Tag Archives: spiritual maturity

Obedience and the Journey to the Cross

Obedience and the Journey to the Cross

Obedience and the Journey

We continue our Lenten season journey to the Cross.  In this study, we discussed the meaning of obedience to God.  Obedience is discerning what God wants and choosing to seek that outcome.  Our response of obedience flows from a heart that hears God’s voice and feels God’s love.  It is a matter of choosing and turning to Him versus the lusts of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life (1 John 2:16).

The hallmark of obedience is modeled by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ especially as He journeyed to the Cross.  Jesus demonstrated for us “perfected” obedience by His humility, His faithfulness, and His submission to God’s will.

We decided that obedience was both the outcome of our faith walk and the means by which spiritual maturity is accomplished.  We “perfect” (bring to fruition) our obedience through the Holy Spirit and practicing spiritual disciplines that conform us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).  We daily accept the “obedience challenge” by exercising our freedom in Christ rather than being disobedient slaves to sin.

Let go of the ego!

As we perfect our obedience, probably the most difficult part of our journey is our willingness to “let go.”  Letting go requires releasing those things that cause us to be independent of God and operate outside the will of God.

Letting go necessitates that we pray often, wait expectantly, and trust unequivocally.   When we “let go and let God”, the results are always more than we can accomplish in our own power (1 Cor. 2:9).  Much of the difficulty in “letting go,” often times, lie in our inability to “let go of our ego.”

What’s with the ego?

Ego, in this case, is not an exaggerated sense of self-importance but the use of “fleshly” knowledge and “human” effort to accomplish God’s purpose. This is often the case when we endeavor to live righteous and holy lives in our own power.  Some of us attempt to do this by “works”:  we visit the sick, feed the hungry, and do all the things we think will please the Lord.

Some of us become “masters of spiritual disciplines”:  we read our Bible every day, fast and pray, and tithe ten percent.  Regardless of our approach, we “miss the mark” using fleshly methods to create spiritual outcomes.  In Philippians 3:4-5, the Apostle Paul, confesses his attempt to live holy by operating out of his flesh.

Even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 

Interestingly the pronoun “I”, in the passage above, in Greek is translated “ego.”  Paul’s failure was not due to lack of works or poor self-discipline; nor was it the result of a poor attitude or “stinking thinking.”   Paul attempted to do the work and will of God in his own strength.  What was the best solution for Paul’s dilemma?   He declared his faith and dependence on Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:7-9). Paul “let go his ego” and chose to obediently follow God.

Preparation for Holy Week

As we prepare for Holy Week, let us consider the journey through the lens of obedience.  To help us with this exercise, take time to meditate on Philippians 3:8 (NRSV).

I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. 

When we meditate, we “focus our thoughts” (versus daydreaming).  We invite the Holy Spirit to join us.  There can be no meditation without His presence.   Below are three (3) simple methods of meditation you can try.[1]

Meditation method #1:   Emphasize different words in the text.

Meditation method #2:   Rewrite the text in your own words.

Meditation method #3:   Formulate a principle from the text.  What does it teach?

Don’t rush this exercise.  Spend time re-reading and focusing on each word.  Give attention to the verse, each phrase, and words included in this scripture.  Remember, all Scripture is the inspired word from God (2 Tim. 3:16).  Take time to hear not only what God is saying to Paul but also, what is God saying to you.

Journal what you learn from your meditation—about God, the Gospel, your ego, and yourself.  Ask the Holy Spirit to show how you can practice obedience as you daily journey to the Cross.

[1] Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald S. Whitley.

Perfected Obedience

Perfected Obedience

So, what have we learned about obedience?

According to Webster, obedience is defined as submission to authority.  Operating with that definition, our natural response is to challenge, resist, and even disavow.

On the other hand, obedience from a Christian worldview is more than just following the letter of the law.  It is discerning what God wants and choosing to seek that outcome.  In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for obey means to hear.

It is described as an attitude and faith-rooted disposition (2 Cor. 2:9; Phil. 2:12).  It is the outward response of the heart that hears God and turns to Him.

Where does obedience come from?

Obedience is evidence of a personal relationship with God.  It is not motivated by guilt or shame but by love (John 14:15).  We agreed last week that mature obedience is both the outcome of our faith walk AND how we can achieve spiritual maturity.  Each time we make a decision or choose a direction, or reply to an action, we are challenged to “response with a heart that hears God”.

Jesus our example

The writer of Hebrews offers us another perspective on obedience—perfected obedience.    

