"It is not only God who punishes for sin,
The Bible reveals to me that I must learn to love people. I am not always very good at loving others. God has loved me not at all because I am worthy of it or that I am lovable in any way, but because it is His very nature to love. How can I actually love in a way that is GOD's nature? To love someone as God has loved me!?
God will likely bring people purposely into my life who I do not like much. He will bring people who are not at all easy for me to love.
God: the great patronizer? No, it is His love. That is His kind of love, which I am called to.
My problem is I most often try to force it and make this kind of love happen. I do not think this kind of love is going to happen within me overnight, but I also do not think God is forcing me into it. Yes, he has called me to it. He has demanded it of me, but I do not think he expects it so promptly that he pushes me forcibly into it either.
In fact, 2 Peter 3:9 tells me that "The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." I cannot overlook Jesus' ability to wait for me. I cannot forget that Jesus knows I am incapable of loving as He does, and yet he patiently waits as I learn.
But it is that patience which should compel and drive me to be better. It is that patience, which should drive me to love more. I have to go to the hard to love and not only love them more, but love them as Jesus has loved me, which as I have revealed, is PATIENTLY!! There will always be irritating people who are very difficult for me to love, but the call still remains. Love others as Jesus has loved me. Love with patience!
But it all must be nurtured. It is not an overnight change. I must learn to grow that kind of love within me. I have to learn that kind of love as I daily learn to accept that kind of love.
I need a more concentrated sense of my sin. We need to understand our sin in a more detailed manner. Only through knowing our sin in its detail can we really experience grace and salvation to its fullest within us. Ozzie Chambers writes, "There is never any vague sense of sin [in the presence of God], but the concentration of sin in some personal particular."
This concentrated understanding of our sin is important because then there is real freedom in realizing what grace has saved you from. It is easy for us to claim we are sinners. OF course we are sinners! We all know that and can claim it very simply. We do not experience real grace in that though.
It is just as easy for us to claim we are sinners, but we have been saved. Yes, that is true, but that kind of understanding is not concentrated enough to really understand what grace really means. A more concentrated understanding of our sin allows us to feel and answer the real question:
"SAVED FROM WHAT??!!"
If we are only claiming the unconcentrated and ambiguous claim of being a sinner, we are no different than anyone else. In this manner, we only know grace and salvation as a concept, which does no one any good.
We have to break ourselves down and embrace our sin that we may sincerely embrace grace offered to all of us. When I begin to quit calling myself only a sinner, but a selfish man with too much desire to please myself through my time, my words and my actions, I can THEN feel a distinct sting of my sin. When I feel that distinct sin, I am able to realize what I am actually saved FROM! Salvation and grace become that much more real to me. With each sin exposed, the embrace of grace grows that much more sincere and real.
Ozzie writes, "The cleansing fire had to be applied where the sin had been concentrated." When we allow ourselves to concentrate our sin instead of leaving it vague and general, we begin to know real cleansing. In Isaiah 6, verse 5, Isaiah concentrates his sin. He does not say, "Woe is me! For I am a sinner." We all know he is a sinner. We all know ourselves to be sinners. No! Isaiah repents, "Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips." Isaiah concentrated his idea of his sin.
The Seraph touches the cleansing coal not to Isaiah's entire life either. He touches the cleansing coal to Isaiah's lips; the very concentrated part he had repented of.
When we can concentrate our sin into the detailed sins, we can answer the question,
"SAVED FROM WHAT?!"
There is no desire within me to seek God's will in my life. You will very rarely find me looking or asking, "What is God's will in this situation?" Even in the hardest decisions, I will rarely ever ask God for His will to be revealed to me. Seeking God's will is a waste of time!
To seek God's will is a focus on the wrong thing. It is a preoccupation with the wrong element of the equation. It all comes back to the passage which tells us:
"Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart."
"So PC, are you saying you don't seek God's will and instead you just ask God for stuff and He gives it to you...whatever you desire?"
Kind of....but not at all...
This passage tells me this:
Don't seek God's will; seek God, and His will will happen.
This passage tells me that if I quit worrying about seeking God's will and start seeking GOD in personal intimate relationship, His will will happen. This passage tells me, first, to delight myself in the Lord. SO I need to be with God and enjoy my time with him. I have to spend time at the heart of God...relating to Him intimately.
Then this passage tells me if I fulfill the first part, He will give me the desires of my heart. God will give us desire. We do not create our own desire. Our desire will not be our own...IF...we maintain the first part of the passage. If we can say we have followed the first part of delighting ourselves in the heart of relating to God intimately, God will instill desire within us. This means if we maintain intimacy with the heart of God, whatever desire we have can be followed.
Ozzie Chambers writes, "To be so much in contact with God that you never need to ask Him to show you His will, is to be nearing the final stage of your discipline in the life of FAITH. When you are rightly related to God, it is a life of freedom and liberty and delight...and all your common-sense decisions are His will for you..."
I was hanging out with Ozzie (Oswald Chambers) yesterday, and he said to me, "No matter where God places us or what the inner desolations are, we can praise God that all is well. That is faith being worked out in actualities." Well, Ozzie and I debated for a little bit. I came right back... "Ozzie, you have no idea what kind of things I've been through. Moreover, you have no idea what sorts of things other people have gone through. How could you say to just have faith in situations that you know nothing about?"
"PC, you're an idiot. I wrote one of the most timeless devotionals ever written. I have thought on these things for a long long time."
"You're side-stepping my question, Ozzie."
