Wird Geladen

Lessons from my own bible study

Archive for the tag “Putting God At The Center”

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!

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Centering our Conversations on God

“Preach the gospel always, with words if necessary.”  -St. Francis of Assisi

I have not come to baptize but to preach the gospel. And not with eloquent words, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
                                                                                                                1 Cor. 1:13

The job and directive of a God-centered life is to proclaim the Gospel. But Paul says he preaches not with eloquent words. One does not have to be talking about God to have a God-centered conversation. Saying God’s name out loud is not the most practical way of communicating Christ by our speech.  Nor is it the most effective, really.  We say God’s name more times a minute simply by building others up.

Let no evil come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.
                                                                                                              Ephesians 4:29

Consider that everyone has pain that they’re not sharing with the world- pain that’s hiding just below a fake smile. This is a pain we cannot reach, but which Jesus can most certainly heal. Whether they know it or not, they’re waiting to hear God’s name- as there is need. And whether we know it or not, our conversations are an opportunity for us to give grace to someone who’s hurting, even in the simplest way. Literally to bring Jesus to them.

We do this by encouraging one another. Be Loving. Patient. Kind. Inclusive. Polite. Constructive. Funny. Pleasant. Helpful. Build people up! Make them smile! Make them glow! God reaches the world through us. We convey His message when we build others up. The impulse to do this comes out of a heart full of the simple wish that everyone should feel the joy of God all the time.

We don’t have to fake smile in order to do this. We should never deny our own emotions for the sake of letting someone else have a good day. Paul tells the Ephesians “Be mad, but do not sin (Eph 4:26).” Whatever our mental state, we must first and foremost preach God’s name. And we shall be rewarded for this.

The wages of doing our job are that our hearts become God-centered. It’s a fascinatingly roundabout process (not to mention easy to the point of cheating). A mouth that worships God feeds the heart that worships Him. And the heart that wants to see God worshiped pours forth the words to get the job done. In what may be the most miraculous concept of the entire Bible, Jesus says:

The Word of God feeds you going in as well as going out.*

Short story: yesterday I rode my bike to meet a friend at a café. The place she chose was very far away. The long drive, cold wind, and bad traffic all put me in a terrible mood. In my anger I blamed her for picking somewhere so out of the way, along with a bunch of other things that were actually my fault. I rode along thinking how silly this girl was, imagining all the nasty things I would say once I got there. But then I remembered this sermon. “Saying something nasty to her won’t make either of us feel better,” I thought. “I don’t know what kind of hardship she had in getting here either. It just wouldn’t do any good to be negative. I wonder, if I bring God into our conversation by being encouraging, will my anger and pain disappear?” So I dug down deep, found what little positive vibes I had left in my heart, and poured them out onto her once I arrived. And you know what? It totally worked! I felt instantly better, and we had a great time! Both my heart and hers got filled by the Holy Spirit just as soon as I brought Him into the mix. It was extremely encouraging.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
                                                                                                Luke 6:45

The power of the cross of Christ is that our hearts would be filled with good. A God-centered conversation blesses both the speaker and the listener by building them both up. The Holy Spirit works through a quick, positive word of encouragement in ways we cannot fathom. He moves out from the abundance in our hearts to ease the pain of everyone involved.

Such habits of speech can have no other result than to center our hearts onto God. If we focus our conversations on uplifting whomever we’re speaking to, we’re actually focusing on achieving God’s will and spreading His name throughout the universe. Whenever we concentrate our efforts onto the actions of the Holy Spirit, in any capacity, we are praying. Conversations, hearts, lives- all three will naturally flow toward God as we pray for them to do so.

Encouraging words are the physical manifestation of our desire for others to have God’s peace, and to live a God-focused life. They spring into reality out of the spiritual universe burning inside our own hearts. They lay onto our listeners like a warm breeze on a cool day- a blessing from somewhere else.

Tip #4: Build others up with speech, and our hearts will center themselves on God.

*I was in a rush and didn’t have time to cite this, but I know it’s in there! If anyone knows please write it in the comments

Happy Lent today, dear readers. I hope you find a great church service to go to. Or a beautiful Bible passage to connect you to Jesus’s sacrifice. If you falter in your Lenten resolution, just remember NEVER to beat yourself up over it. Move on and praise God anyway. Amen.

This post has been the new addition in the “Putting God At The Center” Series, a project of learning how we can bring our lives to focus on God.  The three previous posts are: Mealtime PrayerWorshiping God By Worshiping Our Bodies, and We Worship Whatever We Sacrifice To.  Stay tuned for the final installment and 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!

Worshiping God By Worshiping Our Bodies

The best way to change our minds is to change our habits.  Habits are things we do without thinking, a divot we follow mindlessly along the road of life.  Changing a habit requires attention, concentration, and consideration of why that habit needs to be changed in the first place; it implies there’s a better alternative.  In this post we’ll discuss why making good choices for our bodies helps put God at the center of our lives.

