Wird Geladen

Lessons from my own bible study

Archive for the tag “Holy Spirit”

1 Corinthians 12:7-8

7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,

These are just two examples, obviously- a metaphor for the entire range of unique gifts available from the God catalogue. But see how these two people got gifts that by themselves are useless? What good is wise advice if you’ve got no one to give it to? What good is a piece of juicy new information if you don’t know what its significance is?

Christians must interact with each other. We cannot thrive, cannot exist, would die entirely, without church. We’re each a little piece, completely indispensable but completely useless on our own. God’s plan is for us to work together to bring Heaven to Earth, and he does this by making sure no one can get anywhere on his own. It’s quite humbling.

It’s quite nerve-wracking, especially for me who is already reticent about my faith, and too lazy to go to church most days. But this verse is a call to action! I understand that the next move I need to make is to invest in a church- I won’t grow another inch until I do. I’ve grown so much in the last few months, I can’t imagine what’ll happen to me when I finally hitch into a church body and get activated.

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This is part of the Word of Wisdom Series

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Wanting God At The Center Of Our Lives

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.
                                                                                                 Gal 5:6

No action we perform is going to put God at the center of our lives. The tips in this series only work to clarify and solidify in our minds “Yes, that is what I want: for God to be at the center of my life.” Once that mindset is decided, God takes up the work alongside us, with us, to form a union in Him.

We must never underestimate the two-sidedness of this relationship; the urgent desire that God has for us to get to know Him. The whole reason Christ died was to set in place the spiritual mechanisms that let us and God be united. Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 that it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that our hearts and lives become God-focused:

No one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received that spirit so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.  
1 Cor 2:11-12

Wanting A God-Centered Life Requires A Deeper Choice

Choosing to focus our lives on God only comes after a harder decision has been made: change. We have to want the inevitable changes that come as the Holy Spirit moves us into Godliness.

Paul says to the Galatians:

Walk by the spirit, and you will no longer gratify the desires of the flesh.
Gal 5:16

A God-centered life requires that we deny ourselves and let the Holy Spirit transform us into new beings entirely. This verse is not a commandment but a truth! When we choose to change, the Spirit clears out our sinful human habits- anything about us that does not worship God- and fills us with light to guide us toward ultimate righteousness.

Change is a painful and daunting task. It requires we do that one thing which is completely anathema to our Selves: submit. In the war between God and Self, Satan fights his hardest on the side of Self, and submission is what He fights against.

The Holy Spirit Helps Us

But even here we find comfort through the Holy Spirit! In this miserable struggle between Self and God, the Holy Spirit offers us the ultimate pass: we do not have to earn our Godliness. Technically we cannot. Before Christ, we were not worthy of God’s love. Now the Holy Spirit makes us worthy through no power of our own. All we have to do is submit to letting ourselves be changed. God does the rest. It’s still not easy, but at least it only requires one step.

Success Comes Through God Himself

But isn’t that beautiful?! Responsibility for our salvation does not lie in our hands! Our livelihood and flourishing success is not ours to worry about! What a comforting thought.

When we desire God to be at the center of our lives, changes will come that amaze and thrill us. Our hearts come to see the enormous value of empathy, love, compassion, and consideration. This is because our work is no longer our own. Our decisions aren’t guesses- we don’t worry that what we’re deciding is right, useful, effective, or righteous. We can trust that everything will be set up for us to the good of the Kingdom.

This is all because every move and prayer contributes to a higher project for which we are not ultimately responsible, and to which all of our contributions can only be put to use for good. The most mundane parts of our day gain meaning because God accepts our offer to let them contribute to His Kingdom.

God works all things for the good of those who love Him.
Romans 8:28

Our thoughts, passions, urges, and directions come from no other place than God himself. They go to no other place than God’s glory.

Practical Application- Change + Tips 1-5 = Trust

Build others up and let it change the way we speak. Pray regularly and let it change the way we use our time. Be responsible with our bodies and possessions and let it change the way we live. Concentrate on what and how much we sacrifice to God and let it change the way we think.

Feel the urge to submit to these changes, but also feel the urge to resist them. Where there is resistance, know that God is immediately at hand to discuss the matter. Waste no time with thinking “I’ll worry about that later” or “I wonder what that means?” God is always in our thoughts, available the instant an issue arises. We can ask for strength in the desire to overcome our natural sinful urges. We can ask for clarity to see how important it is that we overcome this temptation in the first place. We can pray to be successful, even if not a single ounce of ourselves actually wants to be. When we do this, God carries us through and set us down closer to His center.

Practically, this means we have to trust that those changes will be for the better of us and God’s Kingdom. We need to trust that they are at work even though we can’t feel them, and can’t see the end of the means of which we are a part; like ivy slowly covering a brick wall.

