Posts Tagged God

Romans 1 – Choices We Make

As I read Romans 1 this morning, I was amazed to see the correlation of what we’re studying in Wildmen, the Wild at Heart book by John Eldredge, and the first chapter of Romans. Paul is talking about how God has revealed himself with His invisible qualities, His power and His divine nature, since creation. And, yet some choose to ignore that, suppressing the Truth for their own wickedness:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

28Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

One thing I have come to understand is this: God created each of us with a plan. We may choose to live our lives seeking that plan (his will) and following Him, or we may choose to follow our own plan. Life is not “easy” either way because we were born into a battle between good and evil. But, I am convinced that following God and His plan for us is the only way to live a peaceful, happy, abundant life. People can choose to ignore God and make their own choices, but it always leads to consequences in ever-increasing difficulty and, ultimately in death and separation from God for eternity.

God makes it very clear. Sin is fun for a season. Some people get to the point where they abandon what they know about God and exchange the truth for their own wicked desires. That is where God turns them over to evil. I know people there now, learning hard lessons, living in turmoil and ruin, refusing to come back to God.

God will not force Himself upon us. He wants us to choose to have faith and believe in Him. Otherwise, we’d be just a bunch of robots, programmed to love God. Without faith, man may choose to worship God’s creation rather than God himself, leading to all kinds of trouble. I noticed several choice/consequences in this passage:

  1. They knew God, but chose to not glorify or give thanks to Him, so their thinking became futile and their hearts were darkened (verse 21)
  2. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like His creation, so God gave them over to shameful lusts (verses 25-26)
  3. They did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind and they were filled with every kind of wickedness (verse 28)

My prayer for those people is that they would eventually get to the place where all they can do is look up and see God. I’ve been there. It’s not a good place. But, God is still there to pick us up and put us back on the road to Him. That road is not easy but the peace and comfort, knowing God is at the end, makes life worth living.

Have a great day!

peace,
e

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Love Lessons – Hosea 2

Gomer has been found guilty and judged.

The Northern kingdom of Israel had been given many warnings, but God (through Hosea & his wife) is telling Israel how it is to be.

The first part of this chapter speaks of terrible judgement. But, look at the beauty of the second part. The restoration with God is an awesome thing.

I’m so thankful that God loves me enough to not just let me go off on my own, living for my own selfish desires. He indeed knows what is best for me and is molding me into a likeness of Him.

Now, a particular verse caught my attention:

7 When she runs after her lovers, she won’t be able to catch up with them. She will search for them but not find them. Then she will think, ‘I might as well return to my husband because I was better off with him than I am now.’

Is that any kind of motivation to be restored? If you were Hosea and your wife decided to come back only because it was better than the rejection she was experiencing now? Kinda like a consolation prize. Well, this really opened up my eyes to how God must feel. How many times have I gone out on my own and tried things my way, only to find out I was in trouble after a while. So, I turned back to God because it was at least better than the place I had found myself in. Some call it fox-hole Christianity.

How much greater and deeper is God’s love than this? How sweet is the fellowship between us when I seek Him intentionally – no matter what. How richer is my life for having desired His presence in my life when things are good!

If you can imagine how it would make you feel to have a wife tell you that she is so in love with you, just the way you are and that no other could make her feel as content and satisfied…then perhaps you can see how God must feel when we tell that to Him with our actions and our desires.

I love You, Lord!

grace&peace,
e

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The Mysterious Ways of God – Daniel 1

The Mysterious Ways of God - Daniel 1What makes people loose their faith?

You occasionally hear a story of someone who, when faced with unbearable circumstances beyond their control, walks away from anything and everything that has to do with God. Certainly, there are times when our “trials” seem overwhelming and downright unfair.

In those times, I’ve found it’s helpful to stop and take a look around. It’s never too difficult to find someone in a situation far worse than your own. When I’m drowning in my own difficulties, somehow knowing that I’m not the only one suffering is comforting. I guess it’s that feeling that “I’m the only one” satan uses to plunge me deeper into despair.

