February 22, 2018

When doing nothing is most important . . .

Some say that immaturity is that attitude of, “I want what I want when I want it” which is usually right now. That means maturity is the ability to wait, to be content with delayed gratification or with not ever having what I want. This is a good way to describe spiritual maturity as well. David, the psalmist king of Israel said . . .

Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence. I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:11–14)

His enemies pressed hard on him. He was falsely accused and in danger. Those with faith might think about heaven and say that total peace is coming but David knew that God could bring total peace to him “in the land of the living.” His prescription for fear, stress and anxiety is waiting, not just sitting there, but trusting God to do something without being pressured by the idea that I must do something.

This is a timely word for me, a ‘rhema’ word. I am anxious these days about the world news, political situations, senseless violence, and the unbelief of millions as they flounder trying to find answers. I’m fearful because some of the people I care about the most are ignoring God and in spiritual danger.

I love Tozer’s encouragement. He says, “There is an inactivity that, paradoxically, is the highest possible activity.” He is not talking about physical waiting in the sense of staying put, but about focusing on the presence of God with expectation and waiting for Him to act. It can mean physical and mental inactivity, but for me it means yielding my efforts to figure out my own way and leaving all the things that stress me in the hands of God. He knows all about them, and He knows solutions that will never enter my head. He also knows how He is going to use what I think of as disasters in His plans for this world. He will glorify His Son, no matter how bad things look.

When I wait on God, His unfathomable peace enters. This is not a peace that denies or dismisses the problems as if they don’t exist anymore or are not important. It is a peace that acknowledges God not only knows but is totally able to change things or use them for good. I cannot see how that can happen yet choose to ignore my ignorance in favor of choosing God’s wisdom and power.

Jesus, today appears to be a great day to bring to You again the woes and sorrows that vex and stress me and give them to You in faith, knowing that You know what to do, what to leave as it is, and what to change. I don’t need to give You any deadlines or orders. Your grace and power will flow out of Your great heart of love, guided by Your wisdom and perfect plans.

February 21, 2018

Being like Jesus means . . .

God’s plan is most humbling; He wants to transform me into the image of His Son. The more I understand of who Jesus is and what Jesus is like, the farther I see myself from that goal. However, that is a divine goal and the work of God. He will do it, but only the Holy Spirit can accomplish what is totally impossible for me.

He has taught me an important basic: I cannot run away from His plan . . .

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling, and you said, “No! We will flee upon horses”; therefore you shall flee away; and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”; therefore your pursuers shall be swift. (Isaiah 30:15–16)

I’ve tried the ‘swift steeds’ of my own efforts, mostly because I’m in a hurry for things to happen, but God is not in a rush. He teaches me that His timing is perfect and usually a surprise. Instead of fretting about the apparent slowness of God, I’m to let quietness and trust be my strength.

Tozer says that too much religious activity without inactivity and getting alone with God will result in failure. God wants me to wait on Him until I am fully charged with His Spirit. When that happens, my activity will amount to something because He has prepared me for it.

Thinking about God’s side of this plan, He is incredibly patient with me. He does not push or nag. Instead, He watches and protects me as I ride off on my horse, letting me find out the folly of my own efforts. His methods are much different from mine. I set a goal and a deadline and rush to get there ‘on time’ but stress myself out in the process.

If I am going to be like God, I need that same patience and ability to wait for others, to realize that the timing I want is usually much sooner than the timing of God. Learning to wait is a spiritual discipline that only comes through spending time alone with God in ceased activity. Part of this is keeping a regular quiet time and practicing the rest of a sabbath day each week. Another major factor is faith, faith that God is in control and I can trust Him, both to make things happen and to do it at the right time.

Tozer says, “You do not need to seek Him here or there, He is no further off than the door of your heart. There He stands lingering, waiting for whoever is ready to open and let Him in. You do not need to call to Him in the distance. He is waiting much more impatiently than you, for you to open to Him. He is longing for you a thousand times more urgently than you are for Him. It is instantaneous: the opening and the entering.”

