Quick Thoughts: The Discipline of God

​The discipline of both God and parents must include more than instruction. Teaching provides knowledge but knowledge by itself is nothing without application. As in school, it is insufficient for the chemistry teacher to only lecture. He must also include a lab so that the objective truth of what he taught can be subjectively observed and verified. It is the lab that tests and proves the student’s understanding of and ability to apply the truth he has learned. Without such personal interaction with the truth, the teacher’s words fail to transform the seed of knowledge into a thriving, fruit-bearing tree. 

Most students view knowledge as malleable, subject to change, and constantly evolving; therefore, the knowledge they hear is often dismissed as either irrelevant, incomplete, or inapplicable and effects little to no change in their life. But the student who has wrestled with the teacher’s words, tested them in the lab of life, and has seen them proven true knows that these lessons are not mere words. They are more than that. For now they have been internalized. No longer are they part of an ever-changing body of knowledge. Now, they resonate within the student as transforming, eternal truths.

Therefore, “Count it all joy, my brethren, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (James 1:2-3) Mere words cannot produce such a response. Nor can “a good talking to.” The only discipline that produces the proper response is the one that provides a test. 

Advertisements

Why Pray?

man_in_prayeyrjpg-800x258God

Why do you pray?

Me

Because I have a problem and I either don’t know what to do

or need help with the solution.

 God

In other words, you require supernatural intervention, either in word or in deed?

Me

Yeah. I guess that sounds about right.

God

And what would you do if I immediately gave you the answer

or performed the miracle upon request?

 Me

What would I do?! I’d be happy! I’d praise you!

I’d tell everyone about what you did for me!

God

And after that?

Me

After what?

God

After the adrenaline and the joy wore off? What would you do then?

How would you be on Thursday of next week if your boss came in

and laid you off from your job?

Me

Wait! I’m losing my job next week?!

God

No. No. No. Hypothetically. What would you do?

Me

I guess I’d pray again.

(You promise I’m not losing my job?)

 God

Why?

Me

Because I need a job! I need to eat, pay off debt, have a place to live,

provide for my family, etc.

 God

Have I not been providing for you this whole time?

Have you ever gone without?

 Me

No.

God

Then why are you worried?

Me

Because I need money to survive in this world.

(Come on, God, don’t be coy with me. Am I really getting laid off?)

 God

My dear child, is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

Me

Philosophically? Sure…I guess. But practically I’ve got to pay my bills, God.

My family has to eat.

God sighs heavily

Me

What?

God

Do you not know that the silver is mine and the gold is mine?

That the earth and all it contains belongs to me? Have you

not heard that if you honor me, I will shower you with so

much blessing you will not be able to handle it all?

 Me

Well….yeah.

God

My child, I AM the most practical answer to all of your concerns.

But if I am only a piece of philosophy to calm your anxious soul or

a rational argument that provides order for your worldview, then

what are we doing here?

 Me

What do you mean?

God

I mean, why are we talking?

Me

Because, God, You know all things! You can do all things!

God

But what good does any of my wisdom or help do for you if you value your personal security above your relationship with me? I do not want to be another method that you use to increase your happiness. I want to be the end that you are pursuing, not another means by which you seek yourself.

God places His hand on my shoulder and looks me in the eye.

God

Do you understand?

Me (sheepishly)

I’m trying, Lord.

God

Prayer is not about receiving more of what you want.

It never has been that way and it never will be.

Me

 You mean, it’s not about the answers, the healings, or the money?

God

No.

Me

 Then why pray?

God

Because every answer I grant your prayers, whether a “yes” or a “no,” is not done to make your life easier. It’s done to give you a newer, brighter, and cleaner revelation of who I am. I do not act on your behalf for any other reason than to help you receive the one thing that will never wear out or fade in value.

Me

And what would that be?

God

Me. Prayer is about receiving ALL of me.

Me

 Oh, God, I don’t know that I can do this on my own. Teach me how to pray.

God

Just start with the words “Our Father” and filter everything else, both your petition and my answer, through these two simple words. Everything else will flow from there.

Have Faith in God


When I awoke yesterday for work, an old hymn began playing through my head. I could only remember the chorus, but it was a good reminder to put my hope in God, not any one man or woman. Remember this truth, whether you are pleased with the election results or not. Our prayers are to be for God and His will, not for a person and their politics. Red or Blue, all of us should pray for our leaders and for God’s will be done. All of us should Have Faith in God. Therefore, I offer the following hymn. The lyrics are below.

