Finding What We Seek…

“One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” -Psalm 27:4

There is the old testament story about a woman named Hannah.
Hannah did not have any children of her own and she desperately wanted a child. So after one of the Jewish celebrations, Hannah goes to the temple and fervently prays to God to give her a child. She prays and weeps and is in deep anguish over this heartfelt need to be a mother. As she is praying and weeping, the priest Eli sees Hannah there, and he thinks she is drunk because her lips are moving but no words are coming out. So Eli goes and confronts her and even tells her to throw away her wine.

Imagine that for a second, this woman is crying out to God in one of her lowest moments and she can’t even catch a break without having Eli confront her in judgement. Hannah doesn’t lash out though, she just tells the priest why she is there and that she is not drunk. Hannah outlines her heartache and even says “I am very discouraged and I am pouring out my heart to the Lord.” (NLT translation).
The priest responds by saying, “May the God of Israel grant you the request that you asked of Him.”

Scriptures then tell us that Hannah goes home and is at peace and starts eating AGAIN. Let’s stop for a minute and recognize that in Hannah’s distress she had stopped eating and was so discouraged in her heart.

Have you ever been there?
Have you ever been so heavily burdened that you lose all appetite and thoughts of self-care?

One such moment comes to my mind in my life. My Wife had just tragically lost her mother in a horrible accident and for the next couple of days in the midst of our mourning we couldn’t eat and we barely slept. It was gut wrenching sadness and heartbreaking pain. Scripture tells us that there is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3)…and in our lives, most of us have experienced those times of mourning. I believe Hannah felt a certain kind of mourning in her life as well and that is why we are made to understand in 1 Samuel 1:9-28 that Hannah was not eating…or probably sleeping. Her heart was so heavy and burdened with this deep longing and sadness for a child.

In the Seeking – We Find.
Hannah sought out God in this dark moment of her life.
She knelt before God and didn’t care if anyone else was watching, and as she poured out her heart to God, and He was there listening.

Praying for Women to Hunger for God · TWR Women Of Hope


It had nothing to do with a priest answering Hannah’s pleas…although Eli certainly did that. There wasn’t some sort of mystical words that Eli spoke that eased her heart. Rather, it was Hannah’s faith in the God that she prayed to that allowed her to find peace again. There was a certainty that filled that place where her mourning had been. Faith blossomed while her mourning decayed and faded away.

There is a truth of us in this.
David certainly found it when he wrote this:
One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” -Psalm 27:4

When we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, ALL these things will be given to us (Matthew 6:33). But it starts with our seeking.
Are we willing to search God and know Him? To truly know Him?! Not know of Him. Or about Him. But to truly KNOW Him?

What does it look like in our modern day to “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life”? Let me give you a hint: it’s not just about going to church, but that’s a great start. It is about allowing God to dwell in your life every moment of every day. To literally breathe Him in and out in your actions, thoughts and words. So much so that your old self-induced life fades away to be replaced with a self-less holy one that reflects Christ completely.

Then, when we are heavy burdened, when we face daunting days of uncertainty (that can seem be insurmountable at times) we can seek God. We can know Him, and we can get up from our places of prayer and be rejuvenated in life by His spiritual nourishment, provision and love.

Questions to Ponder today:
What is currently weighing on your heart?
Have you prayed about these things to God?
These prayers can be spoken out loud or silently. They can be written down or thought in your mind as you go about your day. But one thing that truly helps is that you verbalize your burdens to the Lord. Even though He already knows them, speak them to Him.
Lastly do you trust that God is not only listening to your prayers, but that He is in your life and is a participant in it?

May we find what we seek today…and may we be seeking God as well purposely strive to dwell in the House of the Lord forever.

-Amen.

Something more for us to ponder today.
To God be the glory.

4 Steps To Godly Parenting

godly parenting

 

“…Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” –Ephesians 6:4

Definitions: 

I’ve always been curious of this word “exasperate”…what does it mean?  Here are some synonyms – 

agitate, annoy, enrage, rile, inflame, aggravate, “drive up a wall”, disturb

You get the point.  

