Saturday, April 18, 2015

Weeping in the Prayer Closet - Longing for and finding more of God

For several years now I have felt a void in my spiritual life.  I have sensed that something was missing.  I would go to my prayer closet and pray, and many times I would weep.  I would cry out to God:  "I want more! More of YOU!", not truly realizing what that meant. 

Even though I cried out for more of God, I did not think that my sense of emptiness had anything to do with my relationship with Him. I know that sounds odd, but I was faithful to read and study His Word, I was faithful in meeting together with other believers, and I was faithful in living out my faith - so I thought.

Now I understand.

If you have not yet read my post about Connecting the Dots, please do so.  In it I shared how God has been leading me on a journey of recognizing the importance and relevance even today for His children to follow His commandments.  

Now that I have that understanding and am doing all that I can to be obedient in following His instructions (or Torah, as it is frequently referred to), I have so much more joy in my heart and peace in my spirit!  Sounds crazy, doesn't it?  How can following a "bunch of rules" bring joy and peace? 

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.   
I Corinthians 1:27 

That verse came to my mind as I was praying in my prayer closet this morning.  The world considers the things of God to be foolish, and yes, even weak.  I again cried before the LORD, but this time my tears were tears of joy!  He is so faithful, so compassionate, so kind, and so patient (Exodus 34)!  I was thanking Him for answering my heart's cry for more of Him, and for spiritual unity with my husband and my children.     

Now don't misunderstand me.  My husband and my children have always been close - praise be to GOD!  But in my time of hunger and thirsting for more, I knew that somehow it also included my family.  I knew that whatever it was that was missing for me, was also missing for them.  

Since my husband and I both have submitted to following our Father's commandments, we have grown closer to one another. We have seen our children follow with a desire to obey Him as well.  That is huge!  

Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, Who alone works wonders. And blessed be His glorious name forever; And may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen. 
Psalm 72:19 

So why do I now believe that God's Laws are still relevant for His children today? I simply believe that He says what He means, and He means what He says!  The Bible, the Word of God, clearly states that Jesus is the Word (John 1:1).  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  The LORD does not change (Malachi 3:6). God is not human that He should lie (Numbers 23:19) . So when God said that we are to keep the Sabbath day holy, He meant the Sabbath day! (Exodus 31:15; Leviticus 23:3) When He said that HIS appointed times (feasts) are to be kept FOREVER (throughout your generations), well, He means FOREVER (throughout your generations)! (Leviticus 23). 

More often than not whenever I would go to my prayer closet, I end up praying Proverbs 3:5-6 over myself, my family, and the Body of Christ.  These verses say: 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

I see this prayer as being the Holy Spirit teaching me how to pray (see Romans 8:26).  My spirit knew that I was missing out on the fullness of God because I was not following His commandments!  My spirit understood before my mind understood that God's Law is trustworthy & true, it is light, it is perfect, and it is freedom!  (see Psalm 119)

Now that I have determined to follow the LORD's commandments to the best of my ability, I have a new level of love for Him, and a new level of peace. I also have a new level of gratitude for what Jesus did for me.  

I was thinking more about that today.  Jesus is the Word (I've already said that, I know), the Word of God tells us God's instructions.  So Jesus is essentially God's instructions for us to follow. Jesus is the Law. He came to fulfill the Law, not destroy it (see Matthew 5:17).  The meaning of the word "fulfill" means: 

to fulfill, to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full; to render full, i.e. to complete; to carry into effect, bring to realisation, realise; i.e. to cause God's will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be, and God's promises (given through the prophets) to receive fulfillment 

The meaning of the word "destroy" means: to dissolve, disunite (what has been joined together), to destroy, demolish metaph. to overthrow i.e. render vain, deprive of success, bring to naught; to subvert, overthrow; of institutions, forms of government, laws, etc., to deprive of force, annul, abrogate, discard

I share all of that with you to help you follow my train of thoughts this morning (I hope it works). Jesus was essentially the Law of God showing us how to keep the Law of God.  He willingly laid down His life on the cross for those who had broken and would break the Law of God!  He took our punishment for breaking God's Law upon Himself!  

I don't think that I'm doing a very good job of expressing the magnitude of that loving act! 

All I know is that I love Jesus for Who He is and for what He did for me.  And because I love Him, I want to obey Him and walk as He walked by keeping God's commandments (Exodus 20:6; Deuteronomy 5:10; Proverbs 3:1; Proverbs 4:4 John 15:10; John 14:15; 1 John 2).  

Psalm 119:9-16

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare
all the rulesc of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.

Friday, April 3, 2015

How Do You Listen?

Jesus often spoke in parables.  According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a parable is: "a short story that teaches a moral or spiritual lesson; especially : one of the stories told by Jesus Christ and recorded in the Bible." To be honest, I haven't always understood these parables of Jesus, but neither did His disciples, which at times has comforted me. 

One of the more recent parables that I have read is found in Luke 8:4-15

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
“ ‘though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.’
“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

After reading this the other day, I found myself stopping, going back and reading through it again.  I did this several times.  For some reason I just felt like this was where I needed to "camp out" for a bit, until the deeper meaning settled into my spirit.  The main reason I felt the need to do so is because of the next portion in Luke 8:16-18:

No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.

I wondered, why did Jesus go from talking about a farmer and seed to a lamp?  So I went all the way back to verse 4 and read through to verse 18, taking notes along the way. My notes look something like this: 

  • seed = Word of God 
  • path = ones who hear, devil takes away word from their hearts
  • rock = ones who receive word with joy, but have not root. They believe for a while, but in time of testing, fall away
  • thorns = those who hear but do not mature because life's worries AND comfort (riches and pleasures) 
  • good soil = those with noble & good hearts, hear the word AND retain it, produce crop by perseverance       
Then I decided to do a search on the word "lamp".  Here is what I found:

2 Samuel 22:29 (KJV)  "For thou art my lamp, O LORD: and the LORD will lighten my darkness."

Psalm 119:105 (NIV) "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path."

Proverbs 6:23 (ESV) "For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,"

Psalm 119:130 (ESV) "The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.

I started to understand why Jesus went from "seed" to "lamp".  They both mean the same thing: God's Word!  

Luke 8:18 really made me stop and think.  It says: "Therefore, consider carefully how you listen.

How we listen to God's Word determines whether or not we (our hearts) are the path, the rock, the thorns or the good soil.  And if the good soil is representative of us and our hearts, then there will be light!  When we have the light of God's Word shining in us, we need to put it out there for everyone else to see!