Talking to God

Most Christian believers would say their first line of communications with God is through prayer.  The fact that many of our prayers may not be vocal places no restriction on the premise of talking to God.  Many times a day we silently look heavenward and thank Him for an unexpected blessing, for answer to prayer, or to beg His forgiveness for a sinful slip of the eye, or thought, or tongue.

I think of other ways we speak to God though that are not how He wants to hear from us.  Many people are very adept at discerning the veracity of what we say simply by observing our facial expression or ‘body language’, especially those who know us well.  You are asked how you’re doing and you reply “Good”, or “Great”, or “I’m doing fine”, but your slumped shoulders or averted eyes tell a different story. How much more can God know what is on our mind and in our hearts as we go about our day.

What lies does He see in us as we stand in His house singing “How Great Thou Are” or “Majesty” and sneak a sinful look at the young lady in the next row.  What lies do we tell Him about our love for our neighbor when we are intolerant of them, when we are judgmental or impatient with them?  What lies do we tell God about our obedience to Him when our self-centered, self-aggrandizing actions say otherwise?  And ultimately how much do we lie to God when we tell Him we trust Him and surrender all to Him, and yet when troubles come our way we fret and worry how we are going to deal with them.

In a previous issue of the Witness I wrote on how our mind sometimes begins to wander when we are in prayer and that I think often it is Satan’s attempt to interrupt our communion with God, but not always.  Sometimes I believe God butts in to our mundane incantations to deliver a thought or direction He wants us to explore.  I know have been directed to a particular verse of scripture or vein of thought many times.  I used to wonder “where’d that come from?” I have no doubts now; I believe that through His Holy Spirit, He speaks to me.  He has directed the theme and content of this offering so often when I am in prayer that I could not, would not launch this weekly sailing without knowing that He is at the helm.  Am I claiming that what I generate here each week are ‘the words of God’? Surely not!  But I am convinced that these writings are inspired by Him. I believe that the ‘Weekly Witness’ has not only been sustained these last five years and that the readership continues to grow, is testimony (at least in my mind) of His blessings on it.

Another obvious way that God talks to us is through our Pastors and Bible study leaders. Additionally I think that occasionally He uses a most unexpected source to speak to us. We see a charitable need and respond; God is saying to us, “Tend my flock, feed my sheep”.  When we reach out to a non-believer, is God not using us to talk to that person?  When a Christian brother or sister reveals a sinful thought or characteristic in us, is God’s Holy Spirit not talking to us through them?  As parents, is God not speaking through us to our children?  We must never believe for one moment that we are the source of enlightenment – the Light comes only from our Lord and we are but a mirror to reflect that Light.

Finally God speaks to us most voluminously and completely through His Holy Word.  When you don’t get that inspired revelation while you are in prayer, when you are not moved by the hymn selection or the pastor’s sermon, open the Book. Through His Word God will scream at you how much He loves you, how many ways He shows his love for you, and how much He wants to have you a part of His Kingdom, that He forgives you for all that baggage you refuse to surrender, and that all you have to do is accept Him.  Nothing else.  Nothing.

John Owen, a 16th century puritan wrote, “Friendship is most maintained and kept up by visits; and these, the more free and less occasioned by urgent business…” I think he meant that our visits to the Lord should be frequent, not waiting for the calamities and trials we find ourselves in.  Most mornings my first communion with God are of this vein. . .uncluttered with intercessory pleadings. . .just, “Good morning Father, Thank you for a new day, thank you for the knowledge of your presence here with me”.

I would guess, (I certainly couldn’t know), that God enjoys communicating with us through prayer over the other means I have listed here.  When you think about it sincere prayer is our ultimate way of demonstrating our faith.  Whether standing, sitting, or on your knees, with arms reaching up, there you are pouring your heart out to an unseen and unseeable entity which you have chosen to believe is all the Bible says He is.  That is an act of faith beyond any act of service; I believe, beyond repentance. You may have never heard His voice, you have never seen Him, yet you know that you know that you know that He is not only real but that He is mindful of you, He provides for you, and He love you so much that He sent His beautiful Son to redeem you to Him.  Hebrews 11:1 states this state so succinctly; “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

May God abundantly bless you and yours, and may you be a blessing to others.


FEAR

What a loathsome thing fear is. I’m not speaking here of the fear of the Lord – that of course we should have. That fear could more correctly defined in today’s vernacular as an attitude of awe mixed with reverence for the magnificence and the majesty of our Father God. The fear I write about now is the fear brought on by listening to the evil one instead of the Word of God.

