Prayer and Energy

August 21, 2014 — Leave a comment

Through prayer, by prayer and in prayer we learn by experience the bottomless depths of His love for us. If you are distressed about your best never being good enough – gratefulness is needed. If you are lukewarm (tepid) and indifferent to the things of God around you only a heart of gratitude toward God can open you up and break off the disease of apathy. Reverence is the way to restoring the good and godly things in your life.

Paul wrote in Ephesians “Our struggle is not against creatures of flesh and blood, but against the potentates and rulers of the darkness of this world and against the spirits of evil in the celestial realms of the prince of the air.” So those who secretly fight and oppose our spiritual advancement inhabit the world of thought and influence our brains. These forces were once celestial intelligences and have lived for eons. They seek to drain any connection to God and de-energize the human’s soul.

Let’s take a look at a few specific things to note when thinking of prayer and energy:

  1. Relationship increases personal energy – All of us have those times in our lives where our spiritual energy is higher than at other times. The world goes around literally and metaphorically because of energy. It is no different for our inner beings. Have you ever said to a friend, “I just don’t have the energy to do this or that.”  Maybe you said, “I just don’t feel like…” Your energy level affected your ability to respond in a given situation. This is much deeper than a feeling or some hyped up emotion. The energy for deeper living comes directly from your connection to the giver of life.
  2. James 4:3 is a promise – The Bible in James 4:8, “If we come near to God, he will come near to us.”  Most have no problem with that concept, but how do we approach him? Where is he? Where does he live? This is characterized by a growing conversation with God. We call it prayer.
  3. Jesus was often alone in prayer – Jesus culminating preparation for his ministry (on this earth) was alone, in the wilderness, going through the dark, diverting, corrupting forces of evil, until they were faced down and their power shriveled. He emerged empowered, emboldened, with an indomitable sense of vocation. After this, he continued to go off alone to pray from time to time. (Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend, p. 14)
  4. Responsibility & Effort – There can be no insight into life and the kingdom without effort. Having said that however, that should not keep us from taking our RESPONSIBILITY seriously. The spiritual disciplines are many and vary depending on one’s spiritual heritage. Some of the most common are: Confession, Worship, Bible Study, Giving, Fasting, Meditation (God words) Silence, Contemplation (Person of Christ) etc.
  5. Remembering & Gratitude – Another reason in increasing spiritual energy is found in recalling “spiritual markers.” Revisiting God’s activity in your life can be a wonderful spiritual exercise. This certainly could be included in list of disciplines.  The ancients called it meditation. You can create spiritual momentum in the inner life by remembering God’s activity in your life. One of my mentors said a long time ago, “God is always more concerned about your future than he is your past.” In fact, some of the darkest times spiritually for me have been when I could remember past failures.
  6. Resiliency & Distress – In Disney’s Lion King, Simba had to face the death of his father and his new responsibilities as King. But instead of eating meat and being king, he ran around with a pig and a cute little rodent and sang, Hakunamatata, which meant no worries. THE ONLY WAY YOU HAVE NO WORRIES IS FOR YOU NOT TO FACE UP TO YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES. The spiritual life is not a stress free life. In fact, the opposite is true. Once you start living up to your destiny, and who God has called you to be and face your responsibilities, you will encounter great stress. Stress in your life will ultimately produce consistency and character if you will allow it to by embracing the stress by showing RESILIENCY.
  7. Attachment is a French word derived from “attaché” meaning  “nailed to.” Attachment nails our desires to specific objects and creates addiction. The brain never completely forgets its old attachments, so the absence of desire at this time does not mean it’s gone. Addiction exists wherever persons are internally compelled to give energy to things that are not their true desire. Addiction is a state of compulsion, obsession, or preoccupation that enslaves a person’s will and desire. Attachment enslaves desire and detachment liberates desire
  8. Humility is the Opposite of Attachment – True humility sets us free to act virtuously. The more pride that is resident within you the greater the attachments. Humility sets us free to do what is really good by revealing the false illusions in our lives. “If we were humble we’d know to what extent we are liars.” God is stern with us in His relentless mercy to draw us toward himself. Yet, God’s way does not bring us to despair but to humility. A truthful admission of weakness.
  9.  He is the God Who Restores - He uses direct contact with us to restore us. Divine empowerment and interaction. In His presence there is fullness of joy. In prayer we become more and more convinced that He is trustworthy. That He is above all other creatures. We learn He never falters or fails and commands all things.
  10. The deeper we go into God – The clearer we see that we are functioning in a world not of talent, performance, human effort but of personal connection to the living God. That takes place through prayer as a humbling conversation that invites us into winning in Jesus name.
  11. Prayer does not allow us to inflate ourselves – it relieves the tension to perform and invites us into communion with Him who has mercy toward us all the time. Prayer itself moves up and down and in and out in a rhythmic symphony of participating with God for His will and not our own.

