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Living Conciously In The Flow of History Part 2

One of the wonderful aspects of this truth—that God has a plan for good which He has laid out for history–is that God is absolutely faithful: He plans and then unwaveringly, inexorably and powerfully keeps on course.  This is obvious in the dozens of prophecies given in the Old Testament which are carefully fulfilled in the New Testament hundreds or even thousands of years later. God promises and He brings it to pass, period.

The rebellion of Satan, of men, of me cannot derail His purposes. He has the infinite ability to weave our evil attempts at disruption into the overall outcome of good that He desires.  As Joseph said to his brothers near the end of his life: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen 50:20)

This is also seen in Daniel’s life, where every attack on him resulted in more glory for God and more influence for Daniel. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” (Pro. 19:21)

God’s faithfulness assures the right outcome. His plans are so certain that they can be expressed as finished before they come to pass: “…the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” Rev 13:8b The certainty that Jesus would die for us was so solid, so set in stone that God was able to express it as done before history even began.

So, when we wake up in the morning and find ourselves there with God, we are not only in His hand, we are in the stream of events that He is orchestrating around and in us in order to carry us forward in the task and purpose He has given us. We are moved on whether we know it or not. “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Pro. 16:9)

We are given opportunities every day to join God in His plan, to cooperate through praise and thanksgiving, in obedience and awe, in self-denial and surrender to His higher and greater purposes.

To live in these truths allows us to see more of the wonders God has poured into our lives: meaning, purpose, protection, challenge, adventure, security, significance, honor, goodness and guidance, to name a few.

Each day is an opportunity to join our Heavenly Shepherd as He leads us forth into the pasture of the day, to know that we are moving forward in the perfect plan that He has prepared, filled with purpose and potential for providing Him glory, for defeating the enemy with praise, for seeing others swept into the Kingdom, for moving ahead with Him.

The negative feelings which will arise from our flesh, feelings of uselessness and purposelessness, of alienation and fear, are an affront to this reality. In Him we can turn from these feelings and live in the light of His presence, His purpose, His plan that is for our good and His glory.

Praise be to you, Lord God, for your mighty, unswerving, unstoppable wise and good plans, into which you have brought us. Praise you that we are in the great stream of your history, where you are moving things to a conclusion and carrying us with you. Praise you that our trust can be in you, rather than our own feeble wisdom and inadequate strength, rather than in government or the weather or money or power.

You, Lord God, Triune Lord, are all we need, for you are the Creator and Ruler of all. To you be glory today as I join you in the flow of events, listening to your Spirit, living in your power according to your Word, being a being of praise. May you be exalted in my life today. Amen.

The Power of Giving Thanks

Just before I left the plane in Istanbul on a recent trip, the stewardess announced that we had to go through passport control here. So I zipped down the long halls in order to speed up the process. However, when I arrived, there were at least 500 people in line before me. The line snaked back and forth seven long times.

After half an hour I had only made it through the first two turns with five more to go. At this rate I would certainly miss my next plane. I began to complain, “Look at that, half the passport booths up there are empty, and look how slowly the police are working!”

Immediately the Spirit rebuked me, “Remember Psalm 50:23!”

“Ah, yes, Lord, forgive me for my unbelief! I praise you for this delay. If I miss my next plane, you have something else for me. I can trust you in this!”

Within five minutes several more policemen showed up and began checking passports. The line moved much more quickly and within 15 minutes I was through and on my way to my next flight.

Would the same thing have happened if I hadn’t praised? I don’t know, but praising sure made a difference in me and gave God glory as He helped me trust Him.  He certainly saved me from complaining, unhappiness, stress and worry, while making sure I got to my next plane in time.

Giving thanks is a privilege. In it God is calling us to a partnership with Him where He has rich gifts awaiting us. Psalm 50:23 shows us some of those gifts.

“He who offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me…”  Note that this speaks of sacrifice, denying self, giving thanks when it is not natural, when it costs us. This obedience is a great means of glorifying God. When we trust Him by giving thanks in the midst of uncertainty, hurt, disappointment, suffering or loss, the angels stand in awe, the demons cringe in defeat, our family and friends are amazed and God’s name is lifted on high.

Giving God such glory is the purpose for which we were created. So every time we find ourselves in situations where there is no solution, no discernible good, no positive point, and we choose to believe that God is good, at work and trustable, we can give thanks. In doing so we are fulfilling the reason for our existence: glorifying God. It is doing something that will last for eternity.  And we should be noting all the positive things in our lives and giving thanks for those, too. This privilege of honoring Him through giving thanks is the first gift.

