Monday, March 25, 2013
Meditate. We hear a lot about meditation these days and a lot of people do not understand what the Bible really means when we are told to meditate. I would like to present this truth from God’s Word as I see it. Meditation is not the practice of emptying our minds in order to allow ourselves to relax and allow our thoughts to rest so that our bodies may be refreshed. It is the practice of thinking. It is the practice of actually letting our minds wonder over what we have just heard or read and tying it together with things we have previously heard or read. It is the practice of refreshing and strengthening our minds and our hearts so that our spirits may be at rest.
Unfortunately, the world around us has taken up the practice of meditation based on the practices of Yoga. When counseling that takes place in the sports arena (including the gym) and in healthy living seminars these days, such mind emptying meditation in widely encouraged. So what, I said. But then it came into the schools. And it is gaining ground. It is not being recognized for the religious practice it is and has become a serious trend all over the world, let alone the United States, where religious practices are forbidden; well, at least, Christian practices where teaching morals and ethics and accountability would be emphasized are forbidden.
So what does meditating really mean for us? It means think about it. It means deal with things in your mind, in your imagination, in your creativeness, in your entertainment… think about it. Think about God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, think about God’s Word, think on the feast you have put into your minds and heart about God.
God is very clear about an empty mind: We may not have an evil spirit as seen in Jesus day, but we do have evil thinking going on in and all around us. And we do have evil all around us. An empty mind is an invitation to fill it with evil. And here is a short, but critical reminder that we are to concentrate on Him and fill our minds with Him:
“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. “ Matt 12:43-45
An empty mind is a dangerous thing; perhaps more so than “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” And doing Yoga style meditation is also a dangerous thing: It can become the devil’s workshop in quick order. Keep it open, but do not keep it empty. We must feed as much good, God given information into our brains as possible and take pains to avoid making room for evil. When evil thoughts come we must not dwell on them. We must throw them out and replace them with right thoughts: Philippians 4:8-9 in two translations:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” King James Version
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” The Message.
May we go forward from here in full battle gear, ready to whip the socks off of any evil that gets in our way. And may we rely on the Holy Spirit to help us discern good from evil as we go. Listen up and think because He knows how to train us up.
Friday, March 22, 2013
FREE WILLING THROUGH LIFE
Yesterday I met a lovely couple to whom I introduced myself, and he turned to his wife and said, “Now this is what I mean. God brings people into our lives and this volunteer is here because God wanted her in our lives for some reason.” Trust me, my socks flew right off, and we ended up having a very interesting conversation. :) I couldn’t get away from them and on to others in the room, but eventually I was called to take a lady back to the room she needed to find. Otherwise I might not have gotten away at all, which might have been fun, but not helpful to anyone else. :)
But God did have a serious purpose in what happened. The wife, it turns out, is afraid to let herself think that God directly influences our choices and that we can actually ask the Holy Spirit to lead us through life. She is also very concerned about her daughter who has withdrawn from God and is searching for a more personally meaningful relationship with Him, but not influenced by her upbringing and family. God truly did answer my prayer (which I shared with them) that He would make me a blessing to someone that day at the hospital. I also had the opportunity to encourage her to practice spending time thinking about God; meditating on all that He is and all that she has come to know about Him so that she can learn to hear the Holy Spirit trying to influence her day. May God take what we talked about and use it mightily in her life as she seeks more of Him.
Now, it is her husband’s fault that I am writing this post today. As we talked, in direct contrast to his opening statement, he kept gleefully bringing up the subject of FREE WILL. Finally I had to mention that I simply do not believe in FREE WILL. And I will tell you, my friends, why: Free will is a term of philosophy and science (i.e. evolution) and is not a term you will find in the Bible. J
Now, this subject is the fodder for many philosophical and doctrinal and even scientific arguments, and I do not intend to overwhelm the zillions of books and papers out there on this subject. I am just going to tell you the way I see it and hope that you think about it for yourself.
As I said, it is not a term you can find in the Bible. It is a term made up by man to identify that which is not influenced by any other things, even God. There is nothing on this earth or in the universe that is not influenced by something, even God. And, though we have WILL, no act of will is FREE. Someone, perhaps many, will pay for it.
In the Old Testament we find a “stiff necked” people willfully, stubbornly screaming in God’s face about how terrible things were and stalking off to do there own thing. They paid for that. Earlier, Adam and Eve willfully ate from the tree. They paid for that and the whole world has paid ever since. Then, in the time of Noah, people had become so willful in their lives that the entire earth was destroyed by the floods and God started over with Noah and his family. And everything basically got worse from there. Ham was cast out of the family and the area. And God soon threw up His hands over the people plotting to stay in one place and build a tower to reach into heaven. They were stricken with language. :) Since then we have had to learn others’ languages in order to speak with each other.
In the years that followed, covenants were made and men broke them. Punishment came, sometimes quickly, sometimes not. God has always and is always and will always follow the lives of men (generic), and He will always be at the ready to influence what is happening and what should happen. And when promises are kept, blessings flow, also under His influence. When promises are broken, right then or later on, punishment follows.
