Searching for God

Indeed, if you call out for insight   and cry aloud for understanding,
 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

Proverbs 2:3-5 images (139)

In the hurry and hustle of life, the scriptures cry out to us to take the time to seek and search for God.  This takes time and effort.  Often we fail to realize the ramifications of not spending that precious time alone with Him.  We get overcome by an emptiness that seems to make life more of a struggle.  The loads that should be lightened become heavier. The decisions feel more burdensome.  This is why the bible encourages each one of us to call out for insight.

When I spiritually counsel people, this question, always seems to come up not only for their sakes but also as a reminder to me, “have you sought God about this?” It’s a query that usually causes a mix of feelings. People frequently seek human counsel while seeking God about a particular matter.  Nevertheless, it’s a question I have to ask.  I want to know how they believe God has already directed them or where they feel he’s leading.

The scripture invites us to ask God about our every step.  He wants to be invited into every aspect of our lives. Sometimes I would think “God knows about everything anyway, so do I really have to pray about this”?   Yet, I believe that it is the action of seeking that helps us interact and connect with God on a higher level. That’s why he invites the action and actually uses “seeking” in a separate way from “prayer”.  Two different words in scripture, because these there are two different emphases.

Yet, in this particular scripture, Solomon encourages deep effort and a high level of action on our part to know God.  We are his creation, not the other way around, so it’s important to understand who he is and what his desires are for our lives.   The bible says that the heavens declare God’s identity and character, and still there is more to know.

Be Careful What You Wish For

The worst thing we can do is act while in a state of frustration. Take time to cool off. Make sure you’re being led of God and not trying to move things along in your own strength. I recall the trial of two young converts who were being persecuted by their parents for being born again

11231937 - conceptual fish temptation
11231937 – conceptual fish temptation

Here’s a little lesson from the Book of Samuel.  The worst thing we can do is act while in a state of frustration. Take time to cool off.   Make sure you’re being led of God and not trying to move things along in your own strength.  I recall the trial of two young converts who were being persecuted by their parents for being born again.  They wanted to move out of their parents’ home and get an apartment together but needed a third person to handle the rent.  Somehow they found another young girl who had recently come to the Lord.  Although this girl had a job, she also had emotional problems and really put the girls through some difficult times.  Part of their agreement was that she would take care of providing money to buy groceries. She never actually gave them money to shop, however; she always had to accompany them to the store. This sounded OK at first, but as soon as they took the groceries to the cashier, she always refused to pay, claiming she couldn’t find the money.

So my husband and I went along one day to see what was going on, and sure enough, when she got to the register, the cashier told her the cost and she did not release the money she had in her purse.  So these poor girls were stuck with this person because they wanted to be on their own so badly and wanted to get out of the persecution but ended up in a worse situation.

Sometimes we think we need or want something and we beg God to give it to us.  We’d better be sure, however, that our desires coincide with the will of God.  In 1 Samuel 8, the children of Israel not only asked for a king, they demanded one out a knee-jerk reaction to a scandal in the temple. Samuel’s sons were taking advantage of the people, and the people decided to correct the problem themselves instead of letting God correct it.

After Samuel’s sons were exposed as hypocrites, they said, “We want what everyone else has—a king,”  because they thought a change in regime would make things better.   They let this scandal affect their trust in God—who, incidentally, had done no wrong. The prophet Samuel told them they would face many hardships with a king, but they would not listen.  The point is that a king was Israel’s own solution to the problem; they did not pray to find out God’s solution.  Israel also misidentified the problem; it was not Samuel, but rather the two sons, who were not worthy of their position. Plus, Israel was ruled God, not a man.

Samuel was distressed about Israel’s request. After all, how could he not take this personally? It was his sons that were causing the trouble. The people failed to realize, however, that even though Samuel’s sons were rotten, Samuel was still God’s man and God’s representative. They’d forgotten it is the Lord who not only grants position and power, but He also takes it away when needed. He has always been the One to set up kings and then take them down.  This is why God let Samuel know “They are not rejecting you; they are rejecting me.” In essence, the people were telling God, “You cannot handle this. We’re the ones who have been hurt and we’ll decide how to fix this.” So the people stopped trusting God’s help and rejected God’s rule altogether. That is why He called their request “wickedness” in 1 Samuel 11:17.  In the end, however, God gave Israel what they asked for in 1 Samuel 8:22, but Israel’s kings caused them a lot of sorrow and eventually split the nation.

 We tend to demand that God give us what we want—right now! When one of our friends gets a new car, for example, we rush to get one ourselves. When someone we know gets married, we demand God give us a spouse, too. And when He doesn’t, we try to solve the issue ourselves.    But God is a God of order and time; He works in His time and will not be rushed. Often what we want is not what we need.