"Fine! Are you prepared to let God do as He likes with [you]--prepared to be separated from conscious blessings?"
I began getting a bit frustrated with Ozzie. I asked whether he actually wanted me to believe that God would give me times of desolation and darkness--on purpose. He said, "Yes!" as though I were an idiot for asking. He said, "PC, it is not that we choose it, but that God engineers our circumstances so that we are brought there. Until we have been through that experience, our faith is bolstered up by feelings and by blessings."
Of course I did not completely understand. "What's wrong with feelings and blessings?"
"Pay attention, PC! I just said 'bolstered up by' feelings and blessings. Is your faith based only on blessings and feelings? Do you still have faith when neither of those are present? If not, then you don't have a very solid faith at all."
"Alright Ozzie! Let me get this straight. You're saying that God gives me times of desolation and difficult circumstances...my God of love does this to me, and I need to be PREPARED for these things so that I can still trust that all is well even when it doesn't FEEL like it is? I have to have faith that is not DEPENDANT on good feelings and blessings, and in fact remains if I have neither one of them?"
"YES! That's exactly what I am saying!"
"ALRIGHT! You don't have to yell at me."
Ozzie's always yelling at me.
"Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life: gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life." - Ozzie (Oswald Chambers) We are certain of God: we are uncertain of what will happen next. There is much to be said of faith and the spiritual life as it applies to certainty.
We are so obsessed with certainty. Is it really all that necessary? Well, its not if you are living a life of faith...the spiritual life. The spiritual life is not one of certainty. The moments I am so uncertain of what would happen next are the moments my faith is stretched and made stronger.
When you stretch your muscles they grow. They do not necessarily grow stronger and bigger, but they do grow more flexible, which allows them the ability to grow stronger in time.
So here I am a man in need of flexibility. I am a man in need of faith...because I am certainly uncertain. These are now the times of becoming more flexible, and that flexibility makes strength more available. That ability ultimately leads to strength.
"The words of the Lord hurt and offend until there is nothing left to be hurt or offended. Jesus Christ had no tenderness whatsoever toward anything that was ultimately going to ruin a person in his service to God....If the spirit of God brings to your mind a word of the Lord that hurts you, you can be sure that there is something in you that He wants to hurt to the point of its death." - Ozzie Chambers There are times I have certainly sensed God offending me with the things He brings my way. There have been times He speaks loud and clear through a devotional, through actions or words that have hurt me and offended me. A lot of those times, I have resulted to the, what I thought was, the faithful response of, "Well God is in control, and He knows best."
Of course that is very true, but I have rarely gone the next step when God has offended me. I have rarely taken a look at myself and tried to figure out, "Well then what is God telling me here? What is He getting at by offending me? What needs to die within my life? What is getting in the way of my serving God completely?"
If God is going to continue offending me until there is nothing left to hurt or offend, how long will I go without killing all those things left in my life to be offended and hurt? I do not want my service or relationship to God to be ruined by anything.
"Spiritual selfishness always wants repeated moments on the mount." - Ozzie Chambers Many of us are dependant on the mountain top experiences, and we get frustrated and disappointed when we go back down. We go to a camp or a retreat to get pumped up, and we want to stay there because everything is so good there. Our walk with God seems so amazing and we want to stay there. But as Ozzie points out, its such a selfish way to use the mountain. The mountaintop is intended for inspiration for the descent back into the valley. Life is intended to be lived in the valley; not on the mountaintop.
Does that mean we should not have mountaintop experiences? Are we selfish because we are on the mountaintop? No! We are only selfish when our desire is to stay on the mountain.
The mountain experiences are necessary. We need those times for inspiration and rejuvenation, but we cannot be so dependant upon them that we want to stay there. We should be excited and ready to descend the mountain back down into the valley where life is intended to be lived. We have to take with us renewal and inspiration back down the mountain into our daily lives with our daily interactions with different people. Otherwise we are some of the most selfish people around.
We are told to go out into the world and spread the gospel unto all nations. When we go to the mountain, we experience the gospel once again. We take it in once again; allowing ourselves to be saturated in the relentless love of God. We grow closer to the heart of God with very minimal interruption, but we cannot stay there. We cannot live in this moment. We are not intended or called to live that way.
The mountain is intended to be inspirational, but we are intended to bring that inspiration and live in the valley.
Ozzie Chambers says, "It is the innermost of the innermost that reveals the power of life." Our spiritual power and purpose is only found within. This means that the majority of our time should be spent in the private life with God. How much time do I dedicate to my private life with God? Where does our strength come from? Do I have any strength at all? When I spend enough private time with God in my innermost being, I find what Ozzie says:
"strength lies in the fact that here you are put into SOAK WITH GOD."
I love that phrase; that image. Have I been soaking with God? Only when I take the time and space to soak before God will I ever have the inner strength that comes from it. I have to find the private time with God on a regular basis where I can sit and SOAK BEFORE GOD. This is the only way to go about life, and this is the way faith and Christianity is meant to be lived out.
"if you waste your time in over-active energies instead of getting into SOAK on the great fundamental truths of God's Redemption, you will SNAP when the strain comes."
I look back and realize how true Ozzie is here. I can look back to see the most straining times brought two reactions from me depending upon whether I had been having my private time with God regularly or not. Had I been soaking with God during those times? Well it can be determined based on whether I snapped in those moments or not. Had I completely broken down when life kicked me where it counts? Had I nearly given up?
OR did I go through it faithfully and with trust?
When life kicks you where it counts, I hope you have been SOAKING BEFORE GOD so you do not SNAP.