you have been brave by the grace of God to not give up, to not quit, to not throw in the towel so you could have a chance at something better.  God put these people in our lives.  Even if they were not God-fearing people, courage comes only from God.  God helped them in their time of distress.  They didn’t know what to do, but they did something.  They did not have the answer, but they refused to accept the worst scenario.  God has given these people to us not only to give us a chance but to inspire us to be strong and courageous as well.

I think of my parents and my mother-in-law.  They each experienced a difficult life.  They could have given up and become addicts, drunks, lazy, or taken their own life.  But they fought to move forward even when they couldn’t see which direction was forward.  They have given my wife and me courage.  We too have been through some nightmarish days, but we found the courage to not give up, to not divorce, to not fall deep into selfishness.  We hope that our courage to fight through these times has given our children an opportunity to go further just as the courage of our parents gave us this opportunity.  

Their courage helped Moses to do more.  He was called by God to overthrow the most powerful nation in the world.  He grew up in the palace experiencing the most privileged life in that culture.  But he knew his people suffered and his heart went out to them.  But how could he, just one man, the child of a slave, rescue millions of people from a nation built on their slave labor?

He didn’t know what to do, but he had to do something.  We saw one of his people being beaten severely by their slave-master.  He intervened and killed the slave-master.  He never set out to kill anyone, but the pressure to do something without knowing what to do led to pent-up frustration then murder.  His crime became known and the punishment was death.  He lost courage and fled.  He abandoned his calling.  He abandoned the task before him and ran out into the desert entering into a safe life as a shepherd.  He did his best to forget the pressure of doing something.  He gave up.  But God never gave up on Him.

One day he sees a burning bush not being consumed.  Intrigued, he moves closer and God speaks to Him.  “Take off your shoes for you are standing on holy ground,” God says to Moses.  The Lord renews the task requiring courage and great risk.  God commands him to leave the safe life back to Egypt as one man to bring down an entire nation.

 

 

PRAY FOR COURAGE FROM THE HOLINESS OF GOD

Before God sends Moses back into harm’s way, He reminds Moses that He is holy.  Holiness is the character of God to always do what is right.  We don’t always understand what is right, but if we will remember that God is holy and God is also love. He is both.  These two terms do not contradict one another.  God does what is right based on love.  Love is both an affectionate emotion and a beneficent behavior.  God’s heart is always drawn to us and out of this love, He is going to do whatever is going to benefit us.  What we want or desire is not always going to be a benefit.  You may want a million dollars, but if God knows this money will corrupt your heart and make you arrogant or give you more resources to make bad decisions, He is not going to give you the money.  Love is doing what is going to benefit a person and all benefits begin and end in the presence of God.  God will always do for you and call you to do that which is going to move you closer to Him.  So God says to Moses, “Find the courage to face the impossible.”

It is the impossible moments of life that God uses to draw us to Him.  I am reminded of a movie that came out just a few years ago called The Upside.  It is based on the true story of a wealthy wheelchair man who has given up on life and his assistant in a similar situation.  They were both facing impossible tasks.  One had lost hope after losing his wife and ability to walk in an accident.  The other man had given up on life because of failure after failure.  They both embarked on this impossible task of moving forward.  They needed one another and each one helped the other.  We are drawn to those people we lean on when we are helpless.  As they help us with each step, our hearts become one.  If we never had impossible moments, we would never cry out to God.  We would never draw near to Him.  All that He is would be lost to us.  We need the impossible moments to push us back into the arms of God and there we find the courage to keep going.

God’s holiness and love give us confidence that even if we try and fail, He will be there for us.  He will not abandon us.  And even if we fail, somehow, he will redeem our efforts and create a new opportunity for success, but now with more wisdom of what will not work.  

Peter could have stayed in the boat, but he dared to do the impossible and he stepped onto the water and started walking to Jesus. After doing the impossible then he failed.  He took his eyes off God and sunk into the stormy waters.  But then what happened?  How did Jesus respond to Peter’s failure?  He grabbed him by the arm and they walked together back to the boat.  What!!!!  Even in his failure, the love of God would abandon Peter.  He gave Peter another chance and this time helped him and with Christ, Peter did what was impossible.  This only happened because he found the courage to attempt the impossible.

