Sunday, November 22, 2015

Endless Energey, Boundless Strength

This is an ebook by Rob Hayes (I've never read this book)
This passage that I'm focusing on today, Ephesians 1:15-23,  has long been a favorite of mine.  I'm especially
partial to the way it reads in The Message paraphrase:

15-19 That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!
20-23 All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but        forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.  

I've prayed this over my oldest son since 2006 when he entered into the US Army academy at West Point.  I'd heard how rigorous and difficult it was there so I started praying this over him and have continued to pray this over him periodically.  

What's captivated my attention so much about this passage is the phrase "endless energy, boundless strength".  I struggle in my life with being tired.  I don't know if it's because I have such high pressure jobs, a thyroid condition, or I'm just a less energy kind of person.  Whatever the reason, it's a huge struggle for me.  I want more energy and I want it bad. Yet somehow in my life there has been a disconnect; I know the Scriptures about God giving us energy and I want to live for Him, but I still find my self oh so tired on a daily basis - why? More importantly, how can I change this?

As I've been praying about this, reading, and researching I came across an interesting article by Barry Hall.  I found these statements of his insightful:

"For God to be your God, He knows He has to presence Himself with you intensely enough for you to be refreshed by it and be able to trust Him. He designed you with the needs you have because He wants you to depend on Him--He wants to prove He can be a better God to you than the little "gods" of this world. Repent by coming to the place where you can trust God as your adequacy. The apostle Paul wrote, "Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God" (2 Cor. 3:5). It is entirely realistic for you to experience the presence of God to such an extent that this verse becomes true for you—every moment of every day. "

"The Psalmist wrote, "...O Lord God, You are my confidence..." (Psa. 71:5). It also says, "The Lord is their strength, And He is a saving defense to His anointed." (Psa. 28:8). Repenting by trusting God to draw near and be your strength allows you to experience the anointing of God. 

" Your need can be what drives you to draw near to God and receive His presence. "

"Repentance is a process of humbling yourself from thinking you have to achieve His presence and simply receive it. Repentance will help you find it easier to believe you can draw near and receive."

So, what does all this mean to me?

I keep thinking about that passage from John 15, the 4th through the 8th verses:

“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
5-8 “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples. (MSG)

Last week I looked at how I need to come closer to God, to spend more time in the Word.  I haven't done that. I haven't made myself get up earlier and I'm so exhausted by the time that I get home from work that it's a struggle to make myself walk a couple of miles on the Nordic track just so I can get some exercise into my day.  Then I crash; I eat dinner in front of the TV and go to bed early.

So it's got to be in the morning that spend more time with God.  To start my day with more than 3-5 minutes reading and thinking about a devotional.  I recognize that I need more.  Maybe other people don't need more, but I do.

Oh God, please help me.  You know how I have such a hard time getting up in the morning.  Please help me think about getting up to be with You instead of about getting up to go to work.  I'm going to take You at Your Word and, by Your strength and ability, try this.  I'm going to get up early daily for the next couple of weeks and dig into Your Word.  I need more energy - please teach me how to abide in You and receive Your presence and strength.  Thank You that You put up with me. Thank You that You want to be near me. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Getting my soul into a happy state

Photo from Lindsy D Briggs
Today I want to spend some time on Ephesians 1:15-16 :

ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God's people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. (NIV)

This stood out to me because repeatedly over the past few months God has been prompting me to spend more time in prayer for others.  Repeatedly I've failed.

What is it about spending time in intercessory prayer that makes it so hard?

I've been thinking about this and I've come to the conclusion that the answer to this question is: My Flesh.

I want what is easy.  I want what I that pretty clothes and shoes, TV, food, lightweight reading, day dreams, 30 minutes more sleep in the morning...the specifics aren't what's important - it's that I want whatever it is I want, when I want it.  I frequently have lacked discipline.  I say I'm going to spend time in prayer, but then I don't, because I'm pursuing these other things.

So I've come to this study time this morning ready for self flagellation.

I'm feeling downcast and terrible.  I know I'm bad.  I'm ready for God to "really give it to me". But you know what He does instead?  As I've been researching, reading and seeking some answers, God has shown me love, grace, and hope.  He's supplied me with a different recipe for victory over my flesh:

Keep my heart happy by resting in His promises


God used an insightful and profound message by John Piper to help me see this truth. Piper's message was taken from the text of Galatians 5:16-18 :

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law.(ESV)

I think these verses resound for all of us.  I think we all know, all too well, the struggle between the flesh and spirit.  I appreciate this insight of Piper's:

"Conflict in your soul is not all bad. Even though we long for the day when our flesh will be utterly defunct and only pure and loving desires will fill our hearts, yet there is something worse than the war within between flesh and Spirit; namely, no war within because the flesh controls the citadel and all the outposts. Praise God for the war within! Serenity in sin is death. The Spirit has landed to do battle with the flesh. So take heart if your soul feels like a battlefield at times. The sign of whether you are indwelt by the Spirit is not that you have no bad desires, but that you are at war with them!"

Earlier in Galatians 5:5-6 I find these words:

For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (ESV)

It's faith, trusting in God.  It's not me mastering my flesh and denying myself and using "spiritual muscle" that's going to get it done.  It's me having faith in GodGalatians 3:1-10 really drives this truth home.   The 2nd and 3rd verses especially point out this truth:

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (ESV)

I grow my faith by thinking on God's Word. Romans 10:17 puts it this way:

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (NIV)

George Muller had this insight:

"I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, or how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. . . . Now what is the food for the inner-man? Not prayer but, the Word of God."

John Piper has this to say about Muller:

"George Müller learned the secret of walking by the Spirit: Meditate on the precious truths of the Word of God until your heart is happy in God, resting in his promises."

That's the key!

It's not about feeling guilty or beating myself.  It's about seeking God first thing, getting my soul into a "happy state" resting on God's promises.  I'm reminded of the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 11:28-30:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)

Currently I take about 3 minutes and read a daily devotion.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  But right now I feel God prompting me to get up 30 minutes earlier and spend more time in His Word.  Given all the extreme challenges in my job, and the Spirit's urging me to engage more in prayer for my sons, I need more spiritual nourishment than I'm getting.  

Father I thank You so much that You want me to walk with You. Thank You that You don't lay anything too heavy on me.  Teach me how to refrain from being religious and trying to put stuff on myself that's not from You. Teach me how to walk with You.  I want to learn Your unforced rhythms of grace. I want to learn how get my soul into a happy state from time with You.  I want Your love and power in my life to make a difference at my job.  I want to live in freedom from my flesh; to be able to say to no to me and yes to You.  I want to grow in praying for my sons and others.  I can do none of this on my own.  I need You.  Thank You so much dear Lord.