Walking with God

What does it take to walk with God?

Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

‎5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
‎And lean not on your own understanding;
‎6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
‎And He shall direct your paths.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart” – this could be the most difficult thing to do on a consistent, day-in, day-out basis – and it’s more than it appears on the surface. This requires trusting that the LORD’s will and His glory are the ultimate end-game, motivated by love and his desire for us to become more like Christ. This motiviation, this desire for our Christlikeness, is only part of the equation for His directing – making straight, leading, making smooth – our path – our way of life, way of living.

The equally important half of the equation is that we are to acknowledge Him in all our ways – our path, direction, manners, way of living, and moral character. Acknowleging Him is more than giving lip service. This word means to know by experience, to percieve, to recognize. Our life (“way”) should be such that other people can percieve, experience, and know God by experiencing Him – his characteristics, his attributes – in our lives.

The marriage of these two parts of the equation put us in a place to walk in the paths God has directed – made straight and smooth. Our failure is engaging our own minds and our own understanding when

1) things are going well – thinking we had anything to do with it.. It might be intentional, it might be subconsiously, but we begin to tell God, “thanks, but I’ve got this…” and lean on our own understanding.It also

2) thing aren’t going well. We start trying to understand why. Instead we need to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart…” God has a plan. God loves us enough to allow circumstances that aren’t pleasant. Think of Jonah. God had to get through to Jonah and he was willing put all the other men on the same boat as Jonah in jeopardy as he brought the storms on Jonah.

Walking with God doesn’t mean level paths and flowers. Somtimes it can be a difficult and seemingly dangerous journey – but as we learn to trust him with ALL our heart, we aren’t moved or intimidated by our surrounding circumstances.

Are you fluent?

I was on a flight today from Denver to DFW and was blessed enough to get an upgrade. I sat in 4a (the window seat) when a gentleman got on the flight behind me with his two girls, I later figured out were his daughters.I’d guess these girls were 6 and 10 years old or so. Not adults by any means.

He sat next to me and the two girls sat across the isle from their father. As they spoke to each other I was amazed at how easily and effortlessly they flowed in and out of English and Spanish, back and forth, with no hesitation or pause. One or two sentences would be in one language and then – while continuing the same thought – the next one or three sentences would be the other language. It was as if their life just “carried on” as the conversation with their father would change from one language to another.

It was a really beautiful thing.

As I walked up the jet way after we landed, I began to wonder how fluent I was in the language of my Heavenly Father.

Am I able to carry on my life – do what I need to do – be that taking my son to Lacrosse practice, or making a phone call for work, or washing the dishes after dinner – and fluently and carelessly go back and forth between the language of my life adn the language of my Heavenly Father?

John 10:27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

After Jesus was transfigured (Matt 17, Mark 9, Luke 9) God himself said of Jesus – “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!”

Do I hear?

Do I follow?

How fluent am I? How fluent are you? Let’s discuss.

Running After Papa…

Molded Images

Why did God command Israel not to make any molded images for themselves?

Isreal has been freed from Egypt.  God has met wth Moses and given him what we call the Ten Commandments.  While he’s gone, the Isrealites go back to what they know – remember they’ve spent 400 years in Egypt where there were gods-o-plenty and graven images everywhere.  They have Aaron make a golden calf and start worshipping it as if it was God.  Moses comes down after convincing the LORD not to destroy them all and breaks the stone tables God had written in. Here we see the LORD renewing his covenant with Isreal where he makes the following statement:

Ex 34:17 (NKJV) “You shall make no molded gods for yourselves.”

Exodus 20:3 – one of the ten commandments – commands Israel to have no other gods before the LORD.  Perhaps they were just making an image of what they would call the LORD so they could see it and worship it.  This time the LORD is a bit more specific.  He didn’t want them to make ANY image – of him or otherwise – to bow down to and worship.

Why?

The Lord put in my heart when I read this passage that He doesn’t want any image of him, because he doesn’t want you or me or Israel to put him in a box.  When I define God by the finite things I know, I limit Him in what I can receive from him or what He wants to do either IN me or THROUGH me.  He wants to remain “undefined” (sort of) in that I cannot imagine his form or ability.  He wants me to understand his nature and his character because he wants me to trust him and know that He loves me and is for me, even though I can’t get the my feeble, finite mind around his unlimited, unimaginable, unconceivable-by-the-human-mind essence and power.