Today, my hope came as I the first chapter of Daniel, which is the next book my dBrag has chosen to start reading together.

I began reading about Daniel and his buddies, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. You might recognize these last three better by knowing their new Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

I’ve heard the story dozens of times since I was a child, but perhaps always out of context, because today I seemed to focus on how Daniel and his buds had just been dragged to a foreign country after egocentric King Nebuchadnezzar had recently finished crushing their country. Torn from the familiar and comfortable, they now find themselves prisoners to idolaters. They could have easily thrown in the towel.

But Daniel stood strong.

He even went as far as to bargain with his captors, asking them to allow him and his companions for treatment other than what had been ascribed by the King:

8 But Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief official for permission to eat other things instead. 

Pretty gutsy, no? Then, it dawned on me as I read the very next sentence:

9 Now God had given the chief official great respect for Daniel.

Ashpenaz, who was in charge of the palace eunuchs, had been tasked with selecting some of Judah’s strongest, healthiest, best-looking children (see KJV) for the purpose of serving in the palace. The king wanted them to know the language and literature of the Babylonians, so they needed to be bright and handsome, with noble and royal pedigree.

Was it any mistake that Ash had selected Daniel and his cohorts? I think not. You see, God had already begun to intervene. God gave Ash “great respect” for Daniel. God was setting the stage for His power and glory to be displayed to Babylon – and the great King Nebuchadnezzar.

As a matter of fact, this chapter is full of God’s influence:

2 The Lord gave him [King Nebuchadnezzar] victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah.

17a God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for learning the literature and science of the time.

17b And God gave Daniel special ability in understanding the meanings of visions and dreams.

Others were selected along with Daniel and the boys, but we don’t hear about them. Daniel could have easily given up and gone along with the demands of their new captors, but he didn’t. Look at verse 8:

8 But Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. 

Daniel made up his mind to stand strong. His faith did not waiver – and God honored that.

What do you face today? Wouldn’t it be much easier to cave and go along with whatever life throws at you? What is it that holds you captive? Sometimes it’s difficult to choose to make a stand on something you believe in. Can you look your captor in the face and refuse to defile yourself any longer, like David did?
God moves in mysterious ways!

He WILL give you what you need when you need it – just don’t give up. He has the power to influence your captors. By taking your stand, you will be rewarded and others will benefit as well, as we’ll see in the following chapters of the book of Daniel.

peace,
e

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Facing Your Fears – Going Deeper With God (Part 4)

Facing Your Fears - Going Deeper With God (Part 4)God has me thinking a lot about what it means to go deeper in my relationship with Him. I’ve been blogging about my fears, about worship , about serving. Today, I’d like to take a gut-level honest approach to prayer.

To be very honest:

  1. I am a confident prayer when I know people are listening
  2. I pray really well when I’m in the midst of a crisis
  3. There is nothing I want more than better communication with my heavenly Father (both ways)

Perhaps you can tell from the way I worded the list above that I’m not the world’s mightiest prayer warrior.

First, I have a big hang-up when it comes to praying out loud; in front of people. When someone else is listening, I go into a whole different mode. I’m thinking about who’s listening, what they may be going through, how I can carefully arrange my words to avoid offending or embarassing them or someone they know, how I can encourage with my words and bring blessing on them, yet communicate with God in such a way that will properly bless and praise Him. Phew – that’s a lot of work.

Don’t get me wrong – I can do it. I’ve been a Christian for a good number of years and I’ve heard a good number of prayers. I’ve got my “prayer language” down just right. I have plenty of cliches and spiritual-sounding phrases to impress every skeptic in the group. In my list, I mentioned that I’m confident when it comes to praying out loud. But, to be honest, it feels fake most of the time. Not that I’m trying to be something or someone other than what I am, nor am I trying to manipulate or impress. Perhaps it’s because I’m trying so hard to “cover all the bases” and being careful not to leave anyone or anything out. By the time I’m finished, and look up – I frequently have this feeling that I was talking only to those physically in the room. And – what’s the point of all that?

