Tag Archives: Biblical truth

Looking beyond what we can see

Looking Beyond what we can see

Anatomy of the human eye

As we consider looking beyond what we can see, it might be helpful to review how we see physically.

The human eyes work very similarly to a camera. When you look at an object, the light it generates enters your eyes. The light first passes through the corneas, which begin focusing the light. It then passes through to the pupils. The size of the pupils changes to regulate the amount of light entering the eyes.

 The light is then focused through the lenses and onto the retinas. The retina is a light-sensitive layer in the back of the eye that contains highly evolved cells called rods and cones. The retina then changes the image into electrical and chemical impulses, which are transmitted along the optic nerves and into the visual center of the brain. It is when the image reaches your brain that vision occurs.[1]

Man is a remarkable creation of God. He is made physically perfect for the lifetime God has designated for him (Ps. 90:10).   However, as remarkable as Creation is, God’s work of salvation has resulted in our ability to see spiritually, the things we would normally overlook.

Seeing supernaturally

I love the Old Testament because of its value in capturing the wonders and works of God.  As I prepared for this series, the scripture text that came quickly to mind was the account of the prophet Elisha in 2 Kings 6:8-23.  This passage shares the incident in which the King of Syria, enemy of Israel, sent raiders to capture Elisha.  You will enjoy reading the entire text as it shows the confidence of Elisha as he prepares to meet this great army that surrounded the city of Dothan.

2 Kings 6:15-17 is most relevant to our discussion on seeing with spiritual eyes.  We may find the advice Elisha offered his servant relevant to us as we face the challenges of 21st century living.

And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”  So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  And Elisha prayed, and said, “LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

The chariots of fire that the servant saw were heavenly hosts primed to do battle with the Syrian army on behalf of Elisha.  Elisha saw the heavenly army and recognized that there was no need to fear.  He saw past the potential danger and saw God at work. After Elisha’s prayer, the servant, through God’s enablement, saw that the mountain was full of God’s presence.  He looked beyond what he could see.  He looked from God’s perspective.

Kingdom reality

Seeing with spiritual eyes begins with understanding who God is and our position in the Kingdom of God.

Broadly speaking, the kingdom of God is the rule of an eternal, sovereign God over all the universe. Every authority that exists has been established by God (Romans 13:1). So, in one sense, the kingdom of God incorporates everything that is.  More narrowly, the kingdom of God is a spiritual rule over the hearts and lives of those who willingly submit to God’s authority.[2]

 God is the Almighty Sovereign who manages the affairs of the world from heaven. Through His providential will, God orchestrates every event in our lives. Our position in Christ elevates us to God’s children and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17). We are the recipients of His promises, His privileges, and His presence (Eph. 1:3-5).

Kingdom reality does not deny the presence of sin and its outcomes on the world.  We are sadly aware that we live in a fallen world.  However, we know three things.  First, Jesus Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).  Secondly, we are overcomers, too. (Rom. 8:37; 1 John 5:4).  Finally, we know how history will end.  WE WIN! (Rev. 21:1-8)

Looking beyond what we can see

Looking beyond what we can see allows us to “reframe” our experiences through the lens of kingdom reality. Closed doors are seen as God’s protection.  Waiting is seen as God’s time of preparation—either of us or our desired end.

Seeing this way equips us to move forward in the midst of trouble versus being overwhelmed.  We do not lose hope.  Instead we look past what we see physically.  We see God (2 Cor. 4: 17-18).

It’s not that we spiritualize everything that happens to us, but we truly believe what the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Rome: “All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord who are called according to His purpose.”  (Rom. 8:28)

Seeing with spiritual eyes is not “mystical” like a third eye.  Nor is it “recreational” like fortune telling or a Ouija board.  It is “relational”. Just as the light helps the physical eye to focus, so our focus on kingdom reality helps the spiritual eye to see from God’s perspective and power (Luke 1:37; Jer. 32:17,27).  Just as the retina physically changes the image we see into sight, the Holy Spirit informs us as to what is truth and what is error (Acts 26:18).  Bottom-line is this.  Looking beyond what we can see is dependent on the Source of Light who is Jesus Christ.  “In His light we see light” (Ps. 36:9)

[1] www.ceenta.com/

[2] Gotquestions.com, “The Kingdom of God”

 

Seeing with Spiritual Eyes, Part 2

Seeing with Spiritual Eyes, Part 2

Looking beyond what we can see

The ability to see has been associated with many things in the biblical record.  It has been linked to wisdom (Job 42:5), to salvation (Eph. 1:18), and to discernment (John 7:24). This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it helps to expand our understanding of seeing with spiritual eyes. Seeing with spiritual eyes help us to “look beyond what we can see”.

