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Meditating on God’s Attributes

I chose to meditate on the nature and attributes of God as these are two topics that I find very interesting. The first thing that came to mind was that God is spirit. That means that he is invisible, incorporeal and that there is a bit of mystery there. Although God is spirit, he is not impersonal. In fact, as humans what makes us, us is our spirit. I am me because of my spirit, not simply because of my body. In studying the spiritual disciplines, I have learned that I discipline the physical to allow my spirit to connect with God’s spirit.

I also thought about God being self-existent and what that means. It means that he doesn’t need me. He doesn’t need anyone. He doesn’t need us for his glory and he doesn’t need us to carry out his ministry, but he wants us for both. I had not really considered how powerful the fact that God doesn’t need me but he wants me is. That made me realize that serving as a minister for God should not only be done out of duty, but it should be done out of desire.

God existed before time and will continue after it. He is eternal. He has literally seen it all so when I think he can’t possibly know what I’m going through or what’s best for me in a given situation, I need to remind myself of this. People, including myself, can’t comprehend the idea of ‘before time’ because we ourselves are time bound. Thinking about time existing in God instead of God existing in time was one of the most rewarding thoughts I’ve ever had which did not provide a satisfactory answer. In ministry and in life I need to remember that God’s perspective, his timing, is perfect and has reason.

God is unchanging or immutable. He is who he is, always has been and always will be. As I was pondering this statement, I realized that is almost the exact opposite of who we are as people. We are always changing and growing. I find that interesting since we are made in his image, yet I guess since we are finite and he is infinite there must be some things in which we are opposite or at least drastically different from him. I remember a conversation that occurred at a Bible study. Some people claimed that our prayers changed heaven while others pointed out the immutability of God. In thinking on this attribute, I realized God is immutable and his character does not change, however, he reveals himself to us along with his will and when we pray it is we who change. Just because God knows something before it happens does not mean free will or the power of prayer do not exist. In fact, is unchangeableness is what makes prayer so powerful. We can rely on him being who he is.

The last thing I want to discuss is God’s transcendence. In Isaiah we are told that God’s ways are far above our ways. Jesus begins the model prayer by pointing to God’s transcendence in heaven. Thankfully, though we can never fully understand God, he has condescended and revealed himself to us. His word is so rich that we could spend multiple lifetimes studying it and never fully exhaust its depths.  Yet, it only scratches the surface of who God is. He uses it to communicate himself to us in a way that our inferior minds can understand.

Thinking over these and several other attributes of God made me realize that I have been thinking way too small of my God. I forget that he is the master of the universe that he is awesome beyond words. Life is all about perspective, and in my life I want to keep perspective on just how big my God really is. I can accomplish this partly by meditating on his nature and attributes more often as he is inexhaustable in who he is.

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Providence

During my sophomore year in college I drove over an hour one way on empty country highways from where I lived to where I worked and went to college. This was before iPods. I had worn myself out with the music CDs I owned, and I greatly disliked listening to the radio in the morning because all of the stations had DJs talking instead of music playing. And to be quite honest, I didn’t care at all what they were talking about. During these long drives, I started contemplating my future. I was almost completely done with my basics and needed to choose a major, but I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. After a few months of kicking around ideas, I realized I needed some help.

My parents took me to church about once every three months when I was growing up, but I never ‘heard’ the gospel. I was pretty sure I believed in God, but I didn’t really know anything about him. So during these months of contemplation and figuring out I needed some help, I also realized that I didn’t know who God was. I remember one day during my drive saying, “God if you’re there and you want me to get involved in the church, I need you to take care of it because I don’t have any idea where to start.”

A few months after that day I moved to the city where my college was located. The very weekend that I moved into my new apartment, God placed a wonderful girl by the name of Amber in my life. A friend and I went out bowling after we got all my stuff moved in. We ran into Amber at the bowling alley. I ended up with her phone number. I called to ask her on a date and she asked me if I would like to go to church with her. I was thrilled twice over.

I went to church with her that Wednesday, and then to dinner with her that Thursday. After a few weeks of attending the church on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings and Wednesday nights, I realized I had never heard words with this kind of power before. I told her I wanted to go to that church because there was something different going on there. I began attending the church regularly and made some wonderful friends in the college ministry. A little over eight months later I accepted Christ in that very church, and that was just the beginning.

I moved away to go to Seminary.  Ironically it was difficult to find a good Bible preaching church while working on my Master’s.  A friend from the college group would get the audiocassettes of sermons from my old church and when I would come back to town to visit my parents, she would deliver them to me.  The pastor, Alan, was my Bible teacher and mentor through these tapes, even though we had only ever had one private conversation.  Of course that conversation did result in my salvation, so.