This is another side of God. He is totally ready for my proper response to Him. When I finally quit running around, He is there. When I finally quit trying to make things happen, He is there. This means that if I am going to be like Him, my attitude of wanting something to happen can increase, but along with it, so does my readiness.

For example, I want a certain person to give her messed-up life to Christ. He alone can rescue her from her pain and anxiety. She acknowledges God but has some ‘swift horses’ that keep carrying her away from Him. The attitude of God is patience. Mine tends to be ‘give up — this is never going to happen’ and I have other things to pray about and do. However, to be like God, I need to be ready to do as He wants, even ready to be the answer to my own prayers — at all times and with instant obedience.

Jesus, You walk close beside me at all times, even when I am running the other direction or acting like a jerk. You have incredible patience and never lose sight of Your goal. If my goal is the same as Yours, then I ought to have that same ‘be there’ grace and not lose sight or give up. This is a high calling, for which I need Your power and goodness to enable a Christlike response.

Note: I’d like to pay tribute to Billy Graham and praise God for the mighty way He used this man to build His kingdom. I never met this man but will miss him as will many others. Thank You Lord for giving Dr. Graham to this world and for speaking through him to reach the hearts of millions who are now Your children and my brothers and sisters in Christ.

February 20, 2018

Anarchy coming?

Yesterday, I said, “No one has to teach a child to do wrong. They know how to do that. They need to be taught how to do right.” At that two listeners said that no one can tell anyone else what is right or wrong. From the context of our conversation, I knew they were thinking ‘morals’ and rather than get into an argument about that, I thought they would at least agree on a practical level; children need to be taught not to play in traffic. Otherwise they will hurt themselves. That goes for everything else a child will try, even touching a hot stove.

While I know this idea of ‘no objective moral standards’ is common, my heart is grieved. The idea that ‘every person does what is right in their own eyes’ has brought destruction to every society, including ancient Israel. Human beings need objective standards. Without out them, we have anarchy and chaos.

However, the standards are there in the human heart (and the laws of the land), at least in some measure. If one person thinks it is okay to rob banks, or shoot people, or light buildings on fire, why do most of the rest of us protest? It is built into our conscience? The Spirit of God is whispering?

The human heart can shut itself off to that inner voice, but when it does, those who think they can set their own standard could wind up robbing banks, shooting people, and setting buildings on fire.

Some people acknowledge their tendency to sin, to make choices that are not good for themselves, others, or that go against the will of God. Job knew. He asked this:

“For has anyone said to God, ‘I have borne punishment; I will not offend any more; teach me what I do not see; if I have done iniquity, I will do it no more’?” (Job 34:31–32)

David, the king and psalmist of Israel knew too. He prayed, “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Tozer writes that he is grateful for the human conscience because without it, we would all quickly become beasts. He urges people to listen to that inner voice and says, “The chief thing is not to listen to yourself, but silently to listen to God.”

Last week a television personality said that talking to God was fine, but those who claim that He talks to them are mentally ill. I assume she was thinking of those who say ‘god’ told them after they did some heinous and violent action. The “god told me” people in the world who excuse their ungodly behavior this way have not learned something very important: if what they hear does not match up with the Word of God given to us in writing, then it is not God. He gave the Bible to us so we can know the difference between what He is telling us and what is coming from our own ideas . . .

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12–13)

God is not a fool. He knows that we need objective truth because without it, we simply do what we please. The sinfulness of the human heart says NO to God. It also says that His Word is false, archaic, full of errors, because it is easier to do whatever we please if no one contradicts us. This is reinforced by others who say it is okay to do it because no one has the right to tell me otherwise. Oh my.

Jesus, my heart is sad. I love those two and a host of others who reject You and what You have to say to guide them. I know from Your Word and from personal experience that the person who hardens their heart becomes increasingly blind to the line between good and evil. Not only that, they become increasingly blind and hard toward the love You offer and the marvel of Your grace of forgiveness and peace. Going their own way seems right to them, but as You say, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) My prayer today is that You will persist and not turn away from speaking to them and to others who have rejected You and gone their own way. I also pray You will give me wisdom and wise responses when they are needed.