In my last post, I discussed with you a subject that is very dear to my heart…God’s Word. We discussed the elapsed time involved in the writing of this magnificent Canon of scripture. We discussed the fact that God’s Word is divinely inspired, and because of the importance of God’s words, the Bible has been divinely preserved throughout history. We discussed the fact that God has left His Word for our benefit, to teach us, to direct us, and to fortify in a us a hope that can only come from seeking an understanding of the very heart of God through Scripture. We also discussed the infallibility of scripture and the stunning historical accuracy contained in it’s message.
This one aspect of God’s Word continues to amaze me, and it should give a long moment of pause and reflection to those who would seek to diminish the worth of Scripture. The predictive power to accurately foretell the future is held on this earth by God’s Word alone. It is only in the Bible that we find very specific prophecies concerning future events...prophecies that all seem to be coming true.
There are 26 ‘books’ that claim to be scripture…books like the Hindu Vedas, the Book of Mormon, and the Muslim Quran. Specific prophecies of future events are definitively, and conspicuously, absent in all of these other ‘books of scripture.’ That is a point that may be purposely overlooked by skeptics of the Bible, but their intentional oversight could lead to their peril. If there were more than one God (and there’s not), I would feel much better about myself if I chose to follow the God who could accurately predict the future! Wouldn’t you agree?
In the book of Isaiah, God’s Word sets forth a defining standard for ‘gods.’ This particular chapter is discussing the foolishness and futility of idols, and the verse simply says this…
“Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods…” – Isaiah 41:23
Predicting the future…something only God’s Word can do!
I believe the greatest prophecy that has been fulfilled in Scripture up to this present day concerns God’s own people, a group of grumpy, misbehaving, and hard-headed Israelites. For their lack of obedience and open rebellion against God, they proceeded through life without a homeland for 1,900 years. God promised them this fate for their bad behavior in Deuteronomy 28:64. He said that He would ‘scatter them from one end of the earth to another,’ and He certainly did just that. Not only were they scattered for almost two centuries, they remain hated, despised, and they live under the constant threat of annihilation. However, God did not just promise to scatter them; He also promised to protect and restore them.
In this century, God honored His promise to His people, and He restored the Jews to their homeland. This was a long journey, but it was a trek that God was controlling from the very beginning. To give you a clearer understanding of how remarkable this restoration of Israel really is, it’s important to know the history of the journey…
Let’s begin around 70 AD and Roman Rule…
The Romans destroyed the Temple and leveled Jerusalem. They rebuilt Jerusalem as a Roman city and renamed it Aeolian Capitolina. The land of Israel was renamed Palestine (a name derived from the extinct Philistines who were mortal enemies of the Jews in ancient times). At this time, Jews were prohibited from living in their homeland.
638 AD: The Muslims Assume Control…
Throughout the next 568 years, Roman control of the Jewish homeland went from the old Roman Empire to the Byzantine Empire (the Christian version of the old Rome) who still did not allow Jews to enter Palestine (the renamed land of Israel). In 638 AD, the Muslims conquered the Byzantines and kept the same anti-Jewish policy, with the brief exception of the period during the ‘Crusades.” Within this period, the Turkish-Ottoman Empire held onto the longest continuous rule of the Jewish homeland, from 1518 to 1917. The old Jerusalem was forgotten, and it’s infrastructure began to crumble and waste away. Jerusalem was virtually neglected, and it was completely occupied by Arabs.
Early Migrations Back to the Homeland…
In 1210, following the end of the Crusades, about 300 Rabbi’s resettled in Israel.
In 1263, the Rabbi Ramban established a community on Mount Zion outside the walls of Jerusalem. In the 1400’s, this community moved inside the walls and established the Ramban Synagogue which still exists today.
In 1492, Jews were expelled from Spain, and many of those Jewish families moved back to their homeland.
In the 16th century, more Jews migrated to the city of Safed, making it the largest Jewish population in Israel at the time.
The 19th Century…
By 1880, there were about 40,000 Jews living in Israel among 400,000 Muslims.
In 1882, Jews in Russia formed an organization called ‘Bilu.’ In short, this was taken from Isaiah 2:5, and it meant ‘House of Jacob, come, let us go.’ Bilu was integral in the early settlement movement from Russia and Romania back to Israel. This movement was known as the ‘First Aliyah.’ In antiquity, the term ‘Aliyah’ referred to Jews making a trip to Jerusalem to visit the holiest place on earth- the Temple.