Ok, back to Moses.  God, through the burning bush, tells him to go back to tell Pharaoh to let the Hebrew people go.  Moses is struggling to find courage.  He says to God, “What if people do not believe that I have been sent by God?”  He was afraid that when he showed up, people were just going to laugh at him, not listen, and throw him out to pasture.  But I love God’s answer to Moses, “What is that in your hand?”  Now, God sees everything.  This is not a question of confusion on God’s part.  He is drawing Moses’ attention to the staff in his hands.  God tells Moses to throw down the staff and it becomes a snake.  He tells Moses to pick up the snake and after seeing this miracle finds the courage to grab the snake.  After he grabs it, the snake is transformed back into a wooden staff.

This staff was a sign of the failure.  Moses never had a staff growing up in the palace in Egypt.  He only acquired a staff when he had given up and became a shepherd.  For forty years, he lived in the desert using his staff to care for the sheep.  Now, this staff is the key to accomplishing the impossible.

 

 

PRAY FOR COURAGE FROM YOUR FAILURES

God was teaching Moses that the past forty years were not worthless, but there were some things he had learned in his failure that would ensure his victory.  Moses was able to lead the Hebrews in the desert for forty years because he had learned the patience of a shepherd.  He had learned to face wild animals to protect the flock.  He had learned to face the ravenous wolf eye to eye and defeat it.  Now, he will go into the palace and face a greater wolf, but his failure provided opportunities to increase his courage.  God had helped him as a shepherd.  Now, God will help him rescue the people of God.  

More than this, this staff would turn to a snake gives us a prophetic word.  After bringing the people out of Egypt, they rebel.  One consequence God allows to come upon them because of their rebellion was a brood of poisonous snakes.  The snakes killed many people and the people went to Moses for help.  God instructed Moses to make a snake made of bronze and to place it up on a pole so that anyone who is bitten by a snake could turn their eyes to this bronze snake and they would live.  

Jesus would draw on this narrative and compare Himself to this bronze snake saying, ‘Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him.”  Moses had power over the snake through the wooden staff.  Jesus would exert power over the devil, the Ancient Serpent, through the wooden cross.  Now, we have power over the enemy by the power of that same cross.

 

 

PRAY FOR COURAGE FROM THE CROSS

There are only two powers in this world.  There is God’s power and all other power.  For a time of testing, the Lord has given Satan authority over all power set against God.  It is the power of Satan that comes against us in a spirit of fear.  He opens our eyes and our heart to all of the obstacles and impossibilities.  He paints everything dark without hope.  He reminds us of our insufficiencies.  You’re not smart enough.  You’re not educated enough.  Nobody likes you.  You are never going to amount to anything.  God won’t help you because of all the sin in your life.  But I need to tell you today that through the cross, you have authority over the devil.  You have the power to take him by the tail and toss him out of your life.  You have the authority to stomp on his head.  Because the enemy has been defeated, every power that would work to cause your failure has also been defeated.  You need only to take hold of the power given to you by God and remind the devil he was defeated on that old rugged cross.  

We don’t have a literal snake to grab by the tail so that it will turn again into the wooden staff.  But we can bring Satan back to the cross, the place of his defeat.  When we bring Satan back to the cross, he shrinks back.  Get thee behind me is our command to the fallen angel.  God calls us to resist the devil and when we do, the law of God says He MUST flee.  He will return, but every time he comes back to discourage you pick him up by the tail and take him back to that wooden cross and let him see the perfect blood that was shed for you to have victory over fear.  For God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline.  

Moses would go to Pharaoh and God would work through him to do miracles.  Moses would call for the water to be turned to blood and the water turned.  He would call for darkness and not even a candle could be lit.  He would call for frogs and they would invade.  With each command declared in faith honored by God, Moses was encouraged.  By faith, He did what
God told him to do and God did not disappoint.  His fear melted into great courage.  This courage carried him through to victory.  And when Pharaoh finally let them leave, then changed his mind, and chased them down, Moses did not lose courage.  They were trapped on every side by mountains and water and they could hear the chariots coming.  The people gave up in fear.  Their anger burned at Moses.  They were already convinced they would die that day.  But Moses took courage to have faith and he raised that wooden staff and the wind began to blow.  The waters receded and God made a way for all of them to cross over on a dry riverbed with monumental walls of water on either side of them.  

 

 

PRAY FOR COURAGE TO ACT IN FAITH

When we don’t have courage, if we will step out in faith, God will answer.  Faith is not the absence of fear, it is obedience despite the fear.  I don’t know what you may be facing today, but the spirit of fear has flooded the world this past year.  And fear is one of the devil’s favorite tools against us.  But if you will not shrink back, but keep moving forward even if you can only see the next step, even if you don’t know if it is the right step, God will show up.  He will help you do what can’t be done.  And even if you mess it up like Moses, don’t give up, but let God teach you what you need for the next opportunity.  Faith is your victory.  Your faith will prove the faithfulness of God.  His faithfulness will give you the courage to keep going when everyone else gives up.