It’s quite a different story when I pray alone. I can be honest, avoiding formulas or senseless ritual when it’s just the Father and me. Especially when I’m going through difficult times. I mentioned second in my list that I pray really well in the midst of crisis situations.  Well, I’ve had my share of crisis, and I must testify that God has never let me down. He’s always been there to hold me up and hear my cries. He is my strong tower and my fortress. He is my deliverer and my comfort and my strength in the storm.

So, what about when everything’s going pretty well? Why do I not have the same zeal and passion? Why is it I can go for days without really praying?

I was curious, so I put in “what is prayer” into my favorite search engine. I got hundreds of thousands of possible links. I clicked on a few of them with titles like “How to get into the habit of prayer” and “daily prayer time”. I know there must be something useful out there, but what I found left me with a bad taste in my mouth. You see, I’ve never been one for legalistic rituals or 3-step formulas for things like prayer.

It seems so pathetic to have to set aside 15 or 30 minutes each morning in a prayer closet, sitting in a certain position, palms up, praise music on the iPod, incense on the dresser. Is it just me? What if Jesus were my roommate? Would I need to schedule a time each day for us to talk? Woud I need to meet Him at a certain place and sit in a certain position and make sure there were no distractions? Would we meet in the library? No, can’t talk in there. What about Starbucks? No, can’t hear in there.

The articles I started reading all had to do with this thing called “discipline.” Is that it? Am I so undisciplined that the thought of such a daily ritual leaves me disgusted?

No – I want to talk to my Abba Father, my Daddy, just as if He were here with me: in the car, in the restaurant, in the room as I shut my eyes at night. I don’t want 3-step formulas or rituals to get in the way. I want to praise Him and tell Him what He means to me and thank Him for all He’s done. I want to lift my daughters up to Him and ask for Him to bless their day and protect them from the enemy. I want to tell Him exactly what’s on my mind and I want to stop and listen for His still, small voice.

So – why don’t I?

As I said on my list – it’s the thing I want the most.

So – ???

The only thing that comes to my mind is Paul’s amazing, comforting passage in Romans chapter 7. He writes about how the things he wants to do the most, he doesn’t do – and the things he doesn’t want to do, he ends up doing.

I’m starting to see that, like any spiritual discipline (i.e. Bible reading, prayer, giving, serving, etc.) we are handicapped in several aspects. One is our human nature – our flesh is always trying to die. But we are not our flesh – what we are is spirit. Our flesh is just what carries us around on this earth.

And, two is our sworn enemy. The Bible calls satan a roaring lion roaming the earth seeking whom he may devour. Fears, doubts, temptations, distractions – these are some of his favorite tools to keep us from going deeper with God.

Our best defense?

Um…

prayer.

I guess the point for me today, after reviewing all this stream of consciousness is:

Do whatever it takes.

Perhaps I need a ritual. Perhaps I’m not strong enough on my own – not disciplined enough to talk/listen to God at all hours of the day. Perhaps I need accountability and a plan to build prayer into a habit.

I mean, what’s worse – praying out of compulsion to follow a ritual or not praying at all?

Lord, You know my heart. I want to know You more. I want to always be listening for your voice. I never want to neglect talking with You. But, just as I wouldn’t want my own children to have to schedule a certain time, wear certain clothes, sit in a certain position, say certain things – I don’t want that to be how we communicate. I need You in my life each and every second. I want my focus to always be You. I want to turn to You immediately if there’s a problem and I want to know You’re right there. As with anything, Lord, if You don’t help me with this, it’s over. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and prick my conscious, Lord, each time I am distracted. Help me to look at my own world through the lenses of prayer. Help me to hear through the earbuds of prayer. Thank You, Lord – for Your grace and how You also want more than anything else to better communication with me.

peace,
e

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