Between 1882 through 1891, around 30,000 Jews made the ‘Aliyah’ migration back to their homeland.
The Homeland Regained…
On May 14, 1948, the impossible happened. The State of Israel was founded following almost 2,000 years of exile. God’s people were scattered all over the earth (the fulfillment of one prophecy), and after 2,000 years, they were restored together as a nation, which fulfilled another prophecy.
“For behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the Lord, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it.” – Jeremiah 30:3 (ESV)
This has probably been too much history for most of you, but it’s important to know that God’s promises are not just true, but they are coming true. In the middle of the impossible, we see the prophecies contained in the Bible materializing before us. The above is simply one example. There are others, and there will continue to be others until the day that Christ puts an end to the nonsense of Satan in our world.
Let me give you another prophecy and promise of God to think about as I leave this post…
“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” – Revelation 22:18-20 (ESV)
He’s coming soon…even so, Lord, come!
Have you ever stopped to simply look at your Bible? In doing so, you will see much more than what is physically presented to you in a publisher's final presentation of a book. We know that the Bible is the best selling book of all time, and we know that it has been preserved
throughout history, in spite of the perseverance of some who have sought it's complete elimination. Mankind's best efforts to silence Scripture has been a complete failure, and it will always be a complete failure. One cannot silence that which is supernatural and eternal in nature. The Bible is far more than a book. The Bible is the very heart of Almighty God, commissioned through divine inspiration by the breath of God (2 Timothy 3:16), and preserved through the same power and sovereign authority that authored the sacred words it contains, words by which we must live.
Written over the 1,600 year period from 1,500 BC through 100 AD, around forty men penned it's pages, as they were directed by God. The Bible itself is one magnificent book which is constructed through 66 smaller books. Infallible in nature, the Bible has proven to be definitively accurate. The writings of secular historians, such as the Jewish historian, Josephus, and the Roman historian, Tacitus, have proven biblical New Testament accounts to be true, as the Bible runs parallel to their own accounts of history. Today, archeological discoveries continue to be made that uphold the accuracy of this ancient book. Merrill Unger, who compiled a Bible dictionary, wrote, “Old Testament archeology has rediscovered whole nations, resurrected important peoples, and in a most astonishing manner, filled in historical gaps, adding immeasurably to the knowledge of Biblical backgrounds.”
Despite the opinions of some, the Bible contains no contradictions. Those who make the claims of contradictions within the message of God's Word fortify their arguments with verses that are taken out of context. When read as a whole, in context, the Bible speaks clearly, accurately, and it speaks without internal contradiction. The divine inspiration of God's Word is proven by this lack of contradiction in it's message. The fact that it was written over such a long period of time, by multiple writers, and still communicates a unified message is something that can only be attributed to the greatness of the Author, God Himself.
In Romans 1:16, the Bible is identified as 'the power of God unto salvation,' for it is by God's Word that mankind connects with the message of redemption and is able to take a glimpse into the very heart of our Creator. His power is reflected through the text. God's Word may be His greatest manifestation of power. Our universe, our world, and our very flesh is corruptible, fading with the moments of passing time. God's Word, however, remains.
Matthew 24:35 speaks clearly to the fact that it will always remain..."Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."
Isaiah 40:8 gives the same resounding promise..."The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever."
It is indestructible, incorruptible and flawless. It is the power, the message, the direction, and the prophecy of God Almighty, left as hope to generations living in hopelessness. It is both the legacy and the future. It speaks of God's love and His wrath. It is the path of salvation to those who seek righteousness, and it is the standard by which all men will be judged. When all else falters, God's Word will remain.
For the child of God, this Word is both a comfort and a weapon. In Jeremiah 23:29, God's Word tells us..."Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?" This verse is referring to false prophets and those who claim to be servants of God. We can't identify every false teacher and advocate of evil that Satan may place in our path simply by their appearance or demeanor. We can't memorize the theology of every cult. What we can do is become so familiar with the truth of God's Word that false doctrine and sin are more easily identified. Psalm 119:11 states..."I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." God's Word, when read frequently, becomes a filter for our sin nature, and when commit God's powerful message to memory, it becomes a weapon against the intervention of Satan in our life.