Prayer is powerful. When we pray, we are expressing the innermost parts of our beings. The Psalms are an incredible example of prayers both the energetic prayers and the desperate prayers. Start your day by praying this prayer today.

Psalm 51:1-12 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your loving-kindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness,Let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God,And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.

 

Through prayer, by prayer, and in prayer we learn the bottomless depths of His love for us. If you find yourself distressed that your best never feels good enough – you need gratefulness. If you are lukewarm (tepid) and indifferent to the things of God around you only a heart of gratitude toward God can open you up and break off the disease of apathy.

  1. Inward Poverty – It is often in our most sinful states that we come to see His love goes even deeper than we could have ever imagined. Since that is so, we must never be afraid to go to Him continually in all our weakness and in infirmities.
  2. Personal Distress – You’re in distress works to your extreme advantage when there’s nothing left to seek but mercy. Our own poverty of heart is our greatest blessing if we have become ungrateful. This is because there is never neutrality between gratefulness and ungratefulness. You are either grateful for all God’s blessings in a deep way or not.
  3. Constant Complaining – Constant griping about this thing or that thing or about this person or that person is a sign of ungratefulness.
  4. Heart Apatheia – Those who do not love, hate. In your spiritual life there is no such thing as indifference to love or hate. That is why apathy is so dangerous because it is HATE disguised as LOVE.
  5. Indifference – Indifference where the soul is neither hot or cold is a selfish ungratefulness disguised as intellectual considerations or judgments.
  6. Gratitude vs. Hypocrisy – they are complete opposites. You will never be a hypocrite if you are always grateful to God for His blessings and love. To be grateful is to see His love at work toward you.
  7. Shallow Praise – we must not just make a mental note of the things God has done for us and offer up shallow praise – we internally and externally remain grateful. The conflicted hypocrite – internally and externally. Gratitude brings congruency to the inner life.
  8. Loving Nothingness – To say to yourself, “I am nothing is not an act of humility at all it is only saying I wish I were not what I am.” To really know our nothingness we must also love it. And we cannot love it unless we see that it is good. And we cannot see that it is good unless we accept it.
  9. Praise without Poverty is impossible – Spiritual poverty is a beautiful thing if it is truly such. Yet it’s possible to be without in so many ways and yet try and try to do things that obligate others to us. In one’s poverty to continually use favors is to try for possession of people for your own purposes. Yet, when in humility we see that all our worth and value and blessing are truly gifts from God we enter into true praise. “He must increase, we must decrease.”

Sources: Thoughts in Solitude, Merton.

 

Photo By: Ryk Neethling

Disciplined vs. Un-disciplined

It is good to celebrate one’s spiritual disciplines and another thing altogether to exalt them to a high pedestal in your mind. You are not living to attain spiritual discipline. You are living to love God with all of your heart. This teaching is something that I’ve shared recently with my pastoral team. I hope you will find it as helpful and encouraging as they did.

Disciplined: Some temperaments are naturally given to discipline and organization.

Un-disciplined: Some personality types live less disciplined but not necessarily less spiritual.

