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Posts Tagged ‘Relationship with God’

As we continue in our endeavor to know God more, consider Deuteronomy 31:8:  “[The LORD] is the one who goes before you.  He will be with you.  He will not leave or forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”

I find the following attributes of God described in this verse:

  • God as Leader (“goes before you)
  • God as faithful companion (He will not leave or forsake you)

God goes before me to lead me.  He shows me the way not by pointing to it on some map or instruction manual.  He leads me Himself.  This speaks of His personal and intimate involvement in my life.

God asks the rhetorical question (the answer is obvious)  through the Prophet Jeremiah, “Am I a God near at hand, . . . And not a God afar off?”  Jer. 23:23

In addition to leading me and going before me, God is a faithful companion along the way.  He will not leave me or forsake (abandon, desert, or give up on) me.  Because He wants to make sure that I know He is near, He repeats the promise “I will never leave or forsake you”  many times in the Bible.  He knows that I am afraid of this.

  • Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”
  • Deuteronomy 31:8 “And the LORD, He is the one who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”
  • Joshua 1:5 “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.
  • 1Chronicles 28:20 And David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and of good courage, and do it; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God-my God-will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD.
  • Heb 13:5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.

No person can make this promise and ever hope to be able to keep it.  Having lost my father at age 3, I learned early that people leave and forsake us despite the best intentions.  Only God can make the promise to always be with me and really carry it out.  He alone is God.

To the only true God, my leader and ever faithful companion, be honor and glory forever!

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What if you were asked to share one thing that you have learned in your relationship with God that you feel is most important for a person trying to improve their relationship with God, what would you answer?

The one thing should be something that is first – something a person must understand about God  before all other things in order that the other things would have importance and significance.

The one thing should be easy to establish and show through Bible passages.

One would think that such an important concept would be mentioned throughout the Bible, multiple times by different authors in both the New and Old Testament.

Leave me a comment let me know what that one thing is for you.

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In our last post, we looked at some of the ways our thinking can become confused when God delays in answering our prayers.  For a review, you can look at Psalm 77:7-9.  The remedy for the confused thinking illustrated in those verses is found in the verses that follow, Psalm 77:10-12.

In these verses, the Psalmist gives us 3 things we can do to get our thinking straight and fight the confusion that can enter our thinking when we have to wait for God to answer our prayers.

  • Remember what God has done.
  • Mediate on what God has done.
  • Tell of what God has done.

REMEMBER

In battling the confused thinking, I need to remember the work of the LORD, both in the history of mankind and in my own history, my own life.  This is a good time to remember that reading through the Bible from cover to cover every year or so will keep the works of God and the deeds of God in my memory.  Also, keeping a journal of what God is showing me and how He has answered my prayers can be a good way of keeping track of my history with God.  When I become confused in my thinking, I can review the records I have kept of how God is working in my life and the lives of my husband and my daughter and my family and friends.

MEDITATE

The Bible teaches that we must bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”  By meditating on the Word and the works of God contained in the Word, I can train my mind to be obedient to Christ.  This is what is meant by taking every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.  My thoughts can run in all directions and question God and be confused over His nature, but as I meditate on the Word and purpose to allow Christ to dominate my thoughts, I can learn to bring my thoughts through the Word and make them obey what Christ has said and done.  It is a discipline that must be practiced.  It can only be done if I know what the Word says.  I must be willing to sit and consider what the Bible means and how it can be applied to my life.

TELL OF WHAT GOD HAS DONE

How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”  Isaiah 52:7.  It is important to learn of  what God has done and to mediate on what He has done, but it is equally important to tell others of what God has done.

When you become confused in your thinking because God has delayed in answering your prayers, and you are tempted to question God’s mercy, His faithfulness or His grace, consider the remedy for confusion discussed above:  Remember . . . Mediate . . . Tell!

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When I pray, I would like God to answer me immediately.  I would really appreciate visitation by a messenger of God to tell me that my prayer was heard and what God’s response will be.  That has not happened yet.  Sometimes, in His goodness and perfect timing, God delays in answering.  This time of silence on God’s part can lead to confusion on my part.  The Psalmist gives a good illustration in Psalm 77, verses 7-9 where he gives 6 statements which illustrate the potential confusion of thought in such situations.