In the first place, the body already stands at the center of our lives.  Everything we experience takes place right here.  Our thinking happens in the head, our doing happens in the hands, our seeing happens in the eyes, our growing happens in the stomach- we don’t need a lesson on the uses of different body parts.  But it makes sense that when we look to the body, we’re seeing the center of our life.  Here’s what Paul says in 1 Corinthians:

DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT YOUR BODY IS A TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WITHIN YOU, WHICH YOU HAVE RECEIVED FROM GOD AND THAT YOU ARE NOT YOUR OWN?  FOR YOU WERE BOUGHT WITH A PRICE, THEREFORE GLORIFY GOD IN YOUR BODY.        

                                                                                  v. 6:19-20

We all have habits that harm or weaken our body.  As it stands we live with these habits, and though we may want to change, there’s no need- no motivation- good enough to get us there.  Falling into a bad habit again and again is enough to dig us into despair.  It breeds guilt, and hopelessness- probably the two most opposite things to God.  Changing out of habits that hurt our bodies can revamp our efforts at getting to know God, and placing him at our center.

For the sake of example, I’ll give some major habits that hurt my body.  The first is smoking.  A single cigarette parches out my lungs and throat for days- not unreasonably I feel burnt inside.  The feeling permeates my whole body.  I can’t turn my head, or sit up, or even speak without some cottony resistance.  Smoking interrupts all the fluid, natural movements that make life sweet.

The second is junk food.  It’s so easy to eat cheap, low quality, food.  Cooking, vegetables, exercise- these mean sacrifices of time, money, and effort that life seems easier to do without.  Yet if the body is the temple of Christ, then nutritious eating is the lawn service, the janitor, the contractor, the electrician, the plumber, the cleaning service, and everything else that goes into keeping a building shining and standing tall.

For the sake of a totally different example, in Berlin I had a bike that I got for free.  I never chained it up, I rode it through the snow and mud puddles, I popped high curbs.  Three months in my possession and the chain had rusted away, the tires stuck, the gears fell out of place; I eventually just had to abandon it.  My friend lent me his bike in the meantime.  I keep that bike indoors while I’m not riding it.  I stay on smooth road, go around puddles, and lock it obsessively.  I owe my friend all the respect and gratitude in the world for his generosity, and taking care of his bike is the best way to show my appreciation (really the least I can do).

It’s easy to mistreat something we consider our own, especially if it comes for free, or if it’s been around a while.  But quite in fact, our bodies are extraordinarily expensive, one-of-a-kind gifts, which our dad has lent to us with a joyful, hopeful purpose.  “Do you not know that your bodies you received from God, and that you are not your own?”  Our bodies are meant for God’s glory, just like everything else.

Making sacrifices for the health of the body means making sacrifices for the glorification of God.  Resisting the temptation to smoke, or lust, or follow whatever habit brings us down demands that we pay constant attention to our bodies, and in doing so we’re paying constant attention to God.

In the effort to figure out how to make God the center of our lives, let us try re-imagining the body as GOD’s temple on Earth, the tool by which he works here.  Let us think now and try to come up with some things we do to your bodies that we dislike; some bad or nasty habit that leaves us breathless and achy.  Conversely, what habits do we know would make life sweeter but just haven’t picked up yet?  When the time comes to make the choice- should I or shouldn’t I- think of God and use His glory to do what’s good for your body.  His glory can be the motivation we need to change our habits and make our bodies the healthiest, happiest machine it can be.

TIP #2- We put God at the center of our lives by worshiping our bodies and breaking the habits that harm them.

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This has been the second installment of the “Putting God at The Center” series.  Follow along next time when we consider how mealtime prayers keep us in line with our goal of putting God at the center of our lives.  Comments, feedback, shares, suggestions, criticisms are always encouraged.

We Worship Whatever We Sacrifice To

Look at the Israelites; those who eat the sacrifice are partners in the altar.  What pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, not to God.  Do not be partners with demons.

1 Cor 10: 18-20

The word eat in the Bible means to take part in, to internalize, to align yourself with.  We eat the bread of Christ, but we also eat tennis, or shopping, or sex, or TV marathons.  Thus Paul is not just talking about food here, but anything we might conceivably do or care about.  That’s the first thing to keep in mind while reading this passage (and the whole Bible, really).

The second thing we have to keep in mind is how we’re using the word “worship”.

15 Second context: Those Greeks who were not the converted Christians to whom Corinthians is addressed were called“pagans”.  They used to sacrifice animals during worship ceremonies to stone/gold/wooden idols and then eat the meat in a feast directly afterwards.