Questions to consider: 

I think it only fitting this week that we look at the healthy attributes of a father.  How can we be better parents, teachers and leaders of the children that we’ve been given?  What do we want our children to remember us by?  

It is crucial that we instruct, lead and love our children on godly principles and holy living.  Does it always work?  No.  Will we make mistakes along the way?  You bet we will.  Does that mean that we don’t try despite our propensity for mistakes?  Absolutely not! 

4 Steps to Godly Parenting: 

1.  Honesty with Self: 

 

First we must tackle honesty within our conversation today.  Be honest with yourself, you’re not perfect.  You were not perfect growing up, and you’re not perfect now.  That isn’t an excuse to not try, or to abdicate your responsibilities as parents.  Just understand that sometimes the expectations that we put on our children stem from our own shortcomings and inadequacies in ourselves.  We long to push our children harder and we set the bar higher because we look back at our own life and wished we had made other decisions or worked harder at specific moments in our past.  

Be honest with yourself.  You are the parent of a precious life, and when we push too hard out of personal unfulfilled dreams and goals, we will exasperate our child(ren).  Take a long hard look at your expectations for your child.  Goals aren’t bad to have, but if you find yourself pushing your child in a direction that resembles your own shortcomings and disappointments just to live vicariously through them perhaps you must stop and realign your motives and intentions!  Godly parenting wants to impress Godly principles, but doesn’t try to force children into molds that do not fit their personalities and temperaments.

2. Beware of the Anger trap:

 I find myself struggling with this one.  It is one thing to appropriately discipline children, it is another to lose your temper and rage at them.  Be careful how your discipline your child.  Children model themselves after their parents.  If you resemble a grumbling bear all of the time your children will eventually resemble this too.  If you rage, scream and shout your child will rage, scream and shout because this is a learned trait.  Similarly to growing up with an alcoholic parent, a child who grows up with a raging parent will be inclined to resemble that upbringing.  This isn’t absolute, but the propensity for modeled behavior such as anger can be passed on from generation to generation.  

Discipline, but don’t allow your anger to rage and fume and create a fire within your children.  These flames can burn long after they have left home.  

3.  Show up.

Your child’s interests may not always be the same as yours.  They may find a love for art or sports that perhaps you never had.  Invest in your child.  Spend time encouraging healthy interests.  Show up to events that your child will be participating in.  Also, actively find additional helps within your child’s likes.  If they enjoy sports, sign them up for that soccer team in the summer.  If they enjoy art, sign them up for a community art class.  Take the time to show up as the guide for your child.  Invest your time and encourage them in their interests.  A parent who shows up and invests in their child’s interests displays to that child that they matter and they are worthwhile and valuable.  

4.  Share the Word and Pray.

You don’t have to do this rigidly, but “devotion” time with the family is important. Carve out intentional spiritual teaching moments with your child.  Don’t make a big show of it, but let it be a part of who you are as a person and as a parent.  Don’t teach from a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality either.  The Word of God is vital to godly living, practice what you preach and teach through your example. You don’t have to purchase curriculum to teach your child about God.  Read a passage of scripture at night after dinner or perhaps pray before bedtime.  Living as a godly example to your child has to begin with a daily dose of personal time with the Lord as well.  Are we spending our time in the Word of God?  Do we pray diligently for our families?  From this stems our desire to spiritually instruct our children in the principles of Godly living.  

 

These are just a few suggestions to aid us as parents who long to raise our child up right.  Take time to pray for your child.  Ask God for guidance and wisdom as you teach and love your family.  

-Just something else to ponder today.   

Progressing or Protecting the Status Quo?