To see or not to see

The prophet Jeremiah was a heartbroken prophet with a heartbreaking message. He labored for more than 40 years proclaiming a message of doom to the stiff-necked people of Judah.

Hear this now, O foolish people, Without understanding, Who have eyes and see not, And who have ears and hear not: (Jeremiah 5:21-29)

Despite Jeremiah’s many warnings, they did not see that their behavior was headed for a collision with the judgment of God. Judah continued to worship idols, disobey God’s covenant, and practice social injustice. Their lack of vision and refusal to surrender to God’s will resulted in exile to Babylon for 70 years. Judah’s loyalty had become divided and had blinded her to the things of God.

Barriers to seeing spiritually

The “usual suspects” stand as barriers to seeing with spiritual eyes. They are our flesh, the world, and Satan.

Our flesh is the natural or “unredeemed” part of us that take us away from the purpose of God. Our flesh sees with natural eyes and refuses to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit. Paul the Apostle notes that it is impossible for the natural man to see with spiritual eyes (1 Cor. 2:13-16).

The world is that which is contrary to the things of God. It includes the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).  We are told by the Apostle John, that those who love the world do not love God (1 John 2:15). Divided loyalty ultimately leads to disobedience (Titus 1:16; James 4:8).

Satan does what Satan always does:  he discourages, he deceives, and he destroys. Of all the barriers, Satan is the greatest challenge. Why? Because most people don’t believe he exists. He remains the unseen “puppeteer behind the curtain”. But be assured he is very real. Look for him where there is conflict, confusion, and chaos. However, to see him, we will need spiritual eyes.

Our flesh, the world, and Satan keep us from viewing the world as it really exists.  In addition, the postmodern, 21st century worldview has created a “distorted” picture of what we see.  This is especially true with identifying sin.

Our “spiritual sensibilities” are slowly being dulled.  The ultimate goal, of course, is complete spiritual blindness.

How do we gain spiritual sight?

First and foremost, we need to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus shared with His Disciples the importance of the Holy Spirit in guiding them in all truth (John 16:13-14).  Each day it is important that we invite the Holy Spirit to join us through reading scripture, meditation, and prayer.  As we do, we train our spirit man to “listen for the Spirit’s voice” as He communicates with us.

Secondarily, we can practice the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Practicing the Holy Spirit’s presence acknowledges the fact that God, in all His fullness, is always with us (Ps. 139:7-12).  Because of that, we should not limit this practice to our devotion and prayer time only but also include it in our “normal rhythm of life.

Finally, we must be intentional in our pursuit of the knowledge of God and our growth in Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). Seeing with spiritual eyes is not a natural attribute for believers. Therefore, it must be developed. The Apostle Peter describes this process as “giving all diligence to add to our faith” (2 Pet. 1:5-8). Diligence translated means earnestness in accomplishing, promoting, or striving after anything. Peter describes the results for believers who lack that diligence: “They are short-sighted, even to blindness…” (2 Pet 1:9)

Let us make a commitment today to develop spiritual eyes. While it’s been said that “the eyes are the windows of the soul”, it is more important to believe that seeing with spiritual eyes will “keep your soul.”  (Mat. 6:22-24).

Seeing with Spiritual Eyes, Part 1

Seeing with Spiritual Eyes Part 1

An invitation

When I begin my daily devotions, I open with Psalm 119:18:  Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law. My favorite teacher, Alistar Begg, often begins his bible study sessions with this prayer, “Make the book come alive to me.”

Our intent is the same though our approach may differ. We invite the Holy Spirit to join us as our Teacher, as we seek God’s instruction for our life.   Doing this, we are better able to navigate in this post-modern world where there are no absolutes nor acceptable standards of rightness.

As we examine our current society, it appears what is right or wrong is left to the judgment of the individual. In the absence of a common standard of right and wrong, anything goes.

The Heart wants what the Heart wants

People reject a standard for truth because of their greater desire to do “that which seems right in their own eyes”. But what is right?

A recent Barna Research study, The End of Absolutes: America’s New Moral Code, found no agreement on the definition of morality today.