When I had been gone for around ten years, my father got sick so I moved back. A few years after I moved back, my old college minister offered me a position as a preteen associate at his new church.  After serving there for one year, the pastor who lead me to Christ almost 15 years earlier asked me if I would come be his youth minister. I have now been serving in that capacity for two years and I have the wonderful opportunity of meeting with him every week to be mentored, face to face this time.  And all because God brought a girl into a bowling alley on the night I moved into a new apartment and she gave me her number.  If that’s not providence, I don’t know what is.

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Blessed are the…

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Matt 5:2  Lord teach me. As I open your word, speak to my heart.

Matt 5:3  Blessed – Lord I am blessed beyond measure. You have given me more than I deserve with your free gift of salvation. I pray that you help me express this blessedness and you as the blesser to the world. The poor in spirit what does it mean to be poor in spirit? Is Jesus using this term because of who he is talking to, the regular people and not the high in spirit religious rulers. Humility seems to be the key here. Lord, teach me humility. Let not my pride get in the way of becoming more like you.

5:4  Father, we all mourn. Some more than others, I lift up my friend Adam to you Lord, you know the hurt he has been through, the loss he has suffered.  I pray that you would bring him comfort father.  A comfort that only you can bring.

5:5  Lord you know the darkness in me.  You know how I try to be gentle, loving and compassionate towards others. But you also know how I far too often fail at doing so.  Lord, take the edges, the anger, and the self-righteousness away. Remind me of how your son lived his life on this earth. He was gentle, meek, loving and compassionate. Help me to be the same.

5:6  What is righteousness? God I know I am righteous in Christ, but I need you to teach me just what that means. Help me as I grow to be more like Jesus. Start a fire in me for righteousness that cannot be put out. When I am indecisive about what righteousness is, bring to my mind Jesus’ life and the manner in which he lived it.

5:7  In so many ways and in far too many areas our world is near to being void of mercy.  I know that I sometimes relish in the lack of mercy offered to those who are evil, murderous dictators, serial killers and the like, but Lord I pray that you would remind me of mercy.  Moreover, I pray that you would cause a revival to occur and that mercy would play a key part in it and would spread throughout the world.

5:8  The pure in heart probably do a better job of reflecting Jesus to the world than anybody else.  I pray, Lord, that you would cause more of your people to strive to be pure in heart.  Help us to take a stand against the little acceptances we make, in the movies we watch, the things we read, the jokes we tell and all other areas.  Only with your help can anyone be pure of heart.

5:9  I struggle with being a peacemaker. So much of life seems like a fight for something and especially when it comes to ‘religion’ or more precisely conservative Christianity, it seems like the world is just itching to pick a fight.  Not all battles are worth entering, but I struggle to balance the peacemaker in me when the innocent are harmed or when godly values are being attacked and mocked.  Lord, grant me discernment in these situations to know how to best stand for you and seek peace at the same time.

5:10  In America I feel persecuted because the ten commandments have been removed from many public buildings.  Although this is something that needs to be addressed, Father, you know those who are truly suffering from unimaginable persecution all over the world.  I pray that you would give them strength, comfort and that you would help them persevere for your glory.

5:11  Elsewhere in your word you told me that my enemy is not flesh, but the powers and principalities that I war with. I pray that you help Christians across the world realize that the insults and falsehoods hurled at us by other people are propagated by the current ruler of this world, Satan. Remind me oh Lord that it is better to be pleasing and obedient to you than to give into the verbal persecution of the world.

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Thinking about Psalm 119

img_1364In my reading of Psalm 119, what really stuck out to me was the longing with which the Psalmist desired God’s word. His description of continually seeking God with his whole heart made me reflect on my own longing or lack thereof for spending time in God’s word. The difference between my experience and that of the Psalmist cut me to the quick. I want to want God’s word. I know when I spend time in his word, be it reading, meditating, memorizing, or studying, I grow closer to him. But there is the soul wrenching yearning in this Psalm that I do not often feel.  I have had seasons before where I felt it, a burning fire in my loins to spend more time in the Scriptures, but it is the exception and not the norm.  I have often chided myself for this lack of desire, and though I have read Psalm 119 several times over the past 15 years, not until I meditated on it did it strike me that the Psalmist follows up his cry of wholeheartedly seeking after God with the fact that he has kept the Lord’s statutes.  I have been coming at this from the wrong perspective, the cart before the horse so to speak.

