You recognize the address throughout scripture to the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob".
“These insights I have gained in the school of life”
So much of our spirituality and religion is greatly affected by who we know God to be. A.W. Tozer said, "Nothing twists and deforms the soul more than a low or unworthy conception of God." We all have within us a gallery images of who God is, and those images dramatically affect our responses to Him. This gallery greatly affects the faith and religion we live out each day in relationship with God. The trouble is many, if not most of those images are distorted at best or entirely false at worst. This God many of us relate and respond to is not the God of scripture, and we begin to wonder why some of us live out such a grim, hard, and loveless faith each day.
It is because the God we have come to believe is distant and hard to please. God becomes a cold Father demanding your work without encouragement or love or pride in you. It is very difficult to serve that god with enthusiasm or joy. It is difficult not to chalk up other more enthusiastic brothers and sisters to fanaticism when the god you know is cold, removed, and grim. But this is not the God presented in scripture. This is the god of the Pharisees and he will always drive a Pharisaic religion and faith.
The moment I was first ambushed by the love of God is when I came to see the Father of Scripture who loves and delights in me, His son. He comes close to me in a true fellowship where I can find rest and healing. He is not hard to please.
Yes, he disciplines us, but I have come to know His delight and smile. He will correct and challenge me with the smile of a Father who is tender and proud. My Abba is proud of me and knows I am His "imperfect by promising" son. I see His delighted smile which knows I am coming to look more and more like my Abba every day.
2 Timothy 1:7"For God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and discipline."
Here is a verse so many Christians love to misuse for the courage to face daunting moments in life. We are reminded in quoting this verse you ought to not be fearful because God has placed within you power. We will quote this verse and challenge one another to live in the power God has given to you instead of neglecting it by living in fear.
But there is a misuse here, and it is entirely grammatical. We are placing a period where there are commas. We read and quote this passage as though all we need to do is not be afraid, but be powerful, PERIOD! We have removed the commas and cut off the rest of the passage.
No! You are not given a spirit of fear. Yes! You have been given a spirit of power, COMMA, AND love, COMMA, AND discipline. In the moments most daunting, you are given a spirit of power, and love, and discipline. In the most difficult and "fearful" moments of life how often have you ever been challenged to draw upon love and discipline as much as power? Could the spirit of power only be found in the compound of love and discipline? In the daunting moments of life when you are tempted to fear, will you discipline yourself to love God and people; because there is power in that!
When I pray to my God, I cannot stop after one shot at it. I have to continue to come to Him, and never let up. My God will hear me, and He may be determining how dedicated I really am to seeking Him in this situation and circumstance. Here I am in need of God's answer and provision, and I come once or twice out of a hail mary desperation, but will i continue to come with the persistence of the widow in Luke 18? Will I pray and not lose heart? I have not often prayed in this fashion at all. I have to pray and not lose heart.
God will hear me and come to me, but I cannot lose heart in my prayer. Otherwise I reveal something very important. The amount and longevity of my prayer to God reveal just how dedicated I really am to that situation, that circumstance, or to that person.
God, I have so many things I am thankful for, but I realize I rarely intentionally and actively thank you for those blessings in my life. Psalm 92 opens with the reminder that "it is good to be thankful to the LORD". Good for what? Good for who? I am convinced that it is good for me to be thankful. It is good for me to be thankful, and I am not so sure it is only good in the sense that a good person is a thankful one. I believe being thankful does me good.
So here is my heart and mind prepared to thank you for so many things.
Thank you for protecting my heart through my leaving the pastorship of SOLAS.
Thank you for Eric Waterbury, Jesse Peterson, Glenda Harr, Justin Wallace, Gary Tangeman, Ryan Masters, Grant Cox, Brandon Farmer, Nicole Farmer, Mark Shetler, Anh Powers, Dan Demuri, Tim Layfield, Jeff Koons, Steve Rodriguez who likely all are unawarely said just the right thing at the right moment when my heart and mind needed it most. This is YOUR doing.
Thank you for Tonya who has been a cheerleader who has been frustrated by frustrating things and also encouraging when it is most needed.
Thank you for the smiles and hugs of my daughters where I find beauty that points my heart and mind to you.
Thank you for statements and notes and "drop bys" from friends just to make sure things are good and okay.
God You are good. You are all together good. Surely goodness is to follow all the days of my life.
Sorrow and difficulty are going to be parts of our lives. We waste our mind's thoughts when we think that these things ought not to be. That is a waste because they simply are parts of life. The real question we want to pose to ourselves is, "How will I be after this and through this? What is God forming in me that will change me into a new creation?" I am being made new, and my sorrow and difficulty are the pressing things, which God uses to make me who I am becoming from His design.
There are so many times in scripture where we see God "turn them over to their own stubbornness" or "remove his hand from them" or "allowed them to walk in their own devices." This happens over and over again, and it is striking to realize this characteristic in God the Father. He will as often in Scripture say things like "Oh that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways."
This is not the "Old Testament God", as if God goes away to summer camp between testaments to really work on Himself. This is Almighty unchanging God we see here. Jesus does give us an access to God and His grace we could never give to ourselves, but let us realize God's action toward our stubbornness has not changed.
There come times when we choose to disobey God enough times that He will just let us go down that road to experience the pain and the brokenness He would have protected us from if we had only listened and obeyed him in the first place.
This is sobering to our hearts that are prone to wander. We must intentionally keep our hearts focused, open, and obeying, or we may very well see God remove his hand from our stubborn hearts.
When I think honestly about my prayers, I think of all the warm, deep, and intense prayers I can give in the concerns which matter the most to me. When it comes to those things, my heart is open, and all of my center is engaged. Does that mean that God is my priority? Nope! It only means that what I am praying about matters to me.
When I make my passionate, deep, and intense prayers about things I really care about, I move right on to the next thing, and that thing does not matter as much. Suddenly, my prayer goes cold and routine. Has God changed? Of course not. Has he grown cold and routine? Clearly not!
It only means that all my passion and intensity was not because of God's presence and closeness to me. It had nothing to do with my faith or longing for Him and Him alone. It was only about my concerns, not for God.