Saturday, December 22, 2007

Continual Conversations with God

I came to the realization this morning that I have not been in conversation with God the way that I should. Most people consider a conversation with God to be prayer and indeed it is. But I have come to realize that prayer is not an event but a lifestyle.

I remember in the past just going through the day in continual prayer. We all have conversations with ourselves (with our soul)... ah, come on now... admit it... you talk to yourself! Continual prayer is just letting the Holy Spirit in on my conversation. Instead of a two-way conversation, it becomes three-way.

I have been good at allowing this to happen in my mind in the past but it seems to eb and flow in my life. Lately, I have been very good at setting aside time to study the Bible and to start my day in prayer. What I haven't been good at is praying all day long though. I made a recommitment to this lifestyle this morning in my 'prayer' :) and I ask that you also pray that I will allow the Holy Spirit into my 'self conversations' all day, every day.

Friday, December 14, 2007

External and Internal Storms

In the latter part of Paul's ministry, his is shipwrecked on the island of Malta south of Italy. The shipwreck occurred after fourteen days of 'hurricane-force winds'. The ships crew had literally tied the ship together by putting ropes around the hull. In the process of the fourteen days, they threw off all of the cargo that they were carrying, the anchors and even the lifeboat itself. I could only imagine how exhausted they all were... sea-sick so probably not able to eat or hold food down, lack of sleep, continually drenched, fearful... exhausted.

I'm sure that Paul was also probably sea-sick, tired and wet. He too was exhausted physically. But mentally, he had hope. He was told by God in a dream that he would go to Rome and he believed what he had dreamed. Although he was a prisoner being transported by Roman guards, he encouraged the others on the ship that they all would make it to safety. He had hope.

Beside external storms, we have internal storms. How often do we go through a day or a situation without hope that God will be there to help us through it? How often do we see the glass as half-empty instead of half-full with the 'poor me', 'everyone's against me' mentality?

In Paul's case with his external storm, he chose to trust in God even with all looked absolutely hopeless. His heart was at peace. Can we chose to trust in God with our internal storms? I think that we can and we must if we are to have true peace in our hearts. When you are thinking "everyone's against me", "I just am not progressing like I should", "I am being overlooked for my accomplishments" ... Where is the focus in these internal storms? I see 'I', 'me', 'my' as the focus. Should it rather be on God? If your not progressing in your job like you should, have you thanked God that you have a job in the first place? If your being overlooked at church for a position, are you thanking God that you have the ability to worship freely? If no one is calling you to just chat, have you made a call today to someone else to do the same?

Internal storms... Ones that we allow satan to create within us. They bring turmoil, exhaustion, sickness and even death if we allow. Reach out to God today with the hope that He will give you peace today. When an internal storm thought crosses your path, immediately push it aside and replace it with a praise to God. Turn it 180 degrees and make it a positive thought. It CAN be done but it takes a willing heart. That is where to start. I pray that you will start today...

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Condemnation Is NOT From God

Yesterday I spoke of directing my five senses towards obedience. I ended the post by saying "I choose this day - OBEDIENCE".

I awoke this morning feeling the same feeling that I felt most of yesterday afternoon and evening... condemned. Let me explain...

Yesterday morning I my wife was showing me wedding pictures on the internet from a photographer that we may use for our daughter's wedding. As I was standing behind her viewing the pictures, she came upon a very provocative picture of a bride-to-be. I not only did not 'bounce my eyes away' (see an earlier post for the explanation), I stared. I'm not sure if I did that because I was so shocked but that should not make any difference.

I asked for forgiveness and know that when I do ask that God forgives me and separates the sin from me as far as the 'east is from the west' and that 'He knows it no more'. Yet, I felt condemned last night and this morning. I was not only remembering what God has already forgotten, I was replaying the scene in my mind (thus making me more angry at myself and feeling the need to ask for forgiveness yet again). Have you ever been there? I think that we all have been.

The very first verse that I read this morning though was Romans 8:1 "Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death" (emphasis my own). I remember from that verse that as a Christ Follower if I feel condemnation, it is not from God but from satan. He was making me feel unworthy and feeling like God did not accept my remorse for letting down my guard. Satan condemns... Christ convicts my spirit of what is right and wrong.

