This past weekend, we attended church on Saturday evening--a delightful change of weekly pace. When Sunday morning dawned under skies impregnated with rain, I gleefully situated myself on the screen porch with coffee, journal, and thankful reflections. An entire rainy day at home. Now this is what I'm talking about.
My journal went to church too. I opened it to the beginning, dated May 2012. Thunder rumbled. Rose fragrance wafted by. The scent of fresh rain hitched a ride on a gentle breeze. A slight chill. A sip of steaming hot brew.
Through those early pages of the spiral bound book, I revisited who I was a year ago. Physically, I was at the beach under the impression of one word. Greatness. Always admire the greatness of God.
A year has passed since I felt small beside the ocean. The more I read about my sandy self, the more I caught the subtle nuances of the real needs unwritten. God has faithfully washed His huge waves of mercy onto my heart and accomplished much in twelve months. Oh, how I admire His greatness!The Lord on high is mightier and more glorious than the noise of many waters, yes, than the mighty breakers and waves of the sea. ~
With amazing gentleness, the mighty Lord has shown me that those "subtle nuances" were idols. One of them was my demand for Him to act on my behalf. Through the greatness of His power, that demanding attitude had no choice but to surrender and accept His grace as enough.
God's enemies are our idols. Our little "g" gods. When you remove the armor and camouflage uniform, the anatomy of the current day enemy is a concept, an attitude. When you dissect the anatomy of little "g" gods we casually pass off as material things, you unearth some rather unexpected and surprising idols.
Pause here for a breath of fresh rain air. Among the words I read on my Sunday at home was the advice from a pro blogger--Make your blog fun! I was tempted to do so, but, upon further consideration, I realized the "fun" happens after
I deal with some soul-searching serious business. My family will tell you I'm light and happy after I've had meaningful concentration around God's Word in the morning. God makes me glad.
I share my "behind the scenes" life with you as an example. If you have needs pressing you to unhappiness, I want to encourage you to keep on praying. Keep on searching. God will move into your heart in greatness and preeminence. His sheer, powerful presence will cause the pressing need (potentially an idol) to lose its stance in your heart.
I want to leave you with a smidgen of my previous idols. Previous! Thanks be to God and His great sea of mercy and faithfulness! I pray the Holy Spirit will use my list to help relieve you from the oppression of possible high-maintenance idols standing between you and God.
- Search for significance
- Obsession over my dear husband's behavior
- Craving for popularity, to fit in (God created me to stand out!)
- Fixation on my trials
- Conformity to people' opinions/people-pleasing
- Killing myself over the cleanliness, neatness of the house
- Anxieties over what to fix for dinner, food in the cupboards
- Trying to remove discomfort from our daughters' lives
I could go on, but I believe that will give you enough to go on. By the way, I searched for the word "fun" in the Bible and found only "un-fun" words like "fungus" and "funeral". However, I do find a whole lot of cheerfulness without the nasty attachments of hangovers, regrets, and shameful, dirty little secrets.But all who are hunting for you— oh, let them sing and be happy. Let those who know what you’re all about tell the world you’re great and not quitting.
~Psalm 40:16, MSG
(If I had written this, all pronouns referring to God would be capitalized!)
Admire the greatness of God above all else and your heart will beam in cheerful fluorescence.
I knew I was "supposed" to be happy with God, but the "new legalism" squelched potential spiritual satisfaction like a bucket of water on a waning campfire. Between God and me hovered this ominous cloud that pummeled guilt and shame down on my burned-out heart in torrents of accusations. I never did enough.
Legalism is the evil taskmaster strapping impossible workloads on the backs of God's children.
Dictionary.com defines legalism: "the strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence, to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit."
Anthony Bradley defines the "new" legalism: Being a “radical,” “missional," Christian is slowly becoming the “new legalism.” We need more ordinary God and people lovers (Matt 22:36-40).