What is it based on? Where does it come from? How can someone know what to do when making moral decisions? According to a majority of American adults (57%), knowing what is right or wrong is a matter of personal experience. This view is much more prevalent among younger generations than among older adults. Three-quarters of Millennials (74%) agree strongly or somewhat with the statement, “Whatever is right for your life or works best for you is the only truth you can know,” compared to only 38 percent of Elders. And Millennials (31%) are three times more likely than Elders (10%) and twice as likely as Boomers (16%) and Gen-Xers (16%) to strongly agree with the statement.  

People want “what they want” including freedom to choose what fits their preference and lifestyle, even if it means disobedience to God.  [1]

The need to see spiritually

What then are we to do? It is critical that we as followers of Jesus Christ, develop an “eye” for what is truth versus what is error (1 John 4:1).  We began this discussion in 2020 in our series on spiritual discernment.  However, during these end times, we must be even more intentional, vigil, and alert by “seeing” our world through “spiritual eyes” (1 Pet. 1:13).

This 21st century challenge is similar to what the Disciples and the early Church faced. They encountered a society that was “hostile” to the things of God and where men “leaned to their own understanding” (Prov. 3:5).

The Disciples had to develop a “new view” of the world. Jesus taught them that view in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). It was the “Kingdom view”. Believers would have to “see” things differently than the rest of the world.  They would learn to see with spiritual eyes.

Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, the Disciples ultimately proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ. They participated in ushering in the Kingdom of God.  We have that same opportunity today.

Next week, we’ll talk more about gaining spiritual eyes.

Time to Practice

I invite you to begin “practicing” seeing with spiritual eyes. Following are (3) scriptures to read and meditate on this week. Feel free to use different translations and paraphrases. Get your journal out as you read and invite the Holy Spirit to join you.

Jeremiah 5:21-29

Matthew 6:22-23

1 Corinthians 2:13-16

Answer these questions for each scripture you read:

  1. How does this scripture relate to my personal walk with God?
  2. How does it influence my view of 21st century society?
  3. What “new” insight did the Holy Spirit reveal to me in this scripture?

[1] Spiritual Discernment:  Light for Darkened Eyes

Don’t get it twisted!

 

Don't Get it TwistedWe love superheroes.

I love to watch movies about superheroes. Whether it’s Wonder Woman or Iron Man, I like to see them in action.  They offer themselves unselfishly as they battle intruders from space, another dimension, or the giant mushroom that mutates into some incredible threat.

I am especially drawn to those who band together to save the world. The Marvel superheroes including the Avengers and the X-men hold my attention for hours. Every month it seems a new movie is released highlighting new superheroes who appear to save the world from some horrific ending.  This month’s offering is The Eternals. 

We often seek ways to escape the stress of everyday living. We retreat to a world where “superheroes” share our humanity yet possess mystical abilities to overcome the monsters that threaten the world. Unfortunately with superheroes, we must be careful not to believe their “hype”. It is important to keep reality separated from fantasy.

Health pandemics, economic uncertainties, and erosion of social consciousness leave us longing for someone to “fight our battles”.  If we aren’t careful, we may be misled to believe that superheroes will appear to save the day. But “don’t get it twisted”. Translation:  don’t mistake fantasy for reality. There are no superheroes. But there is, however and more importantly:  The King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God. (1 Timothy 1:17)

Who is God?

To avoid getting it twisted, it is important that we first possess a correct understanding of who God is.  This can be accomplished through learning about His attributes.

Attributes are a window through which we can think about who God is. God’s attributes are first introduced in the biblical record through His mighty act of Creation.  Triune God banded together to create the world!

God ultimately reveals Himself through Jesus who was made, “a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death…that He might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9).  Jesus came to save the world from a horrific ending!

Understanding God is more than “head knowledge”.  God desires that we have a personal relationship with Him.  As we experience the challenges of 21st century living, we learn more about who God is.  Through His presence and His power, we learn to trust and depend on Him (Ps. 89:13).

Eugene H. Peterson writes in Practicing Resurrection, the importance of keeping our focus on the reality of God and His work in the life of the believer.

When we squander life on anything less than the God revealed in Jesus, and made present in the Spirit, we miss out on life itself, resurrection life, the life of Jesus.

Keeping it Real

Once we know who God is, it is then critical that we develop a Christian worldview. The term worldview is used to describe a core set of values and principles through which the world is understood.  It is our reality. 

Our worldview consists of our beliefs (what we view as true) and our values (what we view is good).  Our worldview impacts every decision.  It will ultimately determine our behavior (what we will do).

As Christians, our worldview is seen through Jesus’ eyes (John 14:6).  It is the determining factor in all we do, how we live, and how we react to life.  We form our worldview based on His life and teachings.  It is the only way to navigate through this world.

