Choosing the Twelve

Luke 6:12

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.

Would you consider this a verse on seeking God? You won’t be surprised that this verse is about Jesus. Since he is our model, we can learn what our lives might be by studying his life and practices.

The back story here is that Jesus needed to choose his executive council, we know them as the twelve apostles. He had a big decision to make so he went off to the mountain to be alone with his Father and pray. He spent the whole night talking to Father.

Sometimes when I really need to hear from Father, I pack my tent and go camping. During the days I might hike and chat or ride my bike and talk with Father. In the evenings I would sit by a fire and contemplate. Like many of you whom I have spoken with, I find it easier to hear God when I am surrounded by the beauty of nature. It seems that sitting by a bubbling brook is just right for conversing with Him. Others of you have your special ways of slowing down the world for a bit and whatever your retreat, it is perfect if it helps you to connect with the Father. You don’t have to spend all night at the top of a mountain.

This verse is in the Bible to show us how we might approach big decisions. You might need to go sit on a beach, but one thing seems certain, there is a time element involved here. Jesus spent all night praying. One would think he could make a quick inquiry, get his answer and move on. What do you think he said throughout an entire night of prayer? This is an epiphany for me because I know if Jesus spent all night praying, I am going to need a weekend or more. The truth is, it sometimes takes me a day to slow myself down from the hustle and bustle of everyday life so that I can hear.

The reason I chose this verse is because it astounds me that Jesus continually went to the mountain to pray for long periods. It suggests to me that we might need times, extended times, of dedicated prayer. Perhaps there is something to locking away the world and its demands for a day and letting God fill the environment. I wonder, too, if it isn’t a healing therapy. Perhaps Jesus, like the rest of us, needed time in the presence of God, to keep his emotional and spiritual health at 100%. In any event, ponder this verse and idea and see if there is enlightenment in it for you.

Sacrifice

Hosea 6: 6

For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

I have been thinking about Lent a lot this year. Often, we think about what we might give up for Lent. Some people give up a particular food. For others it might be giving up a sport or recreational activity or even television for a time. Those sacrifices are about moving things out of the way which may interfere with devotion.

In the same vein, but perhaps the other side of the coin, I have been thinking about what we might pick up rather than what we lay down. I very much believe this is the wind of the Holy Spirit and the calling He is issuing to us. I have had several people speak or write to me about their Lent experience for this year and it is exactly what I have been thinking about. So, let’s think about what we can pick up for Lent this year.

The first thing many of us will think about is an increase in prayer. Prayer not only changes circumstances, it changes us, and I very much believe it is an extremely healthy activity.

Second, maybe in your time with the Lord you feel Him leading you to spend more time in the Word. Oh, hallelujah! You know I love that. I know that when you spend meditative time with the Word, it grows you. Problems receive answers. In fact, you might even find answers to problems you didn’t even know how to pray about. The Word is restorative and invigorating.

Third, speaking of meditative time, I hope you will consider spending some quiet, meditative time with the Lord every day. It is how you hear from the Lord. It is how I find out what to write about and what to write. When you give time to hearing the Lord, it is amazing how loquacious He can be.

How about singing or writing. Journal what you hear the Lord speaking or write to Him your thoughts. It is very fun to record your dialogue. When you begin to write your thoughts, He chimes in and directs those ruminations. Write that down! Sing a song to Him. Did you know that Dad and I have a song? Do you remember when you were young and falling in love? Most couples have a song that became important to them during the courtship. Imagine my surprise when one day Dad told me to sing “our” song. I said, “I didn’t know we had a song.” Immediately a song came to my mind and my response was, “Oh.” If you and Dad don’t have a song together, get one. Which one do you want to sing to Him?

I am sure you can find other ways to pick up something for Lent that will serve your relationship with the Father. As you see from today’s verse, He really is not looking for sacrifice but rather relationship. He wants you to get to know Him better and better so that you can trust Him fully. That is what we can take away from Lent this year.