“Discontent with the status quo is a great catalyst for vision.” –John Maxwell

“…there is still a need for those of us nestled deep within the Christian bubble to look beyond the status quo and critically assess the degree to which we are really living biblically.” –Francis Chan

‘You’ve got to leave your past in your behind’ –Pumba (the Lion King)

What is it organizational or even denominationally that instills this thought that the status quo must be kept?  In The Salvation Army I think we often wrongly use the song “So we’ll lift up the banner on high…” as a rally cry to what we’ve done instead of what we could be doing.  The Status quo can be healthy, it can be a source of good…but when it becomes the main thing instead of the Main Thing, then we’ve lost our perspective and we need vision realignment.

I humorously remember the time that I went to the optometrist and had my eyes dilated so that they could get a good view of the present health of my vision.  I had to wait for a few minutes after the drops were administered so that the chemical reaction within my eye could appropriately take place.  Then under a lighted scope the doctor peered into the eye.  Thankfully nothing was wrong but following the simple procedure I was to go out and select the style of glasses that I would like to wear.  No one warned me that my vision was now slightly impaired, the pupils were twice their normal circumference and would be sensitive to light.  There I was, slightly yet temporarily impaired, trying to study the color, shape and style of my – would be glasses.

I probably looked rather funny that day, holding the glasses close to my face while wearing those ridiculous plastic sun visors over my eyes.  The thought occurred to me in the process of picking out my new glasses, that the optometrists of the world had a very spectacular sense of humor and I would have to live with glasses that I had picked while still very much visually impaired.

Protecting, even upholding the status quo as the measure by which we have to lead by or vision cast for the future is like picking out glasses while your eyes have just been fully dilated…it just doesn’t make sense and on the outside is a humorous moment to behold.  The status quo is defined by how things are currently, and I would add that they become that way currently but living beyond the status quo of our past.

Within The Salvation Army sphere, had William Booth upheld the status quo of his day, He would have remained a Methodist minister and conducted his evangelical ministry from behind the doors of the church.  But to move beyond status quo of today means we must take risks.  Sometimes risks are unpopular because the waters surrounding ‘risk’ are untried and turbulent.  No one enjoys change if they are not the one propelling the change.  Yet to remain within the status quo, to play it safe, to keep things the way they have been or are currently is to be like the miserly servant of the master who was entrusted one talent in the Parable that Jesus told, the servant goes and buries the treasure because the risk was too great for him.  He played it safe and so when it was time that the Master called together his servants again after returning this miserly servant proclaimed;    ‘Sir, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered, ‘Evil and lazy slave! So you knew that I harvest where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter? Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received my money back with interest! Therefore take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten. For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” Matthew 25:24-30

The Status quo is not what we are called to uphold.  This measurement is manmade, temporary and can only tell us of where we’ve been but not where we’re to be in the future.  Leaders cannot or should not be willing to settle for and rely on the things that we’ve already done for the kingdom.  We can’t hang our hats on them, pat our stomachs and stop casting the vision for tomorrow.  When we settle, when all of our energies are expended to protect the status quo watch out because inevitably if we remain there God will appoint someone else in our place more willing to take the risks that we are not.   It is my hope and prayer that this never happens.

“Faith in God’s revelation has nothing to do with an ideology which glorifies the status quo.” -Karl Barth
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Holiness: Walk of Obedience or the Unattainable Summit?

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What do you think of when you hear the word holiness?  It might evoke in you images of people walking around in brilliant white gowns.  Perhaps Mother Teresa diligently working in the slums of Calcutta comes to mind.  But when we as people of God think about the word holiness seldom do we have these images of ourselves being Holy.  Holiness seems to be this aloof concept to most Christendom.  Perhaps there is this notion that it is some sort of attained level of spirituality brought on by years and years of serving the poor or living in a monastery somewhere very, very remote.  But the exact opposite is true.  When we are converted, when we have received Christ as our personal Savior, Redeemer of our sins, something amazing takes place.  We are indwelled with the very presence of God in the form of His Holy Spirit, living and active within us.  When He takes up residence within us, His mighty power flows through us, and He prompts us, prods us and convicts us to surrender continually in areas of our lives to Him so that we might become like Christ in every aspect.  The end result, or final product is that our human reflection becomes the very reflection of Christ…every fiber of our being is surrendered to Him so that we can be used to not only to declare God’s kingdom but to be the very representation of that kingdom of heaven right here on earth.   You see we often get hung up on this idea that Holiness is not attainable.  That holiness is impossible in this life and so we must wait until we lived out our feeble lives and die until we can be fully holy.  The simple truth is that we often misunderstand what holiness is in our human existence.  We often mistake human perfection for holiness, when this is simply not the case.  General Shaw Clifton puts it very well for us in his understanding of holiness;  