The Promised Result

Keep going in the faith, trust, and excitement that it will become easier and easier to find God as we search for Him. Our centers will get closer and closer to His, thus we’ll have less distance to travel. Get to know God so that we can contribute to His Kingdom. That’s the purpose of our lives.

TIP #5- WANT GOD TO BE THE CENTER OF OUR LIVES, AND HE WILL BE.

ZK bubble windows full

This post has been the final addition in the “Putting God At The Center” Series, a project of learning how we can bring our lives to focus on God.  The four previous posts are: Centering Our Conversations On GodMealtime PrayerWorshiping God By Worshiping Our Bodies, and We Worship Whatever We Sacrifice To. If this series has helped you, I and other readers would love to know how! Please comment, like, and share!

Mealtime Prayer

Praying before we eat is one of the simplest ways I can think of for getting God into the center of our lives.

It waters our relationship with God

Paul is referring to the Corinthians’ failure to pray before eating when he says:

For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.
Paul1 Corinthians 11:30

He implies that praying before every meal builds us up and makes us strong, both in faith and life.  Just as food is central to our lives, culture, and survival, so is the prayer that comes before it.  If we let God bless our food, we let Him also bless our lives, culture, and survival.

Mealtime prayer is an act of worship

Food sits before us, our appetite tells us to eat, eat, eat!  By sacrificing these impulses for just a few seconds to consider God and thank Him for his goodness, we affirm that we choose God first (I wrote earlier that we worship whatever we sacrifice to).  Mealtime prayer is an exercise of obedience through which we display our love and appreciation for Him who loves and appreciates us.

Meals offer us built-in check points with God throughout our day

Praying before each meal is the perfect opportunity to align ourselves with God’s peace, joy, and love.  Three times a day, they’re an opportunity/reminder to thank Him for our blessings, as well as invite Him into our hearts.  Through mealtime prayers we can celebrate God’s gift to us in short, positive bursts.

(I’d like to add here that a few weeks ago I put an alarm in my phone to ring at 3:00 every day- when it goes off and I stop whatever I’m doing and just say a short thanksgiving for letting me be where I am, doing what I’m doing, safe and sound.  I call it “Hour of Prayer”, and it has really be uplifting for me, so I recommend it to my readers as well!)

We must understand that sacrificing a few seconds before each meal is only going to be done, and thankful prayers only going to be prayed, if we truly delight in God’s warmth.  Thus mealtime prayer also allows us to constantly consider where our hearts lie.

“Examine yourselves, and only then eat the bread and drink the cup.”
  Paul, 1 Corinthians 11:28

Is God important enough to my heart that He comes before food?  Am I fully aware of the wonderful miracles Jesus has wrought in my life that brought me to this table here and now?  Do I understand what those miracles mean for me eternally?  Do I care?  Asking ourselves these questions three times a day will certainly yield answers, and quickly too.

Mealtime prayer nourishes our relationship with God.  We worship Him by sacrificing the time.  We remind ourselves what good things He’s done for us over the course of the day.  We consider our position in Him.  These three acts together bring us out of ourselves and focus our minds on God instead- both in the long and short term.  When we pray before we eat, we scoot closer to God in ten-second bursts.  It’s a powerful habit that will very quickly put Him at the center of our lives.

Tip #3- Make a point to pray before every meal, giving thanks to Jesus for His gift of freedom to us, and assuring God that we want Him to be at the center of our lives. 

The problem I have with all of this is that I can never remember to actually do it!  Praying before I eat is not a habit of mine yet, so I always end up sitting there after I’m finished thinking “Oh man, I should have prayed first!  I’ll get it next time.”  How do you remember to pray before meals?  What kinds of tips can you offer other readers to improve their (and my!) consistency in mealtime prayer?  Your comments will add huge value to this series!

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This post has been the new addition in the “Putting God At The Center” Series, a project of learning how we can bring God to the center of our lives.  You can read the previous two posts:  Worshiping God By Worshiping Our BodiesWe Worship Whatever We Sacrifice To, as well as the project directive.  Stay tuned for the next installment, and please comment, like, and share!

Renown for the Name of the Lord

If you read the gospels, Jesus is always quoting Isaiah.  Thus I thought it would be a good idea to read Isaiah for myself, so I would know what Jesus was talking about.  In chapter 26 I came across this passage, which was the answer to what I had been seeking for weeks: a directive for my life.

Here’s what it says:

“The way of the righteous is level; O Just One, you make smooth the path of the righteous.  In the path of your judgments  O LORD, we wait for you; your name and your renown are my soul’s desire.” 
                                                               Isaiah 26:7-8

(3-Second Context: God has destroyed the Earth’s unbelievers and only a few loyal Jews survive to rebuild His nation.)