In 1 John 4:18 we read, “…love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love.” David wrote, “I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4

Our loving Father doesn’t want us to live with a sense of dread or fear. As we come to understand God’s unconditional love of us and for us, we can then gain confidence that His desire for us is complete joy. “I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11

Daily we must work through our fears of unworthiness, of our shortcomings, and our sins. Do we serve enough; do we give enough of ourselves and our God given talents and wealth? Is in fact our name written in the Book of Life? Have we forgiven all we could – are our treasures stored in Heaven – have I loved my brother, my neighbor as myself? Am I mentoring, discipling, serving, evangelizing, and tithing?

These are all questions that we do need to ask ourselves periodically and pray about, to affirm that we are seeking God’s will for our lives. But so often these same questions are provoked by Satan – sitting there on our shoulder – lying to us – and in our weakness, we believe him.

Jesus told us that “in this world you are going to have troubles” and “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Paul wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man…” and “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (John 16:33, Luke 12:32, 1 Cor. 10:13, 2 Tim. 1:7)

In her book “The Battle Belongs to the Lord”, Joyce Meyer wrote the following. “God moves on our behalf when we focus on Him instead of on our fears. The feeling of fear or fearful thoughts is simply our enemy Satan trying to distract us from God and His will for our lives. We may feel fear at various times in our lives but we can choose to trust God and if we need to, ‘do it afraid’.” (emphasis mine) Ms. Meyer doesn’t expound on the ‘do it afraid’ theme much more but I found in it a most inspiring message.

The message I got was that I need to “do it afraid!” Yes I am fearful, yes I do hear Satan’s reminders to me of my sin, yes I do know I am unworthy of the grace my King has bestowed on me. But I will not give in to my fear – I will serve my God – even in fear – I will trust Him, believe Him, honor Him, praise Him, recognizing and acknowledging my unworthiness. I will lean of the promise of His forgiveness and mercy – not on my own understanding. I will trust that His love for me is greater than my unworthiness (“The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” -1 John 4:4) A love so great that He would send Jesus to save me – and you. If you and I were the only two on earth, God would have still sent Jesus to save us – and that gives me strength, and fortitude, and a modicum of boldness.

We find the words “fear not” spoken by God 132 times in the Bible. Doesn’t that convey to you that our Father is aware of our fears and that He is concerned for our fearfulness? In His eternal love for us He says over and over “fear not”.

It is my prayer today that you will find strength in God’s love for you and that you can shrug off the fear that Satan would burden you with. Choose to walk in God’s light – deny the darkness of Satan’s lies. Remember the lines from the old Gaither hymn –
“The God on the mountain is still God in the valley;
The God of the daylight is still God in the darkness;
The God of the good times is still God in the bad times.”
I wouldn’t bet on an exact rendition with those words, but that was the message of the hymn.

Until next time, may God bless you and yours, and may you be a blessing to someone else.

Heir to the Throne

I do not remember a time when I did not know that I was an adopted son.  From the time my mother thought I could understand what adoption meant, she told me of the faithlessness of my birth father, and that now the man I now knew as ‘Daddy’ was really my step-father.  She explained how he had chosen to adopt me, giving me his surname, and the promise of being co-heir with my sister to what he might leave behind when he passed away.

Reaching my adolescence in the 50’s I gravitated to icons of the day such as Elvis Pressley and James Dean.  I don’t mean to disparage either of these men, but my view of them at the time was that of rebellion and self-serving, and that attitude incited me into a rebellion of my own.  Along with the disappointment and frustration I caused my parents I also remember my Dad telling me how my scrapes with the law had ‘sullied and dishonored the Warnock name’.  It wasn’t until years later that I understood his displeasure with me and my actions.

The word adoption in the New Testament means to embrace as an adult son. It was a term used in the Roman legal practice in the apostle Paul’s day referring to a legal action by which a person takes into his family a child not his own, treating him as a birth son, and giving him all the privileges of such. A homeless child, or one without parents, typically found they were subject to one of two solutions; either as a slave with no rights whatsoever, or to be adopted into a family.  An adopted child was legally entitled to all rights and privileges of a natural-born child. Paul uses this illustration as the act of God giving a believing sinner, who is not His natural child, a position as His adult son or daughter into His family. The emphasis is on the legal position of the child of God.

Exemplary of my rebelliousness I modeled Paul’s comment that we were “children of wrath” by nature (Eph. 2:3).  Paul writes, “. . we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom. 8:23)  How wonderful it is to learn that those upon whom God bestows His saving grace become the “children of God.”  As my Dad eventually forgave my transgressions in his house, so God forgives us our sinful nature and restores us to His house.

