Category Archives: obedience

Full of the Spirit

But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, led them out, and said ‘Go stand in the Temple courts and proclaim to all the people the words of this life.’  Acts 5:20

This is what has stuck with me throughout this week, along with a few other thoughts.  It was the apostles that got tossed into jail for telling about Jesus and new life in Him.  The religious leaders were filled with jealousy, which is what 5:17 tells us.  It wasn’t any complicated scheme–just jealousy.  Anyway, an angel let them out and told them to go back to the Temple court and keep teaching.

What catches me is that the angel told them to teach about ‘the words of this life.’  The whole first few chapters of Acts are flooded with the accounts of the Early Church–about how the Holy Spirit has come and landed on them like tongues of fire.  And how when they prayed the place where prayed shook with power and everyone was filled with boldness.  And then there was so much Holy Spirit power that people brought the sick and they passed by Peter’s shadow and they were healed.

Acts 5-20So when they went back to the Temple Courts, they talked about Jesus being risen from the dead, exalted to God’s right hand as a Founder and Savior to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses of these events and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.  

I’m sure the apostles didn’t just mumble a sorry testimony and invite them to Temple too.  No, they were convincing witnesses about the resurrection of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives.  That’s what I’ve been thinking about.

Go on to Acts 6 and read about Stephen.  He was described as being “full of the Spirit,” “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” and “full of grace and power, who was performing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.”  Now that’s an eye catcher.

People are looking for something to fill the holes in their empty lives, something big enough to occupy the space that they’re filling with things like their fascination with technology, the NFL, materialism, sex, drinking and other addictions.  If we offer a wimpy version of the Christian life, it is no more appealing than picking up an old textbook, or visiting their grandmother’s church.

But if you show them the real Jesus, and the “life that is truly life,” as 1 Timothy 6:19 says, or the abundant life that John 10:10 talks about.  And 1 Corinthians 4:20 it says that the kingdom of God is demonstrated in idle talk but in power.  

Last Sunday night I was at our County Jail for Bible study.  There were 6 Native American women and another jail chaplain and myself.  We talked for a bit to catch up on how they were doing, and as I began the study, there was a male inmate calling out loudly the whole time.  I stopped and asked what that was.  The women said it was a man in the holding cell.  They felt bad for him and said he had been yelling out all day in about ten different voices.

I asked if any of them had been at church with me the last summer when one of the women did the same thing and we stopped and prayed–and she stopped yelling out.  The women immediately begged me, “Please stop and pray.  Please pray.”  So we stopped.  The other gal with me prayed out loud first and me second.  We prayed that the spirits that were oppressing him would be bound and that the peace of the Holy Spirit would rest upon him.  Within one or two minutes the man was totally quiet.

I said, “Hey, do you hear that?”  And they said, “Hear what?”  I said, “My point exactly. It’s dead quiet out there.  Jesus did that.  He hears our prayers and has the power to work.  He will do that in your life.”  We got back into the Bible study and the jailers were stirring up a mighty commotion out in the hallway.  I mean it was like a circus out there.  It went on and on.

Finally I stopped and said, “I’m praying again.  This circus has to stop.”  I prayed that God would silence the commotion in the hall and that it would be so quiet that they could hear a pin drop.  Again, within a minute the noise stopped.  And again, I said: “Do you hear that?  Jesus did it again.  That’s what He wants to do for you.”

Today I met with a Native American gal that just got out of jail and treatment.  She came to church and is resolute about “doing the next right thing.”  She is making a break from the bonds of meth and alcohol.  I told her the story of what happened in jail last week.  Her brother is in prison, but God has gotten a mighty hold on him and he is a living, walking evangelist everywhere he was been incarcerated.

She told me about when he was back at the County jail and was with a guy I’ve known since he was a kid.  He was telling this other guy about Jesus and the other guy kept saying that he was a Native and believing that.  Her brother was telling him that it wasn’t helping his life and that  Jesus is the only way, and that He’s real and wants to save him too.

The guy said, “Well, if Jesus is real, I’ll pray for something sweet.”  Maybe he was being sarcastic, because it was 10 at night and he knew it wasn’t going to happen.  But they prayed that S— would get something sweet and that S— would see that God is real.  Not even 5 minutes later a jailor came to their pod where 5 other guys were, at 10:00 at night and said, “S— I have a cupcake for you.  I just thought you’d like it.”

This guy S— got down on his knees and started sobbing and said, “I believe, I believe.”