God's Word is beneficial, supremely beneficial. It was written that we might look around us at a sinful world and hold tightly to the promises of God in Christ. The Christian life is one that requires knowledge, perseverance and faith. Romans 15:4 states..."For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope." When coupled with the discernment given by the Holy Spirit of God, Scripture becomes the great teacher and encourager of God's children. It is within God's Word that we find the resources to carry on in a world that is Godless and seemingly spinning out of control. Through an understanding of Scripture, we can learn that nothing is out of control...not one thing. We should take our copy of God's Word and determine to become an attentive student and learner of the truths it contains. The knowledge that Word will impart into our life is far beyond a determination of cost, as it is priceless...yet, it is free.
I will end this blog post here, because I can't envision a stopping point, and I know that you won't read forever. However, I reserve the right to continue it soon, because there is more, much more, that can be discussed. Needless to say, God's Word is worthy of endless description, because it's value is without measure.
I was talking recently with an older gentleman who was simply unhappy with his life. Nothing was going right, and it seemed that nothing had gone right for a period of time that painfully stretched over some thirty odd years of his life. He wasn't as troubled as he was simply resigned to the notion that he wasn't meant to be happy. He was satisfied to be dissatisfied. His expectations for the future were completely entangled in the miseries of his past...a past that was hopelessly strangling his present. Oddly, this man claimed a relationship with God. Or, maybe that isn't so odd?
There are unhappy Christians all over the place. If you don't believe me, attend church. Any church will do. These unhappy and conspicuously discontented children of God are easy to spot, because you will also find, in the same church, people who are happy, content, worshipful, and people who display a grace that only a right relationship with God can produce. The contrast is striking, if you take the time to notice.
So, why do some Christians bubble with joy while others seem to exist in a state of eternal unhappiness? Is it because God is better to some than He is to others? Maybe the happy Christians are just crazy, and the ones who frown all the time are just realists?
Unhappiness always stems from dissatisfaction. (I know, you're marveling at my psychological prowess, but stay with me for a moment.) We can quickly become dissatisfied with almost anything when it fails to meet our lofty expectations. Marriages end because of dissatisfaction. Children are estranged from their families because of dissatisfaction. Tremendous debt is often created as a side effect of the mentality of dissatisfaction. Christians become victims of 'church-hurt' because of dissatisfaction. There are thousands of examples that prove one point...dissatisfaction is dangerous, and dissatisfaction carries with it consequences that can be catastrophic to our lives, if not deadly.
Here's a deep concept, but it's the truth: We were not built to be satisfied by anything this world has to offer, if those things are independent from our walk in God's will.
We were 'built' by God Almighty for His purposes...
"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." – Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
God built fish to swim. Fish find little enjoyment in golf, and I would assume that the vast majority of fish would be uncomfortable catching a few rays while lounging on the beach. Fish are happiest doing what God created them to do. Not only that, fish begin to die the moment they stop doing what God created them to do. Ok, I know that's a silly example, but it is the truth...
Just like God created fish to swim, He created us for a purpose. We like to fill the life that we have been given with many things that are not God's purposed plans for us. These things are not necessarily bad, but they can be effective distractions from the will of our Lord. If we allow our love of sports, travel, politics, the opposite sex, etc...to become what drives our life, then God is definitively pushed out of His rightful place as our #1 priority. Consequently, when we are distracted enough by other 'things' to push God Almighty out of first place in our life, then it's impossible to determine how far down our list of misplaced priorities that He may end up. As we miss-prioritize God in our life, it's a guarantee that our dissatisfaction will grow. The greater tragedy is that when we miss-prioritize God in our life, we begin to die spiritually.
The stark contrast that exists between the happy and content Christians and those who are not is, at the very least, a dissatisfaction in their life with God. They may not even realize this as being the problem, but I would wager that it's almost always at the very root of their unhappiness. When God is not our priority, the things that we carefully put in His rightful place all become part of the bigger problem. Instead of these things leading us to contentment, they only give us a thirst for more, because these temporal things will not satisfy. Only God can satisfy.
We will only be satisfied when we are firmly planted in God's will...doing what He created us to do. We will only reflect the glory of God in our life when find a deep and abiding satisfaction in Him, and that satisfaction requires relationship.
I want to be satisfied with God. There's a saying...'if all you have is God, then you have more than you need.' I want that saying to be real in my life, because I want to freely give God that kind of authority in every part of my being.
