Know Me

Psalm 25: 4 – 5

Make me know Thy ways, O Lord; Teach me Thy paths. Lead me in Thy truth and teach me.

How much easier would your life be if you knew God’s ways and walked in His paths? There is a song the lyrics of which are, “Show me your ways, that I may walk with you.” It has been a favorite of mine for years. I wonder if the writer got the inspiration for that song from this verse.

The first thing I thought about today as I read this verse is that in order to make this a reality we need to be teachable. Generally, I find we are not. It is a genuine delight to find someone who is hungry enough to be teachable. They are fun because they absorb everything you say and demand more. They are insatiable. They want to know the Father and all of His ways so they have made themselves teachable.

Most of us want the Lord to teach us and well, we would be foolish if we didn’t, but the rub comes when He sends a person to be the teacher. Then our egos flare and we become more intent on showing what we know instead of listening to them. That is one of the problems with a lot of our prayers. The Father answers them but sometimes in unexpected ways. Then we don’t recognize it as God’s response to our prayer and end up rejecting it. He who has ears to hear. . .. We do this more than we know. We have our mind already made up to the form the answer will take so we push away everything else.

The other problem with God answering this prayer is that we have to take the time to hear Him and that can present a challenge. The good news is that practicing listening to Him really does improve your hearing. How do you expect God to make His ways known to you? How is He to teach you and lead you?

We need to prepare ourselves to receive the answer to this prayer. First, expect Him to answer this prayer. It is His intention. The ideas posed in this verse were His ideas first. Now, if you expect Him to answer, then how are you going to receive your answer? If you are playing football and want to receive a pass, you need your hands ready and your eyes looking. If you are playing baseball, you probably want a glove. The point is to prepare yourself for His reply.

Be wise, keep your eyes open for a person God may send your way, a gospel song, or a message from a minister. These are some of the vehicles God may use to teach and lead you. Be renewed in your Spirit, renew your mind and receive His blessing. Be fully persuaded that He is going to lead you and teach you and you will discover that you are right.

Check-up

1 Samuel 7: 2

During that time all Israel mourned because it seemed the LORD had abandoned them.

Have you ever been in this same situation where it feels like the Lord has abandoned you? I suppose there are few people who have not had a time when it felt like God was not listening. We know in our minds it is not true, that He will never leave nor forsake us but there are those times; times when you feel like you are in the middle of a desert with no food or water, no sustaining presence. Where is God, you wonder.

Listen to Samuel’s response to Israel. Verse three reads, “Then Samuel said to all the people of Israel, “If you want to return to the Lord with all your hearts, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Turn your hearts to the Lord and obey him alone; then he will rescue you from the Philistines.” It wasn’t that the Lord had abandoned them. It was that they had abandoned the Lord. They did not seem to realize they had turned aside from him.

It is so easy to end up in the same place. It doesn’t seem like we have turned from the Lord but then, all of a sudden, something happens, maybe someone happens, someone like Samuel, and then you realize you don’t do the things you did and you don’t feel the way you did. There has been a subtle shift. So subtle, in fact, that you didn’t even notice. This isn’t criticism and it sure isn’t condemnation. It is just an opportunity to check yourself. Is your heart where it was? Do you still sing your songs to the Lord? Do you talk with Him as much as you did? Where did you put your Bible?

If this is you, don’t fret. God is as close as your next breath and He is not mad at you. He loves you and He understands. He knows we get distracted by all the things going on in our world. It happens sometimes. Today is a good day though. You can right that ship in a moment. Just talk to Him and tell Him what you feel and how you want things to be with Him. He is just awaiting an invitation.

If you feel like God has withdrawn, take a moment to reconnect. The Israelites had idols fashioned by hands. We shift idols onto our altar too, but we don’t always realize what we are doing. Our idols tend to be our jobs, social life, projects and even TV or the internet. We can become so distracted by those things and place such a priority on them that we supplant God. We don’t mean to, but it happens. Then one day we turn around and realize we aren’t where we were. We no longer have the Father firmly enshrined on the altar of our heart. The busyness of life has pushed out everything which threatens to get in its way.

Take a little check-up today. Are you where you want to be with God? Has your relationship slipped a little? Maybe it has not but you are just ready for a closer walk with Him. Today is the day ordained for just such a query. Perform your spiritual check-up and make sure there are no shrines to other Gods. Make sure nothing has enshrined itself in God’s place.

Jewish Gentiles

Romans 2: 29

But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

This is a funny little verse when viewed from our modern perspective. Even more so since there are so many Christians who are not of Jewish origin. Of course, the first believers were almost exclusively Jewish. As Gentiles began joining the ranks of believers there arose debate and confusion. How can non-Jews be saved by the Jewish Messiah? What followed was a period of adjustment. Some who accepted that Gentiles could become followers of the Messiah expected, and indeed insisted, that those people should be circumcised. Paul, a Jew among Jews, was more enlightened on this subject than perhaps some would have expected. In resolving the dispute, he spoke to our time too.