 

The holy life is not one of moral or sinless perfection.  We still make mistakes and get things wrong.  We are still capable of hurting others inadvertently.  The word ‘sorry’ is a crucial part of the holy life.  It is the hankering after sin that has gone now.  Sin has lost its attractiveness for us.  Holiness of life is not an optional extra for a believer.  At its heart is obedience to God and the will of God.  Without obedience there can be no spiritual maturity.  The walk of holiness centres upon seeking out God’s will for us.  He is there to guide and to control once we surrender.  He guides through his word in Scripture, through prayer, and through the wise counsel of mature Christian friends and leaders.  Obedience is the key to progress in the faith.”  –General Shaw Clifton (p.51, Hallmarks of The Salvation Army)

 

Mountain or path?

How are we to begin to understand holiness?  How can we ever contain so much Christlikeness in these fallible human vessels?  The fact of the matter is that alone we can’t.  Alone we can do nothing.  The problem often times that Christians struggle with on this topic of holiness is that we view holiness like a mountain.  This mountain is very, very far away and as we look up at this rocky precipice we quickly realize that not only is it very, very far away but it is also extremely high, reaching far above us to an elevation capped with snow and difficult, near impossible to ever traverse. 

 

This image of the mountain is how I have heard Christians attending church; bible study and Sunday school describe holiness.  They may use different terms, analogies and metaphors, but the simple truth is that most believer view this mountain and quickly come to terms with its enormity.  They look up and see holiness to be too big and too far away to even begin to attempt the climb.  But if the mountain that is holiness is too high to reach, then how does God expect us to climb, to “be holy as I your God am holy” ?  (1 Peter 1:6) 

 

After all didn’t Jesus say, “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) So how can we grasp such a concept of holiness which does not seem so easy and yet learn from Christ and find rest at the same time?   That doesn’t sound like rest that sound like a lot of work!   But we misunderstand.   We believe holiness to be an insurmountable mountain, when Jesus says to each of us “follow me”.  Part of Rabbinical teaching is the student or disciple not learning from the Rabbi but learning to become the Rabbi.  When Jesus says to us “Let me teach you”, what He is saying to us is “let me show you how to become like me!” 

 

Holiness is not the destination to the top of the mountain…holiness is the pathway of obedience, humility and love in our living right now!  Holiness is allowing the very essence of who Christ is to become the very essence of who we are as new creations of God.  It’s not about having enough strength or wisdom or knowledge.   As General Clifton has defined it, it is first about our obedience to our Lord.  When obedience takes the place of rebellion within us, when it seals up the cracks of doubt and uncertainty within us, then we begin to allow the Holy Spirit to walk with us on the pathway, and as He walks with us He guides us and corrects us. 

 

Obedience leads each of us to a deeper surrender to God.  We cannot surrender that which we do not understand to be images of our old self until the light of the Holy Spirit shines upon those marred imperfections within us and prompts us to surrender these mutinous remnants. 

 

What do you see?

Do you see a mountain before you?  Does it appear to be impossible, impregnable and daunting to behold?  Are you filled with fear as you hear the words holiness?  Don’t be!  We, as God’s sons and daughters are called saints!  We have within us this indwelling of His Spirit to guide, and direct.  What we are called to be is Holy and this begins with our obedience and our surrender. 

 

There’s a chorus that goes like this:

 

All my heart I give to thee;

Every moment to live for thee;

Daily strength to receive from thee

As I obey thy call.