So Papa I repent of every imagination and conception I have of you.  Forgive me for trying to define who you are and what you will do.  Open my eyes to see your hand at work in my life and in the lives of those around me and enlargen my faith to walk more obediently to your beckoning.  I believe Lord, help my unbelief.  I don’t want to serve a God I can understand.  I want to worship the God who AWES me with his mighty, miraculous works and displays of greatness that are “exceedingly abundantly more than I can think or imagine.”  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Running After Papa…

God has a plan

Reinhard Bonnke spoke at my church this weekend.  During his talk, I wrote down just one statement.  Four simple words.   Find out what they were by reading my Examiner.com article…

If I believe God is personally interested in my life, then how I live my life is much more in a state of dependency.

I sometimes forget the very life-impacting point of those four words… God – has – a – plan.  God’s plan for my life is planned in every detail.

God is not surprised by any circumstance that comes into my life.  God – is – NOT – caught – off – guard.  Let that sink in….

God is not caught off guard or surprised just because I am.  That is very reassuring.  It allows me to trust Him more.

I’m in sin? How did that happen?

Genesis 20 1 And Abraham journeyed from there to the South, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur, and stayed in Gerar. 2 Now Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.  3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, “Indeed you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” 4 But Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, “Lord, will You slay a righteous nation also? 5 Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she, even she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and innocence of my hands I have done this.”

6 And God said to him in a dream, “Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now therefore, restore the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”
8 So Abimelech rose early in the morning, called all his servants, and told all these things in their hearing; and the men were very much afraid. 9 And Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? How have I offended you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? You have done deeds to me that ought not to be done.” 10 Then Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you have in view, that you have done this thing?”

So check this out… Abraham’s actions brought Abimelech and his whole kingdom to the point of great sin unknowingly. But Abimelech really didn’t do anything wrong!  He was deceived by Abraham and Sarah and he acted with a righteous heart and of upright integrity!

A few chapters earlier, God punished Pharaoh and all his family for the same thing (Genesis 12).  It was a result of being lied to and deceived by Abraham and Sarah.  Pharaoh even gave Abraham tons of money and really took care of him, but yet he and his whole family were plagued.

Why? These people didn’t have a choice to be in sin or not in sin?  They just woke up one day, some probably didn’t even know what transpired, and BAM! They are in sin with God and/or plagued with great plagues (Gen 12:17).

This begs the question: Am I in sin, even though I am upright in my integrity and acting with a pure heart, because of the choice or action of others?

In this instance, God was gracious by withholding Abimelech and Sarah, and God even warned Abimelech and gave him the choice to continue down this path that leads to destruction, or choose the right path of life.

Abraham acted out of fear and it put tons of innocent people into sin.  This begs a second question: Have I put others in sin without them knowing because of the choices I have made?

How does one correct that or guard against it?  In each instance Abraham acted out of his own fear and reasoning.  He did not trust God’s plan because he did not understand nor see God’s plan.  Therein is the hard part – how does one walk daily in a plan that I cannot see or understand?

Trust… Faith… These are the keys… These are HARD!  I know this – I can trust HIM.  God is trustworthy and has my best interest in mind – even when He’s having to work through the tough circumstances and consequences of my own and other people’s actions and choices.

Running After Papa…

Choices

“Choices, Choices, Choices…” They have costs. What really happened when Aaron made the golden calf?

Exodus 32:25-26 (NKJV)

25 Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him.

The scene is that while Moses is up on the mountain getting the 10 commandments from the Lord, the people of Israel begin to fall back on what they knew, instead of waiting on the Lord.

Remember, these people had spent 400 years in Egypt where there were gods-o-plenty and all in graven form. We’re pretty quick to judge the Israelites in how quickly they worshiped a golden calf, but reading the text, they wanted a graven image of the Lord so they could worship it.

Think about it, they’ve been summoned to this mountain and told not to touch it lest they die (Ex 19:12) and Moses has been up there for who knows how long. Moses had been their leader and their visible picture or pointer to the Lord. Verse 1 says that the people did not know what had become of Moses, so naturally, they want and are looking for that visible pointer, that image, so they can worship the Lord.

I’m not justifying what happened, I’m just believing that I’m not that different. When I’m in a dry place, I go back to what I know – back to what’s worked before – back to what’s familiar.

The word translated as “unrestrained” in the NKJV (v25) is the Hebrew word ‘para‘ (pay-rah). While it is clearly defined as “be out of control, i.e. have a mob or group have no restraint in activities, implying open defiance of a known standard or authority,” another one of its definitions means “ignore, disregard, i.e. pay no attention or give no serious thought to proper actions or response.

