3 Prayers to Go deeper with God

The following Prayers were extracted from Moses’ conversation with God in Exodus 33:

  1. “Teach me Your ways.” We are surrounded with the ways of our society, culture, friends, family and social media. Depending on where we live, we may be subject to capitalist or communist ideals. But we are from another Kingdom, and Kingdom of people belonging to God. And so we ask God, to teach us His ways, the ways of His culture, His Kingdom, His methods.
  2. “Guarantee to me, Your Presence.” Without His presence, how can we partner with Him in His global, eternal mission. How can we be distinct like stars in the midst of a dark world? How can we set an example to believers in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity?
  3. “Show me Your glory.” This is a prayer of a brave man or woman, who dares to speak to God face to face. This is the prayer of someone who is not satisfied with seeing worldly vision statements, plans, and ambitions. Who wants a Why that will empower all their actions. This is the prayer of a man or woman who hungers for the fulness of joy and pleasure forever more. This is the prayer of the person who wants to overcome sin, shame, addiction and brokenness. This is the prayer of the saint who wants to worship God powerfully.

Why I will listen to Bethel Music

In-house, Christian-matters. I don’t usually agree to post Christian debate issues on my blog, because I don’t think it’s actually helpful or encouraging. In this case I will because 1) my blog’s not popular enough, 2) the debate is happening anyway, 3) I think I’m writing towards a peaceful resolution between the two sides. And 4) I have been asked about this several times by other Christians and find myself having to rethink it all again – it is much easier to have it written in one place.

There is a bit of a hot debate going around some Christian circles and websites at the moment. And it’s one I’ve had to give some thought to because of a particular preacher I listened to several times each week during my teenage years.

It’s a strain of the prosperity gospel (as defined that God wants to bless you, with health, wealth and happiness), which is based on faith. Most prosperity gospel have their roots in blatant legalism – “Do good, get good”.

This faith-based prosperity gospel, says – “believe and get good”. Implying, when bad happens, it’s because you don’t believe enough, or you’re not “claiming” it in faith. Also implying, it’s always God’s will to answer your prayers – provided you believe.

(Aside from the common obvious points that several of Jesus’ prayers were not answered with ‘yes’…”Father let this cup pass from me”, “Father I pray that the Church would be united in love, that they would be one as We are one”…. [For more read: God on Mute – Pete Greig]. )

Popular churches that seem to espouse this teaching include: Bethel, Hillsong and a lot of the GodTV cast. Since Bethel and Hillsong also write a large fraction of the worship music out there, a common response is to stop playing their music at churches etc.

The reason being 1) they don’t want to financially support ministries with false teaching, 2) they don’t want to encourage new believers to seek out false teachers 3) they want to protect their flock.

All pretty legit reasons.

Here are some of my counter thoughts though:

1) Jesus, when confronted by his disciples complaining about people casting out demons in His name, responded: “whoever is not against us is for us”. I do not honestly believe that the majority of people in these churches, are opposed to Christ. (Furthermore, I don’t think it is my job to determine that.) Matthew 12:30-42

2) Paul writes, that no one can claim (and mean that) Jesus is Lord without the help of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:3 . I know this is a loose application, and that there are false teachers who can claim this. But I think we may be underestimating the truth of this passage to dismiss such worship leaders so quickly.

3) God consistently uses crooked sticks to draw straight lines. Some of the people God has used throughout scripture and history, have had enormous doctrinal flaws. Consider the precious puritans and their slave ships. Consider Paul, the worst of sinners. Consider me!

4) Not all worship music, and not all prayer, needs to be doctrinally sound. A quick perusal through the Psalms reveal prayers and songs that were not “theologically correct”. Is it Psalm 137 that talks about the happy man being the one who dashes infants against rocks.

Prayer and worship is about coming honestly before God with our true selves, bringing it before Him knowing we are loved and accepted. If we start censoring songs and prayers, don’t we encourage people to only present their “best self” to God. Isn’t this one of those things that Jesus came to set us free from?

5) Paul writes in Philippians, “it is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love…the former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble…But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, CHRIST IS PREACHED. And because of this I rejoice.” (2:15-18)

I’m not fussed if Hillsong and Bethel are making a lot of money, or even if this is their primary motive, IF their songs lead people to Christ. I rejoice. Personally, I have encountered God’s presence whilst listening to their music, and I know many have been encouraged to the Father’s arms via “Mighty to Save”, “Oceans”, “No longer a slave to fear”…

6) Linked to this is, my lack of concern about money going to these mega churches, that have dodgy teaching. All money belongs to God, He can reduce empires and build them up. As a matter of interest, do the Christian who refuse to listen to bethel, also refuse to buy clothes made in sweatshops, coffee that isn’t fair trade, computers from large tech companies. Micah 6. It seems a little showy and divisive to make a stand only in regards to music.