Anybody who loves the Lord desires to represent Him through good deeds. However, Jesus' words "depart from Me I never knew you" hang in the balance.
Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name and driven out demons in Your name and done many mighty works in Your name? And then I will say to them openly (publicly), I never knew you; depart from Me, you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands]. ~Matthew 7:22-23
If legalism pastors your church, you probably won't hear a sermon on that passage. Legalism could care less whether or not you love God, but it will demand that you love people.
What we do "for" God should never be our hearts' obsession. Results, numbers, accomplishments are in the arena of His discretion. He commands us to "give without expecting anything in return," all the while, filling us with the desire to do His good pleasure.
God never overlooks the health of His servants!
The "new" legalism puts the cart before the horse every time. It harasses God's children with the second half of Acts 1:8--going into the remotest parts of the earth. It blatantly dismisses the first half--"when the Holy Spirit comes on you." Consider the fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians. He translates the fruit in different ways through infinitely different individuals. Also consider how the Holy Spirit "comes" on us to achieve the unconventional--He restrains. There are several accounts of His restraint throughout the book of Acts. Legalism probably won't bring these up. He leads to the brink of temptation for the purpose of testing faith to see what it's made of. Legalism preaches an unattainable perfection that self-righteously skips right on past these tests, discounting them as "weak" and to be ignored.
My Bible tells me "do not quench the Holy Spirit." A no exclusion policy.
Philip was called by the Holy Spirit to be a public figure in spreading the Gospel--until he got married. At this point, he hung around the house to foster three godly daughters, young virgins who were rare in the day and who "prophesied." The Bible describes Philip as "full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom," and "controlled by the Holy Spirit" (Acts 6, verses 3 and 5). When the Holy Spirit restrained him from the mission field, Philip did not quench God's conviction. Unspeakable! He did exactly what legalism ordered him not to--he stayed home with the wife and kids! But he did right in the eyes of the Lord! Glory! Hallelujah! And Amen!!
There are a whole lot of legalist parents who look like good church people but they grossly neglect the Holy Spirit's control at home. Their children suffer untold horrors; they grow up with a homelessness attached to their poor, deprived hearts. Legalist parents don't have time to spend receiving God's love, so they don't have it to pass along to their kids. God help us to parent our children as the Holy Spirit directs!
Legalism discounts God's validation of dads who turn their hearts toward home.
Legalism accuses moms of worthlessness if they choose to stay home with their children.
Legalism turns parents into monsters at home who demand no less than their preconceived ideas of godly perfection from their children.
Legalism rejects the quiet, unconventional ways in which God would have His children go.
Legalism says there is no time to pursue loving God first.
I remember babies in faith being shoved into the mission field, and I also remember cringing, thinking how "under-dressed" they were spiritually, how fragile their acquaintance with God.
Legalism restricts knowledge of God to your head.
I am altogether convinced that baby Christians need an extended honeymoon in the Word of God, getting better acquainted with Him and nailing down the fact that He loves them "as is."
By faith through grace we are saved, not by our adherence to the letter of the law!
"By faith through grace" puts the knowledge of God in your heart where you grow to cherish Him as the "best thing" that has ever happened to you.
"By faith through grace" takes your mind off of how useful you are and puts it on how amazing and awesome He is!
Oh, how I adore Him Who refreshes my soul with peace, contentment, and pure joy! I am a misfit of the church of legalism, but I wholly trust Him as the Source of my livelihood! I trust Him in His personal command to me--"Come out from among them" and I am altogether convinced that He means those who practice legalism! Oh, how I appreciate how He removed the impossible workload that legalism forced upon me, bowing me low to the earth where the Light was shadowed by shame! Oh, how I love Him!
So often we mar God's designed influence through us by our self-conscious effort to be consistent and useful. Jesus says that there is only one way to develop spiritually and that is by concentration on God. "Do not bother about being of use to others; believe on Me"--pay attention to the Source, and out of you will flow rivers of living water.
