Archive for November, 2008

Fifth in the series Get close to God

runnin_on_empty100How long can you go without food or drink before you start feeling weak?  Whether it’s one day or 40, you’ll eventually run out of energy.  Starting our day without the Bread of Life or Living Water and continuing without walking with the Spirit will also drain us dry, rendering us ineffective as Christ followers. 

A soldier would be foolish to leave his battle gear behind but that’s what we do when we fail to put on the full armor of God.  (Ephesians 6:10-17)  The shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit (word of God) can only be used if we have spent time in prayer and in the scriptures.  Since “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil,” preparation is vital!

I once heard a pastor say, “quit trying to live the Christian life and start training instead.”  An athlete does not succeed without vigorous daily workouts and conditioning.   Getting a spiritual snack at church once or twice a week just won’t cut it.  As the Israelites had to gather the manna every morning, we need to rest, reflect, and be refreshed daily in the presence of our Lord to have the power to face every challenge or simply to be aware of opportunities we might otherwise miss if we just try to wing it on our own strength.  In Luke 5:16 we read that “Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.”  In the next chapter he went up to a mountain and stayed up all night in prayer before he chose his twelve disciples the next day from out of the large crowd of followers.  If Jesus had to get away often to a secluded place to meet with his father, how much more do we need to?

OK, is that enough illustrations for you?  Maybe you already know how important the morning quiet time is but you’ve been there and done that, and haven’t experienced much benefit from it, or not enough to motivate you to make it a daily habit.  After all, we find time to do the things we want to do, right?  I struggled for many years with inconsistency, until I finally got so fed up with my lukewarm and lifeless existence about two years ago that I decided to find out once and for all if God actually could be known personally.  I now cherish the morning watch so much I have a hard time keeping it under an hour. 

“Ever thirsting is the secret of never thirsting”

Yes, the wisdom of Andrew Murray strikes again.  He goes on to say, “It is only into the thirst of an empty soul that the streams of living water flow.”

But you may ask, “What if I’m not that thirsty for God or willing to make the effort to get to know him?  Then I will ask you to think of a situation when you didn’t want to do something, but later you were glad you did.  We don’t always like to do the things that are good for us.  Some times we don’t see the benefits right away.  Let me give you one more illustration.  When I first tried to play a guitar it sounded horrible.  The strings buzzed and my fingers couldn’t find the right places quick enough.  But I stuck with it until it finally began to sound more like music than fingernails on a chalkboard.  Consider a skill that you’ve mastered.  It didn’t happen overnight, did it?  Persistence had to be exercised and instructions followed.  The same holds true for pursuing a close relationship with our heavenly Father.

I want to hear from you about what your quiet time looks like and how you stay in touch with God throughout the day.  Please comment below.  While there is no one right way, we can always pick up a few good tips from others who have taken the Lord up on this challenge and found it to be true:

“O taste and see that the Lord is good!”  Psalm 34:8

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In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  (Thessalonians 5:18)

Giving thanks is not just a command.  It reminds us of the good things we have in this life, which changes our perspective and disposition.  Human nature tends to dwell on bad and difficult things, and takes for granted all that God has blessed us with. 

When I take in the images of thousands of men, women, and children lining roads for miles who have no homes or food because of cyclones and earthquakes, I realize how fortunate I am.  I forget how safely I can go to church and freely share my faith in public when many on the other side of the globe are being persecuted and killed for trying to do the same.  I didn’t appreciate my cozy house with plumbing and carpet until I went to the Dominican Republic on a mission trip and saw people carrying water every morning to their shacks with dirt floors.

I’m not bringing all this up to make us feel guilty, but rather for me to keep a proper perspective on just how good I have it.

I recently started to write down some of the good things that I have, including my wife, kids, job, health, and so on until I had a list of over forty items! Then I remembered many specific ways the Lord has come through for me during the last few weeks.  It’s amazing what that little exercise did for my spirit.

I wrote this list on a narrow card that now serves as a book marker in my Bible that I see often and add to.  On the other side of the card I have been writing down verses that I come across on the subject of thanksgiving.

I would like to send you one of these cards (without my list) that I have made and printed.  There are lines for you to make your entries.  There is no charge, it doesn’t cost much anyway, and it will encourage me to know it has helped others.  Just reply in the comments below with your name and address (if I don’t have it already) and I’ll get it out to you.  That information will not be seen on this site or be sent to anyone.

By the way, I’m also thankful for you, my readers!

Fourth in the series Get close to God

 

vine-and-branches1841“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

I think most of us Christians agree that we can’t save ourselves from eternal destruction in Hell.  The only way for sinful man to ever be allowed in the presence of a pure and holy God is through acceptance of the sacrifice Jesus paid when he took our place on the cross, achieving for us a righteous standing before our Maker.

But after trusting God for our salvation, so many of us think that it’s all up to us now to obey and serve him.  As Andrew Murray explains in abide in Christ, “The idea they have of grace is this-that their conversion and pardon are God’s work, but that now, in gratitude to God, it is their work to live as Christians, and follow Jesus.  There is always the thought of a work that has to be done, and even though they pray for help, still the work is theirs.  They fail continually, and become hopeless; and the despondency only increases the helplessness.”

Is God just a life raft or is he a close friend? 

God doesn’t save us and then say, “OK, show me what you can do now!”  The reason we try to do it on our own is that we have just enough natural abilities that lead us to think we are self-sufficient, so we tend to only call on God when we really need him.   My slogan used to be “Do your best and trust God for the rest.”  I’m beginning to see that I must trust him first .  Andrew goes on to say “Our doing and working are but the fruit of Christ’s work in us.  It is when the soul becomes utterly passive, looking and resting on what Christ is to do, that its energies are stirred to their highest activity, that we work most effectually because we know that He works in us.”

The vine doesn’t have to try and bear the fruit-it just happens when the right combination of sun, water, and nutrients are brought together.  The same happens with us when we let the Son, living water, and the life-sap of the Holy Spirit transform us into living examples of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  (Galatians 5:22.)  Compassion for lost souls is also kindled, “bearing fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold,”  (Mark 4:20.)  Trying to produce this fruit on our own is no more possible than a branch surviving on it’s own apart from the vine.

Pastor Murray sums it up by saying, “All the branch possesses belongs to the vine.  The branch does not exist for itself, but to bear fruit that can proclaim the excellence of the vine.”

We need the power of God just as much to be his followers as we did to save us.  But it’s not as easy as saying “help me, God!” a few times a day.  We need to learn how to abide and remain in Christ, and let our Father, the gardener, prune and discipline us, as well as cultivate and nourish us to be vibrant channels of his love and grace!