It is the Holy Spirit who is called “the Spirit of adoption” who performs the act of placing the believing sinner as an adult into the family of God. “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Rom. 8:15)

Having now adopted the confessed sinner, God tells us we are now heirs to His kingdom – heirs to the throne.  Continuing in Romans 8:17 we read,  “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

And what might we expect of this adoption?  What should we anticipate as being co-heirs with the Son of God?

First we know we are forgiven of our rebelliousness.  Past, present, and future sins are all forgiven.  We are assured of salvation, mercy and grace by God’s own words.  Our adoption can never be revoked – His forgiveness is never retracted.  “God is not a man, so He does not lie. He is not human, so He does not change His mind.  Has He ever spoken and failed to act?  Has He ever promised and not carried it through?”  (Num. 23:19 NLT) (Read also Hebrews 6:17-20)

Sonship requires, even demands much of us;  Service, charity, honesty, morality, and evangelizing.  We turn away, repent of our old ways, thoughts, and attitudes.  As heir to the throne we now have a responsibility to that throne.  We glorify God in all we say and do, and we share with all we meet His promise of hope and love.

Until next time, may God bless you and yours and may you be a blessing to someone else.

Immanuel (God With Us)

Isn’t it funny – not funny, Ha Ha, but funny curious – how God gets His message to us sometimes.  From a recent sermon He poked me with a message that I haven’t been able to forget, and I believe He wanted me to share it with you.

Every Christmas we read of the birth of our Lord Jesus in the books of Matthew and Luke.  We refer to the familiar prophesies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Zechariah, and Malachi that were fulfilled by His birth.  We sing many of the same Christmas carols that we’ve known since childhood.  But has it all become rote?  We begin hearing the words but our minds drift to other things and they no longer carry any impact.  It’s similar to our thoughts of the football game as we stand to sing the “The Star Spangled Banner”.

When we sing “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”, do we really envision “come let us adore Him”?  When we sing “Joy to the World”, do our hearts really “prepare Him room”?  As we hear the words “Immanuel – God with us”, do we contemplate on their importance?

And that was the message I got – do I, on a daily basis, prepare room in my heart for God?  From the moment of my salvation, and yours, God sent His Holy Spirit to indwell us.  He’s there – He’s in there.  Prego had an advertising slogan a few years back; “It’s In There”, asserting that all you needed in the way of spaghetti sauce was in the jar.

Well all we need of God “is in there” – that is in the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Some might say, “What of the Bible; what of His Holy Word?”  And our answer would be that without the Spirit, the Word of God is foolishness and they cannot understand them. (1 Cor. 2:14).

The Holy Spirit is our Teacher (John 14:26), and our Intercessor (Romans 8:26-27).  He convicts us of our transgressions, (John 16:8), prays for us (Eph. 6:18), empowers us (Eph. 3:16 and Acts 4:31), and guides us in righteousness (Ezekiel 36:27).  It is by Him that we receive wisdom in the knowledge of God (Ephesians 1:17-18), and it is through Him we commune with our Father God in Heaven (Matthew 10:20).  He manifests Himself in us by the giving of Spiritual gifts that we use in ministry to the church.

But do we take the Holy Spirit’s indwelling for granted – or do we sometimes ‘forget’ He’s there?  He hasn’t always been in there, has He?  Yes. In one sense God, the Creator, has always been “with” His creation.  The Old Testament records God’s presence with His children, the Israelites.  God manifested Himself in a score of different ways.  Sometimes He was a pillar of fire, or a burning bush.  Sometimes He would appear as an angel or a blinding light.  He parted seas and rivers, He quenched the fires of a furnace, closed the mouths of lions, and He brought daily bread to His rebellious children for forty years.  But He was not “in” us; He was “with” us.

So if God has always been with us, why do we need this Immanuel – (God with us)?  What difference does it make?  For the most part we must remember that He spoke to man through prophets and man spoke to Him through priests.  In His temple a curtain separated God and man.  Only the ‘high’ priest could enter His presence behind the curtain, and then only once a year to offer a sacrifice for sins.  For thousands of years this practice went on. . .man/woman sins, offers sacrifice through priest, God forgives sin, man/woman sins, offers sacrifice, God forgives, man sins. . .ad infinitum.