I want to be satisfied with God in every circumstance because:
For our lives to truly reflect the glory of God, our satisfaction with Him must be realized. We must seek Him on a level that is deeper than the spiritual 'shopping spree' of a Sunday morning worship service or a small group on the latest popular Bible study. We must alter our perception of God as only a trouble-shooter for the problems in our life. We have to open our heart to real communication with God...communication that lies beyond praying over our food. We must bow our knee and surrender our will to the perfection of His plan, and that kind of surrender doesn't come cheap...and it also doesn't go unrewarded.
Our satisfaction lies solely in God. The many things that we interject into our life, apart from God's will, only leads us to more problems. If you're dissatisfied in your life, let me encourage you to take a good look at your walk with God. Is that walk thriving? Is it growing? Is it developing in you a passion for the things of God? If it's not, then the root of your problem has been identified. Give up your dissatisfaction, and surrender to the grace and perfection of God's will. Life will always bring about more trouble, but God is forever good. Be satisfied; God is more than enough!
Righteousness...it's a big word. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines righteousness as "acting in accord with divine or moral law," or "free from guilt or sin." I would agree with these definitions, but there's more involved with our righteousness than what's listed.
We are born into this world as beautiful, precious and innocent little babies; however, in our seemingly undefiled newborn state, we will find an enormous sin nature that cannot wait to mature and pursue unGodliness. It's just a fact of life. Every man, woman, and child of the human race pursues sin. No one likes to admit it, but we do. If we were to take an honest look at our life, we would see a multitude of sinful thoughts, desires and intentions all vaguely shrouded behind brief moments of public goodness. We're sinful. We just are. Know it to be the truth.
The fragile state of man's ego demands that we do some good...especially if that good can be witnessed and applauded by a group of our peers. When we do good, we feel good, and that goodness brings with it a facade of righteousness that we drape about us like a blanket. We're covered in the momentary goodness of a "righteous act." We may feel like we've scored a few extra points from Almighty God for this selfless display of kindness? Surely God was watching? We've helped someone, and we've scored big points in heaven, right? Win, win...maybe we will get a crown?
There's nothing wrong with doing good things...nothing at all! The world needs more 'good,' even if that 'good' is done for the wrong reasons. However, we need to realize that doing good things does not make us a better person, a person who is more deserving of God's blessings than someone who is devout in not doing good. At our core, we are not virtuous, admirable, nor are we Christlike; we are simply sinful. Christians may have their sin nature under better control than those without the Lordship of Christ, but the sin nature is still there, looming behind every thought, every motivation, every intention...and so, we required a Savior.
Our greatest acts of selflessness and intentional good can never redeem the sinful person that we really are. We can say and do all of the right things for the duration of our lives, and exhausted from the performance of many good works, we will still fall miserably short of the goal of righteousness. Our virtuous actions and our selfless deeds cannot purchase righteousness in the eyes of Almighty God.
"You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." –Isaiah 64:5-6 (NIV)
Our works and our righteous acts are as filthy rags before a sovereign God who looks directly at the truth and intentions of our heart.
"For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” –1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV)
We cannot hide our sin from God. We cannot bribe Him with good works, nor can we impress Him with sacrifice. Thankfully, we have Jesus.
Christ did not die on Calvary to give us the ability to achieve righteousness. We will never possess the ability to achieve righteousness through our own devices...never. Instead, Christ died on Calvary to become our Righteousness. As His body was beaten and scourged, as the weight of the cross was placed on His shoulders, as the nails were driven, and as the crown of thorns was placed upon His head, Christ was examining my sin. He was looking into the hearts of mankind, into my heart, and what He saw was sin and guilt. As Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He knew what must be done, and as His scarred and ravaged body was raised to become a public spectacle on the cross of my sin, Christ became my Righteousness. It is only in the completed work of Christ that I stand blameless before Almighty God. It's only in that work that we all stand blameless, covered in the redeeming blood of an innocent Lamb who will one day return as a conquering King.
It is folly to trust in our own works and virtues, as though they might possibly purchase for us a righteous standing before God. It is the Lamb of God who has become our righteousness, and it is the Lamb of God who has claimed us from our sin. Moreover, He became that sin on our behalf, and resurrected, He became our Savior and Redeemer. Now, sitting at the right hand of God, He intercedes on our behalf. Soon, He will rise from that place, and being found the only One worthy, He will take the scroll. Then, He will become our King...