Furthermore, since God owns all the money, and gives all the authority and platforms…(see Jesus when He tells Pilate that the authority he has is only from God). Do we trust Him.

7) There is a measurement of conscience, love and faith in this. See 1 Cor 8 and Romans 14. In short, (I’ve explored in another blog post), Paul talks about how knowledge can be used to puff up, or can be used in love. He talks about eating meat offered to idols, and how it may be right for some to eat, and it may be right for some to abstain…depending on their conscience, faith and love.

There is a cutting line here: “Whatever is not from faith is sin”. If we can’t eat meat offered to idols, listen to music produced by Bethel with a clear conscience then we shouldn’t. If we can’t listen to Hillsong’s songs, without causing our fellow believers to stumble than we should abstain. Will we let love and conscience impact how we carry out our faith.

8) Jesus said “my sheep know my voice”. Do we trust that this is true? Yes, there is a place for warning against the wolf-like false teachers. But there is also a place for trust that those who are God’s children can recognise His voice.

9) Jesus said, “I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it”. Do we trust that this is true? When it comes to false teaching and heresy and people’s faith, we often work ourselves into a state where fool ourselves into believing we care more about this all than God does. No, God cares, and He hates lies. I don’t mean to belittle the impact of false teaching and lies. I love scripture and God’s truth, it is my life!

Just as the prophet declared about the early Church… “Therefore in the present case I advise you: leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” Acts 5:38-39

Faith mixed with Revelation

Genesis 6:22 says that Noah did everything just as the Lord commanded him.

It’s easy to do some of what God tells us. It’s easy to do everything God tells us, but in a slightly different way. (For example he could have made a slightly bigger boat etc). But the challenge is to do everything, just as commanded.

Noah mixes the revelation of the coming flood with the faithful obedience of a righteous man. It’s easy to keep these things separate: what God tells us and what we think is true and important.

The men and women of scripture challenge us to mix faithful obedience with the revelation of Gods will/word.

When God says go, do we go? When God says speak, do we speak? When God says turn the other cheek, love your enemies, bless those who insult you – do we?

Obedience isn’t easy, especially when we disagree. This is why faith is required into the mixture.

Today, may we be like Noah who did everything, just as the Lord commanded Him.

Peter: “But because You say so, I will” Luke 5:5

“Whatever God wants, whenever He wants it, whatever the cost”

Mary: “do whatever He tells you” John 2:5

Relinquishing Omniscience

Warning – this is an uncomfortable post.

I have journaled very consistently for the last 8 years. I have two journals on the go at any one point. One to record my prayers and the other to record all my notes (from books, talks or 1-on-1s with people, even my sets and reps from weightlifting). The black books pictured above are the latter.

For some time now I have wanted to digitalise these notebooks and categorise the years and years worth of notes into a digital resource. It’s an ambitious task. I want everything I have ever studied to be easily accessible.

Why? Well firstly, I’ve argued that it was part of being a good steward. Secondly, it will make for helpful teaching of others. Thirdly, I feel very good about my walk with God when I consider all the things God has taught me, and looking on a photo like this. I see 8 years of walking with God all documented, tangible and real. Didn’t the Israelites set up stones to remind themselves of God’s goodness?

However there is a fourth reason, and one more deadly than the third. A desire for omniscience, a desire to know all, and in so doing a subtle desire to be like God. Because my human brain is fragile, I forget things and can’t always remember. So I wanted to protect against that by outsourcing my memory to a computer. I want to have a digital database at hand by which I could answer any question thrown at me.

And so, I read books, I study the Bible, I listen to sermons and all the while I take notes. And over the years, over the months, I build an altar to knowledge, an altar to experience and memory…and then God speaks.

You see, God isn’t happy when anything comes between Him and me. He doesn’t appreciate when I start making an idol out of something else, even something good. Even if I’m only heading in that direction, God wants to address it.

When God asked me, how I felt about throwing those journals away. My response was, “yeah right!”. My journals, my notebooks, my ambition to ‘remember’ everything I had ever learnt was placed above my obedience to God.

Red flag.

Long story short, I’ve been praying and realising that God is way more important than books and journals, and vast databases of knowledge. (Obvious I know, but difficult to come to terms with when you are asked to throw it away.) I’ve been realising that everything else is rubbish compared to knowing Christ and obeying Him!