  1. The Personality Type – One’s personality type does not predestine some to live holy lives and others sinful lives.
  2. Your Personality is a Gift – You are unique in every way. Your personality with its tweaks and twists are a real part of who you are and the currency of all your relationships on earth.
  3. The Naturally Disciplined Person – The person that is naturally disciplined was not given a special spiritual advantage over another – they are both desperately in need of God’s grace to their personal lives.
  4. The Attributes God’s Looking For – There are three simple attributes that are not driven by skill but by your inner life, your heart. God is looking for LOYALTY from you. That you would ultimately keep to Him by making all decisions in light of your relationship with God. God is looking for FAITHFULNESS from you. Keep all the promises that you’ve made. God is looking for humility from you. He knows you’ll fail but He eyes are watching your response.
  5. The Metaphor of the Mountain –The long slow climb up the difficult mountain is the picture of your life. It goes uphill the entire way. One key characteristic is to keep on climbing and resting in a rhythm that considers safety and sustenance. Every person is on a different part of the mountain. Some of the slopes are steeper than others.
  6. Climbing is good – “A man is good when his will takes joy in what is good, evil when his will takes joy in what is evil” (St. Thomas). A good heart struggles, and climbs, and overcomes evil by continuing the climb. The person who sins in spite of themselves but does not love their sin is not a sinner in the fullest sense of the word but progresses in learning more about the depths of grace and responsibility.
  7. Emotional Spirituality – It would be absurd to think that emotion has no place in the spiritual life. It is a part of who you completely are. You are personality, temperament, emotion, and yet a whole person. Allow your emotions to love God.
  8. Gracefully Free – The goal of the spiritual life is not to deaden your emotions or humanity but rather set it free with a powerful and rich grace. God’s not looking to remove your humanity. He wants you to love Him through your humanity.
  9. The Holy Place Where God Lives – You are the holy place where God lives not the front of the auditorium at church. You are like a sacred temple, with the incense of gratitude burning or the stench of worldly love filling the atmosphere. Inside your own unique temperament and personality are a myriad of emotions that long to love God.
  10. The Management of You – The stewardship of your emotions and the desire for God leads you closer toward spiritual maturity.
  11. Gratitude vs. Ingratitude – There is no neutral ground between gratitude and non-gratitude. Gratitude and compunction are two powerful emotions that used to propel you into His presence.

Love—authentic heartfelt love—will produce deeper and deeper commitments and discipline will result. Yet, everything in the spirit-realm starts and ends with love. Love wins over discipline every time.

Sources: Thoughts in Solitude, Merton.

Psalm 23

July 15, 2014 — Leave a comment

 

Photo By: Trey Ratcliff

Photo By: Trey Ratcliff

Psalm 23 :

God is the only thing in life that you need according to David in Psalm 23. In fact, God is the “only” keeping you alive anyway. David is declaring the assurance that He is what you need. He keeps you alive in the deepest darkest valleys of life and evil is not to be feared!

  1. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want – This isn’t about giving you your wants its about God absolutely being involved in “keeping you alive”. He is sovereignly sitting in the place of orchestrating your survival in a brutal and harsh world.
  2. He makes me lie down in green pastures –He feeds you in places you actually had no intention of stopping. In fact, if it was so lush where you are why would he have to make you lie down? I think it’s possible here that, you’re in places that you don’t want to be or stop and eat and the Great Shepherd allows circumstances to force you not to take one more step. IN OTHER WORDS, WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW CAN BE JUST LIKE A GREEN PASTURE. He provides food for you in the exact places that you don’t want to stop and lie down.
  3. He leads me beside quiet waters – I don’t see the tranquil meditative state everyone else is seeing here. I believe the waters are quiet because there is a lack of water. That in this difficult place you can’t hear any provision coming and the water is not roaring with provision and there’s only a trickle and all the provision around you is not noticeable. Yet the Shepherd has led you to this place where the water is only a trickle.
  4. He restores my soul – The Shepherd and in David’s case the Lord is the “only” keeping him alive at this point. The Great Shepherd is at work in this place teaching you that physical things like water and grass are not what you most need but God is the “only” keeping you alive in this place. He is the giver of life.
  5. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His namesake – You are the Lord’s namesake. So, in the difficult places His concern to continue to guide you in the paths of right living defined by seeing Him as your life giving support. In the most difficult places in life He is working in you a good thing so don’t doubt the path you are on because you are His namesake.
  6. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil- He is the one giving you life therefore don’t fear evil. So, even though it looks like you are going to die in this difficult place, you won’t. In the darkest place of uncertainty when you can’t even see how evil is lurking to pick you off- the Great Shepherd says you will live.
  7. For you are with me- Evil should never be feared but always faced with assurance and certainty that the Great Shepherd knows where you are, and not only that but that He is with you right where you are.
  8. Your rod and your staff they comfort me- There is absolute safety in your strong discipline and correction for the blessing of your people. You discipline me in just the ways I need to bring comfort. The Great Shepherd is staying very attentive to the times when you want to try and run off and PROVIDE FOR YOURSELF. For He is the “only” keeping you alive.
  1. You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies- God’s very plan for your life is to feed you among the very people that have a growing hatred for you. People that want to bring you down, move you over, get your presence out of their lives – The Sovereign Lord says He’s going to personally see to it that you are fed in the places where your enemies would try to starve you. God is the one keeping you alive and feeding you in the most unlikely of places.
  2. You anoint my head with oil- Not only are you going to be so calm in the midst of your enemies that you can eat, but He’s going to honor you right in front of those who oppose you. God’s opinion of you is the only thing that matters. He’s going to anoint you like a king or a prophet and cover you with His anointing oil right in front of those who plot your demise. For the Lord is “only” you need. He’s the one keeping you alive.
  3. My cup over flows- No matter how desperate things get the King of Heaven is going to make sure that your provision is more than enough. There’s plenty for you in the presence of those who want to SEE YOUR DREAMS DIE. He’s more than enough and He’s all you need.
  4. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life- Even though life is painful right now the generosity and goodness of God cannot be escaped. In dark valleys, in places with no grass or water The Lord is still your Shepherd and He’s pursuing you. He’s not just good one day and not good the next. No, all the days of your life, in good times and bad, in sinful and rebellious times, His steadfast love and never ending mercy pursues you. God is pursuing you to bless you so why not, “GO AHEAD AND ADMIT HE’S THE “ONLY” YOU NEED.”
  5. I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever- In the house of God there will always be provision and food for His children. He is with you on the whole journey and there’s a place of provision for you in the house of God.