Desires can become idols and replace the will of God if we let them.  All desires are not evil, but if our methods for dealing with those desires or our frustration over not getting what we want, crosses the will of God, those same harmless desires can be deadly to our connection with the Lord.

-excerpt from How to Walk on Water: A Christian’s Survial Guide for going through Trials.

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6 Things That Will Boost Spirituality in 2017

This weekend I was at an annual family breakfast. The family passed a book around where we could write down our goals. I thought it was a novel idea, but I purposely did not put down spiritual goals, because every year, I plan all these lofty spiritual goals in January and by oh, let’s say March, reality hits me like a ton of bricks.

This weekend I was at an annual family breakfast. The family passed a book around where we could write down our goals. I thought it was a novel idea, but I purposely did not put down spiritual goals, because every year, I plan all these lofty spiritual goals in January and by oh, let’s say March, reality hits me like a ton of bricks. One year, I thought I’d complete a read-through-the-entire-bible program, and I did pretty well until about March. It all fell apart one night when I couldn’t decide whether to study my Sunday School lessons which seemed more immediate, or read five to ten chapters of Genesis because I had skipped a day or two and had to catch up to the reading plan. I couldn’t do both. So the Sunday school lesson won and it was downhill from there. After a while, I dropped off the plan.

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Year-long Bible reading plans are great if that’s the only reading you’re doing by the way. Honestly, I’m not trashing them, but the best-laid plans of mice and men…

Well, you know the rest?

This year, though, I’ve decided to focus on two spiritual goals:

1. Re-reading and studying the gospels and;
2. Begin a local bible study focusing on verse-by-verse study.

The bible study thing, I’ve been praying about for a couple of years, so it’s not a sudden move. I just believe that this year is the year. These aims are not at all what I put in the goal book either–way too much mental energy and explaining to do.

At this moment, my goal is to get past March with my goals intact. I am setting up a teaching ministry with my husband, and I guess that was a previous goal which is coming into its own this year. But, I don’t count that as 2017 goal because it’s in progress already.

Patience truly is a virtue.

The 6 Things:
God made humans ambitious. As a whole, we always strive to improve (no jokes about the lazy people you know). We want to get a little better at something, anything. So we set standards and activities that we hope will get us to the finish line.

By nature, I am a goal oriented person. I am known for getting stuff done because of my A-type personality. I tackle a multitude of little tasks like a pit bull and stay on them entire the entire project is completed. I figure as long as I am moving toward the finish line, it doesn’t matter how fast I’m going. I just want to stay on the path.

I recently woke up with I Corinthians 3 on my mind. In this chapter where Paul chastises the church for taking sides behind different favorite preachers. The Corinthian church wallowed in so much division, side-picking, popular preacher flag- waving and mudslinging that he couldn’t even speak to them on common spiritual things.

Well, since you and I don’t want that type of testimony, let me share six tips gleaned from this bible chapter that will help us boost our spirituality in 2017:

1. Refuse to focus on the size of your church. This is carnal thinking and indicates nothing. Focus instead on the truth that is coming over the pulpit and your own obedience to that message. A church should be a local assembly of sold out believers in Jesus Christ, with the salvation of others as their primary goal. Whether it’s 100 or 10, the warmth of the love of Christ is what is important.

2. Make prayer your highest priority this year. The Corinthians were not a prayerful bunch, and so they ended up arguing about preachers and who is following who, and my preacher is better than your preacher. Tragic. Try to drown out ALL such carnal noise with the serenity of quiet time alone with the Master.

“Sitting at the feet of Jesus, Oh what words I hear him say. Happy place so near and precious, may it find me there each day” (hymnal song)

3. Take time to realize that if it’s good, it’s because of God. THINK SPIRITUALLY. Everything we accomplish in the secular or spiritual world is because God allowed it to prosper. When we focus on His sovereignty over our events, our spirituality will increase, and carnality (from the sinful nature) will decrease. Carnal thinking focuses on things like personality, status, and influence; spirituality focuses on God and Him alone. Paul realized this when he told the Corinthians, “who is Paul or Apollos but preachers by whom you believed?” Both were just instruments in God’s hand. That’s spiritual thinking.

4. Ask God to give you a quality experience with Him. Experiences that will refine you and not burn you up. That is the whole point of Paul’s admonition in this chapter. He says the fire “the test” will reveal the quality of our experience. The next time you are ready to scream in 2017, think about this: it’s the hard times that make us great.

5. Recognize that God is in control. Even though things may seem out of control, understand in whose hands you’ve left the problem. We can look at due dates on bills and wonder how we’re going to meet that and not know the answer, but God knows.

6. Walk circumspectly. Be aware of where you are in your spiritual walk. I always talk about this because, lessons-learned, if I had slowed down and took better inventory of my own life, I would have avoided a lot of entanglements that were spiritual poison and from which I am still recovering. Look around you as you walk forward in God.

Have a great New Year!