1) ‘For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people’. Jeremiah 31:33

2) ‘Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth of wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict of resist’ Luke 21:14

3) Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ’ Phil 3:8

And so I am offering these books back to God, by “burning” them (putting them in the kitchen bin)…Because they are garbage, compared to knowing Christ and I should not forget that.

Be aware, of setting idols in your heart. Be aware, of clinging to anything in this world rather than Christ. His Spirit is a sharp sword, His Word is a sharp sword, He will reveal the hidden treasures of your heart. And ask you to surrender them.

Be like the good kings of old, who tore down the high places, who broke the altars to false gods. Whether it be your tv addiction, your physic accomplishments, medals, and trophies, certificates or awards. Your blog following. Your job. Your reputation, ego or pride. Put it to death. Gain Christ.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Whatever you do…

31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

Have been reading through 1 Corinthians this week and one of the things that stood out to me was these verses in Chapter 10. It’s connected to chapter 9 and 7 and displays a lot of Paul’s attitude towards his work. I was challenged in my attitude towards work.

One of my dreams is to preach the gospel, like Spurgeon, many times throughout the week. I love to encourage people with God’s word and in their walk with Jesus. And if that was my full time job, I’d do it out of hours and wouldn’t worry about working ‘unpaid’ overtime.

So why don’t I consider my work with Cancer Research in such a way? Am I not supposed to be doing that work as unto the Lord? Am I not supposed to be seeking God’s glory in whatever position God calls me to? Married or single, slave/servant or freeman, employed or self-employed?

And so, I have been praying about what does it look like to carry out my life as it stands – today – as unto the Lord. And my thoughts:

  • Going the extra mile
  • Working overtime
  • Honouring my employer when their watching and when their not

In a sense, I want to steward the job I have now well in my early 20s as how I would if I was working full time for a church. I want to work as diligently as an employee for Cancer Research as if I was a missionary for Reach Across.

My aim isn’t to switch job, change my circumstances, but to glorify God.

1 Corinthians 7:

17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. 20 Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.

21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. 24 Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.

Genesis 3:1-24 Part 5: Where do we go from here?

Along the way, studying these passages and writing these posts I came across the following image of Adam and Eve walking out the garden, arms draped over each other’s shoulders, shame covering their face. And I imagined, what it must have been like for the two of them to leave Eden. What regret they must have felt, what embarrassment and what despair.

This post is an attempt to explore those moments, what position they were in as they left the garden. Their feelings and the various opportunities afforded them by God’s grace.

How far we have fallen

Undoubtedly, Adam and Eve would have reflected on their fall. How far they had strayed from the original. They were supposed to rule over and subdue creation, including the wild animals. And now the very ground they walk groans beneath their feet.

They were supposed to carry their heads high, with dignity and proudly bearing the image and likeness of God to creation. Now they seek to hide themselves and cover it all.

What once was a relationship characterised by love, protection, honour and intimacy. [See Vision for marriage]. Is now one characterised by hiding, blame and fear of allowing the other to see. A relationship of domination, tyranny, and abuse.

Where once, they had walked with God in the cool of the breeze. They now hide from Him. They leave His presence. They are estranged! Estranged from God, for each other, from creation and from themselves.

And were their work before had Preistly connotations, tending, guarding, keeping the garden of God’s Temple. It is now a frustrated, broken, endeavour, filled with futility, disappointment and despair!

Oh how much there is to regret with sin. How far it reaches to devastate and destroy. How severe it’s consequences. May the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin, move each of us to consider the cost of our sin. May we repent.

Opportunity to respond to Grace

And yet, all hope was not lost. We have seen that God’s response to their sin remembered mercy. And so Adam and Eve, although cast from God’s presence, exiled from the Garden, were still given the opportunity to respond to His grace.

Through confession rather than blaming. It is so tempting when we sin and fail to blame others, those nearby and those far off, society or families. The first step to receiving God’s grace is acknowledging and confessing our sin.

Then we must choose to receive God’s Grace. Both the spiritual blessings appointed to us, the promised blessing of the saviour to come, and the physical blessings of provision with food and clothes. May we not be too proud to receive God’s free grace, purchased for us by the Promised One.

Furthermore, the opportunities to continue sinning have not ended with the forbidden fruit. In fact they have multiplied. Adam and Eve can now, with the knowledge of good and evil, lie, steal, cheat, hurt and even kill one another. They can choose God’s way or become subject to sin which still lies crouching at the door (See Gen 4)!

Adam and Eve along with their family now to come have the opportunity to respond with faith to the Promise. In the midst of God’s curse, He also proclaimed the gospel. That someone would come, descended from the woman, would suffer and would conquer sin.