 

*Excerpts from a teaching

*Source Consulted: J. Clinton McCann, Jr. The Psalms as Torah

Photo by: O Palsson

Photo by: O Palsson

 

Unreality vs. Reality

Unreality: Temporary things, things that will not last into eternity.

Reality: God and the things He shows Himself through.

There is a daily misery that some believers often mistake for “carrying the cross” when in reality they are attempting to “carry the world” with them into a kingdom life.

  1. The Struggle – Our lives are often nourished and fed by our relationships with unreality. (Sports teams, vocations, hobby’s, church work, power, money, or insert the name of any sin or vice here) We will absolutely starve if we are continually feed on unreality.
  2. Dying to Unreality – The death to self by which we enter into the life of God, spiritually speaking, is not an escape from reality as some might think, but a dying to all the unreal things in our lives. The unreal things in your life only die when you stop having a relationship with them. The unreal things are kept alive from week to week by your self-interest in them to bring relief or comfort to you rather than turning to God for that comfort.
  3. The Wilderness – The wilderness in the Bible is used by God often especially when He is going to reveal something brand new to you. God will use the wilderness to teach a new truth, demonstrate an old truth or give a revelation of Himself. He appeared to Moses in the wilderness at the burning bush. The children of Israel were led into the wilderness to be taught important lessons, John the Baptist and Jesus were both in the wilderness. Notice God was always in the wilderness with them. (Leaving Egypt was not the only encounter God intended for them.)
  4. The Value – The wilderness is so valuable to God because humans see no value in the wilderness. The wasteland of the wilderness could never be wasted by humanity because it offers humanity nothing. People go on vacations to the mountains or the sea for beauty but God reveals His personal beauty in the wilderness.
  5. The Place of Nothing – There is nothing attractive in the wilderness. There is nothing comfortable in the wilderness. There is nothing to harvest in the wilderness. There is nothing tame in the wilderness. There is nothing to sell or commoditize in the wilderness.
  6. God loves the Wilderness – God can easily get your attention. Only what is real survives the wilderness. The unreal dies in the desert. No one is comfortable in the wilderness. Humans can’t change a wilderness. Humans are in touch with thirst and reality very quickly in the wilderness. You are fatefully alone with God in the wilderness.
  7. We encounter the God over reality in the wilderness because He wants to reveal who He is for us personally. The wilderness experience is the most frequent experience you will have as a believer because it’s the best place to learn who God wants to be for you.

Proverbs 29:18 Without a vision the people perish.

 

Sources: Thoughts in Solitude, Merton.

David’s Path

June 9, 2014 — Leave a comment
Photo by: Riza Nugraha

Photo by: Riza Nugraha

We all have a path we are walking. Some take an easy path and some take David’s path, the one filled with tough decisions, radical faith, and a lot of suffering. David had been king for just a little while; remember he waited nearly 40 years as King Saul had finished his opportunity to rule God’s people. He was spiritual in his leadership but he was very religious and superstitious. David on the other hand was incredibly spiritual and creative. David knew deep down that the God who had defeated the giant through him was still with him in his new assignment. His challenge however was that God’s people were split into two kingdoms.