In the N.T., Jesus ties it altogether and shows us that God’s planned influences are truly working to the end He has in mind. And, perhaps most importantly, Jesus tells us outright that if we believe in Him, we will be forever held in the Father’s hand and we WILL be influenced by Him always. We can exert our will, but God is holding us tight enough to keep us from going so far that we cannot get back. When we exert our will over His, we destroy a little something of ourselves and we loose some of the future rewards awaiting us in Heaven. There is a price for exerting our will. Our works, the way we spend out time, the things we fill our minds and hearts with, all of these things will be judged and some will definitely be burned by the fire that He will use at the judgment.
There is influence on all things. Consider the Grand Canyon and all other beautiful formations we see on this tiny planet. All of them were influenced by God. All of them came from the powers of earthquakes, volcanoes, ice, water, and/or wind. And all of them are still being influenced by these God given processes of shaping this earth.
And, as Jesus (who paid the ultimate price for our willfulness) said, we too are influenced by God, everyday, through the power of His word and HIS WILL. ‘No man cometh unto the Father, but by me!” “There is no other way under Heaven by which a man may be saved.” We are born with a purpose and God WILL bring that purpose about in our lives, no matter how hard we willfully fight against it.
May we all think more about how much harm we can do to ourselves and to others when we strike out willfully to prove we can do it ourselves some other way than God’s way. May we wake up in the morning ready to submit to God’s will for us each day and prepared to step out knowing that we have asked Him for guidance and that we know enough about how He works to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. May God’s will be our will every single day.
Friday, March 15, 2013
This morning, with out even one cup of coffee in me, I began reading Acts 3 to prepare for next weeks Tuesday Bible study. I made it through verse 14 before my mind went wild remembering Peter from our evening study of Matthew last year. We took the whole year to study it chapter by chapter and we got very personally acquainted with Peter and the other Apostles. This was NOT the Peter that we got to know and love in those chapters. THAT Peter was a blunderer, tripping over his own mouth time after time. He was a proud fisherman who loved Jesus but, like all the Apostles, just didn’t get it.
They walked and talked with Jesus for three years and at the end they still didn’t get it. They still didn’t understand who Jesus wanted them to be, let alone who Jesus came here to be: A Savior not a conqueror. They wanted Him to be powerful in a warrior sense, while what He wanted for them was that they be powerful in His place. “I must go so that the Holy Spirit can come.” And what would the Holy Spirit do for them? He would give them the power to “get it” and to “do it.” They would become the power to spread the Good News and change the world forever because Jesus sent the Holy Spirit who was in Him to them.
And, yes, the sermon and the results of the sermon at Pentecost was major in getting things rolling. It was a magnificent, awe inspiring example of the power of the Holy Spirit. But for me it is verses 12-14 of chapter 3 that blew my mind. This was NOT Peter! At least not the Peter I came to know and love in Matthew. This was a totally sanctified, Holy Spirit filled Peter. He had been changed. He was a startling new creature. Consider these verses with me:
Verse 12 reads: But when Peter saw this, He replied to the people, “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we have made him walk.
Peter and John had just healed a man who had been crippled from birth and was well known in the temple. Word traveled fast and people gathered quickly to gawk at them, wondering at their ability to heal this man. Peter, the proud, gave up his pride for himself and gave it to Jesus, asking the crowd why they were so amazed about what happened. He told them to stop looking at Him and John and to start looking at Christ, the true power that healed this man.
Verses 13-14: The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His Servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered up and disowned in the presence of Pilate when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One…
And then I want to ask Peter, “WHO disowned Him? Who denied ever knowing Him? Who scattered like chaff in the wind when Jesus was arrested? Who left him alone to suffer these consequences?" “Peter, weren’t you guilty of disowning Him?”
But do you know what Peter could have answered? “Those sins are gone, I have been forgiven and I do not have to pay for them because Jesus did. Because I did that, I have been given compassion for others who have denied Him, and I long to help them find Him and be forgiven, too.”
Isn’t that a picture of our own lives: We confess our sins and turn away from them and they are gone! God has chosen to forget them and no one can accuse us of them anymore. And because we are forgiven we can also have compassion for others and long for them to find the Christ we know so well and have their sins covered in His blood.
Peter was longing for the whole world to finally see the truth that was so plain to Him at last. He “got it” now. And He was empowered to share it with the whole world. He tripped up a couple times over rules of law, but God worked to change him even in that. God will change us as well. He will empower us to do the work He wants us to do and He will go out of His way to show us what that is. Do we “get it” now?
Do we trust our Lord to empower us? Do we even care if He does or not? Do we even question whether we need to be empowered? Or do we look to Him every day for the power to change someone’s life, knowing that we cannot do it in our own power?
May we seek His power every day: to enable us to do a good job at work, to enable us to touch someone who needs touching and to help us keep in touch with Him. May we go forth from our homes (or in our homes), enabled by Christ and willing to do His bidding, whatever that may be!