Fortunately, we see glimpses of the faith of mankind in it’s early stages in this chapter. Does Adam not name his wife, after the Promise? By naming her Eve, he demonstrates faith that she will produce a seed – eventually the promised Seed. Does Eve not in Chapter 4, demonstrate her faith in the promise by praising God for the birth of her three sons! Does Abel not continue with the family decision towards faith by offering God a pleasing sacrifice? Do a portion of the children not demonstrate faith when they start calling on the name of the Lord? (But all this to come!)

In short they, like us, have the opportunity to receive God’s grace through faith in the Promise.

Finally, as Christians, and inheritors of the Promised One! We have the choice to meet again with God in the cool of the day, with worship, with rejoicing, and intimacy!!!

May we Worship

Praise be to Jesus! For when I hear God walking – I don’t have to hide, but I can plead God’s mercy, earned by Christ and know that I am forgiven and restored. That the fruit of the tree of life is available to me! The Cherubim’s flaming swords has been lowered and I may enter the garden again!

This is the gospel! Such good news!

The curse is reversed, death is defeated and the garden is open to those who receive the Promised One

Identification with Christ

One of the things I feel being lead into at the moment, in my walking with God, is the theme of identification with Christ. I feel I have only scratched the surface and so this post won’t do justice to the work I think God wants to do in me.

It was a couple of weeks back when I started reading New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton. In it he talks about ‘contemplation’ as this mysterious state where it is no longer ‘I’ who live but Christ who lives in me.

My heart throbbed upon reading that.

I’m only a couple of chapters into Merton’s book and still have a lot to learn (it’s one of my slow reflective reads).

And then I was on a walk recently, listening to an audiobook by Watchman Nee ‘The Spiritual Man’. Which had been recommended by a man whose walk with God captivated me in my teenage years. He’d recommended this book to me years back, and I’ve tried on multiple occasions to read the book. And I never made it through the first third.

Not finishing a book is really really weird for me! I usually read over 52 books each year. Most books I start, even if they’re really bad, I finish! And yet, it’s been at least five years since I was recommended the ‘Spiritual Man’. I’d bought myself the paperback, and failed to finish several times, got the audiobook and failed to finish.

But here I am, in a season of my life where I feel God is nudging me towards praying about this theme. To experience and know-deeply, the truth that my ‘self’ is hidden in Christ. And I (almost) randomly put this audiobook on, to accompany my walk one day. It ‘picks up where I left off’ and… BAM!

He’s talking about it too! Living by the Spirit and not by the flesh. Living by the regenerated, new nature and not by the ‘soulish’ intellect, emotions and volition.

It makes me think that God’s been preparing me for this season to teach me something new. Maybe it will sink in this time.

I’m a little nervous, it feels like I’ve got some ‘dying to self’ to do. And I’m scared. What will I have to give up. What will I have to lose. Can I really go on without looking back?

My hope is that God who has started this work in me will lead me through it. I remind myself that my God is good, He cares for me and loves me. Where He asks me to die, I must trust that He will raise renewed.

Anyway, here’s a slightly less coherent blog post than usual. Just what’s going on in my walk with God.

Yellow-Brick Road Christianity

The Bible says that the most important command is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength (Luke 10:27)

I once read a book about this: thinking, loving, doing. A call to holistic Christianity. A challenge to be thinkers, engaged and serious about knowing God. And to be feelers, pulsing with passion for Jesus and His gospel. And to be doers, endeavouring great acts of love for others!

And I agree, it is no good just loving God with our heart, or just our mind, or just our strength – we need all three. I know this and I agree. In fact, growing up I once heard a talk that compared the types of Christians who love God with only some of these ingredients as the people Dorothy encounters on the yellow brick road towards the Wizard of Oz.

The straw man who doesn’t have a brain, the tin man without a heart and the lion without courage. The various pitfalls for Christians loving God like this are obvious!

However, the part that I need to focus on now is not using all three – but using ALL of all three!

You see, as important it as it is that we love God with our heart, mind, strength and soul. As important as all these three components are. It is just as important that we are wholeheartedly loving God.

There isn’t room for lukewarm discipleship, halfhearted obedience or ‘one hand to the plough, one eye back’.

In studying Genesis 3, I came across this quote from one of the commentators:

“The serpent touches us at the one thing in our lives where we would rather God did not trouble us. We will give Him everything else, but we will hold this one part of life to ourselves”.

This may be our ambition, our refusal to forgive, our determination to exercise, eat whatever we want, watch whatever we want. An area of sin we refuse to confess. A possession we refuse to give away. Be aware, this is where satan will aim his temptation.

What do we withhold from God?

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=holding+nothing+back+tim+hughes