  • Will the Lord cast off (reject me) forever? When God doesn’t answer right away, I can mistakenly believe He has forgotten me.  This is a mistake.  Consider what God says in Isaiah 49:15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you.”  Just because God delays in answering, does not mean He has forgotten me.  I must remember His heart for me as written down for me in His word.
  • Will He be favorable no more? This is similar.  Because God has delayed, does it mean He will never do anything for me again?  Of course not.  God’s purposes towards me are all good.
  • Has His mercy ceased forever? The God of all mercy cannot change His character.  His mercy continues towards me.  It is a mistake to think He has suddenly changed His nature.
  • Has His promise failed forevermore? The promises of God are sure.  They will not fail.  As Paul tells us in Romans 3:4, “let God be true but every man a liar.”  Surely if God has promised to hear me when I call, He will answer.
  • Has God forgotten to be gracious? As with all of the confused thinking that results from unanswered prayer, this seems almost silly.  How would God forget to be gracious?  It is His nature, and that nature, the Bible teaches us, is unchangeable.  In Hebrews 13:8, we read, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
  • Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? The final example of confused thinking resulting when our prayers are not answered right away by God is like the others.  God is merciful.  It is part of His unchanging nature.

In our finite thinking, we quickly jump to some ridiculous conclusions when God doesn’t answer our prayers immediately.  We will learn in the next post how to cure or treat this confused thinking by countering it with what we know about God.

As you continue steadfastly in prayer, consider whether your thinking has gotten confused.  Remember these things about God:

  • He is always the same.  He never changes.  Heb. 13:8.
  • His thoughts towards you are for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Jer. 29:11
  • If you seek God with all your heart, He will be found by you.  Jer. 29:13
  • Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ.  Rom. 8:39
  • His mercies are new every morning and great is His faithfulness.  Lam. 3:23

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It may seem a strange question, but I am sure to those who don’t know God, the idea of prayer must seem very strange.  I am not ashamed to tell you that I pray to God because I am totally insufficient to solve my problems without God.

I was not always so insufficient to the task.  I spent a good 15 years in charge of my own life with no sovereign over me.  I had turned my back on the God who saved me because I felt “I could handle my life myself.”  I think you can imagine how that turned out.  I ruined my health, I ruined my relationships, and I was left depressed and hopeless most of the time despite having a successful career, my own business, a child and a house.  My sufficiency was woefully inadequate.  Turns out, I could not control myself or others, and I was exhausted from trying to keep everything together.

I was fortunate in that my God did not leave me to my own sufficiency, but rather He came looking for me.  Like the shepherd who lost one sheep and left the 99 others to go find the one that was lost, my God came to find me where I had wandered.  He found me lost, alone, dirty and caked with the mud of the world.  He carried me back to the flock, and He cleaned me up and set me feet on the rock and gave me a new song.   I would never go back by the grace of God.

I pray to God because He alone is able.

I pray to God because He is willing.

I pray to God because He loves me and wants what is best for me.

It is because of God’s goodness that He answers my prayers.

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I grew up with faith in God.  It was not always a saving faith, but I believed in God and knew that when you had a problem (or a complaint), it was to God one should turn.  My father died when I was 3 years old, and some of the adults in my life told me that my prayers were essential to my father getting to heaven.  As a three-year-old, I was motivated to pray.  After all,  if my father wasn’t going to be with me and my family, he needed to be with God.   I knew, instinctively, what to ask for,  I knew who to ask, and I knew why I could expect answers.

I needed my dad to be with God, I believed that God was able to meet my need, and I knew He had the power because He was God.

I agree it wasn’t a sophisticated theology, but it got me on my knees.  I remember praying at night and sometimes in the back of a church and asking God to make sure my dad made it to heaven.  I didn’t doubt.   I didn’t try to contact a back up provider.  I asked, believing and knowing the nature and authority of Him in whom I believed.  These are the essentials of prayer:

Ask believing that the one who is God (and therefore completely able) will answer.