OK. That second definition got me. I’m not normally an “out of control” kind of guy, but I certainly have been guilty of paying no attention or given no serious thought to proper actions or response… and much more frequently that I probably can remember…

God clearly said “make no graven images of me.” (Ex 20:4) The mob clearly chose to disregard that command when they asked Aaron to make them an image of the Lord. Aaron clearly chose to ignore that command when he fed and enabled the mob’s mentality. That was a bad choice – in both cases. These were costly choices. They caused all of Israel to sin against the Lord. Ultimately it caused great sorrow to the Lord and Israel; as well as death of over 3000 men; and a plague on the entire nation of Israel.

Moses, after interceding for their very existence with the Lord, then goes down to straighten out the matter. He asks a simple question. “Who is on the Lord’s side?” From that nation, only one tribe comes forward – the tribe of Levi. Each was faced with a choice.

At this point, the Levites have not been named as the priests or keepers of the Tabernacle. That doesn’t come until Numbers 1. These are just a group of men who chose to stand against the crowd and stand with the Lord. It was a costly choice. They were then called on to kill their own brothers and relatives in judgment and upholding of God’s commands.

I wonder if this is why the Levitical tribe was chosen to be the priests in Israel?

I guess in summary,

  1. I cannot be so quick to fault the Israelites. I too have been guilty of going back to what I know. God wants and is taking me continually to new places; new places of trusting Him, new places of waiting on Him, new places of seeking Him. I have to choose to keep moving forward – into the fresh – into the new – into the unknown.
  2. I have been too often guilty of reacting and not giving serious consideration to what the proper and Godly response to a given situation should be. I have to choose to respond with proper, Godly responses and not react in the midst of the moment.
  3. Sometimes choosing to be on the Lord’s side is lonely, gut-wrenching, and bloody. “Choose you this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” (Josh 24:15) begins to carry a little more weight. I choose to serve Him… whatever the cost.

Daddy, help me to make good choices – even when they are hard and result of the choice could mean standing alone, or getting bloody. Give me strength each moment to choose to be on Your side. Help me to walk in being the son you have created me and adopted me to be – standing for everything that represents You and Your goodness and character. Help me to choose to respond. Give me the fortitude to consider how You want me to respond and not how I want to respond. Give me strength today to choose the fresh, the new, the unknown in my relationship with You today.

Running After Papa…

The Artist

We all know that if 3 artists paint the same picture, they will all 3 look very different, because of the natural giftings and interpretation of the artists.

Exodus 26

The Walls of the Tabernacle

It’s interesting as you read Exodus 26 that God has a very specific structure – or architecture, if you like – on HOW the tabernacle was to be built, but yet He left room for the creativity of the individual – the artisan – in places of the construction. For example, God very specifically defines the length, width, type and colors of materials, numbers of panels, connective and mounting procedures for the various walls – as well as how many layers of walls and in what order, but left the interpretation of “with artistic designs of cherubim you shall weave them.” (Ex 26:2 and Ex 26:31)

We all know that if 3 artists paint the same picture, they will all 3 look very different, because of the natural giftings and interpretation of the artists.

God’s tabernacle was very specifc in design. God’s tabernacle was very specific in structure. God’s tabernacle was very specific in function. But God left the “interface” to the community – how it was viewed and presented – to the creativity He instilled in its artisans.

You are an artist.

I have to believe God has used the Mosaic Tabernacle as a picture for our lives. He has defined a structure, an “architecture” for our lives, but has left the interface to our community to the creativity He instilled in us. This is the beauty of our individual testimonies. No two stories are the same… on purpose! Our job is to weave the tapestry with our story. God’s responsibilty is to use that tapestry to engage others and minister to others.

The Mercy Seat

Exodus 16:34 “You shall put the mercy seat upon the ark of the Testimony in the Most Holy.”

I love the way the Hebrew word is translated as the “mercy seat”. In looking up the origin of the word, it means “atonement cover” or “a central place where sins are forgiven.”

The connotation is that it is a separate place, a place specific for the purposes of atonement. Atonement is just a $2 word that means (according to Webster’s) “the reconciliation (to restore to harmony) of God and mankind through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.”

Some of the walls of the tabernacle were made with fibers and woven. Some of the walls were made from animals. Ex 26:7 says to use goat’s hair. It is unclear if that’s the skin of the goat with the hair intact, or if that’s the goat’s hair woven into cloth. But Ex 26:14 is very clear that two other layers are made by the skin of rams dyed red, and the skin of badgers. That implies that there were LOTS of animals killed in order to fashion together coverings for the tents. With the death of those animals, much blood was shed – I suspect that’s one of the reasons the rams skins were dyed red – to remind the Isrealites of the blood that was shed to make the covering.