Don’t get it twisted

When we know who God is and develop a Christian worldview, we are less likely to “get it twisted.”

God’s Word, His promises, and His Spirit help us keep it real.  While we love superheroes we never are confused “where our help comes from” (Ps. 121:1-8).  The King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God is our real Superhero.

Fear and Knowledge of the Holy

 

Fear and Knowledge of the Holy

Fear me!

In last week’s WordBytes, Mike Glenn, in The Fear of God, shared how his father helped him understand the “true meaning” of fear.

Now, son. You’re getting into a new phase of your life. You’re becoming a man. You’ll be going places where I won’t be. You’ll be doing things I won’t see. You’ll be pressured by your friends to do some things, and some of those things, you know, are things I don’t want you to do.”

 “And in that moment, you’ll have to make a decision. You’ll have to decide. Are you more afraid of your friends? Or are you more afraid of me?”  

Then he leaned across the table, put his eyes directly on mine and said, “You’d better be more afraid of me.”

This exchange was not only a lesson about fear, but also an object lesson on knowledge.  Mike Glenn knew his father’s expectations.  These expectations coupled with fear guided Mike Glenn in making good decisions and wise choices.  The same can be said about our fear of the LORD and our knowledge of the Holy One.

That is why Solomon penned, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Prov. 9:10)

Fear-> Wisdom->Knowledge

Man has always searched for the best method to assist him in making good decisions, right judgments, and sound pronouncements.  In primitive times, groups would cast lots and dice, leaving the outcome to the proverbial “fates” (Lev. 16:8; Joshua 18:8).

In Israel’s early formation, decisions were informed by the High Priest who consulted the Urim and Thummin (Exo. 28:30).  As the nation grew, Israel deferred key moral and political decisions to God’s chosen representatives.  Judges and kings, counseled by wise prophets and priests, became the source of national decision-making.

The fear of the Lord offered motivation to seek “God’s face” (Num. 6:25-26).  However, it was the knowledge of the Holy One that established the critical link to God.  God was (and still is) the source of all knowledge and wisdom.

Knowledge of the Holy One

The true source of wisdom is identified in the parallel statements found in Proverbs 9:10:  the fear of the LORD and knowledge of the Holy One.  Knowledge provides insight and discernment based on personal experiences.

It involves the process by which one can recognize, classify, and organize information gained from varied experiences and use them to develop an appropriate response.  This “process of knowing” is illustrated in the story of Moses.

Moses’ early knowledge of God came vicariously through others in Pharaoh’s court.  He, personally, knew little about God.  Therefore, God had no part in his thinking or planning.  However, forty years later, Moses experienced God for himself at the burning bush (Exod. 3:2).  In seeing that the fire did not consume the bush, Moses recognized God’s power and holiness.  Moses’ response to knowing God was awe and reverence (Exod. 3:5).

After witnessing the ten (10) plagues against Pharaoh and Egypt, Moses’ knowledge was exponentially expanded.  As Moses observed (classified) the different ways God dealt with Pharaoh’s resistance, he knew that God was more powerful than any god worshiped in Egypt.

Moses’ knowledge of God through his various experiences resulted in the organized deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt.  Their collective response to God was worship and praise (Exodus 15: 1, 11).   On the other hand, Pharaoh’s disregard of what he knew of God, led to the destruction of his army (Ex. 14:18).  Pharaoh refused to factor in his knowledge of the Holy One.

The Revelation of God

Knowledge of the Holy One is the revelation of God (Ep. 1: 17-18).  It shapes our reality so that we conform to the will of God and respond appropriately to the events of life.  This knowledge is gained through our personal experiences with Him, through His revealed Word, and through the Holy Spirit.

What shapes our key decisions and choices?  What knowledge do we turn to regarding our family, our profession, and our relationships?  Are we like Moses or like Pharaoh?

Knowledge of the Holy One reminds us of three things: (1) whose we are (our relationship with God), (2) who we are (our identity in Christ), and (3) how we are to live (in obedience and service to God).

Fear of the Lord (respect, reverence, and obedience) will lead us to wisdom (a disciplined and holy life).

Knowledge of the Holy One (personal experience) will give us godly insight and discernment to navigate 21st century challenges.

When wisdom enters your heart,

and knowledge is pleasant to your soul;

Discretion will preserve you;

understanding will keep you.

(Prov. 2:10-11, NKJ)

Where do you get your information?

Where do you get your information

What’s up?