It specifically excludes:

  • Prayers of those who don’t believe in God
  • Prayers of those who doubt God’s willingness to answer
  • Prayers of those who don’t trust in God
  • Rote prayers which lack a revelation of the individual heart and need required for relationship with God

I am a little older now, and I am committed to serving God and allowing Him to be the authority in my life.  I still pray to God believing that He will answer because I know that He is all-suffcicent and all powerful, and He alone is God and there is no other.  I know from my experience in prayer that I may not always like His answer initially, but I know He hears and answers my prayers according to what is best for me.

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The Bible teaches that a believer is guaranteed access to the Father in prayer.

  • Luke 11:13 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
  • John 16:23  “Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.”

So what are the things that interfere with or hinder the prayer of a believer?

  • Iniquity – “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.”    Psalm 66:18
  • Carnality (asking for selfing desires) – “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”  James 4:3
  • Violence/bloodshed – “When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.”  Isaiah 1:15
  • Rejection of God’s Counsel/advice –  “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the LORD, They would have none of my counsel And despised my every rebuke.”  Prov. 1:28-30
  • Arrogance/Lack of humility – “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men–extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  ‘I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”   Luke 18:10-14

Examine yourself to see if one of these is an issue for you.  Don’t let another day go by that your prayers are hindered.  As we will see in some of the upcoming posts, prayer is essential in the life of a believer.  It is both a great responsibility and a great privilege.

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LIFE COMES FROM DEPENDENCE, NOT INDEPENDENCE

You probably hear the same things I hear.  The young woman says of her marriage, “I want to work.  I don’t want to be dependent on my husband.”   The grandmother confides in her friends, “I don’t want to ever be dependent on my children.”  The newlyweds concur, “We don’t want to be dependent on our parents.”   The non-believer says, “I’ll never be a Christian; I don’t want to have a crutch or have to rely on someone else.”  My question for all of them is, “Why not?”

How is it that we have gotten so isolationist in our thinking that we want to disentangle ourselves from the very web of support God places around us to care for, support and nurture us?  It is clearly a lie from the pit of hell.

God is a God of relationship.  Relationship is always about dependence, not independence.  For example, if you are dating someone and his or her greatest desire is to be independent of you and receive nothing from you, I put it to you that the relationship will not be very fulfilling and is not likely to last very long.

Independence is a euphemism for isolation.  If one is independent of everyone, he or she is alone and thus isolated – an island unto him or herself.  Islands are nice places to visit, but an island has difficulty sustaining abundant life for very long.  So too spiritually.  In my own example, my independence from God brought gradual creeping death to my soul.  I appeared on the outside to have apparent worldly success, an education, a career, my own business, financial stability, a house, a baby . . .   Inside, I was lost, confused, empty and longing for something – I didn’t know what.

Even after I came back to the Lord and began to build my fellowship with God by going to church and attaching some outward signs of faith to my life, I still felt times of great death in my soul.  Darkness could easily creep in and spread.  Without the callouses and vices of the world to medicate against the pain, it was worse than before.  It was one such episode of darkness and depression which hit me so hard and so unexpectedly I was unable to pull myself up by my boot straps.  I turned to blame the only one I knew . . . God.

“God,” I cried.  “Why are you allowing this? (At least my theology was good – God is sovereign over all things.)  I’m going to church.  I’m reading in my Bible.  I’m singing songs to you and crying with true love and emotion to you, so why did you let this darkness descend on me again?”  I knew not long after asking the question God’s answer.  He gently showed me, with no condemnation or anger, that I had allowed the darkness.  I had invited it in, and while he had held it at bay for a time, it was now time for me to deal with the darkness.  Time to fish or cut bait.  The darkness, He showed me, was able to reach me because I had a divided heart.  I still had parts of my life which I had not given over to His lordship.  I still had great areas of independence from Him.  His desire was for my entire life to come under His lordship.  I needed to surrender all.  He promised me that if I surrendered all, this darkness, caused by separation from God by my own sin, would never come back in the same way.  And so it was.

I said, “No” to the sin that I was engaged in.  I threw myself at His feet and begged Him not to ever allow me to get separated from Him again.  I didn’t have all the doctrine and theology to point to at the time.  I wasn’t very well schooled in my Bible, but I knew God had pointed to the compromise in my life and said, “Choose.”  It was an easy choice.  The walking out of the choice was more difficult.  Saying “no” to sin in your own life is often much easier than telling your partner or partners in sin of your choice.  They are not always at the same point your are spiritually and may resist putting aside the sin.  However, God is able to bring to completion the work in you and the work in me.