After reading that verse, I basically commanded satan to scram and I now feel free! I will build my moral fences higher and once again thank God for TODAY. It is a new day to serve Him fully.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Directing My Five Senses in Obedience

I was reading in Romans 6 this morning. Paul is trying to explain the motives for right living to the Christians in Rome. He says that we should 'count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus' (vs. 11).

We have died to sin when we count Christ as our Savior. We are to not allow sin to remain in our lives. This takes a LOT of discipline in todays world. I must always be on guard - on alert for sin that will tempt me. What I see, what I hear, what I taste, what I smell, and what I touch.

My senses can carry me towards God through obedience or away from Him towards satan. I am reminded of Jame's words (James 1:14-15). If I look once again at my five senses and how they can carry me towards satan, James notes the succession to be desire --> enticement --> sin (which is desire conceived). And sin ultimately leads to death and eternity away from God.

I CHOOSE this day... Obedience.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Knowledge or Wisdom?

I used to think that knowledge and wisdom were basically one and the same. If I ran into a really smart person, I would think that 'wow, they seem so wise. They have all of the answers'. As I study though I am seeing these two terms growing further apart.

Paul in Romans (and elsewhere) speaks constantly about the condition of the heart. He says that a person can be performing all kinds of rituals, be a member in the right organizations, or can come from a line of spiritual ancestry but if the heart is not devoted, it is all meaningless. How often do I see this today as people call themselves 'Christian' and are members of a church but their heart is worldly in nature. They may have all kinds of worldly knowledge but are they wise?

Solomon speaks about wisdom all the time in his Proverbs. In particular in Proverbs 4, verses 4 and 5, Solomon says "Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them." Wisdom here is not earthly knowledge but learning God's Word and imprinting it in my mind and upon my heart.

Our conscience is a moral compass that has been placed in every human being. It is a moral sense of right and wrong that affects ones thoughts and behaviors. Knowledge does little to program the conscience. It is just worldly facts that have no eternal value. On the other hand, wisdom programs the conscience to obtain a true understanding of right and wrong. It has eternal value to the person obtaining the wisdom as well as those around him (or her) as their actions will be an example of moral balance and right living.

Are you striving to obtain Knowledge or Wisdom?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Is my Spirit in Control of My Body or Vice-Versa?

In reading Paul's first letter to the believers in Corinth, I have come upon some interesting information. 1 Corinthians 9:27 is a little strange in the NIV. It starts out by saying 'No, I beat my body and make it my slave...'. I have to admit that this did not make any sense to me 20 minutes ago.

Reading the same verse in the KJV makes more sense. 'But I keep under my body and bring it into subjection...'. NOW I am starting to see what this means. I keep my body under the control of my spirit. This is directly in opposition to how the world operates. Listen to most any conversation at work or on campus, you will hear the person speak primarily about his body - about his financial concerns and recreational pursuits, his occupational goals and physical needs. (This is from Jon Courson).

Now that I am a Christ Follower though all this is turned upside down. I am to constantly place the wants, needs and pursuits of my body (my flesh) under the control of my spirit that is one with Christ Jesus. This is something that I have really been striving for lately.

One way that I have found that works for me is a change of mindset. I have changed 'I have to...' in my mind to 'I get to...'! An example for me is that starting this past month, I have made it a practice to get up at 5:30 every morning to dive into God's Word and to just spend time with God. I started out with the mindset of having to get up and it was a drudge. Lately though, I have noticed that I jump up out of bed (mind you knowing that my automatic coffee maker already has the first cup ready). I GET to spend the first several hours of my day with the Creator of the universe! What an awesome opportunity! My body (who wants to keep on sleeping) is not in control or 'on top'. I have my spirit in control of this situation. It is not always easy and I have a LONG ways to go but this is a start.

I now see Matthew 6:16 more clearly when thinking about this. Jesus does not say "IF you fast (abstain from food)" but "WHEN you fast". He knows that part of keeping our bodies in cheque and under the control of our spirit requires discipline on our part. Taking time to abstain from eating to instead spend that time praying for others. Getting my tired body out of bed at 5:30 because the King of Kings and and the Lord of Lords wants to commune with me personally.

I will strive TODAY for my spirit (under God's authority) to be in control of my will, my personality, my emotions, my all. Tomorrow morning, I will strive for the same goal.