Now that’s proclaiming the words of this life!  Words of power, words that aren’t just words, but are about life changing abundance that people can grab onto and say, “Yes, He is real and can do things in my life.”

Now, I have to go stand in the town courts and speak words of this life…

*Image from Brittalafont.com

 


Are you submitting to God, or resisting Him?

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Submit yourselves therefore to God. James 4:6b-7a 

There is a hymn by Israel Houghton, “I Surrender All,” that has these lyrics:

All to Jesus I surrender, humbly at His feet I bow, worldly pleasures all forsaken;  Take me Jesus, take me now; All to Jesus I surrender, Make me Savior wholly Thine; Let me feel the Holy Spirit, Truly know that Thou art mine

It is a nice song to sing at the end of a sermon, but much harder to really live out.  Let’s think about what it really means to submit to God and to be humble for a few minutes.  Submitting to God means giving up pride, self-centeredness, and pretty much anything having to do with self.  The group ‘Mercy Me’ has a song called “So Long Self,” by Bart Millard. Its lyrics hit a little closer to home:

Believe it or not but life is not apparently about me anyways; But I have met the One who really is worthy so let me say–So long self.  Well it’s been fun, but I have found somebody else, So long self.  There’s just no room for two, so you are gonna have to moveDon’t take this wrong, but you are wrong for me…

When you die to self, say ‘so long,’ that’s when Jesus really takes over.  That’s what Galatians 2:20 says, and it’s the guts of the Christian life: I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

This is where you let Jesus take over for you.  It involves submitting to God, which is a part of James’ verse.  Submitting to God means giving up your right to be right and it makes you have a teachable spirit.  You don’t shift blame when someone points out something. A blame shifter says things like, “You always point out everything I do wrong,” instead of saying, “You’re right, I need to make sure I don’t do that next time.”  

Again, someone without a teachable spirit does not receive any kind of input.  He or she might be quite adept at picking out other people’s faults, but not so able to see her own weaknesses, let alone do something about them.  She might make excuses for the obvious weakness, or place blame on someone or something else, rather than do the hard work of change.

humility is the gateway to grace.jpgOn the contrary, a humble and teachable spirit owns his faults, doesn’t shift blame, or fall apart when corrected.  Someone bent on submitting to God is able to submit to others, whether that person has his act together or not. And James tells us that when we are humble, God pours His grace on us.  

I do not want God to oppose me, but I really want Him to pour His grace on me.  James tells us the secret: Be humble. In Psalm 51:17 David wrote, The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

*Image from Google Images


The secret to being blessed financially

Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. And thereby put Me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of Heaven for you, and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.  Malachi 3:8-10

 This isn’t one of those speeches that you’ll get when you turn on a church channel where you see a guy with all kinds of diamond and gold rings and watches on. He says, “Send me money and you’ll be blessed. God will double your income.” No, it isn’t. But here God says that His people, the Jews, the keepers of the Temple and the words of the prophets and Moses, were robbing Him.

Robbing Him? Yes. They were supposed to give God a tenth of their bounty and they money bags.jpgweren’t. They were keeping it for themselves, and they were under a curse from God. God told them to test Him and see—if they would start to give a tenth of everything they had, He would open the windows of Heaven and pour down blessings on them.

Now some people look at this and say, “Now that’s the Old Testament. That’s not for today. There are enough things in the New Testament about giving to indicate the very same thing. A tenth of what you have, or a tithe, is just a good place to start. Listen to Luke 6:38: Give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. In 2 Corinthians 9:10 Paul wrote, He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

If you are generous with your money, God will multiply your spiritual seed for sowing. In other words, there is a link between how generous you are and your harvest of righteousness. If you don’t see any spiritual fruit being reproduced in your life, maybe it is because you have never learned the discipline of giving. So I get to be the one to tell you this very important secret!

I can tell you from my own experience, the more generous I am with the money that God has blessed me with, the more money He blesses me with. And, the more opportunities He blesses me with to share Jesus with others. If you are struggling to make ends meet, maybe it is because you are under the Malachi 3 curse. Start giving God a tenth of what you have and trust Him to multiply it. He said to test Him and see. Do it.

Give to God off of the top, not with what’s left. Matthew 6:33 tells us to Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added onto us. He means it.

There is this neat little book by Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle, Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving.  It is by Multnomah Press, 2001.  He has a lot more to say in his bigger book, Money, Possessions and Eternity.  That is by Tyndale House Publishing and it was done in 1989 and 2003.  Both open up a whole new perspective on storing up eternal treasures.  Alcorn tells how to do develop a treasure mentality, not only because earth’s currency will become worthless when Christ returns, but because Jesus commands it.