The risk of being deemed a misfit is worth the blessed assurance of knowing God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him--first!
I was alarmed this morning when I checked my blog stats for the first time in forever. Spam and very inappropriate sites were listed among my referring sites. After a bit of research, I discovered spammers set up automated surfing in order to trick innocent bloggers like me into surfing their disgusting websites.
J. K. Rowling's quote from Harry Potter, "The forest hides many secrets," applies to the internet. I don't know who is actually perusing my words with good intentions. Some of my visitors may not even be real people at all.
By faith I send out my words with the hope that they are hitting home with someone who has a broken heart. Someone who needs a new life. Someone who secretly wishes their world was brighter. Someone who needs an oasis for their thirsty soul. Someone who appreciates the word treasures found in the Bible.
I trust my words will find someone who needs Jesus! The truth is, we all need Him!
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me. ~Revelation 3:20 (Jesus)
Jesus stands outside the door of your heart at this moment. Tap, tap, tap. He has a gift especially for you. Life.
Let me ask you about the interior behind your heart's door. Is it dark? Messy? Cluttered? Dismal? Dirty? Is the floor of your heart strewn with foolishness? Is dishonor the rug that covers shameful secrets and degradation? Are you polished on the outside, yet, no matter how hard you scrub, you don't ever feel clean. You are always suspicious about someone seeing your dirty little secret. Mentally, you struggle to keep the shameful secrets swept under the rug of duplicity. Aren't you tired? Aren't you tired of creating more and more lies?
Maybe you already are acquainted with Jesus. But really, it's mostly a head thing. You haven't actually opened the door to Life. Sure, the outside looks great--you appear at church and look just like all the other people in the pews. The showing up part is easy. But, what about when you're alone? How about your interior? Is it full of Jesus' light and life and grace and truth? Do darkened, moldy corners exist with cobwebs of bitterness, regret, selfishness, jealousy? Do you navigate toward the dark corners in your mind instead of the Life?
Open the door for Jesus. Hear His gentle tapping. He will come in and turn on the light and life and joy and forgiveness. He will clean things up so you can walk in guilt-free happiness. You will no longer have to sweat about keeping those dirty little secrets covered.
Or are you [so blind as to] trifle with and presume upon and despise and underestimate the wealth of His kindness and forbearance and long-suffering patience? Are you unmindful or actually ignorant [of the fact] that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repent (to change your mind and inner man to accept God’s will)? ~Romans 2:4
For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord [invoking Him as Lord] will be saved.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. ~Ephesians 2:8-9
Right now, Jesus stands outside your heart's door. Maybe you should try your hospitality skills and let the Honored Guest in to stay forever. He loves you so much! You are valuable to Him. You are worth saving!
A concept. A phrase. A single word.
Regardless of the earthly source, the truth in them weaves into the ordinary, interlacing strength into the fibers of listening hearts.
A phrase with a disagreeable edge reveals a hole needing repair. Rumblings of discontent.
One word follows closely on the phrase's heels, patching up the frayed edges with cords of confidence and releasing compromised hearts into freedom to stand their ground. Significant.
A concept stirs. The discontented ones need an infusion of something, something to give their faith wings, something to make their eyes sparkle. The ethereal concept coagulates into a tiny, solid formation with extraordinary possibilities. Life.
The single, brief word expands into a wall-to-wall tapestry, handsome and beautiful. Attractive like Jesus. Move toward life!
Ever weaving words into attentive souls, the Truth releases prisoners of doom, captives of inferiority, and inmates of listlessness.
Extraordinary in the ordinary.
No shame in the unimpressive.
The quiet life is Truth's prize for winners. Not losers.
Cherished blue collars.
Lavishly loved moms doing a hundred unnoticed good deeds.
Esteemed dads faithfully assuming their God-given role of hunter/gatherer.