I have wanted the longing, the desire, the passion for God’s word to fuel my interactions with it and my pursuit of him.  What I learned from thinking through this Psalm is that just the opposite is true, to begin with.  My time with God’s word is what will fuel my desire for seeking him through it. Once I have begun spending time with God’s word, my desire for his word will grow resulting in more time spent in it and with him.  The Psalmist talks about keeping God’s precepts, about following his commandments and about them being his joy, delight, comfort and hope.  The only way for him, and me, to keep God’s precepts is to first know them.  It seems a bit counterintuitive, but spending time in his word is what fans the flames of wanting to spend time in his word, which leads to his commandments being my joy, delight, comfort, and hope.

I pray that having this newfound perspective will help me in times when it seems that I don’t desire God.  Now that I have realized that I need to spend time in his word before I will want to spend time in his word, I have a new approach to dealing with my spiritual apathy when it comes.  This makes quite a bit of sense as I recently started working out again and I was really dreading it at first.  Once I got a few weeks in, I actually started looking forward to going to the gym.  It’s the breaking down of that initial barrier that seems like drudgery and thus prevents us from taking action in so many areas.  If that is true with the physical body and working out, how much more so with my spiritual pursuits.

Posted in Book Review, Uncategorized

Praying the Bible

A review of the book “Praying the Bible” by Donald S. Whitney.

 Since prayer is talking with God,  why don’t people pray more?  Why don’t the people of God enjoy prayer more?

96 pages is all it took for Dr. Whitney to change my life with one of the simplest yet most profound books I have ever read.  I have often heard it said that I should be praying the Bible, however,  no one ever taught me how.   And not to sidestep my own fault, I never really looked into it. In steps Donald Whitney’s little treasure.  And by little I in no way mean of slight value.  Invaluable in its simplicity is more like it.

He begins his book by talking about the problem, and that is that people don’t pray. He gives two main reasons: 1. people don’t pray  because they don’t feel like it.  2. when people finally do pray they “keep saying the same old things about the same old things.”

“If this mind wandering boredom describes your experience in prayer, I would argue that if you are indwelled by the Holy Spirit- if you are born again- then the problem is not you; it is your method.”

I have often felt like a louse when it comes to prayer. I desperately want to pray and spend time with my God, but my media bombarded brain ALWAYS  wanders when I try to take quiet time to pray.  This book gave me the method I needed to be able to focus my thoughts while in prayer.  I still continue to pray for the same things, the same people, the same causes and so on. But after reading this book, I now do so in an engaging way.

The method is quite simple, begin by praying the Psalms. It has been said that they are the prayer book of the Bible, and after having spent some time in them, I couldn’t agree more.  I shy away from the Psalms during my Bible reading because they seem like poetry…and well,  more poetry. There’s nothing wrong with that, but in the past I did not  often get much out of reading the Psalms. But then again, I wasn’t getting much out of my prayer life either.  I began using the method of prayer that Dr. Whitney describes in this book  and I cannot thank God enough for leading me to it.

My prayer life and therefore my relationship with the God of the universe has grown richly during the months that I have been practicing this method. In fact, it did so much for me that I have given the book away to several of my friends.  I will let Dr. Whitney explain the method in his own words.

 To pray the Bible, you simply go through the passage line by line, talking to God about whatever comes to mind as you read the text. See how easy that is? Anyone can do that.

It truly is that simple. Because this method does not involve studying, per se, all we’re doing is letting the Spirit guide us and when a word or phrase sticks out to us, we focus on it and talk to God about whatever that particular word/phrase brings to mind.

Here is an example from my own practice of this method.  I try to always pray for my five nieces and their salvation.  But now instead of feeling somewhat like a boring obligation (ya, I know that sounds bad…imagine how I feel having actually thought that before), it feels like a wellspring of life and a pleasure to pray for my nieces.  The Bible verse is in red and my prayer is in italics.

Psalm 49:7-8a

Truly no man can ransom another; 

or give to God the price of his life,

for the ransom of their life is costly

God, I know no matter what I do, I cannot save my nieces.  I know that no matter how much I learn and how much I teach them about you that the burden is on them to accept you.  I simply teach them your statutes as you have commanded.  I show them who you are and how to have a relationship with you.  But only Jesus’ death can ransom them! Lord, I praise you for sending a way for them, and for me,  to be ransomed and Father, I beg you for their salvation and I thank you for it. 

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  It is wonderful, not in and of its self, but because of the tools it provides to spur on one’s relationship with The Almighty.

 

Dr. Whitney on his book

Dr. Whitney teaching Praying the Bible at Grace Bible Church