In fact, in his first page in Money, Possessions and Eternity Alcorn sites that the Bible devotes twice as many verses to money (about 2350 of them) than to faith and prayer combined.  Boom.  It’s a big deal.  So stop and think about how you view money, how much you give to God, and whether you are storing up treasures on earth or for Heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy and where thieves cannot break in and steal, as Matthew 6:19 states.  And be blessed!

*Image from ‘The Sacred Path’ Blogger


No longer a ‘Sneaky Pete’

If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  John 8:31, 32, 34-36

My sister got me hooked on this Amazon Prime series, “Sneaky Pete” and I binge watched it sometime over the last month.  While it is cleverly written, I wouldn’t say it’s a ‘must watch’ because it’s filled with the f word, and it is based on continual lies and deception.  In other words, ‘Don’t try this at home.’  But talk about people being a slave to lies.  The basic plot line is that Pete is a con man and he pretends to be someone he’s not.  He gets involved with this family where basically everyone is a conning everyone else.

handcuffs-160062__340I wonder what the series would be like if one of them were to become radically saved and were to get fired up with the truth, in the midst of a very crooked back drop.  Jesus told the Jews who believed in Him: “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” We are all ‘Sneaky Petes.’  We all are prone to the faulty habit patterns of deception, manipulation, white lies, exaggeration, and blame shifting.

We think we are the master of deception, but it really masters us.  We’re enslaved by it.  We try to stop stretching the truth, taking things that aren’t ours, or manipulating, but it comes so naturally.  In John 8, John went on to write about the origin of our problem: Satan.  Jesus was debating with religious leaders about who their father was.  They said it was Abraham.  Jesus said it was the devil because they were trying to kill Him and they didn’t love Him.

Jesus went on in verse 44 to say that, You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Only Jesus sets us free from those habit patterns.  And only in soaking in the truth of the Bible, letting it transform our hearts, do we begin to see those habit patterns of lying, cheating, and manipulating get brought to the light and changed around.

I remember working with a woman that had become a Christian, trying to disciple her.  She had come out of a life of much drinking and gambling, and a few other vices.  She used to say things like, “No, now I’m going to walk in the truth.”  It was like she had to say out loud that she was going to tell me where she really was, instead of making up a story.  This was contrary to her old habit patterns.  It was a constant struggle for her.

I worked with her on memorizing specific Bible verses to combat some of the lies of Satan that she struggled with the most.  While she memorized them, she soon slid back into her old life.  Looking back, I learned that there is a second key ingredient to fighting off the old life and its lies–the Holy Spirit.

Titus 3:4-6 announces, But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior…

Without the overwhelming power of the Holy Spirit at work in my life, or in someone else’s life to overtake the grip of sin, so often the old life wins out.  I’ve seen it over and over with the women I have attempted to disciple.  They need the power of the Holy Spirit to break the chains of the bondages that have gripped them.

The truth of God’s word sinking deep into the crevices of our heart drives away the habit patterns of deception that used to enslave us.  It sets us free from the bondage of being a Sneaky Pete, and that’s a great place to be.

*Image from Pixabay


What are you storing up?

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.  Matthew 12:33-34

About two months ago, a second grade boy on the playground was involved in a kick fight on the playground. In the midst of a mean game tag that ended up with this boy and a couple of others kicking each other, he turned and kicked a kindergarten boy, an innocent bystander, and said, “F— you, little boy.”  The playground teacher brought him in for me to deal with him.

One of the things I talked to him about was his language.  I asked him when he began using words like that, and he said, “Last fall.”  I said if he could remember when he started using that word, he could remember when he stopped, because it’s a choice.  And today (that day) was the day he was going to make a choice to stop.  When I talked with his mom about the incident, I quoted this verse.  I knew she was a Christian.  I said something about him needing to get more good stored up in his heart, otherwise it’s those swear words that get stored up and come out at inconvenient times.

I talked with her about how going to church and singing worship songs stores us things in our hearts about God, His goodness, and our choices.  Those worship songs speak to our hearts.  Having those songs on in our vehicles and in our houses instead of other music is a chance to store up good things in our hearts.  I was thrilled when she told me that she was taking her boys to Sunday school and church about a month later.  Even though her husband wasn’t going, which had been her deterrent all of the previous years, it wasn’t going to be anymore.  Praise God!