Paul pointed out that being a Jew, or to paraphrase, being a believer, is an inward matter. In other words, Paul denied that faith was a matter of birthright. Instead, it is a matter of the heart. We believe with our hearts and speak with our mouths that Jesus is Lord. Being born into a race or even a household of faith is not a passkey to the family of God. God has made membership in His family elective. Even if Mama and Grandma were Christians, you can still go to hell if you choose. God will grieve but he will defend your right to make that decision. Likewise, being born on the wrong side of the tracks or in the deepest, most remote part of the world is no bar to your sitting at the Father’s table. Come one, come all. He wants us all to choose Him.

Inwardly, in our hearts, by God’s Spirit we choose to be a Jew. Our hearts are sealed in Christ Jesus as a member of his own family. If you look at our hearts, you can’t tell which of us were born Jewish and which of us were adopted. Only faith in Jesus as the born son of the Most High, who was sacrificed as the unblemished lamb, died and was raised from the dead and seated with God on high gets us a birth certificate with God as our Father. Nothing of the flesh, not circumcision nor works, avail anything. Salvation comes by faith, and that alone.

Accept your place in the family because you are as welcomed as any of the sons of Jacob. You have an inheritance in Jesus and you have a Father who loves you. You are not alone nor an outcast. You are His beloved and your heart tells the story.

Love and Wrath

Romans 5:9

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

There is a lot of chatter about the wrath of God and it never ceases to surprise me. Why are we absorbed with talking about the wrath of God? There is no wrath for those who are in Jesus.

My first thought is this, I want you attending a church that teaches 1 John 4: 8, “God is love.” That is the revelation we all need to live in, God is love. God is not wrathful, He is loving. A church which hangs on “the wrath of God” is not going to be primed to lead people into revelation of who God is or how He wants to manifest Himself in our lives.

Today’s verse draws the paradigm for us. We have been saved from wrath by the blood of the Christ. That is the whole basis of the New Covenant. Thank God, we have been redeemed, even from our own stupidity. God didn’t want you under wrath or under condemnation so, motivated by love, He sent Jesus to take our place. Jesus bore every aspect of the curse giving us, instead, peace, joy and liberty. He redeemed us from the curse of the law where there was wrath. You can’t have all the New Testament Good News and still hang on to the penalty of the curse. Jesus set us free from all of that.

The same blood which justified us saved us from the wrath of God. We don’t deserve justification. In fact, doesn’t it blow your mind just a little to even read that we have been justified. Thank you Jesus. So, let’s hold on tightly to the good news of Jesus, our Messiah. Let us cling to the love of God. Forsake the ideas of a vengeful, wrathful God because it was He who sacrificed His only child for us. Wrath didn’t do that. Love did.

Recollection

Psalm 48: 9

Lord, as we worship you in your temple, we recall over and over your kindness to us and your unending love.

Recollection is an important part of our praise. It is good for us and it is good for those around us, especially our children.

There are two forms this worship may take. First is our own internal ruminations. If we are not routinely recounting the great and wonderful things the Lord has done for us, then we are missing a chance to build our own faith. There will come a day when your faith feels like it is at low ebb. That is when the remembrance of all that Lord has done for you will buoy you up. Don’t wait until that day though, because you will find your praise bucket a bit empty and then it will be harder to pick yourself up.

This internal form of recounting the Lord’s goodness is a form of meditation. As you begin to think about the Lord’s goodness on your behalf, it may, however, break out into vocal praise and that is all good. While you remind yourself of God’s hand in your life you might also recall scriptures and promises He has made to you. Tumbling all these things together in your mind will often lead to greater revelation.

The external form of remembrance is very important too. This helps build the faith of the people around you. It is very important for families to recall God’s goodness. A child’s faith is built off of the strength of their parents faith. When you take the time to recount the Lord’s goodness to you and to the family the children get to hear faith and belief coming out of your mouth. They also learn that these words in the Bible are more than just nice words. They learn from those they trust most that these are words of life and that God really is paying attention and answering prayers.

Of course, telling of God’s goodness is not reserved for family alone. Everyone benefits from good news. Today’s verse is a good little reminder about remembering. Even though we have a written Word, there is still a place for an oral history.

Life and Law

Philippians 3: 9

[That I] may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.

Here is where things get hard. This verse perfectly positions us if, and when, we comprehend within us, what Paul intended to convey. It is easy to read with our intellect and assign it to the theological part of our minds. We need, though, to bring it to the forefront of our brains and consider each of the parts.

