Thursday, September 25, 2014

Desires for God

In light of my previous post, John Piper sums up the idea of tasting and seeing God:

“If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Taste and See!

 "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!"

Psalm 34:8 tends to be used in context of wall art for the kitchen. Other than that, we don't always think that deeply about that verse. I've been pondering this verse recently, particularly in relation to media intake.

This is what I believe may be the problem for many of us when it comes to our love of media or anything else: we haven’t truly tasted of God. We’ve taken a couple nibbles from God’s table, but we are feasting from the table of the world. Because if we really tasted, we wouldn't be so easily satisfied.

So often we content ourselves with enjoying the temporary pleasures of the world--investing time, money and energy into things that will burn up. We know the pop culture references, the fashion trends, the latest movies, the popular books. I know how easily I can be distracted even by things that aren't sinful, but aren't pointing me to Christ and aren't encouraging me to point others to Christ.

Is it difficult for you to enjoy time in God's Word? Could it be that your time in media is drowning out your love for God? Is it filling up your appetite so that you can't taste from God's table and delight in it?

Think about what you do when you eat something incredible. It’s the best thing you’ve ever tried. Do you just walk away and think, “That was yummy”? No! You tell people...and you tell them they need to eat it too! In fact, you probably won't be content until they just taste it.

Does that happen in your relationship with God? Have you ever pleaded with someone that they need to taste and see God like you have?

Have you tasted so much of God’s goodness and seen His transformational work in your life, that you can’t help but share with others? Do you want more of Him and have an eagerness towards His Word and towards knowing Him? Do you long to see others experience and taste of God's goodness in the ways you have?

If not, have you truly tasted?


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What Counsel Are You Giving?

Everyone gives counsel. We counsel one another when someone asks us a question or for advice in a situation. The problem is that we often give each other counsel without recognizing whether or not it’s biblical.

We all know the Bible has answers, but sometimes don’t believe that we can truly find them in the Bible, or don’t know how the Bible answers specific issues. We must grasp how the Bible applies to daily life, and the only way we can do that is by immersing ourselves in Scripture.  

What does the Bible say about its sufficiency and application to life? 
  • The Scripture is without error, making it trustworthy. Psalm 19:7-8 says the Scripture is perfect, right, and pure. It brings revival, makes the simple wise and rejoices the heart. The Word then is trustworthy, and because it is trustworthy, we can turn to it for answers for all of life. It is through the Scripture that God opens the spiritual eyes of people. Unmistakably, we must take people to Scripture if we desire to see God open their eyes to the truth. Mere talk or a 12 step program will not solve the problem; only the Spirit of God enlightening the soul to the truth of God can produce long-term change.
  • The Scripture is clear. John MacArthur conveys, “Because of its absolute clarity, Scripture brings understanding where there is ignorance, order where there is confusion, and light where there is spiritual and moral darkness.” It is because of the clarity, hope, and wisdom of Scripture that we should desire to take people straight to it and not to other humanistic sources. Hebrews 4:12 says the Word pierces to the heart and discerns its thoughts and intents. This passage shows us that the Word of God, by the illumination of God, discerns far deeper than any person could—the Word reveals the thoughts and intents of the heart. If we fail to take people to Scripture, we are neglecting the primary source God uses to bring conviction.
  • The Scripture explains salvation and sanctification. 2 Tim. 3:15 tells us that the Scriptures are “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”. Verse 16 continues by explaining that the Scriptures "are profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness". The reason that the Scriptures are sufficient is because they were written by the All-Sufficient One.  

We don’t take people to the Bible because it has a better system of living, more thorough rules or better results. We take them to Scripture because their only hope is in the gospel. If they merely needed a system or set of rules, we could create that. They don’t need rules or steps to follow, they need the hope found only in the Redeemer. And so the Scripture must be our first and primary source of hope, instruction, and counsel, and from that will flow the right results, a life transformed by the power of God.

If we don't understand how the Bible applies to our life, the problem lies not with the Scriptures, but with us. We must be faithful to point people to the hope found in Christ, as revealed in the sufficient Word of God.

Are you careful to point people back to the Word of God and give hope in Christ, or do you spout your own opinion?


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fear: Getting to the Root

Okay, so you’re convinced you struggle with fear. Now what? Consider these questions that might help you identify the root…

  • What do I worry about or fear? Control? Rejection? Bad news? Broken relationships? Conflict? Failure?
  • What do these fears show that I desire? Approval? A perfect life? Comfort? Ease? No pain? Health? Success?
  • What do I love more than God? Your answers above reveal your idols.
  • What attribute of God do I need to believe? Turn to Scripture to see God and how great and marvelous He is, and look at what aspect you need a deeper understanding of, then study it out and meditate on it. 
  • What should my response be? How should you respond to God?

Now you’re probably ready for some real-life application. Here’s one area of fear I sometimes struggle with:

What do I worry about or fear? Rejection, loss of friendship.

What do these fears show that I desire? Acceptance, comfort.

What do I love more than God? Friends; approval and acceptance from others.