Our righteousness before Almighty God is through Jesus Christ. It is not authored in our goodness, nor is it made more valid by our works. It cannot be purchased or persuaded by the hand of man, and for the child of God, our righteousness cannot be blemished or taken away. It is ours through the finished work of Christ. We stand redeemed, without sin or stain, before Almighty God. Our pardon has been realized, and we are redeemed through the perfect righteousness of the Lamb. To Christ, and for His work on my behalf, may I be forever grateful.
What does God really want from me? Have you ever asked yourself that question? I have on many occasions. My thoughts typically take me straight to things such as my talents, my money, my service, and my willingness to sacrifice. I'm quite sure that most people have mental inclinations, inclinations that they believe to be spiritual, that lead them to assume God simply wants us to perform acts of service and give more of our time and money to the church. Let's take a look at a passage of scripture that may reveal something quite different, maybe even something a little unusual for some...
"With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" — Micah 6:6-8 (ESV)
It's easy for us to become misled in the area of God's desire for His children. As Christians, we're inundated with a plethora of urgent needs that surround us. There's poverty, hunger, child abuse, joblessness, sickness, and there's certainly people around us who have not surrendered to the Lordship of Christ. All of these issues need to be addressed, and there are definitive commands in God's Word for us to carry the Gospel to these very people and even to help meet their physical needs. But where do we even begin? Are we to sacrifice money over and above our tithe? Are we to volunteer at food kitchens? Are we to travel to impoverished areas and feed the poor and minister to the sick? The answer is yes. However, there is something even more important than these very noble acts of sacrifice and service. There's something that God speaks of through the verse above...and it's well worth our attention.
Again, it's easy for us to become misled in the area of God's desire for His children. We are misled because we may simply be misinformed, but we also may not be adept at the prioritization of the 'Godliness' in our life and God's commands. Before we spend thousands of dollars on an overseas mission trip to a developing nation, or before we cash in our 401K and give it to the needy, let's examine God's desire for us as it is played out in the book of Micah. And, let's start with His last command first, a command to 'walk humbly with your God.'
God's primary concern for our life is that it be spent walking with Him in a solid, dynamic and growing relationship. We can give of our wealth to great causes and help many people in the process. We can donate thousands of dollars to our church or toil and labor on mission fields until our passport pages are stamped full...a history of international ink that shows our passion for Jesus? Well, maybe not...
If our relationship with God is not directing us when and how to serve, then we may only be 'serving.' The brass plaques that adorn the walls of churches, plaques beautifully inscribed with the names of people who contributed to this and that, do not necessarily earn these wonderful and generous individuals a crown in God's Heaven. Jesus will not be perusing church plaques, nor will He look to the pages of our passports, at the Bema Seat to confirm our passion for Him. He won't check out our tithing record or our Sunday School lifetime achievement award. No, Christ looks directly through all of our activity, and His gaze will be firmly focused on our heart...a tragedy for many who have invested so much for so long for all the wrong reasons.
God isn't focused on our wealth, our talents, or our desire 'to travel' to the hard places to do good works. What God is interested in is our hearts. He is passionately interested in a relationship with us that extends beyond the processes of organized religion, church schedules, devotion books, and summer mission trips. God is after something in us that is real. God wants the burning passion that we only carry in the deep recesses of our heart. We all have it. We keep it stored away for the scarce few things that we purposely and passionately chose to invest in with our life. It's this passion that He desires. He wants to ignite that passion in us by revealing Himself to us through Scripture and daily conversation with Him in prayer. He wants to ignite that passion through a relationship with Him that is not confined to the often nominal routine of Sunday activities. He wants to ignite a passion in us for a relationship with Himself.
Our real walk and relationship with God is pursued and grown on an intimate level. From that foundation, and from that foundation alone, real service for God is catalyzed, because it is in that relationship that we are directed to serve. God wants us to humbly walk with Him.
God also desires for us to 'do justice' or to walk 'justly.' The Greek word for justice here is derived from the word " shaphat" which simply means 'to judge or govern.' It is God's desire that we allow Him the governance of our life, our actions, and our deeds. We should certainly seek to do good things, but we must understand that, if we really seek Him in a relevant walk/relationship, God will lead us to those good things. He will govern our desires. He will make the judgments of where and when and how we are to spend our time and our resources.