Run the race. The average race. But run it well. Run it from the impenetrable blanket of Truth cuddling your heart. Be fruitful and multiply the braids of Life in your world. Your usual, run-of-the-mill, commonplace existence that the world of fame and popularity deems as "just a..."
The Truth makes one know how valued they are and releases them into freedom--freedom to happily do the mundane with pleasure. Not a freedom to fly away from responsibility. But a motivational indulgence to find enthusiasm for every ordinary day.
You have put more joy and rejoicing in my heart than [they know] when their wheat and new wine have yielded abundantly. ~Psalm 4:7
Those concepts. Those phrases. Those little words. Gather them. Collect them. Let them steep like fragrance on your heart. You want their abundance. You need it right where you are. No escape necessary.
Every "little" attractive word of Truth is the direct tap, tap, tap of the Glorious One. He knocks on your heart's door. In His hand are reinforcements wrapped in a personal gift just for you. Delivered in person is a simple envelope containing one gift-word. Life.
Would you consider loosening your grip on discontentment by expanding the width of your heart's acceptance of the Truth? Would you consider valuing these overlooked little life-builders called words? As His work in progress, you will be fortified by the addition of more words, more phrases, and more joyous concepts to add on to your collection. Expect generosity. Surrender self-imprisonment for Jesus' life and more life through normal words dressed in average clothing.
Move toward life-words!
Your word have I laid up in my heart, that I might not sin against You. ~Psalm 119:11
Is it biblically correct to have sympathy for others?
The question came into our home yesterday, and I knew right away how to answer. My convictions were settled. Because I have treasured God's Word, I also knew which verse shaped my convictions.
However, a little digging into the topic of sympathy would be beneficial.
First, I go to my favorite references, dictionary.com and thesaurus.com. I harvest this definition: "the fact or power of sharing the feelings of another, especially in sorrow or trouble;
fellow feeling, compassion, or commiseration." From the latter, I pluck a handful of synonyms: responsiveness, understanding, warmheartedness, and kindness.
Next, I consider some antonyms from the thesaurus: dislike, hatred, denial, antagonism, refusal, indifference. Now these words make me want to run fast and hard into a heavy downpour of sympathy.
A warning flag from what God has taught me ever so patiently seems to be cautioning. Sympathy without wisdom is crippling. It's nothing more than patronizing, petting, mollycoddling, and babying. Without the understanding one gets from spending time with God, sympathy is weak and whiny; it is devoid of intelligent encouragement.
A person given to dependency on others will curl up in the lap of your sympathy and latch on. Eventually, they become too heavy for you to carry. You exhaust your supply of advice and counsel, all to no avail. They still milk you with the same questions about the same problems they had when you first met them. Be watchful. Do not let anyone enthrone you. There comes a time when your hands are tied, and the only solution is to turn them over to God. This disciplinary action will hurt you--shared feelings--because you know they will not understand why you deserted them.
Enabling is not God-honoring sympathy.
My second source in defining sympathy, of course, is the Bible. However, with all the translations we have access to, how do we know which is correctly using the word? Ah...no worries...this is where God's Holy Spirit comes in perfectly handy. He teaches us individually and Jesus comes alongside to convince us. Trust God about translations.
I prefer The Amplified Bible. It is true to the original Hebrew and Greek. Besides, I am thrilled with the richness it brings out of archaic languages. It's understandable to me as one of the masses of average folks. It helps me comprehend what is fuzzy for me in the King James.
In the four gospels, one can find plenty of sympathy as Jesus interacted with people. We are to walk as He did says 1 John.
Romans 15:5 gives us this view of sympathy: "Now may the God Who gives the power of patient endurance (steadfastness) and Who supplies encouragement, grant you to live in such mutual harmony and such full sympathy with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus..."
2 Corinthians 1:3 is the verse that came to my mind when I heard the question: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of sympathy (pity and mercy) and the God [Who is the Source] of every comfort (consolation and encouragement)..." This truth continues in the next verse with God waterfalling comfort onto us so that we can comfort others! I'm pretty sure you need some sympathy to actually comfort someone else.