Meditative Transformation

Romans 12: 2

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

I heard an interesting comment recently. Dr. James Richards said, “Renewing the mind, if you don’t mix meditation with it, is nothing but an exercise in ego and intellectualism.” Whoa!!! That is a big statement. The Apostle Paul tasked us with renewing our minds. The problem is, most of us don’t know how. So, we begin to try to “change” our minds and thinking patterns and rarely do we enjoy any degree of success. There is an entirely different paradigm available to us which is effective and that is what we need to know. It’s imbedded in this “Partnership with God” that I speak of frequently.

There is a difference between “change” and transformation even though they are in the same family. The biggest functional difference is that transformation only occurs through the power of the Holy Spirit by the grace of the Father. When we try to “change” that is a self-effort and it is always doomed to failure.

The second big difference between change and transformation is that transformation does not involve who you are. Truthfully, transformation is about bringing out the beautiful person who is hidden inside you. Inside, you are Christ-like beautiful, but there are likely areas of your life where you are not fully capable of letting that glory shine. The world has trained you in certain ways and those ways are not the way God does things. For example, the world says, “Every man for himself.” God says to put other people’s needs before yours. The world teaches us to be antagonistic and defensive. God leads us to continual peace. So, when someone cuts you off on the highway, you might react as you’ve been taught or you may be able to let God’s thoughts show.

The only way we can be transformed in the inner parts of our soul is to let the Lord work in us and ultimately, through us. Transformation doesn’t actually take place in the mind. It occurs through the renewing of our mind, but the transformation takes place in our spirits. The key is in allowing God to speak to our minds, yes, but also to our spirits. That is when He is able to make transformative changes in us which releases our glorious selves.

Meditation is the slow, deliberate time of connection with God. It isn’t the conversation you have with Him on your way to work. That isn’t a bad practice, it just isn’t what I am discussing here. Meditation is when you allow yourself to slow down and commune with the Father. I am always reminded of Psalm 46: 10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” It is in the quite pensiveness that we most easily find God. Then He is able to minister to our inner selves to work out our salvation through the transformation process. To try to change ourselves or to attempt to “renew” our own minds is an ego trip on the failure express. We cannot change ourselves in any meaningful way. We certainly cannot transform ourselves from the caterpillar to the lovely butterfly. That is a God process and only by surrendering our will to Him can we experience and manifest the beautiful creature He has created us to be. He is the author of transformation. To think that we can make ourselves into a silk purse from the sow’s ear that we are is to elevate ourselves to the throne. How can we initiate such a transformation if we are, in fact, in need of transformation? Doesn’t the mere fact that we need to be transformed by the renewing of our mind suggest that we are not complete and therefore incapable of completing this transformation in our own strength? If we knew how to let our inner butterfly out, wouldn’t we have done it long ago.

Transformation and the renewal of the mind are grace processes. Father God is the author of grace. It is His touch within us which is going to effect the transformation. Slow down and take time with God. Enter into a time of quiet and stillness. Meet God beside the calm waters and let Him guide your growth. Let Him lead you and guide the process. To do otherwise is merely “an exercise in ego and intellectualism.”

Chrysalis

Psalm 39:1

I said, “I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle while the wicked are in my presence.”

You know, I was just missing David so here is a quip from a psalm of David. The more time I spend with David’s writings the more I like him and the more I learn. I told you that meditating on God’s goodness has a transformative effect on the inside of you. Well, the more time I spend with David, the more I see how close and personal a relationship with God can be. David’s walk with God illuminated his life and it now it is having that same effect upon us.

Learning to walk hand in hand with God has got to be the greatest joy of all time. David’s walk showed him, daily, the ways of God so that he could walk in them. On this day, David received a revelation about his words. A friend of mine once said that we need a Word of the Day on the words of our mouth weekly, if not daily. Probably, I need to be reminded daily that I am creating my world by the words of my mouth. Additionally, we sin with our mouths more than any other way, so it is wisdom which says to guard our mouths.