So the first question that arises from this passage is: what does that word righteous mean?  Does it mean to do the right thing and not sin?  No.  That can’t be it because no one does that.  Does it mean to TRY to do the right thing and TRY not to sin.  That’s closer, but that definition makes deeds the goal instead of God.  In any situation God is always the goal.  No, I believe that righteousness is actively trying to get to know God (people say “seeking God” to mean the same thing).  A righteous person tries to learn about God- What kind of stuff has God done?  How does God respond to things?  What is God’s M.O.?  What does he promise those who believe in Him? etc. etc.  Righteousness is trying to know about God.  This can be done by reading The Bible for 20-minutes a day.

What people commonly consider righteousness to be- not sinning, doing good deeds, etc.- is actually just the natural result of successfully learning about God.  Unlike science or history, the more you learn about God the more God learns about you.  Your heart turns toward God as you learn about him.  This is because God is a who, not a what, and is a living power that responds to you- person is the wrong word, technically, but as people that is the best way we can conceive of God.  God is a person, so when you learn about Him what you’re actually doing is getting to know Him and y’all are becoming friends.  I know this empirically.  I can’t quote any scripture that says that (though there undoubtedly is some), but I know this because I have lived it and gotten to know God personally- because I tried to do so- because I practice righteousness.

So then it says “you make smooth the path of the righteous“.   Does that mean that if you become friends with God He will do you a favor and make your life smooth and easy?  Give you the things you want and need to really enjoy yourself for 80-odd years?  No.  But yes.  What that means is, the closer you get with God, the more you fall in line with the will of God, and the less natural sin becomes to you.  This is because as your heart lines up with God, your mind, thoughts, and feelings follow suit.  Where the heart goes the mind goes, and where the mind goes the body follows (See Emmet Foxx The Sermon On The Mount).  For a mental picture, think about those little metal shavings lining up on a magnetic field; how those little sticks look as they all lay straight together, pointing in the same way that the magnet is going.  That’s your mind, your thoughts, your heart, your desires, your inclinations and your natural reactions to things, all lining up with the magnet that is God.  How easy would it be, then, for a tiny ant or something to walk along that line of filings, as opposed to the jumbled mess if they were just poured out onto the paper.   The ant is your nature (mind/heart/will), and the path for that ant would be smooth.  That’s exactly what happens.

Now given that our mental state determines our physical state (Foxx), a smooth mind must result in a smooth, liquidy movement throughout this life.  I have found that now that I’m closer to God than I ever have been, my movements toward the things that I want have been coming to me more and more naturally.  For example I surprised myself yesterday by saying “heck” instead of “hell”.  Cussing has been something I’ve wanted to cut out of my life for years.  It’s unattractive, it’s a personality crutch, I don’t wanna do it.  It’s been a habit I resented for years, but now that habit is slowly vanishing completely on it’s own without any effort on my part.  It’s just happening, because my way is smoothing out.  Smoking, too, is something I’ve been trying to get away from.  It makes me not able to sing, and I love to sing.  Without any kind of cold-turkey mentality or really any will power at all I have found that smoking has been slowly fading out of my life.  The desire just isn’t popping up.  These changes are evidence of a smooth transformation toward the self that I want to be, the self I know is right (I am defining right to mean whatever results in my happiness and success).  Making decisions for myself to go here, call this person, say this, more importantly don’t say that- I’m doing everything right without having to calculate which decisions will get me there- my natural inclinations are becoming more and more in line with what the Holy Spirit- and evidential results- are telling me is right.  That’s the smoothness that this passage is talking about.  The way of the righteous is smooth.  If it’s true that the every day decisions you make result in the overall curve of your life, I have every reason to believe that this new, correct way of thinking that’s developing inside me will result in the most prosperous future for myself simply because I’m making all the right decisions, and they, like a stream that’s making all the turns and moves necessary become a river further down the mountain, are leading me toward the future God has to offer me.

But so what makes these decisions correct (and again I’m defining “correct” to mean “resulting in my own happiness and success”- I am not defining correct to mean “not evil”)?  They are more Godly, yes, but what does that mean?  Why is not smoking the right thing for me to do?  Or why is cursing the wrong thing for me to do?  Furthermore, what does it mean that my decisions and way of life are leading me toward the most fruitful and purpose-driven future I could possibly have.  I mean it’s fantastic and I’m confident of it, but what does it mean?  Why is it happening?   How do these decisions relate to God, who is the source of this smoothness?  The last part of the passage answers that question.  Your renown is my soul’s desire.  All the right decisions I’m making for me personally mean that I’m bringing renown to God’s name.  Let’s examine that.