Biblical principles Christian Counseling

 

We need hope

woman praying

What is Prayer?

The nature of spirituality is connectedness with that which is beyond.  It is to connect with the spiritual realm.  Because we have all been made in the image of God, by design, we are spiritual beings.  Our spirituality has been wrapped up in flesh causing our first attention to go to that which is natural so connecting to God on a spiritual level is not always that easy.  

First You Must Believe

To connect with that which is spiritual means you must first believe there is a spiritual realm.  It is easy to say we believe in God, angels, and demons, but do we really believe there is a spiritual realm.  Our social imaginary in the west would suggest that it is all hogwash, make-believe fairy tales.  Even many who refer to themselves as Christians can go through the religious activity of worshiping God, yet not truly believe in the depth of their heart that God exists. 

Belief is not something that comes easy when we are talking about faith.  Faith is the evidence of what we cannot see.  Faith is having conviction that something is true though it cannot be proven empirically.  Does God exist?  Is He really out there? 

 

If you find yourself unsure or with doubt about the existence of God, take a look around at the beauty but more importantly the design of nature.  The Scripture teaches us that creation all around us was created by God to reveal the character and power of God:

Many scientists have also began to consider a Creator God because of the nature of the universe.  Lee Strobel, former atheist turned Christian and author of The Case for Christ said this:

“And even though alternative models of the universe have been proposed, the Borde-Guth-Vikenkin Theorem tells us that any universe that is expanding, on average, thru its history, like ours, must have space-time boundary in the past. In other words, it must have had a beginning at some point.”

 

Ultimately, each one of us must decide for ourselves whether we believe or not, but God has given us so much to look at.  The efficiency of nature allowing it to adjust and restore itself would reveal that it did not happen without thought, without design.  If you are struggling to believe, this is a good place to start.

God is in You

The Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit of God has come into us.  Logos is a Greek word meaning ‘word.’  Jesus is called the logos or the Word of God in John 1.  Christ is in us.  He is God in us by the Holy Spirit who is also God and logos.  The Bible teaches us that the Word is in us, in our heart and in our mouth.  Scripture also teaches us that God who is good has written upon the hearts of every man and woman a sense of right and wrong regardless of formal laws.  This goodness in humanity must come from somewhere.  Why were we designed with a sense of right and wrong in a certain direction that just happens to match up with the morality taught in Scripture.  Ontologically, humanity knows murder is wrong, the killing of innocence is wrong.  To betray someone is wrong.  To lie, to cheat, to hate.  Humanity doesn’t always know what to do with this conscience within, but it is yet another facet of evidence of a spiritual being.

Believe in Jesus

Once we have accepted that we are spiritual beings, the next question is what exactly do we believe about the spiritual realm.  Do we accept what the Hindus teach, Islam, Christianity?  This is where the Bible really come into play.  The Bible is actually a collection of 66 different books or letters written by approximately 40 different people from all walks of life over a 1500 year span.  They were writing about different times and events, but there is a clear connection through it all and that is the coming, appearing, dying, resurrecting, ascending of God’ Son, Jesus Christ.  Conservatively, there are more than 300 statement written down hundreds or thousands of years before the birth of Christ that were fulfilled by Christ within the 33 years He was alive on the Earth.  Coincidence?  I think it takes more faith to believe that Jesus fulfilling more than 300 prophetic statements than to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

The Punishment Removed

This is so important because if Jesus is the Son of God, then the purpose of His death on the cross was to satisfy the punishment required of sin, our sin.  He took our place and our punishment.  When we think of the punishment of God, we tend to think of things such as sickness, disease, or even stubbing our toes.  To fully understand the punishment of God, we must understand the nature of everything good.  God is good and all goodness exists and flows from Him.  Everything that we would consider good flows out of God, that is out of His being or presence.  Punishment then is the degree in which there is distance between us and God.  God will never leave us, but He doesn’t force us to remain with Him.  Like the father of the prodigal son, He allows us to run away from Him.  Of course, He pursues us in many ways, calling us back to Himself, but we are not forced.  The distance we create in our rebellion separates us from the goodness of God and places us more and more into the curse of distance from Him.  The further I move from Him, the greater punishment I receive. 