Well it’s October.  The fall is my favorite season.  Good-bye bugs and bites!  No more 95% humidity and sneezy nose.  Bye-bye day light savings time!  Better than it being fall, it’s Throwback Wednesday. For those of you who may be new to WordBytes, on Throwback Wednesday, we look at what’s trending in the news or what the hot topic of the week is.

Well if you slept through yesterday, you failed to experience the crash of Facebook and its social media sisters, Instagram, and WhatsApp.   Facebook-owned services, WhatsApp and Instagram went down on Monday, for the second time in 2021.  This failure left some three billion online users frustrated and unable to connect all over the world.  It is reported that Zuckerberg lost nearly $7B alone on the Facebook outage.  The outage shut out 2.9 billion Facebook subscribers.

So what did we do when Facebook and her affiliate platforms went down?  There are about 3.78 billion social media users worldwide.   Social media has become the life blood for us living in the 21st century.  It has become not only a source of information, but also our primary connection with others.  This sometimes fosters a false sense of belonging and fellowship. Now really, who has over 20,000 friends? Have you ever asked them for a loan?

Where did you get that from?

That’s the question I usually ask people when they share information that I question.  Surprisingly, we look to social media to inform our decision making.  “If it’s on the internet, it must be true”.  Really?

So where do we, who rely on social media platforms, go to get our information. Is social media the “best” source of truth (that is if you’re looking for truth)?  Does it help us “respond” wisely or simply “react”?

According to the Pew Research Center, about a quarter of U.S. adults get most of their news through social media.   They recently shared information on “Americans Who Mainly Get Their News on Social Media.”  Here are some of their key findings.

    1. U.S. adults who mostly get news through social media lag behind others in attention to election and pandemic news.
    1. U.S. adults who mostly rely on social media for political news are often less knowledgeable about current events.
    1. In addition to lower awareness of current events, social media news users hear more about some unproven claims.

Where do you get your information?

When I opened my email today, I received two invitations to help “inform” me.  One was 10 Things You Need to Know Today.  They highlight key news stories nationally and internationally.  They know where I should focus my attention, right?  The “1 Thing I Need to Know Today” is that in Christ Jesus, I live, and move, and have my meaning (Acts 17:28).   This one thing guides my actions and thoughts for the day.

The other is The Week.  Their subject line states, “Read what the world’s thinking”.  I asked myself; “do I really care what the world is thinking?”  The only Person’s thinking I’m concerned with is God.  So I pray that I have the mind of Christ and joyfully obey His will (Phil. 2:5).

Our continual reliance on social media and the Internet makes it necessary to carefully examine the sources of our information.  Believers must especially be intentional in practicing spiritual discernment.  Truth and life come from God through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

We must not only seek truth in all we do, but we must also boldly denounce lies that keep others in darkness (Eph. 5:11).  A lie by any other name—alternate view, misstatement, or an error in communication, is still a lie.  Its intent is to deceive, mislead, and misrepresent.

So for this month’s Throwback Wednesday, we offer for your reading, Discernment:  Light for Darkened Eyes.”   MAY THE TRUTH BE WITH YOU!

Praying with Purpose: Am I ready for purposeful prayer?

Am I ready for purposefeul prayer?

What we know now

We began this series with the challenge to become more intentional and strategic in our prayers.  We do this by praying According to God’s will (1 John 5:14-15), Believing in God’s ability (Matt. 21:21-22), and being Committed to God’s outcome (Hab. 3:17-19).  When we pray in this manner, we place our trust in God’s love, His faithfulness, and His sovereignty.  Then our prayers become more purposeful.

To pray more purposefully will also require a new attitude.  This attitude is based on the recognition that prayer’s power is underwritten by God.  It is the connector that releases God’s grace, promises, and power from the spiritual realm into our physical world.

Armed with this knowledge, we can begin to pray knowing that our prayers have the potential to affect change not only in our individual lives but also to change circumstances in the world.  This includes the growing uncertainties of 21st century living.

Purposeful prayer 101

My prayer life, like many others, began one-sided:  asking, seeking, and knocking (Matt. 7:7).  I invested my time in learning what I thought was the “right way” to pray.  I followed the PAPA prayer formula.  I prayed the Scriptures.  I employed the ACTS model (adoration-confession-thanksgiving-supplications).  I wanted to better communicate with God, but I failed to realize what God really wanted.  He wanted me to listen.