His assignment as he saw it was to bring unity to all God’s people.

The best way he could figure out how to do that was to place in the center of this new city, we now know as Jerusalem, the most holy object in all of Israeli history. The ARK of God. So, he sets out to make that happen with 30,000 troops (See 2 Samuel 6 for the whole story) but his renewal effort hits a snag the first thing. Someone is struck dead by God because he touches the ARK and doesn’t follow the pre-scribed rules in doing so. Sounds harsh doesn’t it? David thought so because they were all so sincere and David got angry with the Lord for killing this guy named Uzzah.

That event appears to completely stop David’s attempt at unity and renewal for his people.

He takes 90 days and researches, contemplates and prays and goes back to get the ARK (the container of the presence of God) and bring it to the center of Jerusalem. He decides however that to do so, the ARK must be treated with great respect and placed on the shoulders of clergy and surrounded by the worship leaders and singers.

He is also so concerned according to 2 Samuel 6 he decides to take 6 steps and then sacrifice two animals. There is some debate as to whether or not he actually did that (I don’t intend to get into a scholarly debate in this short writing), however; let’s say he did that. If you do the math that meant that he sacrificed two animals every 6 steps and worshipped God on the 7th. That calculates out to 704 animals every mile. Here’s the kicker. The ARK was at Obed Edoms house, which was approximately 10 miles from Jerusalem. That’s over 7000 animals that would have created such a pathway of blood and sacrifice both financially it boggles the mind.

The part of the story that shaped my thinking is that we are all on a journey of sacrifice 6 days a week. During those days we sacrifice for our families, companies, and communities, but on the 7th we should be offering a sacrifice of worship. In some ways our lives are just the opposite. We work 6 days for ourselves, our creditors and give God an hour on Sundays. But for most of the pastors and ministers I know there is no real celebration taking place on Sundays. Why not join with one another 6 days a week as one’s time allows and then celebrate all that’s happened for God on our journeys those 6 days by focusing solely upon God on the 7th. Every believer should be engaged in sacrifice and ministry 24six and then give God thanks for His provision on day 7.

David’s story teaches us several important truths:

  1. We cannot carry the very presence of God on man-made programs, ideas or ministries.
  2. God’s presence lives inside each believer and should be treated with great respect.
  3. There may be a few casualties on the way toward a reintegration of God’s presence in the center of the faith community.
  4. We will make mistakes on this journey of re-orienting how we do church. Remember, David was embarrassed in front of the whole nation when his plan didn’t work, but he didn’t give up but sought the Lord.
  5. Ministry, real and good ministry is possible coming out of brokenness and disappointment. The ARK was stopped at the threshing floor a place where separation occurs. David went and re-examined his motives and the way he was ushering in the presence of God.
  6. Divine delays are often God ordained. David learned that God often delays His activity to produce a better outcome.
  7. God generally calls His people to trust Him for the impossible. The place of suffering can become the place of blessing. In America the threshing floor is the budget. We haven’t needed God that much lately because the strength of our army was the budget. If the numbers worked we would say let’s do the will of God. But look at all the times when the numbers didn’t work:
    • Abraham – the numbers didn’t work he and Sarah were nearly 100
    • Jacob – the numbers didn’t work he was #2
    • Moses – the numbers didn’t work he was only a man
    • Children of Israel – the numbers didn’t work at the red sea there was no way out of their situation
    • Joshua and Caleb realized that the numbers didn’t work when 10 out voted their 2
    • Gideon the numbers didn’t work and he had to trim down to 300
  1. The Road to Renewal is a path of sacrifice.

Is it hard to take the path of David?

Yes. It’s hard when the odds are against you. It’s hard when you and those around you struggle believing in the promises of God. In those times, remember David’s path, the one that took decades before God’s promises came to fruition and the one that was stuffed full of sacrifice. Choose to take David’s path.

Disinterest in the Beauty

April 24, 2014 — 1 Comment
Photo by: Mark Gaw

Photo by: Mark Gaw

My dad, as the son of an alcoholic moonshiner got saved at a small country church in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He was just 13 at the time and one of the first things he did after being saved was to help his pastor R.O. Denton pass out pamphlets inviting people to come to the Oral Roberts services in Roanoke Virginia.