The Psalmist writes of this...
"Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long." — Psalm 25:4-5 (ESV)
David sought the governance of God in his life. His life was a reflection of many failures where God's governance is concerned, but they were not God's failures; they were definitively failures of David himself. However, David's plea for God to 'make me know Your ways,' 'teach me Your paths,' and 'lead me in Your truth,' are cries for God's teaching and direction...cries for God's righteous and perfect governance in his life. They are cries of a sinful heart to be led by a sinless God. Again, this leadership and direction can only be found in a close walk with Almighty God through the Lordship of Christ. God wants us to let Him lead.
And finally, God desires that we have a passionate love for kindness. The Greek word for kindness here is taken from the word 'chacad.' It means 'merciful.' God desires that we have a definitive love for mercy. Mercy is not my strongest attribute; however, if I am to be Jesus to the world around me, then I better dig down deep and find some affection for mercy. Christ's absorption of my sins on the cross brought about the greatest act of mercy and pardon in history. His act of love towards my painfully sinful self should shine through me like the sun. Consequently, it doesn't always shine so bright, but it should.
One of the Beatitudes from Christ's Sermon on the Mount firmly puts my lack of mercy in it's place...
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." — Matthew 5:7 (ESV)
Mercy was key to the life of Christ. The apex of His ministry here on earth was the unveiling of a mercy and grace that I will never fully comprehend. It was on the cross of Christ where justice met grace and mercy, and where the debt of my life was completely redeemed. And, it is that cross, and that sacrifice, that should compel us to show the mercy that we have already been shown in the completed work of Jesus Christ, the innocent, the slain, and the resurrected Lamb of God. God wants us to love mercy.
What does God really want? He wants a relevant relationship with us, a relationship that develops a passion for Him within our heart. True service will stem from that relationship. It will be true service for God, because it will be directed by God. Sacrifice will stem from that relationship, because He will lead the dispersement our time, our talents/gifts and our treasure. Godly mercy and kindness will flow into our life and attitudes as a result of our walk with God, a walk governed by His will and His direction. God doesn't want your money; God simply wants our heart.
Have you ever attempted to communicate with someone who doesn't listen? Even on my best days, that always tends to annoys me. These people may ask you a direct question, and then before you can even begin to formulate your response, they have already answered their own inquiry. Or, possibly you've ran into those who will simply talk over you without the slightest regard given to what you're trying to say. It's your story, but they are intent upon finishing it. Many of these people, although well intentioned, are a "pushy folks" who aren't really concerned with what anyone else thinks. Although they engage you in communication, they are only doing so as an offering of cultural custom. Their true intentions and character are revealed in their profound lack of genuine concern for real two-way communication, a characteristic that never goes unnoticed to anyone...except to them.
Have you ever taken a moment to examined your communication with God?
I believe that prayer is our most important avenue for authentic interaction with God. It should be powerful; it should yield benefits into our life. Consequently, I've heard so many people tell me that their prayer life is cold, and God seems to be unresponsive. Or, some say that "they just don't get anything out of prayer." That breaks my heart. In these situations, as with all other situations between God and man, we are always the problem.
Our prayer life isn't weak because God is too busy with other concerns to listen. The Almighty is not frustrated with us, and He's not giving our time to someone else. He's there, and He's certainly listening.
There's many reasons that our prayer life could be diminished, and again, they all involve problems on our side of the line of communication. Maybe we're praying without faith? Is it possible that we might simply be praying out of habit...the same rehearsed prayers, voiced in the same mundane mindset, with a heart that isn't expecting much? Or maybe, just maybe, we're praying fervently...but we're not listening.
Prayer is communication with God. It's not dictation. We have every right to take our petitions to the throne of our LORD. Christ provided that right to us with His incredible sacrifice on Calvary. By His wounds, we are not only healed. His wounds, His death and His resurrection have altered the format of our communication with God. Now, in confidence, we can boldly make our petitions known to a mighty God...a God who is ready to talk.
God's Word gives us this incredible glimpse of our ability to communicate with Him...