So many of these words- pagan, idol, sacrifice- have negative connotations to the Christian ear, but they are simply ideas which all humans carry out every day.  Any decision we make involves a sacrifice to an idol- giving up one thing in order to have something else.  This is an act of worship.  We worship whatever we sacrifice for.  We make it an idol- even temporarily- and put it above all other desires, implying that it deserves to be the pinnacle of our obedience.  To worship doesn’t mean fall on the knees and bow down, or write songs and poems about, or say high words, or burn in a golden cup.  Worship simply means to choose first.

Think about going to the gym.  You pay money for memberships, you avoid certain foods, you get up off the couch and stop watching Friends.  Almost anything is better than going to the gym.  But if you care about the results, you go anyway.  You sacrifice all the wonderful, lazy things in life to the idol of fitness, and worship your body by working out.

At Chili’s there’s a 16 dollar plate of ribs which is awesome, and there’s a 12 dollar bowl of pasta that’s just OK.  If you’re cheap like me you choose the 12 dollar pasta every time, and live with the mediocre decision.  You make a choice to keep your four dollars, and in doing so you’re worshiping money.

Here’s a final example:  I read the Bible every morning, which is where I get all the posts for this blog.  Before I start my Bible study, though, I sometimes spend about 20 minutes on the computer checking email, facebook, this, that, and the other.  In my heart I would like to make the Bible study first and foremost- that feels more important to me.  Certain days, however, I sacrifice my desire to have Bible study first thing to my desire to satiate my digital idol.  I worship whatever is waiting for me on the internet, and put God second.

I chose these mundane examples to make a point.  It may sounds ridiculous, or extreme, or like a technicality, but the psychological minutia of our daily, hourly, minutely choices is extremely important if we want a clear picture of what we hold at the center of our lives, as opposed to what lies just to the outside.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to spend less money or checking your email first thing in the morning.  The choices we’re making aren’t “bad” or “good”, but we need to be aware that even our smallest sacrifices form the foundational characteristic of our being.  

Thus, the first tactic toward getting God into the center of our lives is to think about and be aware of the duality of what we’re sacrificing and what we’re making sacrifices to.  With this in mind our choices are tinged with the knowledge that we are worshiping whatever we’ve just decided on.  This allows us to be keenly aware of what we’re partnering ourselves with- what we eat- and if we want God to be at the center of our lives we need to make sure we’re sacrificing things for Him, and not the other way around.

Tip #1- Keep an eye on what we’re making sacrifices to, so we can make sure we’re making sacrifices to God.

The clearer our focus is on what we worship through our sacrifices, the clearer our understanding will be of where we are, how we got there, and most importantly where we’re going.  If God is the End Result, then making movement toward Him through sacrifice means we are not lost, and the abundance of His joy (as detailed in Isaiah 55) becomes ours more and more completely.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the first installment of the “Putting God at The Center” series.  Follow along next week for a look at how our bodies can be the perfect place to focus our efforts.  Comments, feedback, shares, suggestions, criticisms are always encouraged.

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New Project- “Putting God at the Center Series”

The goal of every Christian is to live a God-centered life.  But what does that mean, “God-centered life?”  First thing that comes to mind:  God has to be at the center of my life.  Brilliant deduction.  What’s that mean?  How do I get him there, and what will happen when I do?  What does it look like to have God at the center of my life, and more importantly, what’s there now?

Over the coming weeks Wird Geladen will be be entering into a short series focused on searching the Bible for clues and suggestions on how one can rearrange himself to make God the center of his life- his universe, his existence, his heart.  I invite you to introspect yourself right along with me, and together we will strive to find out exactly what it means if something is at the center of the self.  How is it reflected in behavior, attitude, priorities, desires?  Whatever’s at our center must manifest itself in a stronger way than anything else having to do with us, right?  So what’s already there, and what of those manifestations have we taken for granted and just never noticed before?

We shall peer into our depths with the goal of making sure that God is what we see.  I’m also looking forward to finding out what kinds of things will change about us during this process.  With God at our center what will we want- and not want- anymore?  What doors will open up (see On The Pursuit Of Your Passions for insight into how these things correlate)?  How will our friends/family/strangers view us differently?  How different will we feel, and most importantly what will happen in our relationship with God?

To life a God-centered life, honestly, sounds scary.  I believe that the closer God gets to the center of a life the happier and fuller the life becomes- that being the nature of God- but making God the center of one’s life requires a lot of sacrifices, a lot of decision making toward that end, and some of that, I predict, will be painful.  When you say yes to something you say no to something else.

Luckily Paul talks about just this very topic in First Corinthians, and that seems a great place to start our journey.  Our first post in the “Putting God at the Center” Series is about making sacrifices.  I do not foresee disappointment resulting from this exercise.   With that, we shall commence.

PS- sorry I don’t have a clever name for this whole thing; marketing was never my strong suit.  If you want to suggest a better name than “Putting God at the Center Series” PLEASE do so!  Here’s a picture of some rope.

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