Yesterday in Sunday school we talked more about Matthew 12:33-34 as we discussed again Brad Bigney’s book: Gospel Treason, Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols.  On page 60, Bigney makes the statement, “I’ve been shocked at things that have come out of my mouth–things that I’ve been forced to trace back to my heart.  It’s been a wake-up call, a sledgehammer for self-deception, because we always think we’re doing better than we really are.”

I think the reason bad things come popping out of our mouths is because they have been stored up in our heart.  We can have a “resentment warehouse,” where we keep all of our offenses, our bitternesses, grievances and unresolved conflicts.

Think about it.  Let’s say someone does something to offend you and you never resolve it.  You always remember it.  You might forget the dozens of nice things that person says or does, but you remember the one time that he or she had a birthday party and didn’t invite you (or whatever it was).  You never talked about it with that person, instead you ‘let it slide.’  But you really didn’t let it slide, you tucked it away in that resentment warehouse.

resentment warehouse.jpgAnd then, one day when you’re tired, or your guard is down, or you’re not feeling well, and–boom!  You say how you really feel.  You both look at each other like, “Where did that come from?”  Sometimes it comes out through sarcasm, or it comes out through passive aggressive moves, through back stabbing comments, or through some other destructive move.  And you have to trace it back.  Sometimes you can trace it back, sometimes you can’t.

In the case of the resentment warehouse, it isn’t necessarily evil that is stored up, like the boy that shouted out, “F— you, little boy.”  We might not call it evil, but it is.  Ephesians 4:30-32 reads, Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

It’s time to clean out your warehouse.

 


Oh The Places He’ll Take Us

That day when evening came, Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’  Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat.  There were also other boats with Him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat,so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern sleeping on a cushion.  The disciples woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to His disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?’  They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey Him!’  Mark 4:35-41

“We’re going to the other side,” Jesus announced with a grin; He knew there was a storm ahead, as He told them to get in.  He promptly went to sleep just to see if they would choke; and sure enough the boat looked like it would go up in smoke.

“Wake up Jesus! Don’t you care if we drown?  What kind of prophet are you?  We’re all going down!”  “Relax you ninnies–have you no faith?  I’m the God of these storm clouds, the wind and the waves.”

“Be not afraid!  So please stop your big whines.  I’ve got places to take you that have no confines.  Your faith now is small, but grow it you must.  Place it not on the storm, but in Me and you’ll bust–

stick people motion.pngRight out of your boxes and fears and small boats, and soon you will be preaching to thousands, and you’ll host–all kinds of events and church gatherings, you’ll see.  That there’s no end to what I can do in you through your faith in Me.

 

Don’t tell Me to wake up–it’s you that needs awakened.  I want to do things that will shake you and keep shaking.  I have places to take you so wrap your heart around it; give Me your faith and I’ll equip you–now let’s get it started!”

*Photo from Pixabay

 


The River of God’s Delights

They feast on the abundance of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your delights.  For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light do we see light.  Psalm 36:8-9

I am in earlier stages of studying through the Gospels chronologically.  As I embarked on this, I prayed that God would do a fresh work in me, that He would surprise me new things as I took another walk through the life of Jesus.  I love the song by Meredith Andrews, “The Gospel Changes Everything,” with some of some of its words:

The Gospel changes everything, the turning point in history, even now it’s changing me from who I was; The story of my Savior calls me to the wonder of the cross, The Gospel changes everything and it is changing me…

Jesus changes everything, there is no greater mystery, that God would come to rescue me from who I was; The kindness of my Savior calls me to the wonder of His love; Jesus changes everything, and He is changing me!

I was pleasantly surprised this last week as I felt God answer my prayer, bubbling up within me.  I have been setting my alarm an hour earlier to spend more time with Him in the mornings, and quite often lately as I’m going through the Gospels He just puts things on my heart.  I was at our State capitol this last week to receive an award for our school.

The small group that I was with was walking to dinner the evening before and there was a gentleman talking loudly to himself on the street corner.  He caught my attention.  As I was eating, I had way more food than I needed and God brought the man to mind.  I stopped eating and asked for a to-go box.  I told my party that I hoped the man would be there on our walk back to the hotel.  They too had extra food and I thought they might follow suit, but didn’t.  But they did help watch for the man as we walked.