It was 1951 and my dad sat very close to the front as Oral Roberts ministered under the mighty power of God. My dad describes with great joy miracle after miracle that happened during those services.

It was just a few years later with no money or financial backing or the promise of help that my father ended up at Holmes Bible College (A Pentecostal Holiness School) just like Oral Roberts was Pentecostal Holiness at the time. This small bible college is where he noticed my mom. Her beauty captivated him even though at Holmes boys weren’t allowed to talk to girls. Over time they figured out they only lived 45 minutes from one another and were married soon after. Years later would reveal that she was at the same Oral Roberts crusade in Roanoke as a young girl being touched by the power of God.

That story is beautiful and even more so for me because I’m so close to it. I’m interested in the story.

Immanuel Kant’s concern in his Critique of Judgment published in 1790 following his book on Critique of Pure Reason -establishing normative claims for JUST WHAT IS BEAUTIFUL. What could be universally perceived as beautiful?

Immanuel Kant says a disinterestedness [in beauty] means a state of mind in which the observer is appropriately immune to the work’s external relations.

A NEGATIVE OUTCOME FROM THE REFORMATION was the LOSS OF THE BEAUTY OF GOD. AS The enlightenment period pushed us from being a comprehensive discipline to JUST ANOTHER DISCIPLINE ON A SPECTRUM OF DISCIPLINES

I think – theological movements, entire denominations and even me at times have become afflicted with a DIS-INTERESTEDNESS IN THE BEAUTY OF GOD.

One Aesthetic theologian said it this way, “We can look at the beautiful handwriting and praise the writers penmanship…but to actually know what the letters mean…Or what they are pointing to is altogether another matter.”

(In other words: The person can praise the handwriting because of their eyes – seeing it’s beautiful but to TAKE THE WORDS INTO ONE’S SPIRIT BECOMES IMPOSSIBLE).

Sometimes I think people might rather learn some new facts about God the Father than have a  DEEP AND PERSONAL moment with Him. Facts are safer…further away…less invasive. Be careful not be disinterested in the beauty today.

David and Goliath Continued

February 14, 2014 — 1 Comment
Photo by: Mark Gaw

Photo by: Mark Gaw

Christ followers can easily make the mistake of living generally and not specifically or with purpose.

This relates to David’s actions because the goal wasn’t to just take Goliath down but to specifically eliminate his influence entirely. Generally you are headed into the deeper realms of truth and purposeful living but don’t make the mistake some do thinking that just trying harder to be a more moral or better person will bring about any better outcome. Specifically you must head directly toward trusting in Christ alone! David, contrary to what others have taught on the topic, needed the God who had helped him slay a lion and a bear!

Slingshots were used in those days. They were fired over the heads of the frontline troops to hit the enemy and soften those battle lines. But never miss the fact that whoever the sling shotters were on that hillside they’d be frozen in place for forty days! Little David had no prior military experience but absolutely had confidence in the God he sang to in his heart.

Your specific goal is not just spending hours in your head trying to resolve these inner struggles.

You are coming to your God both in mind and heart and are coming to trust the God who has already overcome all your enemies, even the tormenting thoughts.  In our day of success driven teachings, moralistic programs that inspire us to try harder only leave us frustrated. We have pushed our giants more and more under the surface of our lives and live with a quiet inner pain that only God can see. But the longer you struggle under the domination of your giant the more you will come to see I’m pointing out the greatest truth we learn from David’s story.

There will come a moment in your life, whether in your twenties or sometime after…

mid-life, a health crisis, or the loss of someone close to you that your ultimate hope is in God’s power and not your own abilities. You are absolutely going to lose every significant spiritual battle in your life until you come to the actual specific location of faith and holistic trust in God. A specific trust in God that can be brought down to even just one word, “Jesus”!

The ancient monks would call it the Jesus prayer.They are only words until you’ve come to experience this ancient prayer as truth. Here is the prayer: “Dear Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.” At times in my life, I have and you should learn to prayer this prayer over and over. Say it for an hour one morning when you feel like you can’t face the giant again. It’s not “vain babblings” as we were all warned about in protestant churches years ago. It is doing something specific to get the deepest part of you to realize you have to have God’s help to defeat your giant.