While I bow to pray to thee,

I commit my way to thee;

Here, just now as I say to thee:

I dedicate my all.

 

May that also be our prayer today. 

“Woe to me” -A Holy Response

“Holiness is not absolute perfection, which belongs to God only; nor is it angelic perfection; nor is it Adamic perfection — for, no doubt, Adam had a perfect head as well as a perfect heart before he sinned against God. But it is Christian perfection — such perfection and obedience of the heart as a poor fallen creature, aided by almighty power and boundless grace, can give.” –Samuel Logan Brengle

Isaiah 6:3-8 (NIV)
3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

This is probably my favorite passage on holiness, anointing, and appointing.  Recently our church has begun a bible study series and sermon series on the topic of metamorphosis…and I can tell you right now that it is very difficult – next to impossible to preach and teach on such subjects and not be compelled, convicted and motivated to do the same in my personal life.  This topic of metamorphosis is more about holiness than it is about a self-help topic to church goers.  How can we, sinners saved by grace transform ourselves by our own power…the short answer is we can’t!  The power to do such saving, delivering and transforming is God’s alone.  His Holy Spirit alone has the power to transform us from the inside out, but don’t think for a moment that we do not have some responsibility in this transforming process.  Our responsibilities begin and end with our free-will.  We have to choose, we have to want this transformational power.

The prophet Isaiah writes in these verses that when he was in the presence of God he was convicted of how imperfect and unholy he truly was; “Woe to me!” I cried.  “I am ruined!  For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” (v5)  I do not believe this to be some sort of preamble or allegory to explain his message to the people of Israel; I believe this to be Isaiah’s actual response to the very presence of God.  This is his eye witness report and his response. When God’s fallen creation stands before Him, we cannot but help notice our imperfections, our failures, our unworthiness in the light of His perfection and might.

Do you want to know a really wonderful fact about our God?  He is not content to let us remain that way!  God, through the power Holy Spirit, desires each of us to come face to face with our inadequacies, our imperfections, our faults.  When this happens, one of two things takes place, we either reject these promptings and ignore what He’s revealing to us, or we are brought to our knees in repentance and conviction declaring like Isaiah, “Woe to me, I am ruined!”   It might not be exactly that drastic, but the sense of heart wrenching conviction ought to drive us to our knees again seeking not only God’s forgiveness, but God’s power to be transformed, renewed and holier than before.

You see, God has the remedy for our imperfections, our faults and our failures.  Like Isaiah, who was broken in the presence of God, we too have to be broken vessels before we can be vessels for His purpose and His purpose alone.  When He breaks us, He replaces our imperfect pieces with His holiness further restoring that image of Him in us.  When Isaiah is touched with the hot coals by the Seraph, God’s purity touched impurity, and guess which one won?  Of course the purity and holiness of God cleansed and removed the guilt and shame of sin!

The awesome thing here for us to glean is that God wants to do this with you and me as well!    We may not be a mighty prophet like Isaiah, but we are children of God and because of this, God will not settle for the old imperfections and sin in our new lives and we shouldn’t either!     2 Corinthians 5:17 says; Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  Christ is and should be the blueprint of godly living for us in our lives today!  When we give up our selfish desires, our foolish pride, and surrender our old ways of living, God can then begin this amazing transformation in us.

Lastly, the evidence of a transformed and holy life is the yearning and painful groaning in our hearts for the rest of humanity.  When God has saved us, and is transforming us with His holiness; when our pride and our selfishness is no more, we then begin to see how desperately the people around us also need this transformation in their lives as well…when that happens, we cannot help but say like Isaiah, “Here am I, send me!”  Because it is then no longer about us, our pride, our desire for notoriety, it is about the power of God and His desire for right relationship with His creation – mankind.

This transformation of Holiness begins on our knees, as we too declare “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”  It’s not about beating ourselves up, it’s about humbling ourselves before God and allowing Him to penetrate our hearts and lives with His transforming power!

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