Back to the “mercy seat”. One of the definitions is “atonement cover”. Are you starting to get draw a connection here? This mercy seat – this atonement cover – was a foreshadowing of what Christ’s blood would do for us… cover our sins. The death of Jesus – the sacrifice of the Lamb of God (John 1:29) – covered our sins and reconciled us back to the Father; back to right standing as Sons and Daughters of the Most High.

The cross is the central place where sins are forgiven (our other definition of the mercy seat.) Only the cross covers the sins of my past, my present and my future in order to reconcile – to restore back to harmony – my life with God. Salvation – willingly yielding control of every part of my life to the lordship of Jesus Christ – is a one-time event. When my submission is authentic, I only need to do this once. However, transformation is an ongoing process. I have, I do, and I will screw up – hopefully it will become fewer and fewer times as I journey. Regardless, when I screw up, it doesn’t take long for Daddy to draw that to my attention and I am quick to repent. This is where I go to the mercy seat again, not for salvation, but to ask forgiveness. Remember, the mercy seat is the central place where sins are forgiven. 1 John 1:9 tells me that God is faithful to forgive me if I ask him and James 5:16 tells me that I can be healed of my sin in the confidence and prayer of another brother in Christ.

The mercy seat in the Mosaic temple was a physical and literal place. It was a place where animals were sacrificed to atone for the sins of individuals, families and the nation. When Christ died for all those sins and so many more, the temple walls were ripped from top to bottom by God himself to signify that the mercy seat was no longer behind the veil. Jesus is the mercy seat. Jesus is in my life. However, I still like visible remembrances. So in my life, I draw on a physical mercy seat – sometimes its over the phone with a brother, sometimes its in my room with my wife, sometimes it’s at a table at the local diner.

How do both these relate?

When I am free from the bondages of sin in my life – because I go to the mercy seat – I am free to be the artistic interface to my community presenting – in my own unique perspective and my own unique testimony – all that God has done,  is doing, and will do IN  me because of the mercy seat!

Running After Papa…

Eternity Is

Have you ever thought about eternity?  What does eternity actually mean?  How do you define it?

A couple of times this last weekend, Papa has brought up the thought through two totally unrelated speakers at two totally unrelated events.  At both places, within 1 day of each other, two speakers – both of whom I know are incredibly Godly and right hearing men of God – said almost the exact same thing.

The thought for me is based in something like this:  “Because God created time, He is not bound by it.  God knows every detail of the past, every detail of the present and every detail of the future, all the time.”

If you let your mind wander down that thought for a little while, you might snap a synapse or two – like I have.  This is so incredibly hard to comprehend because we, as humans, are 100% bound by sequential time.

As I’ve mulled over three comments from these two men for the last few days, I’ve come away with three primary – and life changing thoughts:

First thought from David Terry:

Ephesians 1:4 says that God “… chose us before the creation of the world…” (NIV).  It is possible that before there time is when God chose me, chose you, chose us.  When he put together His team, he said,  “Let’s see… I’ll take Abraham, Issac, Jacob, David, (insert your favorite OT hero), Paul, Barnabas, Peter, John, Aquila and Prescilla, Billy Graham, Martin Luther, and (insert YOUR name here)…  Yep, that’s who I want on my team.”  Does that blow your mind?

My takeaway: God chose me for His team.  Am I playing  or sitting on the bench?

Second thought from Marcus Brecheen:

Because God isn’t bound by time and knows everything about our past, present and future, He is able to speak into us words of life that can (if he desires) reveal the future to us, but more so He can reinterpret the past and redefine our present situation. (Thank you Pastor Marcus for this insight!)  This might come through reading, through prayer, through a word from a friend or a stranger.  It might come in worship.  It might come in a sermon. 

My takeaway: God is speaking to us so much more than we are listening to Him.

Third thought from David Terry:

I am never more eternal than I am right now.  Eternity doesn’t begin when I die.  God chose me before the world was created.  He knew me then.  He knows me now.  He’ll know me forever. 

My takeaway:  Eternity doesn’t begin.  Eternity isIf I’m living in eternity right now, is what I’m doing – right now – eternal? Ahh!  That IS the question and a good measure of my life activities.  “Is what I’m doing right now making a difference for eternity?”

Running After Papa…

Faith: What is it?

Yesterday I explored how faith affects those outside of the one who has it.  So what is it?  What is faith?