"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." – Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)
However, God's Word doesn't say anything about that right lending unto us a power to demand anything. Our communication with God is certainly not grounded in demands, and furthermore, it is not a negotiation with God. Our communication with Almighty God is to share with Him the details of our life (which He already knows), to tell Him what's on our heart, to celebrate the victories He has led allowed us to win, to bring our defeats to His throne...and all of this to seek His will and direction. For that, we must listen.
Our communication with God, at the expense of the sacrifice of Christ, is a two-way interaction. We pray, then we listen. The listening could possibly be the most important aspect of prayer, and I'm quite certain that it is the most overlooked component. Sadly, we often never give God a chance to respond, or we simply don't pay attention to anything that happens following our 'time to talk.'
We pray, and then we simply act on our desires...but we've prayed about...right...so it's OK? God didn't immediately burn a message in fire on the wall with His holy direction. He didn't quickly send the Ark-Angel down with a 'read-receipt' and instructions regarding our request...so, we just do it our way. Our way is the best anyway, and it has to be God's perfect will...right? Don't be fooled. We might want to give God a moment to prepare our hearts and our lives for His response...a response that we should be listening for intently.
We pray for things that we deem important, and those things probably are important. Sadly, we may only pray when we classify something as important. When we have a sick parent or a financial crisis, then we're all about taking that to God. We recruit friends to pray for us, we post our desire for prayer on social media, and we certainly pray ourselves. But is our prayer based on the genuine desire of seeking God's will, or is our prayer one that is based on persuasion?
I've guilty of trying to persuade God. I've used some of the best techniques that I know in an effort to alter the divine will and perfect mind of Almighty God. I've begged with God, and I've pleaded very weak cases for my desires, with a conviction that was palpable on my end. And, in that impassioned presentation to God of the reasons 'why I'm right,' I've failed to listen. Consequently, my failure to listen placed me definitively out of God's will and perfect plan for my life. In that, I suffered.
Our prayer life is important. It's very important. I believe it's the most important thing in our life. And what's really important about our prayer life is the fact that it is in a two-way conversation between us and the Creator of all things. When we fill that communication with only our requests (and possibly our demands), and we fail to let God speak, then we aren't communicating with God. We're only communicating to God. When we spend our time in prayer trying to persuade God into agreement with our own personal will and agenda, we must understand that we're not really praying for communication...it's only a dictation of our 'wants.'
God delights in answering our prayers. Our heart's desire should be a reflection of God's perfect will. However, our heart, and even the hearts of His most devout followers, does not always reflect that perfect will. We all have our expectations and desires, and those will not always line up with what God is doing. In that fact, our default-mode in prayer should mimic the prayer of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to being led away to trial and execution...
"Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
– Matthew 26:39 (NIV)
Pray for what you want, but be willing submit to God's will. Our will is certainly one that is fallible and prone to lead us directly away from real relationship with God. God's will is perfect, and it is only in His will that our lives will be blessed. Our prayer life should be one that leads us to God with the purposed intention of finding His will...not persuading Him to conform to our agenda.
Have a blessed day, my friends, and let your prayers be real communication with Almighty God. He has things to tell you...and He doesn't blog!
I don't have any children, but if I did, I would certainly want what was best for them. We all want what is best for our kids, right? I even want the best for your children...for all children. The state of our country and our world today is not one that shows great concern for future generations. Frankly, it shows no concern at all for the present generation.
For the children of our country and our world...
I'm not concerned with leaving them great personal wealth; I'm concerned with not allowing them to inherit great debt. After we are gone, our children should be left with a country and an economy that is healthy and unencumbered by the debt which is left in the wake of greed, entitlement, and profound ignorance of sound fiscal policy. I'm concerned that they have the same rights and privileges that past generations have possessed...the right to work hard, earn, and be rewarded for achieving...not for breathing. For that to take place, our economy cannot be crippled with debt. At present, we are failing at this on a scale that defies explanation. I'm concerned that our children have the right to establish their own financial security without having to spend their lifetime paying off the high premium of this generations fiscal ignorance.
I'm not concerned with leaving our children with a world of peace, because there will never be complete peace on this earth prior to Christ reigning. I am concerned with leaving them a country that has a military strong enough and capable enough to not just fight any enemy, but to leave that enemy cowering in fear at the very thought of engaging the United States of America. Ronald Reagan said "peace through strength." He was right. When America is weak, the world explodes. This is evidenced by what we see happening in our present day. The people who fail to see that are simply not looking, or they refuse to engage in practical common sense, because the lords of their ideology will not grant them permission to do so. I'm concerned that our children have the right to live in well-defended freedom.