We stay near to God through worship.  Worship is the veneration and reverence we carry for something.  To have reverence for God is to respect Him and to honor Him.  If God tells us the best path to an abundant life is to go left, but we instead choose to go right, we have not honored Him.  The less we honor the Lord in disobedience or lack of faith that He knows the path to the good life, the more distance between us and the more punishment we endure.  God attempts to use the punishment, like a good Father, to helps us come to our senses and bring us home akin to the pig stall of the prodigal. 

Jesus, by taking all of the punishment for our sins allows us to move back into the presence of God though we continue to have sin.  His death and resurrection give us power over death (the separation from God) into life (our union with God) because all life flows from Him.

 

To believe in Jesus as the one who has saved us from our sins and to make Him our Lord by honoring His requests in obedience is to accept that we can draw near to God, that we can connect with Him in a transcendent way.  Jesus came to reconcile man back to God by creating a pathway to the presence of God through faith that His death was for our reconciliation.

Now What?

Now that we choose to believe there is a transcendent God that we can draw near to through Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection, it is not only possible for us to connect on a spiritual level with God, but it is incumbent upon us to do so since this is the very reason Jesus came and died for our sins. The question is how do we do this?  Ultimately, this is what prayer is.  Prayer is the vehicle by which we connect in our spirit to the Spirit of God that has come into us through a mystical union made possible by the life and death of Jesus Christ. 

 

What is Prayer?

If you look for a synonym for the word ‘prayer,’ you are going to get words such as supplication, request, or even beg.  This is a very shortsighted definition of prayer.  Prayer is not asking God to add all of your spiritual grocery list items into some mystical grocery basket.  Prayer is connection to God through the our spirit intermingling with the Holy Spirit also within us.  Remember that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Prayer is meditation and contemplation of God in our heart made possible through His own revelations to us through His Spirit in us.

The Lord reveals Himself in nature as we have already established, but I have to allow myself to interact with nature in a spiritual way.  Seeing all of Creation as that which was made to remind me, you and me personally, that God loves us and is able to care for us allows us to interact with nature in a way that connects with God. 

The Lord reveals Himself through Scriptures and the person of Jesus Christ.  We can read the Bible and the life of Christ from a historical perspective or we can frame the Scriptures within our own mind within the existence of the Jehovah God of the Bible who sent His Son out of love for His creation, that is us that we might be brought back to Him.

 

We must allow our thoughts about creation, God, the Bible, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit to go into our hearts where the Holy Spirit is being within us.  I can historically acknowledge that a man named Jesus was crucified for the crime of blasphemy under the authority of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor at the time.  Or, I can read about the love of God who sent His Son to die at the hands of Pilate that He might conquer sin, remove condemnation, and give the power of life over death to all who believe.  The difference is how I allow myself to consider what I read.  But there is more to it.

It is Spiritual

I must allow these truths into my spirit.  I must meditate on them so that they are soaked up in my soul where I experience them on a level deeper than my intellect.  It is the place within me where I sense the supernatural things that go beyond what can be explained.  If this seems foreign to you as you read, consider the feeling experienced when we hear the laughter of a baby or when we are reunited with a loved one after a long separation.  We can’t help but be moved when we watch the videos of father returning home and surprising their children at school.  We are moved emotionally, but even deeper because what we are feeling is connecting to a place within us that holds our joys and pain, fears and hope.  It is connecting to us at a heart level which is where the Holy Spirit of God is.  Pray is allowing ourselves to be taken to the heart level with God and just being there in His presence.  

A Conversation of the Heart

Prayer is the time we spend in His presence where a conversation flows, even if without words.  Prayer is keeping company in the Presence of God in our own heart.  He has enthroned Himself on the praise that come forth out of our mouth, the overflow of our heart.  And He speaks to us there, sometimes in comprehensible words and we speak back.  At other times, His essence speaks Himself to us with overwhelming moments of feeling His love for us, His hope for us, His forgiveness of us.  This is prayer.  Prayer is becoming a lost practice in the church.  We have turned God into something that we talk about but never truly experience.  But Christianity is, if nothing else, a spiritual endeavor where the eternal in me can push through the finite in me to an eternal God who is love and be in His Presence soaking up His glory and here is where transformation takes place, but that would be for another post.

I pray that you allow yourself the freedom to believe and receive God into your heart and there be with Him in your spirit that you may know Him in a level deeply spiritual beyond your intellect.