Enter Immanuel, The Christ, The Messiah, the Prince of Peace, our Savior, our Lord Jesus.  Man/woman sins, Immanuel is sacrificed, God forgives.  IT IS DONE!!  Man/woman sins – God has already forgiven.  There are no more sacrifices.  No more will a curtain separate us from Holy God.  It is done.  All man must do is to acknowledge Immanuel’s sacrifice of Himself, accept His forgiveness, and turn away from his sin.  And it is then that this Immanuel – God with us – sends the Holy Spirit to live IN us.  It a wrap.

Until next time, may God bless you and yours and may you be a blessing to someone else.

 

How Can You Love Me? (A Prayer)

This prayer is not intended to address everyone, but I hope that as you read through it you will find something you may need to talk to Father God about.  Perhaps you can use this as a springboard to tell God of your amazement of His mercy and grace considering. . .

“Mighty and merciful God, good morning Father.  You honor me Father by allowing me to bring my burdens to you.  I am unworthy of such honor; nonetheless I am thankful and grateful.

The agony you have put on my heart Father, through your Holy Spirit is almost unendurable.  I see myself in the mirror of Your Son, my Lord Jesus, and I can only lament as your prophet Isaiah did when he beheld Your glory, “I am undone.  I know I am a sinful man living among the sinful.”

You are Mighty God.  You are Magnificent, Magnanimous, Faithful, and Forgiving.  You are Wise and Wonderful.  You are my Creator, the only Creator and your creation is wonderful.  You are Perfect and Pure and Just.  You are my Rock, my Fortress, and Strong Tower.  You are my King; You are the Great I AM.  How is it that you would love me so?

You have knit me together in the womb, made me to the size and shape and specifications you needed me to be to do your perfect will.  You gave me talents and wisdom and intellect to fulfill that perfect will.  Yet I have failed you, failed your Son Jesus, and failed the Holy Spirit who now indwells me and who teaches and leads me.

How is it that you love me so much that you would have your Son leave His throne, set aside His scepter, and abdicate His glory, to become as I am, a man; a human just like me, though innocent, sinless, and pure?  We did not love Him.  We hated how He exposed our sin, so we murdered Him.  Tell me Father, why do you love me so?  Who am I that you would sacrifice your Perfect Son?

I know myself Father, not as well as You know me, but nonetheless I know what a reprobate I am, and how unworthy I am of Your sacrifice, your love, your mercy, and forgiveness.

You bless me with a wife, a Godly woman who loves me, honors me, and respects me, and gives me children.  Even so, in my sin I still lust for others of your creation, dishonoring her, breaking her heart, and corrupting the sacred marriage you ordained.  Even while I sin, still you love me.

You provide food in abundance, and in my gluttony I take more than my share and waste as much as I eat, while so many others of your children in the world starve for lack of any food; people that I know you love equally as you love me.

You created in me talents and abilities to work, and your Holy Word tells me I should work, and that my work should be as if it were for You, and that if I do not work I should not eat.  Yet I am lazy, doing only that work that I must to survive and often only half-heartedly and without conviction or integrity.  The work I do, I tell myself is by my own abilities, giving You no credit.  I steal from my employer by doing less than what he expects and what he compensates me for.  And in my greed I steal from you Lord by not returning to you the pittance you ask of me by not tithing to your church.  Why do you still love me?

You surround me with opportunities to minister in Your Name, however I am too full of myself.  My pride is my greatest evil.  I think myself a better person than the homeless, the sick, and the dying, and my unbelieving brother.  I am intolerant, impatient, and angry with my brother.  I judge him, criticize, and condemn him.  I spread gossip and lies about him, that I might make myself more important or socially acceptable (mostly in my own eyes).  I do not love my brother as You do and have commanded me to, and yet You have loved me still.

Father, You have provided all my needs and much of my wants.  Yet I am envious of my brother’s possessions, his abilities, or his appearance, and I covet his wife and his station in life.  I stand amazed at your tolerance and your love for me.

I see through Your Son Jesus and your Holy Word how sinful I am Father.  For me to ask for forgiveness again would be to discount the forgiveness of Calvary.  I am forgiven.  Thank You Father.  I know that nothing I can say or do will make me worthy of Your love, and equally, I know nothing I say or do will separate me from Your love through Christ Jesus.  I stand naked and helpless before your throne.  Without You I can do nothing.

You are an amazing and awesome God; You are the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.  You are Great and Glorious, and I do love you.  My prayer, my petition is that You keep me on your potter’s wheel.  Mold me to what you would have me be.  As You promised through your prophet Ezekiel, “… give me a new heart and put a new spirit in me; …remove from me my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh.”  Help me Father, by Your Holy Spirit, to be more trusting of you and obedient and faithful to you.  AMEN