What attribute of God do I need to believe? Goodness—He does all things well. His ways are perfect and I can trust what He’s doing even if it doesn’t make sense to me. God chooses better for me than I could ever choose for myself. He knows all things and works in ways to accomplish the greater good—His glory and my sanctification.

What should my response be? I only see a small part of what’s happening and can be shortsighted in believing I know what’s best. The Lord is my Shepherd—I shall not want. Any circumstance He allows is for my good. If He removes anything or person from my life, He is accomplishing a greater work in my heart. He is sovereign and could have chosen to not allow that circumstance, but His desire to refine me and point out idols was greater. God is a jealous God and will not allow idolatry in my heart to grow.

One thing I have to remind myself of: what if God’s agenda is different than my agenda? I need God to transform my agenda to be like His. I must pray earnestly, but not so I can see Him change my circumstance or fear, but so He can change me. I must humble myself before Him and submit to His leadership and then I can cast my cares on Him. “I cry aloud to God…He will hear me” (Ps. 77:1) and “the Lord hears the needy…” (Ps. 69:33). “As for me, it is good to be near God”. (Ps. 73:28)


Monday, September 8, 2014

Fear, Humility, and Prayer

In my last post, I shared about Scripture’s command not to worry, and how we need to turn our focus to God. Let’s delve deeper.

Look at what 1 Peter 5:6-7 commands:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 

We like to look at verse 7 in the midst of worry, but what proceeds that verse? Verse 6 tells us that we must humble ourselves. Why do you think those two verses are connected? Because we can’t truly cast our cares upon the Lord and trust in Him if we haven’t humbled ourselves. Casting our cares at that point becomes, “give me what I want”. Humility precedes laying our burdens at His feet.

“For many Christians, the difficulty is not the sovereignty of God, but rather the goodness of God. My problem is not that I doubt God’s ability to control everything in my life and protect me from harm. My problem is that I doubt He is going to do for me what I believe He is capable of doing!” Lou Priolo

Do you find this to be true in your life? You know God is sovereign, but you doubt His goodness to you in your particular circumstance? I know this is too often the case in my life.

Do you realize that worry and fear affect your prayer life? When we fear, we don’t pray, because we’re focusing on ourselves and not God. But if turn to God, then we will be able to humble ourselves, lay our burdens at His feet, rest in Him, and watch Him work. Then we intercede for others because we know He’s in control of all things. That is an area God has been growing me this year. He’s been graciously helping me see where I worry about situations I have no control over, and to instead intercede more faithfully for others.

God’s more concerned about changing you than changing your circumstances. Have you been praying for deliverance, or seeking the face of the Deliverer? Are you hoping for relief from the pain and problems, or redemption from the sin in your heart?

Recognizing our small views of God and readjusting our prayers to be more pointed towards the heart-change needed in us instead of the change in circumstances is vital. But what about some practical application for getting to the root of fears? Questions and practical application will be coming soon.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Seeing God in the Midst of Fears

Our church’s monthly ladies’ meeting discussed fear, worry and anxiety this month. I admit, I’ve never considered myself a fearful person. I don’t worry or become anxious about a ton, and I don’t automatically think of the worst possibility in a situation and then worry about it. That’s what comes to mind when I hear the terms fear or worry. Worry is not my #1 struggle.

But the reality is we all fear something. And sometimes we see fear as an emotion that cannot be changed, so we think there’s nothing we can do. This lie causes us to neglect to get to the root and really deal with our fear.

Scripture is full of commands not to worry. Matthew 6:25-34 says multiple times “do not be anxious”. Philippians 4:6 also reminds of this. The problem is not that we don’t know the truth, but that it’s hard to apply it. And it is impossible in your own strength. You need the power of Christ within you, and you have to turn to Him. Putting off sin is never possible on our own, even if we know all the right things to do.

Getting to the root behind the worry or fear is always tricky though. The truth to remember is that if you are worrying, you probably desire something more than Christ. The Bible calls that idolatry. So, if most of our fear and worry is spurred by idolatry, then worry or fear is a sin that must be repented of.

As we see areas of fear or worry that we need to repent of, we must shift our focus to the worship and adoration of God, submit our desires to God, and trust that He knows best. Gazing upon God's attributes in Scripture, like how He is faithful and true, perfect and unchanging (2 Tim. 2:13, Mal. 3:6), reminds of His greatness. When we see God more clearly, it changes the way we view our circumstances.

“Is it possible that God has allowed these specific challenges to teach you of His goodness, to remind you of your inability to control circumstances and to set you free from fear? These trials are not a sign of God’s powerlessness, but a sign of God’s loving care.” Elyse Fitzpatrick

When’s the last time you saw a struggle or trial as God’s loving care to you? God is a jealous God (Ex. 20:5, Deut. 4:24) who will not be content to allow His children to pursue idolatry.

We all know that we shouldn’t worry, but that doesn’t make our problems go away. Dealing with worry or fear is bigger than telling ourselves we won’t think about it or that we need to stop worrying. In the next post, we’ll dig a bit deeper into fear.