With all these methods, the common thread is that they lead to a relationship with God.  When we’re in relationship with a person, we listen to them hoping to better understand who they are.  In prayer, we dialogue with God.  God speaks, we listen.  We become familiar with His ways: how He operates in the world and in our situation.  We understand His intent for our life and how to best serve Him.

Do we actively listen to hear God when we pray?  Or do we follow the prayer that leads to our desired end?  The Apostle Paul told us  that we sometimes don’t know how to pray.  Therefore it is the role of the Holy Spirit to guide us or redirect our prayers so they reflect the true will of God (Rom. 8:26-27).

In all seriousness, it is key that believers know that prayer is not just about getting what we want. Prayer is the greater work God has given us to do.

The Greater Work

Oswald Chambers, early-twentieth-century Scottish Baptist evangelist and teacher writes this about prayer:

Prayer does not equip us for greater works— prayer is the greater work. Prayer is the battle, and it makes no difference where you are. However God may engineer your circumstances, your duty is to pray. Never allow yourself this thought, “I am of no use where I am,” because you certainly cannot be used where you have not yet been placed. Wherever God has placed you and whatever your circumstances, you should pray, continually offering up prayers to Him. 

Where do I begin?

Believe that God desires to communicate with us (Gen. 35:13).  God is not some distant deity disinterested in His children.  We cry “Abba Father” knowing He hears our every word (Gal. 4:6).

Know that God wishes to be in relationship with us (James 4:8a).  By instituting His plan of salvation, He created the means to restore that which was loss in the Garden of Eden—fellowship with mankind.

Declare your intentions by asking God to help hear His voice. Hearing God is not natural (remember we loss that in the Garden) therefore, we must be intentional (Matt. 11:15).  Set aside time to listen for His voice.

Invite Him into time with you and expect to hear (1 John 5:14).  If you receive a fleeting impression, a scripture, or a song, don’t ignore it!  Ask God to dialogue with you about what you heard.

Purposeful prayer is not a method, but a walk with God where ongoing dialogue occurs.  It’s not about doing but it is about being mindful of our relationship with Triune God.  It is an exciting time of fellowship and discovery.  Are we ready for purposeful prayer?

God Speaks through Circumstances

God speaks through Circumstances

Under our circumstances

In our culture, it is not unusual for people to greet one another with the inquiry, “How are you?”  In response, a multitude of replies are available.  However, my favorite is, “I’m doing fairly well under the circumstances.”

This is my opportunity to respond, “Why are you under your circumstances and what are you doing to get back on top?”  Circumstances are conditions or facts that affect a situation.  These can be either positive or negative.  They define a state in which an individual, group, or even a nation may find itself.

As we daily face “tumultuous” circumstances—pandemics, social strive, economic uncertainty—it is important to remember that God sees.  Even in our worst of circumstances, God is present (Ps. 139:7-10).   God sees, God cares, and God speaks.

Circumstances for all times

There are many biblical examples that illustrate how God used circumstances to speak to His people.  Circumstances dictated that Moses would be set adrift in the Nile.  It was there that he would be found by the king’s daughter and adopted into the royal household by the ruling Pharaoh (Exod. 2:1-10).

God later spoke to Moses after his “40-year circumstance” of working for his father-in-law Jethro the priest of Midian (Exod. 3:1).  God then re-directed him to deliver His people Israel, who were dealing with their circumstance of bondage.

In the book of Acts, God speaks to the early church by using the political and social circumstances around them.  Jesus had clearly articulated the scope of the church’s ministry:  “and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

While it was within their “comfort zone” to stay in Jerusalem, God spoke through the circumstance of persecution to move the gospel to a larger audience.   Throughout the Bible we find God speaking to people through special favor (1 Sam. 1:20), through personal loss (Ruth 1:3-5), or through miraculous deliverance (Acts 23:30-31).  God spoke to them through their circumstances.

Circumstances today

God still speaks today through circumstances.  He will use conditions and situations from our everyday life to place us in a position to hear His voice.

Does God create circumstances to make us do His will?  No, God has created us as freewill agents and desires that we choose to live within His divine plan. But God will allow circumstances to flow into our life to accomplish His glory and our good (Rom. 8:24).

Conforming circumstances

God permits circumstances in our lives that will mature us and grow our faith (1 Pet. 1:5-7).  What may appear at first to be a “stumbling block” may, in actuality, turn out to be “steppingstones”.

God also speaks through closed doors as well as opened doors, this includes delayed prayers. While the Apostle Paul wanted to share the gospel in Asia, he repeatedly found the way blocked by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6-10).