Have faith in God when your pathway is lonely; 
He sees and knows all the way you have trod. 
Never alone are the least of His children; 
Have faith in God, have faith in God. 

Chorus:
Have faith in God, He’s on His throne; 
Have faith in God, He watches o’er His own. 
He cannot fail, He must prevail; 
Have faith in God, have faith in God.

2 Have faith in God when your prayers are unanswered; 
Your earnest plea He will never forget. 
Wait on the Lord trust His Word and be patient; 
Have faith in God, He’ll answer yet. [Chorus] 

3 Have faith in God in your pain and your sorrow; 
His heart is touched with your grief and despair. 
Cast all your cares and your burdens upon Him; 
And leave them there, oh, leave them there. [Chorus]

4 Have faith in God though all else fail about you; 
Have faith in God, He provides for His own. 
He cannot fail though all kingdoms shall perish; 
He rules, He reigns, upon His throne. [Chorus]

Psalms for the Election – Day 7

a9a5aea4aeb37b7f290b09121b0f24da

As we conclude this 7-day journey for praying for the election, I hope you hold on to God’s call to recalibrate our lives around Him and not our political parties or dogmas. May we live with strength and courage; without fear or discouragement, because we know that the Lord will be us wherever we go.

Have the courage to stand up among the assembly, to be that one person who refuses to bow to the pressures of tyranny, regardless of the threat to your life, wealth, or family. Rest in the truth that your victory does not come in the votes of an electoral college but in God. It is He who pushes back your enemies and gives you victory. Put your faith in Him. He is our only hope.


Read Psalm 46

Identify what God is saying about Himself in this passage. Boil it down into a one or two-word summary (e.g., God is ____ ) and confess that truth back to God, asking Him to reveal Himself in this way through your day and this election cycle.

v. 1 Look at the election. If it has not taken place yet, pray this verse as a declaration of trust that God will protect His people and will not abandon us when trouble occurs. If it has ended, pray this verse as a declaration of faith for the future, regardless of who has been elected President.

v.2-3 State how your security does not depend on the circumstances that have played out in this election. Rather, your security is in God alone. Therefore, you will not fear.

Even if you feel like this election has produced results in which “the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters foam and the mountains quake with their surging,” declare your faith and your trust in God.

v.4-6 Confess that you were not created for this nation that we call America. Rather, you were created for the holy city of God where the Most High dwells. Your residence is within a kingdom that will not fall and where God will always help her survive and thrive. Other nations will come and go. Other kingdoms will fall, because God rules not with a scepter or a sword, but with the power of His spoken word. He is the One who spoke and the earth was created. He is the One who wrapped Himself in flesh to pay the penalty for our sins. He is the One who lifts his voice and the earth melts; who reigns forever and ever and invites the one who wishes to take the free gift of the water of life.

v.7-9 Declare the wonders and the works of the LORD Almighty. Ask God to reveal to you what He has done. In this passage, the Psalmist writes that God has “made wars cease … He breaks the bow and shatters the spears; He burns the shields with fire.”  Take a moment and ask yourself: What

Take a moment and consider the symbolism for our country: What are the “wars” that God has stopped in our country? What “bows and spears” has He broken? What “shields” of the enemy has He “burned with fire?”

v.10 Take a minute. Be still before God and know that He is the Lord. Confess the mighty works of His hands. Declare His greatness among the nations. Exalt Him in all the earth.

v. 11 Reaffirm this truth, regardless of who won the election: “The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Thank each of you who have prayed with me over these last 7 days for the condition and future of our country. May our hearts be continually turned towards God as we seek His face and declare that our trust rests not in man, but in Him.

Blessings on you all.

Psalms for the Election – Day 6

lincoln

This year has brought us one of the most divisive elective cycles in recent memory. Many people that I speak to, regardless of political affiliation, are not excited about the choices they have for President. Both candidates have characteristics that could be defined as “unfit,” whether it is in temperament, decision making, morality, unpredictability, criminal behavior, experience, judgment, health, or political vision.  It is in this season that we need to pray for our country more than we do for our political parties. We are a nation off-course and the choice of our leader will make irrevocable changes to the intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and moral direction we take as Americans.

Therefore, I would like to invite you to pray with me for our country. Over the next 7 days, I will be making a new post each day. Each post will include a link to a reading from the Psalms and a brief instruction on how to use this reading as a guide for prayer. Let us put aside our desire to see a specific person win the election and have the courage to pray boldly for God to stay his judgment and place in office the man or woman who will lead us to be the country that God desires (and designed) us to be. 