Though He [Jesus] was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.  Hebrew 5:8-9 (NKJV)

Our text gives us a clue into how our obedience becomes “perfected”.  It begins and ends with a clear understanding of Jesus and His walk of perfected obedience.

Firstly, Jesus never sinned. Jesus had no need to become perfect for His work of salvation.  Jesus was perfect in His nature (1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15).  Imagine that! Even as a rambunctious child, a growing teenager, and a vibrant young man—Jesus never sinned.  No defiance, no hiding behind excuses.  To fulfill God’s requirement for a “blameless sacrifice for sin” (1 Pet. 1:19), Jesus suffered and was obedient unto death (Phil. 2:8).

Secondly, Jesus learned.  What did He learn?  Jesus learned what it meant to be human by experiencing all the emotions and sensations that we as frail humans feel.  Why?  So that He could identify with our depravity and brokenness.

Jesus willingly experienced the full range of emotions He had placed in us at Creation (Heb. 4:25).  Jesus was moved with compassion (Matt. 9:36; Mark 6:34); He cried (Luke 19:41, John 11:35); He withdrew (Matt. 14:13); Jesus condemned (Matt. 23:1-12).

But it is in Jesus’ passion that we see the greatest evidence of humanity.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, He was in excruciating agony, sweating drops of blood (Luke 22:42; Mark 14:36).  Ultimately, Jesus bore the full weight of our sins by hanging on a Cross and dying.  (Matt. 27:50)

Jesus was perfected

Finally, Jesus was perfected. The literal translation of perfected is “to bring to an end a proposed goal”.   Jesus accomplished the purpose crafted by God before the foundation of the world—to bring redemption, restoration, and reconciliation to all mankind.  Jesus became the “all and everything” that was needed to bring salvation to fallen man.

Jesus learned about humanity and why His sacrificial death was the only solution for the sin problem.  He became “the author of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:9), the “firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29), and the “first-begotten from the dead” (Rev. 1:5).

Jesus’ perfecting was accomplished through His obedience.  Jesus’ submission to and love for God resulted in the greatest gift we as believers will ever receive—freedom from sin and eternal life.  To put into words the enormity of God’s plan of salvation is impossible.

Perfected obedience—a new level of love and gratitude

I close with these words from F.B. Meyer on “The Perfecting of Christ”.  May his words move your spirit to new levels of obedience.  

For the long and steep ascent of life, our Father has given us a Companion, a Captain of the march, a Brother, even Jesus our Lord, who passed through the suffering of death, and is now crowned with glory and honor (Heb. 2:9-11). He has passed along our pathway, and climbed our steep ascents, that He might become our merciful and faithful Friend and Helper.  In this sense He was perfected, and became unto all them that obey Him the Author of eternal salvation.  But if we are to walk with Him, and realize His eternal salvation, we must learn to obey.

Understanding perfected obedience is captured in the life and love of Jesus the Christ.  Jesus is our model and the example we daily strive to emulate.  Let us endeavor, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to be conformed to His image and ultimately transformed into all that God has purposed us to be (Eph. 2:10).

Mature Obedience

 

Mature Obedience

Faith outcome and spiritual maturity

Last week we opened with this question:  Is obedience the outcome of our faith walk or is it the means by which spiritual maturity is accomplished?   The answer we discovered is that obedience is BOTH.

During our faith walk (which will continue until this life ends), our choice to either obey or disobey God will result in “life lessons” that will make us stronger instruments of God.  Through these lessons we “grow” or mature spiritually.

Oswald Chambers shared this thought on obedience and spiritual maturity.

Spiritual maturity is not reached by the passing of the years, but by obedience to the will of God. Some people mature into an understanding of God’s will more quickly than others because they obey more readily; they more readily sacrifice the life of nature to the will of God.

A lesson in obedience

Let me detail the correlation between obedience and spiritual maturity with the following illustration.

A toddler, immature physically and mentally, has one basic desire—to satisfy their immediate needs.   They will do just about anything to have their way, disregarding safety, or well-being along the way.  This includes climbing up on high counters or grabbing objects that are dangerous to their health, i.e., laundry pods.

Toddlers show little concern for their own safety or well-being if the result is physical satisfaction. They are best served and protected by their guardian who will provide for and protect them.  Toddlers must be taught to obey the direction of their guardian who will help them to gain a healthy fear of the world they live in.

Is obedience only for children?