What our passage suggests to me is that God may close one door of ministry in order to open a better one. Paul was thinking locally—Asia and Bithynia. God was thinking more globally—cross the Aegean Sea into modern-day Europe. Divine redirection demands that we trust divine omniscience: we would have made the same choice if we knew what God knew. Through God’s providential redirection, Paul was able to plant churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and Corinth. What a great open door![1]

As we proceed in this Christian walk, we must remember that the intent of our life is to glorify God and to accomplish His purpose on earth (2 Cor. 5:15). That is why it is important to be intentional in prayer and reading God’s Word especially during difficult and challenging times, regardless of the circumstance (Phil. 4:6-13).

As we develop our personal relationship with God, we will understand that He loves us and can be trusted with every aspect of our life.  Sometimes our circumstances will take us out of our comfort zone, but we can be assured we are not in them alone (1 John 4:4).

Next time you feel “under your circumstances”, ask God what He is saying to you.   

[1]   “Live with a Mission”, Timothy Berrey with the Gospel Fellowship Association.

 

Livin’ my Best Life: Best Life Recapitulated

Best Life Recapitulated

Recapitulated—-What have we learned?

Recapitulate means to summarize and state again the main point.

These past few weeks we’ve been attempting to define what “best life” looks like. We began by evaluating best life from a worldview.  In fairness to this overall process, we also considered the biblical perspective.  Before moving forward, a decision was needed as to which view believers were to follow.

It was at this point that a decision was needed.  Believers must draw a spiritual dividing line in order to insure that the influence of the flesh and the world cannot remove our distinctive difference.

Using the Bible as the final authority on what we embrace and follow in our lives, believers are to follow God’s definition of best life based on our new life and new allegiance to God  (2 Cor. 5:15-17).  We are also to focus on eternal things and “life outcomes” that are god-honoring.

Time to Decide

Based on what we have learned, there are two questions that may help us finalize our description of best life.

The first question was asked and answered last week: “What does God say about best life?”

The second question is this.  Of the two views (worldview and biblical view), which one is more likely to satisfy the longing that we may have? Self-directed or Christ-directed?

If we reach self-actualization in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, are we guaranteed that we will be content and fulfilled?  Those we see as “having it all” still deal with dissatisfaction in their life.  Self-actualization may not give all it promises as evidenced by the incidents of depression, substance abuse, and suicide among great artists, celebrities, and business moguls.

For those of us who identified with the things people wanted in life, the question is the same.  Does possession of any or all those items on the “wish list” guarantee contentment?  Remember there was only one tangible item on the list—money.  The rest were intangibles—unable to be touched or grasped but understood or felt in the heart.

Let’s find a Best Life SME (Subject Matter Expert)

At this point, what might be helpful would be to interview someone who had not only pursued best life but also attained it.  They had reached self-actualization and the one tangible (money) on the “10 Most Wanted” list.

In addition, this person should be familiar with “spiritual” options.  Let me introduce our special SME, King Solomon, the king of the United Kingdom of Israel.

Solomon was a fabulously wealthy and sensible king of the United Kingdom of Israel who succeeded his father, King David. Solomon was the biblical king most famous for his wisdom. God granted Solomon not only wisdom but also great wealth and fame because he did not ask for self-serving rewards. (1 Kings 3:7-14).

Solomon authored the book of Ecclesiastes, in which, he built the case to show that the pursuits of this world are vanity.  “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Ecc. 1:2).  Vanity in this context is the quality of being worthless or futile.  Ecclesiastes is located with the other wisdom literature of the Old Testament.

Chapter after chapter, Solomon (“The Preacher” as he identifies himself) presents the case that the vanities of this world are insufficient to make us happy.  He contrasts the vileness of sin, and its certain tendency to make us miserable, with the wisdom of being religious (godly and god-honoring).  Our well-being and satisfaction are only possible through our allegiance to God and our love for man.

In closing, Solomon, by way of exhortation, directs his readers (and us 21st century believers) to remember our Creator, to fear Him, and to keep His commandments.  Solomon gives no recommendation to pursue best life.

Conclusion

God alone can satisfy our hierarchy of needs—basic, psychological, and self-fulfilling.  God is our Jehovah-Jireh (Gen. 22:14).   Our intangible desires are readily available through God’s Spirit (Gal. 5: 22-23).

King Solomon, the Apostle Paul, and more importantly, Jesus have given us the essence of what best life looks like.  It is not a list of “dos and don’ts” but a standard of life.