Will you please pray with me?


Read Psalm 43

Identify what God is saying about Himself in this passage. Boil it down into a one or two-word summary (e.g., God is ____ ) and confess that truth back to God, asking Him to reveal Himself in this way through your day and this election cycle.

v.1 Confess how our nation has been unfaithful. What have we called gods that are not gods at all? How have we exchanged our glorious God for worthless cultural, political, and social idols? (Jer. 2:11-12) Who or what are they? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how we use the Name of God to excuse the sins of man? Name them by name. If it helps, revisit the prayer guide for Day 3.

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how we use the Name of God to excuse the sins of man? Name them by name. If it helps, revisit the prayer guide for Day 3.

Ask God to raise up the remnant within our country who have not bowed their knees to these false idols. Ask that they stand boldly before the wicked and the oppressors. Ask that God vindicate us and plead our cause against an unfaithful nation. That He rescue us from those who are deceitful and wicked. Ask that God will both hinder and destroy the plans of the wicked. That He will not allow them to flourish. May this be the time for the holy to prosper because God is our stronghold.

v.2  Confess that God alone is our stronghold. Confess that you have felt alone and grieving this week. Confess how you have felt like mourning because you have been oppressed by the enemy. Ask God to intervene on behalf of His Name and not our own. Ask Him to demonstrate through our election how He alone is our stronghold and how He has not rejected us.

v.3 Ask God to send our nation His light and His faithful care. Ask that He open the hearts and minds of all Americans during this election. May we be humbled and as a result pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways so that God’s light and faithful care may lead our nation in the paths that we may go.

Ask that God bring us to His holy mountain, to the place where He dwells.

v. 4 Respond to God by going to Him and surrendering at His altar everything that you have used as a substitute  for joy and delight, instead of God.

Sing praise to God. Let His name and His works be proclaimed through the song that pours out from your lips.

v. 5 Do not let your soul harken back to the worries of this world or the fears of what will happen if the “wrong person” is elected. Put your hope in God. Praise Him alone. Make Him alone your Savior and your God.

If you are finding this difficult, pray boldly for a vision of what a life and a country looks like whose hope is not in God. Ask God to reveal to us that our fears come from trusting in unreliable people or things to sustain or save us, not from Him. Ask that God

Wait. Close your eyes if you have to.

Listen.Ask God to reveal to us that our fears come from trusting in unreliable people or things to sustain or save us, not from Him. Ask that God

What is the image He is giving you? Hold that image in your minds eye? Let yourself feel the depth of the pain that comes from such extreme separation from God. Pray that He will keep our country from such ruin.

Ask God to reveal to us that our fears come from trusting in unreliable people or things to sustain or save us, not from Him. Ask that God break us of our tendency to drift away in fear. May we be a people who will yet praise Him, who trusts only in Him.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Quick Thoughts: “You are my God.”

5107569575_8e95030273

But I trust in you, LORD; I say, “You are my God.”

— Psalm 31:14

Have you ever thought about this phrase? What does it mean to declare that something or someone is your God?

According to Psalm 31, here are some answers below (corresponding verse in parentheses).

To say, “You are my God” means:

  1. You trust in this person/thing to deliver you out of difficult situations. It is the refuge that you run into for shelter when life is beating you up. (verse 1).
  2. You rely on it to be attentive to your needs, to be quick and effective in the salvation you seek. (verse 2)
  3. You seek wisdom and guidance from it about how to make sense out of your chaotic life. (verse 3)
  4. It is that thing that you seek to glorify with your life, that which you are willing to give the credit for your successes, instead of yourself. (verse 3)
  5. You rely on this person/thing for not only protecting you from present troubles but also future ones. (verse 4)
  6. All that your god embodies is honorable and true to you. Those that contradict your god, you abhor. (verse 6)
  7. You feel that your god understands you and you rejoice in the intimacy you have with it. (verse 7)
  8. You trust in this god to not only deliver you but to also expand your territory so that you have freedom to roam. (verse 8)
  9. You rely on it during times of grief, anguish, suffering, and affliction. When you are at your weakest and an utter derision to all around you, you still cling to this god to keep you from shame. (verse 9-17)
  10. You seek vengeance through it, to give you the justice you cannot get on your own. (verses 18, 23)
  11. You view it as the source of good things and a rewarder of those who are faithful to it. (verse 19)
  12. You trust it to protect you from harassment, physical harm, emotional pain, and hopelessness. (verse 12, 20-22)
  13. You rely on it to give you strength and hope. (verse 24)
  14. You find your resilience grows out of its character and presence in your life. (verse 24)
  15. You decide to surrender your life to its influence and control, to be “true” to it because you believe you cannot manage your life without it. (verse 23)

Let’s be honest. Gods can take many forms. Your god may be money, intelligence, alcohol, sex, food, work, humor, praise from others, self-harm, rationalizations, justifications, learning/reading, social media, depression, Netflix, busy-work, or the many-headed hydra of have to’s that plague us from day to day.