The verse goes on, “He who offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving…prepares the way that I may show him the salvation of the Lord.” The second gift is the possibility of partnering with God in bringing the solution to our situation. He puts lots of power into our hands. This truth is echoed in 2 Cor. 12:9b where Paul says, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest on me.” As we give thanks and praise in our inability to bring change, God moves to bring the resolution and conclusion He’s planned and prepared.  It may come right away, or it may not be visible until years later, as with Joseph in Egypt. Whether seen or unseen, He is moving and we can in faith praise Him for it.

A third gift God has for us when we give thanks is the privilege to be a powerful witness in a unique way to those around us. Our unnatural, supernatural response to troubles, and our persistent penchant for proclaiming in thanksgiving all the good things He gives us puts us right up on the stage of grace, shining the light of Truth on God’s gracious character in a way that words alone could never do.

A fourth gift is that in giving thanks, in expressing gratitude in things positive and things difficult, we actually cooperate with God in improving our emotional, mental and physical health. A secular article entitled “Giving Thanks Makes Us Happier,” points out research showing how an attitude of gratitude brings many benefits.

You can read the whole article at:
http://www.newsmaxhealth.com/health_stories/Giving_Thanks_Happier/2011/11/23/418975.html?s=al&promo_code=D947-1

A summary says, “Researchers delving into the physiology of gratitude have discovered it acts powerfully upon neurotransmitters in the brain to increase happiness, reduce stress, boost energy and even improve sleep.” Another benefit is that it strengthens our immune system. This, of course, is simply discovering what God has told us all along: giving thanks is right, good and powerful.

It is our possibility and privilege to make every day a “thanksgiving celebration” and every moment a “gratitude opportunity.” Let’s follow the lead of Jesus and join Him in doing so continually.

Heavenly Wisdom, 9th and last part

< Read Part 8

So do we have heavenly wisdom? Perhaps it would be helpful to look at the opposite, devilish wisdom.  James 3:14, 15 says, “…if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.

Bitter envy: competition, seeking to defeat others, being jealous of other’s achievements and honors, wanting what they have.  The question is not, “Do I have envy?”  If we are honest, such desires rise up in our souls regularly.  The question is, “What do I do when envy raises its ugly head?” If I have heavenly wisdom, I will recognize this  envy right away before it becomes bitter and reject it in favor of the seven qualities of heavenly wisdom.

Selfish ambition: seeking to make myself look good, feel good, be successful (for the wrong motives), be significant and secure from my own efforts and the opinions of others.  This quality is totally self-centered.

The insidious thing about selfish ambition is that it can be disguised as a spiritual thing, “Working for the Lord,” “giving myself to ministry.” In reality, though, it is revealed when you don’t get your way, when others don’t cooperate, when you are instructed to do something in a more effective but less self-satisfying way.

Selfish ambition is seen primarily in our motives, and we do not often examine our motives naturally, but seek to ignore them. So we are back to the first quality of heavenly wisdom, purity.

It behooves us and is glorifying to God to regularly spend time in confession giving the Spirit time to bring up sins we didn’t notice. And it is also important to listen to what others have to say about us, about what the see as sin in our lives.  When several are saying he same thing, we need to pay very close attention.  And then we need to measure ourselves by the seven heavenly wisdom qualities, repent where necessary and cooperate with the Spirit in being wise in a heavenly way.

Heavenly Wisdom Part 8

<Read Part 7

Lastly, Heavenly Wisdom is sincere, that is without hypocrisy.  This is one of the “firm” aspects of Heavenly Wisdom, a reality check: do I live what I say I believe? Do I live what I say others should do?

The word “sincere” in the Greek means “without wax.” In NT times, if a dishonest potter had a pot crack when it was fired, he would be tempted to fill the crack with wax and cover it with glazing so the customer could not see it. However, when something hot was poured into the pot, the wax would melt and the contents would be spilled.

We are not to fill the cracks in our character with wax (deception of self and others) but we are to be transparent before God in confession. And where necessary be transparent with others about our weaknesses, temptations and sins. Then we are to fill those cracks with Scripture, memorizing and meditating on applicable Truth, so we can obey in the power of the Spirit: be honest when it’s our tendancy to lie; be patient when we want to explode; be kind when we want to strike out.

As a well-known philosopher in the Middle East said, “Either be what you appear to be or look like what you are.”  Good advice.

> Read Part 9

Heavenly Wisdom Part 4

< Read Part 3

The next, the third quality of heavenly wisdom listed in James 3:17 is “considerate.”  This means thinking of others, of how my actions impact them. But the Greek word used here has even more “oomph” to it than “considerate.” It can also be translated as “being sweetly reasonable.”  That goes beyond just thinking of others to proactively bringing a warm, positive and equipping attitude into the situation.