Livin’ our best life is…

    • a life style that acknowledges the reality of God. God is the Creator and Source of all life who has been uniquely made known to us through His Son Jesus Christ.  We live confidently in the reality of His presence, His power, and His provision.   (Acts 17:28)
    • a life choice that recognizes the authority of God in our life. God’s will and purpose for our lives is revealed in His Word and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  We choose to trust in the goodness and greatness of God to direct our life’s journey. (Gal. 2:20)
    • a life vocation that commits to the purpose God has chosen for us. We are persuaded that the Kingdom of God has arrived in the coming of Jesus Christ and is imminent in Jesus’ return.  We, therefore, focus our energies on doing those things that honors and glorifies God.  (Phil. 3:12-14)

Livin’ our best life can only be realized through a relationship with God and in Christ Jesus.  Through this relationship, we have all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3-4) and blessings that exceed our expectations (Ep. 1: 3-14).  Therefore, in Christ, we are livin’ our best life.

Livin’ my Best Life: The Answer for Best Life

The Answer for Best Life Options for best life

The 21st century offers many options for our lives.  That is why it is important that we, as believers, discern what voice we “actively” listen to.  This is especially true when it comes to determining what living our best life should look like.

In our series, we determined that some individuals make their choice based on who they are and what’s important to them.  Last week we attempted to identify what best life looks like.  We determined that the essence of best life can be based on our human needs and things we most desire.

So, what is the answer for best life!  I concluded last week’s teaching with a statement that will help to set the context for best life for believers in the 21st century.  Which choice most accurately represents “best life for us”?  For believers, we are to go to The Source, Who is to be the final authority on everything we do (or it should be).  That authority is God and His Word.  It is now time to consider the number one question, “what does God say about best life.”

The Dividing Line

The believer’s life is to look vastly different from the world we live in.  We are to seriously demonstrate and witness to our new life in Christ.  That being the case, our best life should reflect a life lived for Christ.

The Barna Institute reports the increasing difficulty in distinguishing believers from the unsaved world.  Unfortunately, we are not seen as living any differently than our unsaved family, friends, and acquaintances.  We have basically lost our saltiness and our light (Matt. 5:13-16).

This lack of distinction could be attributed to a number of factors including fear of abuse, lack of spiritual discipling, or spiritual immaturity. Some believers have even walked away from the traditional Church because of personal wounding or disillusionment with leadership.  What the future Church looks like, especially after COVID-19, is yet to be determined.

However, the imperfect nature of the Church does not negate the expectation that God has for His people.  We are to continually examine ourselves to insure we are living a life of faith under the direction of Jesus’ Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:10).  What does best life look like for believers?

Caution

Jesus shared what best life “was not” in the Sermon on the Mount Discourse.  He gives a command that will provide us a framework for identifying what best life looks like.  Jesus begins with his first instruction (Matt. 6:19-21).

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jesus closes with this requirement (Matt. 6:33).  

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

The verb “seek” is an imperative in the Greek language.  An imperative expresses a command to the hearer to perform a certain action by the order and authority of the one commanding.  What Jesus gives is not a casual invitation but an absolute command requiring full obedience.  “All these things” lovingly includes not only our needs but also the desires of our heart (Ps. 37:4).

Jesus knows we have needs.  It is His desire that we not worry nor become preoccupied with possession of things.  By faith we know that we will be cared for.  Focusing on Christ lessens our anxieties as we attempt to live during these uncertain times (Phil. 4:6-7).

Moving to best life

The Apostle Paul further clarified Jesus’ teaching to the church at Colosse.  He pointed them to how to find best life (Col. 3:1-2).

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.   

Seek and set are also verbs that are in the imperative.  As with Jesus’ use in Matthew, it expresses a command to the hearer to perform a certain action.  It is not an invitation.  Both verbs are in the present tense which means it is a fact or reality occurring in actual time.  Therefore, we are commanded to keep seeking and keep setting our attention.  Where?

Notice the place where the “things and the affections” are found.  They are not on this earth but in heaven.  This directs our attention to those things that have eternal value and heavenly consequences.  Unfortunately, 21st century technology has created vehicles to capture the lusts of our flesh, our eye, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17).  We are continually bombarded with marketing messages and media that focus our attention on what we don’t have versus what is of greater value to the kingdom of God.

In the remainder of Colossians 3, Paul maps out the essence of best life for Christians.  Best life for Christians is life lived in Coram DeoCoram Deo summarizes the idea that Christian living is lived in the presence of, under the authority of, to the honor and glory of God.

We will conclude this study next week as we decide what best life looks like for each of us.