Since the majority of the occurrences of the word “faith” in the New King James translation of the Bible are found in the New Testament, I looked up the word in the Greek.  The Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek defines faith as:

πίστις (pistis)1. what can be believed, a state of certainty with regard to belief (Ac 17:31); 2. trust, believe to a complete trust (Mk 11:22; Ac 24:24; Eph 4:29 v.r.); 3. trustworthiness, the state of complete dependability (Ro 3:3); 4. Christian faith, belief in the Gospel (Ro 1:8; Eph 2:8; Gal 1:23; Jude 3); 5. doctrine, the content of what is to be believed (Gal 1:23; Jude 3), for another interp, see prior; 6. promise, pledge to be faithful (1Ti 5:12)

From those definitions… “a state of certainty with regard to belief; believe to a complete trust; the state of complete dependability.”  In a previous post, I discuss how it is that our mind is to our belief and faith.  (Faith & Doubt: Read it here.) In this post, I want to build on yesterday’s post and the earlier post to explore “what” it is.

”3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” (2 Peter 1:3-9 NKJV)

Faith is the beginning. It is “a state of certainty with regard to” who God is; who Jesus is; who Holy Spirit is; what each is able to do.  Faith is the beginning.  This is why Peter starts with faith.  Without faith, there is nothing to build on.  We cannot have virtue (excellence), knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love if we don’t start with faith.

Faith inspires God to move on our behalf. In the gospels, 9 of the 11 times Jesus said “your faith” (as NKJV translates is) it was the reason he moved in the lives of others whether he was healing the sick, saving a soul, or giving sight to the blind.

Faith moves others to action. There are dozens and dozens of references in the rest of the New Testament that tell how “your faith” comforts, grows, is tested, is genuine, is received, glorifies God, builds others faith, etc.   As we saw yesterday, it affects others.

Running After Papa…

Faith: It matters to others…

I love the story in Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26 of the men who brought their paralyzed friend to be healed by Jesus.  Luke makes it fairly clear that they weren’t going for the show or to watch Jesus, they were going with specific intent of their friend walking home.  Luke describes how, because of the crowd, they couldn’t even get their friend in the door, so they climb on the roof and lower him in his bed from the roof to get him in front of Jesus.

Let your mind run with that picture for just a moment or two and you’ll begin to understand this was no easy task.  Climbing over crowds, getting up on a roof, hoisting a paralyzed man – let’s say conservatively he was 130 pounds of dead weight – up onto the roof without dropping or dumping him, removing part of the roof big enough for a bed to be lowered down, lowering this same 130 pounds down being careful to keep it level on all corners as not to drop their paralyzed friend on top of Jesus and the crowd in the house, etc., etc., etc.

Luke 5:20 When He saw their faith, He said to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.Luke 5:24b …He said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.

Make a mental note that it was not  just the paralytics faith in play here – in fact, it’s not clear if his faith had anything to do with it at all.  The point is this:  The friends’ faith played a significant role in the complete healing (both inner and physical) of the once paralyzed man.

Matthew 13:54-58 and Mark 6:1-6 recount the time when Jesus went back to where he grew up, only this time in full ministry mode.  As he began teaching, they were astonished at his teaching and couldn’t believe it was the same carpenter’s son who grew up here – to the point that they were offended at him.

Matthew 13:58 Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

Can you imagine limiting Jesus?  The community’s faith – or lack thereof – squelched the move of God in their midst leaving the sick, sick; the oppressed, oppressed; those in bondage, in bondage.

Last example (for today)…  Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 tell the story of the Jesus healing the Centurion’s servant.  The Centurion so believed in Jesus’ healing power that he knew all Jesus had to do was to speak it and it would be done.  The Centurion understood authority.  He knew Jesus didn’t need to see the servant, or speak to him, or touch him, he only need to speak and it would happen.  The amazing part is that the Centurion wasn’t a Jew.  He didn’t grow up in the synagogues and under the tutelage of the priests.

Matthew 8:10-13 When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! … 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.

The interesting phrase in this one is “as you have believed.”  As the Centurion believed, so the servant was healed. I wonder if that why I don’t see miracles of faith sometimes in my life and the lives of those around me.  Has my faith limited the move of God in my life and in those around me?

My faith isn’t just mine.  My faith can directly affects others.  My faith can bring healing and freedom to others, or it can squelch the move of God in others.  Your faith isn’t just yours.  It affects others.  Your faith can bring healing and freedom to others, or it can squelch the move of God in others.

Heavy thought…

I think tomorrow I’m going to start studying on how to grow my faith…. because it matters to others…

Running After Papa…