How do you guard your mouth though? First it is the simple recognition that the tongue can be a violent member and needs to be guarded. Second, of course, we pray asking God to help us with our mouths. These need to be daily steps: remind yourself to guard your mouth and ask for the Father’s assistance. Beyond that, these meditations on God the Father and His ways begin to set up positive strong holds within your spirit. When you read a verse like this one, the next step is to think about it for a few minutes. What does this verse mean? What were the circumstances in which David wrote these words and what circumstance do you see yourself in that would bring this verse to life? How will you guard your mouth?

These simple questions turn into ponderings and it is those ponderings (meditation) which change your inner self. The “work” of Christianity is personal transformation. We are supposed to be changing into the very image of Christ. This takes time but it also takes effort and that effort is putting your thoughts on Christ so that they impact who you are on the inside. You are daily becoming the butterfly when you allow God’s Chrysalis to do its work. The chrysalis is God’s word meditated on within your own heart.

Our greatest liability may be our tongues, but it is harnessed by the spirit of God residing within us. The power within us is far greater than the weakness of the flesh. As you meditate on Yahweh and how He can influence your day, the things of the world begin to lose power and you will find it easy to guard your tongue, your temper or anything else. It’s a process. Daily, you are being transformed into the picture of Jesus so ponder these scriptures. Plant them in the fertile soil of your spirit and let them grow within you.

Goodness

Psalm 83: 16- 18

Fill their faces with dishonor, that they may seek Your name, O Lord. Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever, and let them be humiliated and perish, that they may know that You alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.

This is a very human sentiment. In fact, I would wager most of us have had this same feeling at one time or another. Sometimes we might feel these emotions towards our foes. At other times, perhaps, it is the thought we have towards the unsaved critics of our Lord. In either instance, it is a perfectly natural human reaction. It may even sound righteous. It is not, however, the evangelistic plan of our Father. Nor is it the way He deals with antagonists.

God said that His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55: 8) and this is one of the ways we see our differences. That is not to say, however, that our ways cannot mirror His. We must see His ways first, though, before we can model them. That is one of the ways that I pray the Word of the Day serves you, illuminating God’s thoughts and ways. As we peruse the Bible, or even the verses from the Word of the Day, we get to know Yahweh better because He is revealed in the pages of the book. The more we look at the scriptures the more we see how Father approaches situations.

Today’s passage brings to my mind the goodness of God. Though I might pray a sentiment like Asaph’s our Father would not react the same way. He is full of love and reacts from a position of love. He is chagrined by those who fail to include themselves in His love. He wants them to know peace, love and wholeness. Rather than shaming them forever, allowing them to be humiliated and to perish, He sent His son to save them. He sacrificed His son for the very people who wanted to obliterate Israel from the face of the earth and even from memory. Love is a crazy thing, isn’t it? It makes large demands, one of which is unfailing compassion.

I like this verse because it forces me to think about God’s approach to the world and His ultimate goodness. And, it is good to meditate on God’s goodness. The more we think about how God responds with goodness, the more we understand His position in all things. Meditating on His nature brings understanding at a very deep level. The more we meditate on how God thinks and acts, the more automatic those responses become in our lives. Our meditation on God plants the seeds of His ways in our hearts so that we begin to react as He does. That is the stuff of transformation. If you want to be like God, ponder His ways. Soon, those seeds will begin to produce a harvest and you will be more and more like Yahweh and living in the fullness of His peace.

The End

Psalm 77: 12 – 13          TPT

I ponder all you’ve done, Lord, musing on all your miracles. It’s here in your presence, in your sanctuary, where I learn more of your ways. For holiness is revealed in everything you do.

The End of all things is to learn where your power center is, and this is it. God is the source of all good. Asaph understood that when all was said, all was done, it comes back to the meditation in God’s presence. You don’t have to be in the sanctuary of the church because Jesus made us all tabernacles of God. We are His resting place. That means we need to commune with Him within our own hearts because that is His temple, His abode.