Spiritually, the toddler illustration can also be true for believers.  Oftentimes, we live in the moment—desiring what will immediately satisfy our needs.  In that moment perhaps the Holy Spirit is directing us to “pray and wait” or to seek godly counsel through others or the Bible.

Many times, we will even fain obedience (fake it) by responding “I’m praying about it” when we already know what God has directed us to do.  Ours is just to obey. Such was the case with Jonah.

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah saying, “Go at once to Nineveh and cry out against it.” But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. (Jonah 1:1-3)

Reluctant obedience = disobedience

Jonah was reluctant to bring God’s message to Nineveh, the capital of Israel’s hated enemy, Assyria.  Foolishly, he thought he fled from the presence of the Lord (Psalm 139:7-10).

God was very clear in His instruction to Jonah.  “Go at once” and “Cry out against Nineveh”.  He was without excuse, yet he chose to be disobedient. The Lord did not allow him to escape.

Jonah eventually acquiesced.  God’s purpose was accomplished. Nineveh repented (Jonah 3:10).    But unfortunately, Jonah failed to mature spiritually (Jonah 4:3-4).  He was unsuccessful in understanding the nature of God and His mercy (Exod. 33:19).

Practicing mature obedience

Like Jonah, do we often find ourselves running from the presence of the Lord?  Is God asking us to respond to a divine directive we prefer not to do?  This is a great place to begin practicing mature obedience.

We practice mature obedience by first seeking God’s will through reading and meditating on His Word.  This will then move us naturally into prayer based on what we have read.  We have the assurance of the Holy Spirit to “guide us in all truth and to glorify God” (John 16:13, 14).

Finally, we must quickly respond to what God has instructed us to do. We must obey.  Hesitation is often the result of doubt, which soon leads to disobedience. Mature obedience can be practiced every day.  It begins with a willing heart that is swift to say, “Yes, Lord.”

A Better New Year’s Resolution, Part 2

A Better New Year's Resolution, Part 2

A better new year

As we shared last week, new year’s resolutions are not the best way to create change in our life.  Strength of character and self-will, often fall short in taking us where we really want to be.  We determined that “the best way” to introduce real change in our lives is through our relationship with Jesus Christ.  We must put on our “new man”.  In Christ we have a new identity.

Embrace our identity in Christ

When I began my Christian walk, the meaning of “in Christ” was a mystery to me.  I tried to understand it based on those things I was familiar with.  For example, I established membership in the local church.  I was in fellowship with its members to serve and glorify God in my life.  But “in Christ”, what did it mean?

In Christ is the present experience of the risen Christ indwelling the believer’s heart.  By the Holy Spirit we take on the personality of Christ.  It is more than an imitation of the life and teaching of Jesus.  It describes the believer’s union with Christ as a result of the divine action of grace by God.  The result of that action is the believer is transformed into a “new man.”  (2 Cor. 5:17).

Renewed in knowledge

Knowledge is defined as general awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation.

However, in Colossians 3:10 knowledge means “precise and correct knowledge”.  It is used in the New Testament of the knowledge of things ethical and divine.  It is this type of knowledge that is needed today to navigate the challenges of our times.

Paul tells the church at Colosse to “put on the new man” who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.  “New man” and “old man” were terms introduced by Paul to contrast the believer’s new versus old behaviors and lifestyle (Rom. 6:6, Eph. 2:15; 4:22-24, Col.3:9-11).

So why did Paul tell the church to put on the new man? Because the new man has access to the “precise and correct” knowledge needed for righteous living (living in right relations with God and with mankind).  This knowledge is provided through the Holy Spirit living within the new man (John 16:13).  This is where transformation takes place.

In addition, this new man’s knowledge is further strengthened as a result of being created in the image of God.  In Christ we possess God’s divine nature—His DNA.  DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms.  It is the unique string of characteristics that make us who we are—physically and mentally.  In Christ, we have been given a new spiritual DNA that equips us for the purpose and plan God has created for our lives.

True Knowledge

In Christ, we not only have renewed knowledge but also “true” knowledge.  Paul describes this in 2 Peter 1:2-4.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

Knowledge (of God) protects us against error and deception, regardless of its source.  It helps us discern and use God’s truth to guide our life.  True knowledge sharpens our spiritual eyes to see not only potential dangers but also the possibilities that God has in store for us.

Promise of a better year

If we want a better new year, we must be intentional.  Our aim should not be wasted on things that never work.  Our focus must continue to be on the Person who has the authority and power to “make all things work together for our good.”  (Rom. 8:28).   That person is Almighty God (Ps. 97:1-2).