 

thank you river of delightsI couldn’t spot him and I was dashed.  But as I looked, there came another street person, a woman.  I stopped her, touched her gently on the shoulder, and asked if she would like some food.  She smiled broadly, took it and said, “Have a blessed evening.”  I walked away so happy inside, knowing that this was something that bubbled up from what I had just read from the Sermon on the Mount that morning.

 

God had put it on my heart, and the joy I experienced was from the river of God’s delights.  The neat thing is that God doesn’t just give us water, He establishes in us a fountain of living water that bubbles up from within. I don’t have to conjure this up, or vow each day to “be a nicer person,” He does it through me as I drink deep from Him.

*Image from Google Images

 


The Great Exchange

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God…but they became futile in their thinking…Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for stuff (me)…they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.  Romans 1:21-25

I used to think this was the progression that idol worshipers in places like Papua New Guinea followed–some remote island.  But not me.  I’m not an idol worshiper!  I don’t have carved images in my backyard or on my mantel.  And I’m not like the pagans in my community who go golfing on Sunday mornings while I’m up early for prayer meeting, Sunday school and church.  They have idols, but not me.

Think again.  I’ve been slowly working through Brad Bigney’s  book, Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols with a great group of women.  We’re just in the second chapter, so the best is yet to come in this archaeological dig of the heart.  I’m just in the first layer of unearthing my own heart.  I’m seeing that, though I might cloak my idols in a different veneer, they are there.

Anything I exchange for the one true God is an idol.  I can exchange the glory of God for stuff, materialistic things that I can hold on to.  And I can exchange the truth of God for any lie that I cling to that I think is easier to hold on to than to really believe what He has promised.  That’s my great exchange.

idol-7Back in Exodus when the Israelites were waiting for Moses to come back down from the mountain they had Aaron make a golden calf.  That seemed so silly to me.  They had just seen God part the Red Sea and drown the Egyptian army and all.  Now they have to wait 40 days and it’s too long?  But God has given us front row seats to His glory too and when He’s not on our timetable we go running off to something or someone else all too easily.  We turn to something we can control because we lose the faith or patience or the toughness that it takes to wait it out just a little longer until God delivers.

I remember working at an all girls’ camp and being over a dozen counselors and about 50 teenage girls.  The tricky part was that there was a boys camp across the lake and around the bend.  So my sleep was disrupted regularly by trying to catch the occasional interlopers.  The one that sticks in my mind was a twenty something counselor that was busted hooking up with a guy counselor at chapel point, (of all places) to have sex.  Her justification was, “in case she never gets a chance again.”  Really?  So like the golden calf crowd.

We get jumpy and stay in the drivers seat and exchange the truth of God for a lie.  The lie might be that trusting in money is better than trusting in God.  Isn’t it funny that we have “In God we trust” on our money (when we really trust in money)?  A friend from college stopped in about ten years after and I asked him how he was doing spiritually.  He was an engineer in a glass company and was doing quite well.  He was shockingly honest and said that he wasn’t doing well spiritually.  He said he had the same attitude he used to have when he smoked pot, but now it was money that he was smoking.  I looked at him funny, and he said that he was embedded in materialism.  No one at church bothered him about it. He said it wasn’t like when he smoked pot, but it was the same rebellion.  The good news was when I saw him about five years later and asked him if he was still smoking money, he said he wasn’t.  I could tell he was much healthier spiritually.

 God isn’t always on our timetable so we get take matters into our own hands, just like the golden calf crowd and we turn to something we can control, says Bigney–even though idols serve us so poorly, and hurt us and cost us.  But we think they’re more predictable than God is, and they keep us in the driver’s seat.

2 Corinthians 5:7 says that “We walk by faith, not by sight,” but I think at core we wrestle with that most of the time.  The first thing Martha said to Jesus in John 11 was “You’re late,” when she had sent word to him that Lazarus was sick.  Jesus didn’t come right away and now he was dead.  Don’t we tell God He’s late a lot?    Jesus told Martha it was for the glory of God that He waited.  In chapter 2 of his book, Bigney says that “God is good, but He’s not safe. He will mess with your life–not just to be messing with it, but to conform you to the image of Christ.”

Jesus came late to mess with Martha and Mary because He had something so much bigger up His sleeve than just healing their brother.  He wanted to prove that He was the resurrection and the life and to give them a sneak preview of a huge coming attraction–His own resurrection.  And they got front row seats.  Wow.  Follow Jesus and that’s what He’ll do with you.  Put your life on the line and He’ll take your clean little life and turn it into a big, messy one.  Is it safe?  NO.  But like Mr. Beaver told Susan in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe: “Who said anything about safe?  ‘Course He isn’t safe.  But He’s good.  He’s the King, I tell you.”