I'm not concerned with our children having families. What I am concerned about is the right of an unborn child to not be harvested directly from the womb for organs. We do not have the moral right to grow children to be picked like vegetables...for our use, our consumption, and for corporate profit. Tolerance of this by our society is something that should redefine the word 'shame.' Playing God with the life of the innocent...where do we go from here? I'm concerned that our children have respect for human life of all ages, from birth through death, and that they honor and respect the sanctity of the lives of the innocent and unborn.
I'm not concerned with the fact that black lives matter. The fact is, all lives matter. Black lives, white lives, the life of the unborn...every life. When human beings have to apologize for saying that 'all lives matter,' then political correctness has again gone too far. It has served its purpose of deliberately clouding the truth with fear. I am unapologetic in my stance that every life created by God matters. If every life doesn't matter to you, then I can assure you that all lives matter to God. If the statement that 'all lives matter' offends you, then I would encourage you to dig down deep inside of your racial and political agenda and find some courage to be a decent human being. We are all created by God, and we all matter. I'm concerned that our children understand that racism in any form is a means to the destruction of all involved.
I'm not concerned with our children being a conservative or a liberal, a Republican, a Democrat, or a Libertarian. I'm concerned that our children will freely have the right to think and vote their moral beliefs, because they have been afforded the right to an education taught without bias. Obama, Trump, Clinton, Bush...none of these politicians are ethically sound or morally right, and they are certainly not the great hope for the future days of our country. In fact, they are all part of the problem. They, along with the rest of the elected political class have helped to author the declining America we live in today. The great hope for the political future of this Republic is the well-educated mind of the American citizen. The incompetence shown from the elected offices of power in Washington is a reflection that America is not thinking. Year after year, term after term, we reelect the same incompetence to do the same incompetent things. If we're angry about the current political climate, then we should internalize that anger into catalyzing some cognitive thought, and we need to become smarter about who we believe, who we elect, and how their performance should be evaluated. I'm concerned that our children are not taught what to think...but how to think.
I'm not concerned with all of our children being Christians. I'm a follow of Christ, and it would certainly be my desire that every man, woman and child come to know Christ as I have, but I know that will never be the case. What I am concerned about is that our children will have the right to be Christians in a 'Christian' nation. I'm concerned that they will have the right to live out their relationship with God in the absence of the threat of being tortured or beheaded. I'm concerned that they have the right to worship and to serve God without the government stepping in to inhibit their freedoms while promoting the freedoms of other religions. I'm concerned that they have the right to honor God in their life without being dishonored by their nation.
The ultimate test of a moral society is reflected in the world that society passes down to its children. Today, we are leaving little of value to the future generation. Our greed, our wars, our attitudes of entitlement, our disregard for the sanctity of human life, the purposely stirred racism, and our tolerance of the deliberate removal of God from our society has caught up with us. We are no longer a unified people. Frankly, we are no longer a moral nation that raises the bar for the rest of the world. We should remember from where we have fallen and seek to again engage in the things that once made this nation great.
Among things of value...freedom, sound fiscal policy, a strong defense, sanctity of life, etc...the greatest deficit in our nation is the lack of fear in the authority of Almighty God. It required a people of faith and conviction in God to build a nation so great, and it will again require a people of faith and conviction to rebuild that once great nation. Honestly, I'm not sure that we ever will, but I am certain that our divergence from God is the marker by which our current situation is defined. When we fail to honor God as a country, God will not honor us. In our pursuits that run contrary to God, we find limited hope for our future and the future of our children. In God, we find limitless hope.
"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." – 2 Chronicles 7:14
God can salvage that which we have wasted. He can rebuild what we have destroyed. And, from among the ruins, He can again bless and prosper this nation. Our Godless, independent spirit has caused us to pay a great price, but that price can be redeemed if we will answer the call of 2 Chronicles 7:14.
I'm an American. I am fiercely patriotic. I love our country. However, I am not concerned with seeing our nation rise again to greatness. I am concerned with seeing our nation rise to honor God. Greatness will come, but not at the expense of Godlessness. I am concerned with the future that we leave to our children. Every generation has left behind a better America...until now. May God be honored in our country, and may He bless us because we honor Him.
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!