Pain passes. But when I'm hurting, sympathetic kindness, tenderness, warmheartedness is like luxurious butter on a toast. I can eat the toast without butter (ick), but it sure is better with butter. I know God will get me through pain, but a little human tenderness (sympathy) makes the rough patches a bit more tolerable.
Two young ladies with the same set of parents currently live in our home and are as different as beach and mountain. One is keen toward people (the way God designed her), buckets of coffee, and anywhere but this one-horse town. The other one has come to terms with her introversion (the way God designed her), and the nagging questions about social drainage have been replaced with a simplistic lifestyle that is dotted rather than inundated with people.
With my same love, I appreciate the mountains and the beaches--for different reasons. With my same love, I appreciate both girls--for different reasons.
The ocean leaves an indelible impression on one's soul. The cadence of its waves wash skin treatment over sandy feet and peaceful energy onto work-driven minds. I'm always overcome with wonder at the sheer size of the highly active masses of salty waters. They make their presence powerfully known and yet reach only so far onto shorelines. I recall how small I feel.
Beckoning with their cool, misty air, the mountains offer the muddled mind clarity. This feeling is fresh off of a day trip into Asheville recently. Through Interstate 40's many dips and curves, and from the sweeping vistas of the grand Biltmore Estate, a sense of awe elevated me. I still feel the quietness.
God's handiwork is evident in both places. And in both young Bishops. I just saw the lush blues and greens of the mountains and heard the streams and rivers running through. The rocks, the valleys, the pines, the woodsy aromas. I remember standing barefoot in the sand and how the sea stretched as far as I could see where it kisses the sky. I get to survey the beauty of opposing offspring as they grow into God's design more with each passing day. Overall, I feel privileged.
And I think of how many different people color this earth and how God loves them all with the same eternal, sacrificial love--for different reasons.
God is perfect in His love for throngs of uniquely oriented people. We have to grow to understand His kind of love, crave it passionately in order to love appropriately. We can only understand His love within the center of who we are as He imparts to us its unfathomable measurements.
To love others as Jesus loved me means I personally give you enough space to be the mountain or beach that He created you to be. It is only through God's love that I can accept and embrace personality variances with such appreciation. And feel amazed.
One young Bishop lady has embraced her calling to oh, the places we can go and the people we can meet. The other one has accepted her smaller, quieter call to settle down and mind her own business. Because of God's grace, I have grown to rejoice in my limitations and this enables me to free both of them to go in the way they each should go.
Something about Grace. It leaves me big-eyed in awestruck wonder as I realize all along God was working on me to accept His permission to relax into my ordinary, non-glamorous position. With that came a sweeping view of grace to share with others--first and foremost, my immediate family. His grace is really too good to be true as seen from the mechanics of human effort.
All I know to say is Wow!
And I feel grateful.
[That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]! ~Ephesians 3:19
One week ago, under the title of "Firefly Faith," I wrote the following:
"I think a lot of people fizzle out of participating in their real life's calling because they think it just doesn't matter as much as someone else's "higher" calling. And then I think, what if all the people who thought their part in God's kingdom work on earth was teensy or insignificant or not noble enough went ahead and just did it. How much more His love would enlighten the world!"
Yesterday's Mother's Day sermon fell like gentle rain, confirming the above. I am altogether convinced that God communicates to our hearts with gentle power. Given the fact that He is our Gentle Shepherd, He is well aware of how easily sheep are spooked. He also constantly monitors how the big, bad devil wolf sneaks into the very things we treasure most, disguised as something closely resembling relationship with God, and bullies us into legalism.
Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth. ~Hosea 6:3
Here's the intro quote to the sermon that peaked my heart's curiosity and poured refreshment and grace over the very ordinary me--a homemaker in a small town and lovin' it! It's from Anthony Bradley's article "The New Legalism: Missional, Radical, Narcissistic and Shamed" at blog.acton.org:
Being a “radical,” “missional,” Christian is slowly becoming the “new legalism.” We need more ordinary God and people lovers (Matt 22:36-40).
I heard the rest of the sermon, but it remained strongly influenced by the introduction. I remember vividly how hostile the "new legalism" hounded my ragged faith and I strongly suspected that the Matthew 22:36-40 order had been grossly ignored.
God's plan for your life is quite simple. It is always, always, always love God first and others second.
Legalism pushes us past "He comes as rain comes, as spring rain refreshing the ground." Legalism runs on faulty faith, empty tanks, and religious works freakishly resembling genuine faith! "By grace through faith" is blatantly detoured by the legalism bulldozer. Legalism rips your attention away from the first and greatest commandment.
Beware how the big, bad devil wolf intimidates you into focusing on the second commandment first. Did God really say rest in Him first? There are too many lost souls out there for you to lollygag in His love.
Grace says God will be effective through loving Him "with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect)."
Jesus convinces you through faith that God accomplishes the second commandment.
Not in your own strength...
...for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you...
"You" as in non-glamorous, ordinary you.
You, as in what the world demotes as "just a ____________."
...energizing and creating in you the power and desire...
"The power and desire" as in the quiet, purified "want-to" streaming gently through your heart. What is it that you really want to do "for" God? Where, in the wide range of positions available in God's kingdom work on earth, is your heart most sensitive, most drawn? Is the "position" so ordinary it is discounted by the missional, radical legalist? Your own heart even cheats you out of diving into God's pleasure available to you in this "ordinary" venue.
...both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight." ~Phil. 2:13
Confidently stand your God-given position in all of its delightful ordinariness!
Winter Closet by Julie Ford Oliver
Prayer comes in as many styles as people behind them. It has no formula to memorize. Complete quietness can express its heart. But Jesus did give us a prayer pattern, The Lord's Prayer, with some conditions.
In Matthew 6:5-7, my Bible states Jesus' conditions for prayer three times with the phrase "when you pray."
Also when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites... (vs. 5). Why? Because hypocrites do their religion with the attitude that the watching world is their stage. They crave human approval, feed on the praise of people, and live for the next pat on the back. Jesus said they "have their reward in full already."
In his Psalm 26 prayer, David confessed his separation from hypocrites. "I do not sit with false persons, nor fellowship with pretenders." David knew how the company we keep influences our personal faith. That's why he invited God to test his heart and mind. Hypocrites do not behave from a pure heart; they are walking duplicity. Create in me a a pure heart, O God!But when you pray, go into your [most] private room...
(vs. 6). Because that's where God is! The verse itself tells us so. He "will reward" the private pray-er "in the open.
" Hebrews 11:6 reiterates God's reward system: "...whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder
of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out]."
In your private place of prayer, you are most inclined to be most honest with the One Who loves you the most. In His company, you will be influenced by sincerity and real love. You will be encouraged by His Spirit within you to accept yourself "as is" and feel His hospitality to make yourself at home in His spiritual kingdom.And when you pray, do not heap up phrases...
(vs. 7). The prayer of faith is well aware that God hears the first time. Impostor prayer feels the need to cover up for lack of genuineness with many words and repetitions. The unwise pray with a lot of speech in attempts to impress God or other people.
God has powerful eyes--He can see straight through wordy screens! He knows the real need of the heart, and He just wants us to come out with it. We don't have to dress up prayer for Him. He is sovereign and already knows. He doesn't need prayer--we need the release it provides by way of simply and honestly casting onto Him our real issues.
Effective prayer invites you to:
- Be yourself. Be real. Be simple.
- Hide away where you feel most comfortable with your heavenly Father.
- Relax and be free from practicing a performance.
- Expect God to reward you somehow.