Our divine truth is this.  Being in Christ and knowledge of God will provide us with everything we need to be successful not only in 2022 but also all the way to glory. Let us diligently seek the Lord more this year than last.  This is the best way to a better new year.

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

Rethinking Waiting

 

Rethinking Waiting

Living is about waiting

Everybody is waiting for something!  Whether it’s a new job, a favorable outcome, or a different significant other.  We all are waiting.

There are different ways to wait.  Many of us pray.  Some of us worry.  And still others, attempt to lessen the wait time by “helping” move it forward more quickly.  Have you ever been in “standstill” traffic and the person behind you continues to beat on their horn?

21st century waiting

Americans spend roughly 37 billion hours each year waiting in line. The dominant cost of waiting is an emotional one: stress, boredom, that nagging sensation that one’s life is slipping away.

I think it’s comical that this century, that was to be man’s crowning achievement of knowledge and technology, has done little to reduce waiting time.  Of course the pandemic, global warming, and other challenges of this decade have had a major impact on waiting.

Businesses and institutions will continue to make financial decisions that, in most cases, personally increase our wait time for their product.  When are you sending your Christmas cards out this year?

Waiting extends to every area of our life.  Whether it’s service at our favorite restaurant or scheduling a critical appointment with our physician.  This is a season of waiting.

Resistance to waiting

There are many reasons we may have a problem with waiting.  Our resistance often stems from our “flesh-based” needs:  impatience, pride, independence, and stubbornness.

With impatience, “we want what we want now”.  It reflects our inability to control our desire for action (Numbers 20:10-12).  Pride operates with an inflated opinion of what’s the best answer or solution to our problem or situation.  It is the conceited sense of one’s superiority (Hosea 7:8-10).  

Independence cries out, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”  It stems from our need to control our affairs apart from outside influences, even God (Luke 15:12-16).  What can we say about stubbornness?  Who can talk a fool out of his folly? Stubbornness is characterized by our being difficult to handle or overcome (Proverbs 26:3-5).

God and time

If we are waiting for God’s intervention or direction, we will need to reset our watches.  God does not exist in the confines of human time but in eternity where there is no time (Is. 57:15).

Time expresses “duration”.  Our earthly time pieces mark change in duration that indicate the passage of time.  Eternity, in contrast, expresses the concept of something that has no end nor beginning.  God has no beginning or end. He is outside the realm of our time (2 Pet. 3:8).

Reasons for waiting

From a Christian perspective, why should we embrace waiting?

Waiting embraces God’s sovereignty. (Acts 17:28).   God’s sovereignty is defined as His preeminent power and authority.  It is a natural consequence of His omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.  While God has given man “free-will”, it is critical for believers to “choose God” and trust Him unconditionally.

Waiting strengthens our spiritual muscles.  (1 Peter 1:13-15).  Believers in Christ must be able to remain faithful during this postmodern era.  We can expect that our tenets of faith will continue to be under attack.  We must be patient as we listen for God’s instructions on where we are to serve.

Waiting transforms our lives. (1 John 3:3).  While waiting we draw near to God and listen for His voice through prayer and reading His Word.  We taste the wonders of His transforming power and His future rewards.  Therefore, we are willing to accept delays and interruptions rather than demand “instant gratification” based on fleshly lusts and worldly influence.

Time to rethink waiting

The thing about waiting for God is that there is no set or agreed upon time when an answer might be forthcoming.  You can move ahead of God, but you risk missing or delaying the desired purpose God has for your life (Eph. 2:10).

Waiting for God is where our faith comes into play.  We must believe and trust that God loves us and will always do what is best for us.  What we see as a delay is really God’s “best timing” for our life.  Waiting for God is always worth the wait (Lam. 3:26).

Praying with Purpose: A New Prayer Attitude

A New Prayer Attitude

Knowledge of God and prayer

Every day I understand why it is important to “grow in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9-10).  Who can know the mind of God?  God is so awesome and beyond anything I could ever imagine.

Paul shared my awe of God in Romans 11:33, when he exclaimed:  O the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

This wonderment of God has expanded my curiosity.  Who is He and what is His will?  These questions have increased my desire for greater intimacy with Him.   They have presented me with new opportunities for a richer prayer life.