Still in chapter 2, Bigney quotes Richard Keyes, from “The Idol Factory,” in No One but God: Breaking with the Idols of Our Age.  Keyes says that, paraphrased, we make idols because we don’t want to face God himself and His holiness.  So rather than to deal with His lordship, we orient ourselves towards ‘creations,’ and kind of make up our own rules.

In other words, we have the evidence of God within ourselves and in the world, but it’s too demanding to play life by God’s rules.  So then we make up our own religion that looks kind of like God’s, but we’re the ones in control.  It’s too difficult to really draw near to God, because if you’re entertaining unconfessed sin, or flat out rebelling, you can’t be in the same zip code with God.  His holiness will consume you.  You’ll go nuts.

Keyes goes on to say, “Since we were made to relate to God, but do not want to face Him, we forever inflate things in this world to religious proportions to fill the vacuum left by God’s exclusion.”  That’s why we have elevated sports to such an over the top status, even in Christian families.  Bigney words it so well: “As Christians–lovers of Jesus Christ–we have a higher calling.”

As soon as we drift away from Christ and the centrality of the gospel, we start erecting substitutes for God.  That’s why our culture is so desperate to make heroes and celebrities our everything and everybody–because of our innate yearning for God and the freedom of His gospel, both of which we as a people have rejected.  And we try to fill the void with hero and celebrity worship.

The antidote?  Shine a light on your heart, but quickly turn it to Jesus.  Read the Gospels, delight in grace and what Jesus has done.  Don’t drift.  In Sunday School we decided to ask ourselves the question about what we needed to fast from that might have a foothold where it ought not have.  Bigney’s question in identifying idols is “Am I willing to sin to get it?”

Where have I exchanged God’s best for a lie, a cheap substitute?  Where have I caved to something that is easier than to walk by faith and have chosen instead to walk by sight?

We’re going on an archaeological dig straight into our hearts.  I’ll tell you what I find.


God is ‘The King of the World’ and the King of Me

Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.  Isaiah 40:21-23

 Do you remember that scene in ‘Titanic’ where Leonardo DiCaprio is on the bow of that great ship and cries out, “I’m the king of the world”? Or, Shirley MacLaine in the movie, “Out On a Limb” when she stood on the shore of the Pacific Ocean and sang, “I am God, I am God, I am God.” (see Fatheralexander.org)

What do you suppose God thinks of that? Frank Peretti humorously imagines in his video, “The Chair,”  from Compass International, God hearing this little squeal while Shirley MacLaine is beating her chest and declaring loudly that she’s God, and says, “Hey, Peter, get a load of this,” as He hears a little squeak.  In other words, He is God and we’re not. He is the true King of the World.

king-world-concept-25324632God sits above the circle of the earth and we are like grasshoppers. He spreads out the heavens like a curtain and brings princes to rulers to nothing. Isaiah 40 goes on to say that scarcely have the kings and princes established themselves when God blows on them and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

Proverbs 21:1 tells us that, The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will.  God controls the rulers of the world, even the evil dictators. They do His bidding. So when it looks like the world is falling apart, with a variety of situations that threaten to spin out of control—know that God establishes leaders and He brings them down.

We don’t need to fret when we turn on the news. We do need to entrust ourselves into the hands of a God who sits above the circle of the earth, whose Ways are not our ways, and whose thoughts are not our thoughts, as Isaiah 55:8 declares.

The personal application of Isaiah 40 is coming to the conclusion that there is a God who sits on the throne and that this God of the universe if worthy of all of your praise.  I was reading about what Steven Hawking believed.  He was one of the smartest guys on the planet, yet before his death in March of 2018, he still claimed to be an atheist.  He believed that there was a grand design to the universe, but it had nothing to do with God.

 Throughout the years, Hawking has made many statements in opposition to religious beliefs. A few are listed below.  These quotes are taken from owlcation.com:

  • “We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”
  • “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”
  • “We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is; there is no God. No one created our universe, and no one directs our fate.“ This leads me to a profound realization that there probably is no heaven and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe and for that, I am extremely grateful.”

I look at the contrast between his life and mine.  I am not as smart, by a long stretch, but I do know, to borrow the line of a hymn, “that at God’s right hand stands the One who is my Savior.”  The same power that enables Jesus to hold the universe together (Colossians 1:17) is the same power that holds me together.

 

 


Keeping Our Heart Safe