The truth is that we like the law. In law school students always wanted to be taught “the black letter law.” Just give us the “do this/ don’t do this” rules. That is not the way law school works. Instructors don’t just give you a list. You have to think and that, we did not want to do. Just tell me the answers! We didn’t want to have to arrive at them on our own. Why? First, it’s too much work. Secondly, we might get it wrong. Therefore, if we could just get Jesus to give us all the rules and let those rules guide us then, we think it will be much easier.

As you know, that is not the system Jesus instituted for us. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to be our guide. Jesus’ “made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life,” (2 Corinthians 3: 6). “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death,” (Romans 8: 2). Jesus said it this way, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life,” (John 6: 3). All these verses point to the same thing, we cannot walk by the law and have life. The letter of the law kills but it is so much easier for the human mind to focus on.

Instead, Paul tells us, righteousness comes by faith. You can’t do anything without faith! Anytime we point out our righteousness, it is repugnant to God because it denies and rejects the sacrifice of Christ. There is no righteousness in the law, and we cannot be justified by the law, but we are like law students, “Don’t make me have to attain righteousness by exerting myself to walk, live, breathe, act and speak in faith. Whoa! That is too hard.” Righteousness comes from God and it comes on the basis of faith.

The God’s Word Translation reads that Paul’s goal was, “to have a relationship with him. This means that I didn’t receive God’s approval by obeying his laws. The opposite is true! I have God’s approval through faith in Christ. This is the approval that comes from God and is based on faith.” I like the use of the word approval in this reading because I think it makes more sense to the modern reader. Essentially, it means that we are not relying on anything we do or say to gain the favor or approval of the Father. Our worthiness and right standing come through Jesus, but not only Jesus, not only his faithfulness, but also in our faith in what he accomplished. One version uses “based on trust,” (CJB). In other words, our righteousness or approval comes out of our trust in God. It is His faithfulness we rely upon rather than our works.

Two other quick mentions. First, Paul points out another significant part of this. The first part of the verse shows that righteousness is in being found “in Christ” or in relationship with him. The Passion Translation reads, “My passion is to be consumed with him and not clinging to my own righteousness.” Paul’s deep desire was to be consumed with Jesus rather than obsessed with himself. If we meditate on that alone, I think a new paradigm for living righteous emerges.

Secondly, we must begin our reflections on the application of the law and righteousness as they affect us. Contemplation on this passage is not complete, however, until we understand that other people do not have to earn their righteousness either. We want grace, and need it, but then tend to apply the law to others. It is so easy to do, natural even, but faith in the faithfulness of the Messiah ultimately leads us to trust and grace for ourselves and others. Now, that is where we should desire to land.

Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit so that we could live by revelation rather than by law. This lifestyle should lift us higher and help us to see through the divine perspective. Life in the Spirit will always be a life of righteousness. Life lived by willpower, will always lead to failure.

Highly Combustible

Ephesians 1: 18 – 20         Complete Jewish Bible

I pray that he will give light to the eyes of your hearts, so that you will understand the hope to which he has called you, what rich glories there are in the inheritance he has promised his people, and how surpassingly great is his power working in us who trust him. It works with the same mighty strength he used when he worked in the Messiah to raise him from the dead and seat him at his right hand in heaven.

Although we looked at verse eighteen yesterday, I included it here for continuity’s sake. You might also like reading it from this version. I do.

Paul’s purpose in verse nineteen is to divulge the might of God’s power at work in our lives. There are two very telling items in his statement. First, this surpassingly great power is working IN us. That’s interesting. In other words, the power of God is not external. It is internal. That might be eye opening. God’s power is at work in us. That means we are a party to this surpassingly great power. We have a role to play with His power working in us and through us.

Here is the caveat and the other interesting bit. God’s mighty power is working in those who trust Him. Now wait a minute. I thought His power was on hand and particularly in His hand for all who confess Jesus as Lord. Why didn’t Paul write it that way? Let’s look at the Passion Translation for a clue to answering this question. “I pray that you will continually experience the immeasurable greatness of God’s power made available to you through faith. Then your lives will be an advertisement of this immense power as it works through you!”

Notice the addition of faith. It is our faith mixed, in trust, with the Father’s power that brings about desired results. This surpassingly great, immeasurably vast power is yours by faith. Does that sound like a cop out? Well, maybe a little because it means that we have to mix faith and trust with Father’s power in order to have it working in us but that is why Paul prayed for the eyes of our heart to be opened. God’s power works in our hearts by faith and trust. It is like an internal combustion engine. You see the output of the engine on the exterior, but the power is actually generated on the inside. Within the cylinder of your heart, faith and trust mix and explode like the gasoline and air when the spark is introduced in an engine. The power of God is ready to combust. Just add some belief and trust and you have the workings of a power generator right inside you. The power for every goal to be achieved and every dream fulfilled is inside you right now. Ignite your passion and Dad’s power with a bit of faith and trust and your engine will take you anywhere you want to go.