A new attitude

As I mentioned last week, this era of change and challenge, requires that we be intentional and strategic in use of our spiritual disciplines.  Spiritual disciplines are a critical part of both our life and our lifestyle.  They aren’t meant to be used only to learn more about the Bible or how to live a holy life.

Spiritual disciplines are designed for us to experience the totality of God—Father God, Savior God, and Spirit.   Through these experiences, we are encouraged, empowered, and enabled to fulfill God’s will and purpose (1 Pet. 4:1-2).

We also need a new attitude about prayer.  This attitude requires a change in our mindset.  We must think and act differently than the rest of the world.  This is often counterintuitive to what we may feel.  However, as new creatures in Christ, we are required to pursue “a more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31).  Jesus made that clear on the Sermon on the Mountain (Matt. 5-7).   This new attitude also suggests that we revisit how we think about prayer and its outcomes.  Our prayer life must become intentional, strategic, and purposeful.

Past experiences with prayer

What has been your experience with prayer?  Who do you pray for and when?  If you’re like me, I tried to follow the “biblical playbook” on prayer.  I prayed for God’s will to be done and for forgiveness of sin.  I prayed for family and friends and my life in general.  I really prayed when things got shaky.

When others asked for prayer, I would promise to do so.  I later learned to stop “at that moment” and pray with them.  Fortunately, in my lifetime, I’ve only had one person ask me not to pray for them.  I honored their request without question.

I am cautious as to who I ask to pray for me.  It stems from the old saints’ warning, “be careful who prays for you—especially if you don’t know who they pray to.”   As I sometimes discover later, that advice served me well.

I have been blessed to be part of several communities of believers who help me regularly exercise my prayer discipline especially in the area of intercessory prayer.  For several years I was part of a soul healing prayer group where we prayed as a team for individuals.  For several hours we prayed, listening to the Holy Spirit as He guided individuals to spiritual healing and release.  It was so powerful.  It was so needed.  It still is.

The Power of Prayer

Today I stand to witness to the power of prayer especially when it is approached with intentionality and strategically. 

Prayer not only changes circumstances but prayer also changes us.  Prayer teaches us patience and trust in the Lord.  It increases our emotional capacity so that we are able to rebound from traumatic events in our life.  Prayer connects us to God when we feel we can’t go on (Ps. 42:11).

The thing we must recognize is the true source of prayer’s power.  Prayer is powerful because it is underwritten by God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe (Ps. 104:5-9). Prayer is the connector to the dunamis power of God.   Engaging in prayer instantaneously takes us into the throne room of God.

Prayer is so much more

Over my lifetime, I’ve personally experienced God’s power through prayer.  Though the circumstances and situations may have been different, God’s presence has been undeniable.

Prayer connects us with so much more than God’s deliverance or provision. Prayer releases God’s grace, promises, and power from the spiritual realm into our physical world. 

Much like the features of that new car or computer we purchased, I’m sure we are under utilizing the power and potential available to us through prayer.    So, for the next few weeks, let’s explore new ways to expand our prayer capacity.  How can we become more intentional, strategic, and purposeful in our prayer life?

Six Months to Live

Six months to Live Six months to live?

What would you do if after your annual physical exam, the doctor shared the sobering fact that you have six months to live?  This is not a scenario I would wish on anyone.  However, in reality, we don’t know how much time we have left in our frail and finite lives (Ps. 90:10-12).  It really could be six months, six days, or six years.  So what’s my point?

We have passed the midpoint of 2021.  Taken in a larger context, we have moved passed the events of 2020, with its losses and human volatility.  BUT GOD has brought us safely to this point in time  (Prov. 18:10).

And what will we do with the time that remains?  What will we do with our next six months?  Will we follow the purpose God has for our lives?   Or will we live our life as if there is no tomorrow?  Will we live each day with gratitude and intentionality?

Living with gratitude and intentionality

Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation and thankfulness for what one has.  Regrettably, we often miss the mark in articulating gratitude.  In the busyness of living, we take for granted those things God provides through His grace.

Intentionality is the fact of being deliberate or purposeful.  Living with intention means that we consciously direct our thoughts, beliefs, and actions toward some object or situation.  For believers, this object is Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

A second invitation to abundant living

Both gratitude and intentionality are key in moving us closer to the abundant life God has designed for each of our lives (Ep. 2:10; John 10:10).

As we examine our lives (with six months to live), it might be helpful to revisit the blessings God has for us when we practice gratitude and intentional living.

Abundant Living is a great reminder of God’s possibilities for the time He is giving us.   What will we do with our next six months?