Each day since that time, I have grown in my dependence on God.  I have gradually changed my mind about independence.  I no longer view it as a positive attribute for anyone. I have learned that in marriage, there is no room for independence.  In the family of God, there is no room for independence.  In my walk with Jesus, there is no room or desire for independence.  I want to wholly rely on Jesus.  I want no glimmer of my own righteousness to show through (it is as filthy rags).  I only want God to view me in the righteousness of Christ.  That requires my total dependence on Christ.  In total dependence on Christ, I am able to be restored to that relationship with God that Adam and Eve had before the fall, a relationship based on close fellowship where all decisions are made based on the fellowship and dependence on a loving and nurturing Father who is almighty, all-knowing and all powerful.

May the God of all mercy show you how to be totally dependent on Him.  May you rejoice daily in the wonder of an all-sufficient God who loves you.

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Putting aside self-sufficiency for good

According to C. Hummel in Tyranny of the Urgent, “The root of all sin is self-sufficiency,  independence from the rule of God.  When we fail to wait prayerfully for God’s guidance and strength, we are saying with our actions, if not with our words, that we do not need Him.”

DEPENDENCE

According to 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Lord told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  The message is clearly, “Be as weak as possible, and I will make known my strength through you.”

We (mankind), were designed to depend.  If you go back to the garden, God’s design was that mankind should live his life forever (remember they were not prohibited from the Tree of Life) in fellowship with God.  He desired not that man rely on his own wisdom or knowledge of good and evil, but that man would make his decisions based on his close fellowship with God.  Several possible explanations for God’s design come to mind:

  • It could be that God knew that a moral standard of good and evil, right and wrong, would not be sufficient for us.  We, apart from fellowship with God, would choose evil over good.  It could be that God, for His sheer delight, desired to impart His wisdom and guidance to us, one by one and day by day.  The picture is one of a loving and involved father teaching and guiding a beloved son or daughter.
  • It could also be that God knew that we cannot keep very many rules or guidelines on our own without encouragement and reminder.
  • It could be He knew that our greatest need is the constant unconditional love of our Father.  It is the fuel for our human souls.  It is what keeps us healthy and able to move forward.
  • It could be that these reasons and purposes are only known to the Almighty.  In any event, a life of unbroken fellowship with the Father was God’s first choice for us.
It was a grasp at self-dependence that severed that fellowship in the garden of Eden more than 6,000 years ago.  You know the story.  Eve was deceived by the serpent.  She fell prey to two of his well-worn strategies:
  1. First, she was not clear on what God had said, so she was easily deceived by the serpent’s misrepresentation of God’s word.
  2. Second, she was lured into believing the lies of the serpent because of her desire to be independent of God (to be like a god herself).
  3. THE BAD NEWS . . . The root of all independence is that same desire in each of us. The consequence of Eve’s grab for independence was separation from God for herself and her family.

    THE GOOD NEWS . . . The cross is the provision for restored fellowship and dependence on God.  God has made a way to restore what was lost in the garden.  Hallelujah!

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It may seem a little odd for me to wax poetic given my usual steady fare of Bible studies and such, but I have found myself of late just thinking about my God and how sweet He is to me.

My God has delivered me from the battle and set me in a quiet meadow with sweet-smelling flowers (actually it is a 1/2 vegetable/ 1/2 flower garden in Southern California, but stay with me here).

He has led me beside clear waters that allow me to reflect on who I was, who I have become through my recent trials and who He would have me be and how He would shape me into that person (This, of course, means more trials).

He has given me to a godly husband and a child that desires to do well with the LORD.

He has set me in the company of quality women of faith to encourage and sharpen me.

He has given me the desires of my heart as best I have been able to figure them.

He has never left me or forsook me (not that I didn’t give Him plenty of reason), and His mercies are new every morning.  I get to wake up a daughter of the King and go to sleep in the shadow of the wings of the Most High God.

This is living!

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