How often has the Holy Spirit  had to ask me, “Are you being sweetly reasonable here?” And my response is usually, “Well, no, I’m not!” I’m often considerate in action, but not in spirit; and that can be felt by those around me.

However, when the sweetness of the Spirit is fueling my interactions, everything rises to a new level. I can reject my natural inclination to say “no” and look at things objectively. Instead of manipulating things to get my way, I can seek ways to empower others, rejecting my secret competitive, jealous thoughts. Because I know the God who is sweetly reasonable with me, I can be sweetly reasonable with others, bringing light and grace in where naturally I would bring grayness and grief.

That term “sweetly reasonable” is a wonderful way to measure our attitude and interactions with others. How are you doing with being sweetly reasonable in life?

Read Part 5 >

Heavenly Wisdom Part 3

< Read Part 2

James 3:17 goes on to say, “Heavenly wisdom is…then peace loving….”  It is amazing how often I can do things that are not peace loving: make a negative critical comment, be contrary, not cooperate, be selfish instead of thoughtful, make jokes that derail a conversation or meeting.   It is not our nature to be peace loving, it is our nature to seek our own significance and security.

Think about what these words mean: “peace loving.”  There is a deep desire to have peace, to bring about peace, to nurture peace, even if it is costly to me personally.  It means loving Jesus more than I love my own way, for He is our peace.

Often we are not peace loving because we don’t have peace ourselves. We are unhappy, discontent, angry, complaining and self-centered. We need to establish peace within so we can pursue peace without.

Peace, of course starts with God, with having good, open communication with Him, having no unconfessed sin, being filled with the Spirit. Regular confession, repentance, surrender to Him brings a growing store of peace into our lives.

Then there is peace with ourselves. How often my discontent stems from unhappiness with myself: my mistakes, my failures, lacks and shortcomings. If I don’t face these things, evaluate them biblically, confess them to God, receive His forgiveness—and then forgive myself, I will not have peace.

My discontent with myself has frequently come from unrealistic expectations of myself, looking for perfection, or a least fewer mistakes.  This is part of the natural desire to gain a sense of significance through my performance. But I need to accept the fact that I am human and therefore will make mistakes. I need to, of course, seek to do better, but must also accept that perfection will always elude me, and that my significance does not come from performance, but from God’s love for me. I need to admit my failures, forgive myself as He has forgiven me and move on.

Then there is peace with others. If I am harboring hurt, anger or a desire for revenge, then I am not going to have peace. I am not loving peace. I must have a fresh grasp of my own sinfulness (see my sin in my unforgiving attitude) and forgive others as God has forgiven me.

Having peace with God, with myself and with others will nurture my love for peace, my commitment to be a peace carrier in each situation.  I will have no need to compete, to wrench my significance from others, or to find my security in having control over the situation.

If we love God and love peace,  we can love others.

Read Part 4 >

Heavenly Wisdom Part 1

No one wants to be foolish; we’d all like to be wise, and God makes it entirely possible for all of His children to be so, if we are willing to cooperate with Him.

First He promises to give us wisdom when we ask Him for it. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

Second He describes clearly in James 3:17 what it means to be wise. We will look at this further.

Third, the Holy Spirit is constantly seeking to give us more wisdom through the Word, if we spend the time and energy to read, study and meditate on it. In Proverbs 8:34 wisdom says, “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.”

The question for us is,  “Are we cooperating with God in being wise?” The first step is to recognize our need for heavenly wisdom and ask for it. If we are confident in our own wisdom, we will not seek His.

The second step is to know what heavenly wisdom looks like. Let’s look together at the description in James and see how human ideas of wisdom match up with this.

James 3:17 says: “…the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. “

Note that at the beginning and end of this list are firm, directing, strong elements (purity, impartiality and sincerity) while in the middle are tender, merciful and gracious ones (peace loving, reasonable, submission, mercy and good fruit).

The tender parts without the firm ones will lead to mushy sentimentality and appeasement; the firm parts without the tender ones will lead to legalism and merciless demands.  We need the whole spectrum of wisdom to be at work in our lives in order to have heavenly wisdom. It is a package, we are not given the option of picking and choosing.

Note also that these elements come in a certain order “First…then…” and so on. We need to be cultivating these qualities in the proper order, not jumping to the end without having laid the foundation for doing so.

God, in His usual fashion, has provided the elements needed for the foundation of wisdom and wants to work in partnership with us in building it. He can say “be wise” because He has prepared each element of wisdom for us to take up and use.

In the following parts of this article we will look at each part of heavenly wisdom.