A thing is considered right and in line with God’s will and character if and only if it brings renown to His name.  That is God’s goal.  That is God’s working mantra- “bring renown to My Own Name”.  God will have His name renowned, and God gets what he wants, so therefore anything that you do that bring’s renown to God’s name is the right thing to do because it’s what God wants, and anything you do that does not bring renown to God’s name- I’m defining that as bringing shame to God’s name- is the wrong thing to do.  Yes those sentences were repetitive but they were clear as a bell.  It really is the most black and white concept possible.  Operating under the will of God is not a maze.  It does not twist and turn.  There are two concrete walls between which you can walk and they are smooth– bring renown to God’s name and your way will be laid out before you in an uninterrupted walkway.  Don’t, and your result will be struggle and strife to get to the end of the road.

But how do you know which every day decisions will bring renown to God’s name?  If they put you in a mindset to worship and be appreciative of him.  I do not like that I smoke and curse, thus the fact that those habits are being removed from me by the power of God bring me to thank and praise Him every day.  I bring renown to God’s name in my joy of his work.  That’s it.  Easy.  Change out “smoking” and “cursing” with any two things that do not make you happy and the same principle still applies.  Closeness with God will take those things away from you and cause your heart to bring renown to His Holy Name.  And how is it possible to always know which decision will result in your happiness?  Easy.  The Holy Spirit will tell you.  He really will.  Here’s how I know:

For a long time I was making all the wrong decisions, or more specifically I struggled day and night to know what the right decision was to make.  With little things, big things, all the things.  Daily decisions: emails, shopping, smoking, TV, reading.  Complex moral decisions:  how to treat or interact with this person, how to carry myself in certain situations, how to spend my alone time.  I did not know what to do most of the time, and I swam in a dark pool of my own uncertainty.  In a word I was miserable.  Then I realized one day, after I had miraculously made the right decision to try to learn more about God by reading The Bible every day, that I had known what to do all along.  The Holy Spirit had been living in my heart ever since the moment I invited Him to do so, but somewhere along the line (certainly during a period of joy and complacency in my life) I had started ignoring His voice and doing things on my own.  I moved away from God, into myself, and I lost the ability to determine good decisions from bad ones.  Thus began a downward spiral.  When this thought occurred to me- that I wasn’t actually on my own but had been ignoring the Holy Spirit’s good advice- I looked back and discovered that it was absolutely true.  For every decision I had been struggling to make I had known the right answer all along but had almost always chosen the wrong thing (and I am defining “wrong” to be the thing that made me less happy instead of more.  People often say that something is wrong because it is sinful, but the definition of sin is a step away from God, who is happiness, thus the wrong thing will result in unhappiness- the opposite of God’s will).  Anyway, I chose to do the wrong thing.  I chose to satisfy the short-term whims and desires of a brain that was not in line with God, and like I said I wound up swimming around unhappily in the dark.  The Holy Spirit always tells you the right thing to do; that’s His job and He loves doing it.  It’s not hard.  Believe it or not it’s actually part of our nature.  In spite of sin, God is the basic building block of who we are.  Getting to know God by reading the Bible and actually wanting to know Him will bring you back to nature by training your ear to hear and recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit, and the closer you get with God the more intrinsic and obvious it will become to follow the Holy Spirit’s advice.  I started making the right decisions, and my walk. got. smoother.

This passage tells us that the criterion for a right decision is only one thing- does it bring renown to God’s name?  Yes?  Do it.  No?  You can still do it, but your day won’t turn out as well as if you hadn’t.  Go ahead and choose to do the wrong thing- I do it all the time.  I know I shouldn’t smoke this, or I know I should go read this or work on that but I make a short-term decision to do something else, and then later in the day I know in my heart/brain that I am living on a timeline that is not as high, not as rewarding, not as fulfilling as the one that the Holy Spirit tried to lead me down.  It doesn’t really matter.  I’m still alive.  I still love God and God still loves me, but I am in a lower state, I am personally less happy and fulfilled than I could have been had I listened- and that is the power of personal choice.  That is the meaning and purpose of individuality.

I have been trying to reconcile the two ideas- individuality and oneness with God- for quite a while.  I’m still working on it.  But for now my discovery of this passage taught me that the closer you get to God (by reading The Bible and praying and genuinely trying) the more a part of you He becomes- the more of Him there is influencing every single minute aspect of your life (name something you did today- God was involved in it).  And the more of God there is influencing something the more spectacularly that thing will turn out.  This passage is a promise and an explanation for the fact that if we desire God (righteousness) we will grow closer and more in tune with His will (smooth), and this is because His will is renown for His own name- which is our joy in Him.Image

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