Asaph went into the sanctuary and pondered all that God has done. He mused, thought, and considered the miracles of the Lord. When he did, he learned. That quiet time in the presence of the Lord is when the miracles are formed. It is where and how we learn. If the church is weak, it will be weak when we do not spend time in the tabernacle with God, meaning we do not get alone with God and ponder His ways. It is in His presence that we are renewed and our thoughts are renewed.

God’s personality is revealed in everything He does, and everything He says. So, when we get quiet in His presence we learn of Him and He reveals His essence. In that space of calm reflection and communication is also where we are most likely to receive the idea that changes our lives or the answer to a perplexing question. Asaph learned that the answer to his dilemma was in the contemplative time with God, time in His actual presence. I bet your answer is too!

It’s Your Choice

Deuteronomy 30: 19           NOG

I call on heaven and earth as witnesses today that I have offered you life or death, blessings or curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants will live.

Are you familiar with this verse? I want you to be. It is so very powerful and can change your life. In fact, this is a great one for you to meditate on. The piece of it I wish to highlight today is the word “choose.”

God has offered us life. He has offered us blessings. Death and the curse entered the earth in the Garden of Eden. So, both life and death and blessing and the curse are out there for the choosing. The interesting aspect is that we get to choose. I always smile when I read this verse because I hear it this way, “I have given you the choice between life and death, the blessing and the curse. Let me give you a hint. Choose life and blessing.” It is like God is trying to clue us in on which one to choose. It seems ridiculous at one level. We should be smart enough that He does not need to give us a hint and yet, it is a forebearer of a truth. We often make the wrong choice. We choose death instead of life and the curse instead of the blessing. Why would we do that?

Let me ask you a different question. Supposing you rather have life and blessing, how do you make that choice? What mechanism is in place for choosing? That is the main issue, I believe. Do folks know how to choose life? In how many ways do we choose the curse instead of the blessing? I believe most Christians do not realize there is a choice, how to make the choice, or how they are making the wrong choice daily.

One of the most poignant events in the Bible is found in the book of Joshua. As the book opens, Moses has just died. He, who was the liberator of Israel, who led them for years through their long sojourn, who importuned God for them, prayed for them, taught them, and cared for them, is dead. Now what? Shall the nation of Israel fall apart right there, having never crossed over into the promised land? It is a climactic moment is Judeo-Christian history. It could have all ended right there, on the wrong side of the Jordan. Instead, God appointed Joshua to be the leader of His people. How would you like that job, following in Moses’ footsteps? It must have been pretty frightening for Joshua. God took him aside, though, to give him the secret of success, to be his coach and mentor. God told Joshua, “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go,” (Joshua 1: 7 – 9).

I know that was a long quote but you need to see it all. Right here God gave Joshua the choice to fail or succeed. He even gave him the crib notes for the test. In other words, God didn’t make success a mystery. Success or failure lay at Joshua’s feet so God showed him the path to success. He gave him all the secrets. That is what God does.

Here is my point. Father wants us to succeed so He has given us the cheat sheet. “Here are all the answers,” He says. All we have to do is use them. How many points do you find in the quote from the book of Joshua? I counted seven. The real question is, how many of them are we doing. This is how we choose life and blessing. Joshua didn’t have to take God’s advice. We know he did because he enjoyed success and led the nation of Israel into the promised land. He chose blessing. He chose life.

Here are two of the big seven. One, do not fear. If we live in fear, we fertilize death and curse. Second, and this is a really big one, meditate in this Word day and night. When we meditate in the Word, we are actively choosing life and blessing.

This passage from Joshua teaches how to choose to live in the blessing. We need to follow where the Lord is leading. We need to communicate with him so that we see his ways generally and the specific path he points out for us. We can choose to be blessed. We can choose the abundant life Jesus said he came here to give us. I think if you will follow the advice God gave Joshua, if you will learn how to commune with Jesus and actually do it, that you will find yourself in overflow of everything good. Please, choose life, choose the blessing. It’s your choice.