- Let your guard down without risk of the crowd's disapproval.
Some people say Christians are illiterate. Christianity is often stereotyped with degrading views by those who are not affectionately acquainted with Jesus Christ. We expect those on the outside of faith in Christ to insult our belief system. But we don't always know how to handle the discourteous remarks of those on the inside.
I came across a self-proclaimed atheist's disdain for Christians. Her words were rude, painting Christians as "stupid" and uneducated. The sobering part is, in some ways, her accusation is correct.
Please allow me to explain. Some church people do not learn God's lessons; they do not apply His principles to their choices. He has generously and hospitably invited His children to ask if they lacked wisdom (James 1:5). Some Christians do not seek God's help, and, therefore, they do not proceed with His gift of heavenly intelligence.
These Christians are weak in faith, possibly lukewarm. Yet they maintain the appearances of a Christ follower. To cover up weakness, and to mask their exclusion of Him in ordinariness, they speak from a surface level of faith that comes from an inch's depth. This language is not flavored with grace or love or peace; it does not make Christ attractive.
The natural man, whether Christian or not, cannot make sense of God's wisdom. "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14). The Amplified Bible adds that the things of God are "folly, meaningless, nonsense" to the nonspiritual side of humans.
On the bright side, God wants to "train" His children and make them smarter.
"But the spiritual man tries all things [he examines, investigates, inquires into, questions, and discerns all things]..." (1 Cor. 2:15). Gullible children God does not raise. He indeed wants us to think for ourselves, to use the sound mind He gave us!
I get the argument; some faith-based choices don't make a lick of sense. Noah's faith-based choice of building the ark on very dry land was foolishness to the nonspiritual people of his day. But who survived the flood? Noah got his wisdom from God, and he and his family escaped the flood that drowned God's disbelievers.
Get to know your Maker better by making yourself at home in His words so your spiritual side can become wiser. God loves to give us wisdom. But how do you know it's from Him?
Here are a few things about wisdom from above:
Ability comes with God's wisdom. Whatever task He gives you to do, He also gives you the ability to do it (Exodus 31). Noah knew where to start the construction of the big boat, and he knew how to finish it.
Understanding comes along with wisdom. All throughout the Psalms understanding is paired with wisdom. At first glance, one may think the two are equal, but there is a slight difference. Understanding brings compassion into the mix. Without compassion, wisdom is astute and too sophisticated.
Reverence toward God opens the door wide for wisdom to waltz in. Deep respect tells God, "Hey, I know You are the smartest Being of all beings. You can do whatever You please. You made me. And I am a fool to try living without Your advice." God loves to give meaning to the lives of these spirit-minded individuals. (See Psalm 111:10.)
God's wisdom contains ample power to raise your thoughts from death. In Jesus we have redemption through His blood, forgiveness of our offenses, "in accordance with the riches and the generosity of His favor which He lavished upon us" in "every kind of wisdom and understanding (practical insight and prudence), making known to us the mystery (secret) of His will (of His plan, of His purpose)..." (Eph. 1:7-9).
Wisdom makes God's will clearer to us. Colossians 1:9-- "that you may be filled with the full (deep and clear) knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom [in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God] and in understanding and discernment of spiritual things..."
God's wisdom even makes us courteous! After God's wisdom introduces itself to you in purity, then it is peace-loving and "courteous (considerate, gentle). [It is willing to] yield to reason, full of compassion and good fruits; it is wholehearted and straightforward, impartial and unfeigned (free from doubts, wavering, and insincerity)" (James 3:17). On the contrary, superficial (nonspiritual) wisdom breeds envy, jealousy and strife, making people prideful and "false to the Truth" (James 3:14).
Wisdom has a certain ring to it in your head that makes you think it is better than your average thought. Did you catch that from James? Wisdom from above is "free from doubts." It is not indecisive. It knows precisely what to do and when to do it, and it's too busy being joyfully occupied to find time to be jealous about others' abilities and opportunities.