OR…your god may be religion, doctrine, good works, volunteering, going the extra mile for someone in need, false humility, presenting the “perfect picture”to outsiders, guilt, praying (instead of doing), doubt, materialism/shopping, or the unending list of do’s and don’ts that echo daily through our head.

Or it may be something else entirely.

But whatever you proclaim to be your god (even if you do not believe in the supernatural and claim yourself as your highest authority) will eventually be measured. Not by the standard of how well it meets your selfish ends, but by the strength of its character while under duress.

You may pick your god. That is your right. But be careful what you dedicate your life to. Most gods break when tested, for they are full of impurities and their promises are made of thin plastic. That is why you still feel hopeless. That is why there is a longing in your heart for something (ANYTHING!) to be real. For in those times that you see your god for all it truly is, you realize that all you have ever worshiped is a mere facsimile of the original and one, true God. Only He has the integrity to withstand the tests that attack Him and to deliver you from harm as well.

You must decide. To what, or whom, will you say: “You are my God.”

Sitting on the Stool

stool

“There are two spiritual activities which are to be unceasingly part of a believer’s life, two great pillars that hold up the believer in the matter of daily living.  One is the study of the Word of God.  Two, prayer.”

— John MacArthur

I’m not one to usually criticize John MacArthur, who some would argue is the best exegetical preacher alive today, but when I was listening to his sermon “The Paternity of Prayer” on my way to work the other day, the above quote popped out at me.

Immediately, I thought: Wait a minute. What about service?

I do not disagree that study and prayer are two essential aspects of the Christian life, but if we forget or minimize the necessity of service, we fail to put legs to what our study and praying have revealed. This is why I have often thought of Christianity like a three-legged stool that must continually be in balance, where one leg is study, one is prayer, and one is service.

You cannot neglect one or two of these legs without toppling over. For instance, a person that is great at study but does not pray, he only has head knowledge and can get filled up with the arrogance of much learning. Or if he has a passion for prayer so as to see great miracles occur but does not study or serve, he will not produce anything meaningful. This is why Solomon warns us:

“Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecc. 12:12-14)

And it is why Paul says:

“And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (1 Cor 13:2)

In both situations, Solomon and Paul emphasize that the most important thing is not knowledge or faith by itself, but it is adding both of these things to what you do. As Paul later wrote in Galatians 5:6: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (NIV)

Service, then, is a necessary leg of the Christian existence. If it was not, James would not have argued that it is our deeds that prove our faith (Ja. 2:17-18) Jesus would not have said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jn. 13:35) And the disciples in Acts would not have delegated the work of distributing food to the widows to seven godly men so that The 12 would not neglect “prayer and the ministry of the Word.” (Acts 6:1-4)

I understand that it is safer to remain in one’s study, surrounded by books and excavating truths never before understood. I respect that it feels more comfortable, and at times it feels more spiritual, to pray for a person or a situation, rather than get involved. But God calls us out of our safe places and asks us to leave our comfort zones. This is why Jesus tells us “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Because we are to be a going people. We are to be an engaging people. We are revolutionaries who are on a mission to change the culture of our homes, communities, and nations. We are a people who are to serve “by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:11)

We are not to be cowardly or sluggish or foolish. Those are mistakes the anxious. We are not to be arrogant, doubting, or disbelieving. Those are the mistakes of the inactive. We are to be doing, going, and serving. Giving our bodies up as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1), which is “your spiritual worship” (or, “your rational service“).

Neglect not this third leg of Christianity. It is where you get to see the truth you’ve studied in action, and where you witness your prayers become weapons of warfare. It is where you are allowed to join the holy, sovereign, creating God in the redemptive work He is doing. To reject such an honor is disrespectful. To refuse such a privilege is unthinkable. No man is remembered who does not add service to his study and prayer.