Read Part 2 >

The Delight of Surrender

Praise you, Lord God, for a new day, a fresh gift from your hand, steaming with potential, warm with grace, delicious with your presence. I praise you, Lord Jesus, my Good and Great Shepherd, for your provision, protection, presence and preparation of all that will come today.

Praise you for the privilege of nurturing a first love for you, of worshiping you, praising you, focusing on you, accompanying you through the day, joining you in what you are doing and checking in with you on what I should do—no sneakiness in doing what I’m not sure you would want.

I confess my sin of doing that, of ignoring you in making decisions, setting my heart on gaudy baubles of pleasure rather than on your kind eyes of wisdom. I confess my double-mindedness, my half-heartedness, my rebellion and unbelief. Forgive me for these serious, glory-stealing sins.  Help me to be open to you  in all things, so that I may live in the light of your presence, of your Truth, of your wisdom, of your grace. It is not worth it to try and do things I’d like without checking in with you; I only end up with a mouthful of gravel!

Praise be to you, Lord Jesus, for your great forgiveness, your efficacious sacrifice, your total cleansing, your persistent application of discipline and correction, your patience with me in my unbelief and rebellion. You are great, you are good, you are gracious and thereby worthy of praise, honor, worship and obedience.  May each of these stream from my being today, enlightening those around me for your glory.

 

Fulfillment: But By What Measure?

Often at the end of the day I have a nagging sense of failure. I feel as if I didn’t do enough today, that I wasn’t productive or useful.  This is my emotional perception, and I have learned that it is usually a distorted one. It is like your reflection in those curved mirrors at the carnival which show you with a tall, skinny head, a short fat body and huge feet. It is a twisting of reality.

Taking time to look at the day objectively gives us a much more realistic perspective.  When we were in language study, a time when one is reduced to the level of a 1 year old, unable even to ask where the bathroom is, I felt totally useless and unfulfilled. This wasn’t helped by a teacher who told me regularly what a terrible student I was.

The Lord helped me deal with this by having me list out all the things that I actually did in a day: I got up, had my quiet time, got dressed, brushed my teeth, had breakfast, got the kids off to school, went to class, came home, prayed through my list, spent 4 hours in study, got the kids from school, helped prepare supper, did the dishes, put the kids to bed, collapsed into bed myself, usually after getting undressed.

Most of these items I would never have counted as “accomplishments” in my life as a farmer or a tire dealer. They were things you had to do in order to get to the “real work.”

However, in reality they are accomplishments, and counting them helped me to have an objective measure of what I had done in a day—no matter how little I could say in my new language.

Now, many years later, each evening after getting into bed, I take the time to think through my day, thanking God for all the things He helped me to accomplish, big or small—as well as for the things that I was not able to accomplish, for that is in His hands, too.

This almost always changes my emotional perception of the day from a sad, melancholic view to a warm and thanks-filled one.  I then go to sleep in the positive truth that God has carried me through, used me in some way and thereby accomplished some of His great plan for the universe.

Going to sleep in the positive usually assures that I wake up with a thankful heart.  Psalm 143:8 describes this: “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.”  When I go to sleep trusting in God and His version of the day, then I wake up thinking of His unfailing love, which gives me a great start on the next day.

So don’t trust the negative emotional perception of your day that your natural self feeds you.  Learn to, in the evening, objectively think through your day and count every positive thing that comes to mind, across the whole spectrum from brushing your teeth to leading someone to the Lord. And rejoice in Him!

 

Things To Teach Our Children Part 5

<Read Part 4

Teach Our Children About The Glory of God

Three year old Nat was crying. “What’s wrong, son?”

“I can’t find the wagon to my tractor!”

“Really? I’m sorry to hear that. But I know someone who knows were it is.”

“Who?”

“God knows where it is. Let’s ask Him to help us find it.”

“OK. You pray, Daddy.”

“Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you that you are our God who knows everything. We praise you that you know where Nat’s trailer is. Please help us to find it at the right time, whether it be now, tomorrow or next week. Thank you that you will help us.”

If you lead your child in this way, you teach him about the glory of God’s character: His omnipresence, His all-seeing eyes, His loving heart, His willingness to hear and answer prayer.

When we worked this way with our own children, in the end we always found the toy, whether it was sooner or later. Then we would remind them that we’d prayed for this and that God had answered. This taught them that they could pray about everything, for God was big enough to care for them. His power, His wisdom, His knowledge, His grace, His goodness were always there and at work. They could trust Him to help in the best way as they turned to Him.

Every time Nat was frightened, from the time he could speak, he would immediately say, “Pray about this, Daddy!” He knew God was there to help. He knew we could cry out to Him.  He knew some of the glory of God.

Read Part 6 >