October 16, 2018

Cast all your cares upon Him . . .

Christians are taught to use an acronym as an aid to prayer. Normally it is ACTS which stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. In today’s devotional, Tozer strongly states that no one can worship (adore God) without the Holy Spirit. He says, “Worship has to be in the Spirit and by the Spirit. The notion that just anybody can worship . . . (or that) we can worship without the Spirit (or) that we can . . . ignore Him, quench Him, resist Him and yet worship God acceptably is a great heresy . . . .”

The most serious thing that keeps the Spirit out of my life is willfully unconfessed sin. I know that unless I keep short accounts with God (confession) then I’ve no power from the Holy Spirit. For that reason, ACTS does not work for me. I’ve changed the prayer acronym to CAST. Adoring God is more freely and joyfully given when my junk is acknowledged and cleared out of the way.

David knew the importance of this. He wrote:

“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah” (Psalm 32:3–5)

On any given Sunday morning, some people in our congregation do not sing. Aside from reasons like a sore throat or not knowing the song, is it possible they have not had time to clear the air between them and God? Is the load of unconfessed sin hindering their worship? I cannot judge them, but know unconfessed sin will do that to me.

Confession is important as a prelude to worship for it is releases my heart to be Spirit-filled — and I cannot freely worship without the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when I need a reminder of how to pray, CAST works for me.

“Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.” (Psalm 47:6–8)

Lord Jesus, indeed You are the King of all the earth. You are sovereign and rule the nations. You are holy, enthroned in glory. Because of You, I can come freely to Your throne knowing my sin is forgiven and that Your Spirit is enabling me to sing praises to You!

October 15, 2018

Utter dependence on Christ

The Apostle Paul met Christ and was saved while on a mission to destroy Christians. He was not an evil man in his culture but a man zealous for God and eager to serve Him according to the OT laws. He had a list of credentials that many would call high qualifications for being in God’s favor. He had been circumcised as required, born into the nation of Israel, a member of the tribe of Benjamin, a true Hebrew and a Pharisee who could claim righteousness according to the Law. He also could have boasted that he was zealous as seen in his persecution of Christians who were considered a false sect by the Jews.

However, Paul put no value in these ‘credentials’ and instead counted them as loss for the sake of Christ. For him, knowing Christ had “surpassing worth” and the rest was rubbish. His righteousness came from God through faith and a personal relationship with Jesus. He knew the power of His resurrection, and what it meant to share in His sufferings. Because of this, Paul said:

“Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more . . . .”(Philippians 3:2–4)

It is not biblical to suppose that becoming a Christian will result in a cushy life. We have enemies. Some are enemies in teaching falsehood about how to be saved. Some are enemies in encouraging confidence in ourselves and in our credentials. Even Christians who mean well can fall into this worldly way of evaluating the worth of others.

A few years ago my husband was on a church board interviewing people for the position of youth pastor. One young man stood out. He had no degrees, no experience, but a great attitude and an obvious close relationship with the Lord. The others on this board had to be convinced but eventually agreed to hire him. All of them later admitted this was the best choice. After a few years, this young man moved on and is now the pastor of a growing, vibrant church. His credentials were spiritual qualities and God-given attitudes, not anything else.
I’ve thought of my own list of things I could depend on and realize that while God can use our ‘credentials’ He does not need them. The Bible says:
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (1 Corinthians 1:26–31)
Jesus, You tell me to beware of considering myself ‘gifted’ or ‘well-educated’ or ‘strong’ or anything else that is gained from worldly sources. Obviously, You are more interested in a heart that is yielded to You and relies on You rather than those who think they do not need to.

October 14, 2018

Gawking at accidents?

Today’s devotional presents a view of Christians that is startling. Tozer writes, “Through the leading and the power of the Holy Spirit, the Christian is involved in a daily life and habit that cannot be explained. A Christian should have upon him an element that is beyond psychology—beyond all natural laws and into spiritual laws. He points to the following passage:
“Hear, you who are far off, what I have done; and you who are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: ‘Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?’ He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure.” (Isaiah 33:13–16)
Tozer says, “A genuine Christian should be a walking mystery because he surely is a walking miracle . . . we Christians should be men and women out of the fire.”

The Bible calls God a “consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29) because He is holy, hostile to sin, and can only burn on and on against sin forever. Who can stand against that fire? Only those who have been made righteous. Who are those made righteous? Those who believe in Jesus Christ and whose lives demonstrate that righteousness as described by Isaiah: walking righteously, speaking uprightly, despising any gain from oppressing others, shakes his hands refusing bribes, stops his ears from hearing bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil.

In a practical sense, the last two are gray zones. It seems to me this isn’t about being blind to what is going on in this world, refusing to read the newspaper or watch the evening news. It is more about that attitude that causes people to slow down and gawk when passing a highway accident. A reporter once told me that this is what sells — that inner desire to see blood and bad stuff. Without it, newspapers would not sell and he would not have a job.

This is poking at me. I click on my news app so I know how many people were killed in the latest weather disaster. Sometimes I’m looking for ‘good’ news, but good news is rare so I become curious about the bad stuff, the reports of increasing evil. There is something in me that tends to gawk. That something is sinful and not the attitude that passes the test of fire. God is telling me to deal with this, however slight it might be.

For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great. (Psalm 25:11) It hasn’t felt like a big deal but Your Word speaks of this ‘hearing of bloodshed and looking on evil’ as something God’s righteous people do not do. I admit the desire to gawk. I also admit ignoring any conviction that I might have felt about it to the point that it didn’t seem important. Instead of stopping to look, I must imagine You holding my hand and giving me a totally different attitude toward the bloodshed and evil around me. I agree that such interest is ungodly and realize that You have a far different attitude toward looking at evil than I do. Change my heart.