Father, I could use a whole lot more of Your wisdom down here. James 1:5 tells me You are a giving God and You give liberally without ridiculing me for my lack of wisdom. I believe You know better than I do how to take care of the people I love. I need to know how to trust You more with two adult daughters, aging parents, and all of our futures. Could I get more wisdom? Wisdom to maintain a pure heart of peace. Wisdom to guide my wavering thoughts. Wisdom to share courteously with my family--that is, to speak the truth in love. I pray for anyone who reads my words based on Your words today. I pray they will also get a heart of wisdom from You! Thank You for loving us so much!
A priceless thing I've learned these forty something years with Jesus is that prayer is always the best idea like a stack of pancakes for breakfast. It's not how we form our words or how long we pray, but it is to Whom we pray that makes all the difference in the world. Max Lucado put it this way:
"Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the One Who hears it, our prayers do make a difference."
Prayer is the language of faith. Faith is the thing God imparts to us through hearing His words, making ourselves at home in them, and embracing them for the volumes they are worth. God's words make us confident in Jesus' powerful ability to do something about the cares we bring to Him.
Isn't it marvelous how these tiny formations we view in succession have such power? Miracles do happen with God's words because they are
Jesus in all of His glorious splendor! They are alive! and chock full of the same super power that raised our Savior from death. And, wow, what incredible changes take place inside of us when we echo back to Jesus His very own word-life.
Perhaps God wrote "don't worry" so repetitively throughout the Bible because He knew good and well that we would default to anxiety when things looked uncertain. Worry is
a sin because it rejects faith. Whatever rejects faith is communicating to God that Jesus isn't enough. What a tragedy to discount the blood, sweat, tears and torture of the Cross, the death, and the elaborate grandeur in Jesus' resurrection.
Jesus endured more than we ever will. He suffered more intensely than we ever will. For us! For every one of us! Going to the bellies of death, He descended lower than any of us will sink in darkness. He did this for us! So that we could have hope. "Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us" (Romans 5:5).
So, we have hope in our praying. Biblical hope is more than a wish. It has substance to it. Life in it. Resurrection thoughts attached to it.
I used to begin my prayers "all about me." Then, I read somewhere that I was being self-centered. But I noticed how direct and honest David was in his praying, so I copied my complaint-prayer after his style, tattle-telling on others with many words. Then, God's words got in
me and changed my attitude about the way I was praying.
Do your prayer life a favor or two:
Always pray. Do not turn coward, faint or lose heart. Do not give up.
- Train your brain to pray away worries. Be an intelligent pray-er.
- Learn to shift your focus quickly from concerns to the One with countless options.
- Slow down your consumption of God's Word: chew it slowly so that you can taste its sweetness enough to remember how incredibly good it was later. Our prayers are in line with God's will when we allow His word full play in our hearts. Always feed on scripture for your personal satisfaction--it gives you stamina and improves your views.
- Take small bites of God's voluminous life-words. You can digest them and retain them more effectively this way. You'll be able to retrieve their goodness and strength on a short notice. Sure, God listens to human words, but His words are packed with higher purpose, elevated productivity, and ability beyond our wildest dreams. Relax; grace says you don't have to memorize from Genesis to Revelation. The Holy Spirit will bring back to your mind appropriate words to which you were exposed, words that fed your soul earlier.
- Be specific. Your enemy squashes hope by blurring the specifics of your concerns. The conniving snake shoots arrow thoughts at your head; "What if God doesn't answer that specific prayer? Keep it vague so that He has plenty to work with. He'll understand where you're coming from." Prayer is for our benefit--not God's. We pray to the One we know can do something about specifics because we need His help specifically.
- Expect God to brighten your outlook. It happens all the time; when I pray for others, God transforms me! He changes my attitude! He shapes my thoughts and shows me possibilities I had never before considered.