David and Goliath

February 12, 2014 — Leave a comment
Photo by: Mark Gaw

Photo by: Mark Gaw

There is a tension between the general idea of getting God to help…

and needing the specific help of God. Some believers end up living very frustrated in their Christian life because they are expecting no pain, discomfort or struggle. But you are human which by any means indicates you’re not perfect. How’s that for specific? You will have failures in your life but at the end of the day it’s about placing confidence in God’s sovereign grace and implementing your own will to live out your deepest values. To simply be after God’s heart or to seek to know God’s heart on the matter is living specifically. Actually calling on God’s name, “Dear Jesus, I need your help” is a more mature prayer than “Hey, to the big guy upstairs” kind of prayer.

David had declared God was giving Goliath into his hands that day and that’s what happened.

Here’s how Goliath’s story ends specifically. David runs toward Goliath after he’s down to finish the job. He literally didn’t sit back after the rock took him down but went on to finish the job. It was not enough for David to take what was in his hand and knock his enemy down. He needed to finish the job. The text is beyond PG-13. David took the sword intended to kill him and used it to saw off Goliath’s head. That foul-mouthed giant that once used the mindset of intimidation was silenced. A victory for the ages to be sure, but David’s victory was not just for him but for the nation. Israel was a nation in trouble and growing less and less confident about the promises of Abraham.

Their specific relationship with God had grown more and more general.

Remember how the story goes. David had no armor on which meant he wasn’t carrying a sword. Yet in the story we see how God inspired David to use what was around him. David had shouted at Goliath and said, “I’ll cut off your head.” David had already imagined that to kill the giant he’d have to use the weapon intended for him to finish the giant off. Take the very thoughts/weapons intended to destroy you and prepare to reverse things back on your enemy. Through the work of Jesus every weapon you need is already provided. The specific problem facing some trapped believes is the problem of actually just DOING SOMETHING SPECIFICALLY!

Notice what David did after the defeat…

I’m not making any of this up; it’s for real. The narrator adds in verse 54, “David took Goliath’s head and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put Goliath’s weapons in his [own] tent.” Can you believe that?! He walked around with the giant’s thoughts now in his hands. The thoughts that had once intimidated an entire army and its king were now dripping from his hands. I am telling you this on purpose. Picture it: David walked all around demonstrating what His God had done. He moved from sandwich delivery boy to mighty warrior in the span of about fifteen minutes! Maybe even less! For David, when he cut off the head of Goliath and held it up, it showed the way the Philistines had been thinking, the thoughts they had been espousing, the mindsets they were using to come and attack Israel were now silent.

These were very barbaric days and to survive during those times God’s people fought fire with fire.

In the end, Goliath lost his head because he did not have in mind the things of God; and chopping off the head of Goliath represented the advancement of the thoughts and power of God’s kingdom. I’ve been pastoring a long time and have come to see that most people have goliaths that live in their heads. They go through their lives living under the oppressive thoughts of some critical family member, a coach who made fun of them, or some sense of futility in trying to break free from controlling thoughts. How discouraging is it to try for years and years to defeat a goliath in your life only to discover that you have not  completely done away with those controlling thoughts?

The reality of David’s actions are really important to remember because the Israelites did not have the same technology that the Philistines had at that time. There were only two iron swords in all of Israel at that time. The narrator wants the people listening to this story to know that even though they were outmanned and virtually weaponless against their rivals that God would come through for them.

To be continued…

Photo by: Mark Gaw

Photo by: Mark Gaw

My favorite story is the time we were going out to eat as a family…

and saw a rental mini-van pulled over to the north side of John Young Parkway. They were lost and you could see as we drove slowly past them that they were very animated in their discussion of the right way to go. My son noticed them and said, “Hey dad why don’t we help those people who are lost”.

We slowed and stopped just under the underpass in front of their mini-van and even though it was 5pm in the evening, the Orlando sun was still very bright and hot. I exited our SUV and smiled as I walked toward them and was thinking of something nice to say to not embarrass the husband in front his wife and a vanload of kids. Just then the man with great drama in a very agitated voice told me in very broken English to “Go Away”. They look so frightened that I backed off and went back to the SUV and we headed further north toward Orange Blossom Trail and our restaurant.

After dinner, now the sun is starting to go down, we were headed home south on John Young Parkway when my daughter said, “Dad look”. And believe it or not the family in the mini-van was pulled over about one mile from where they were before, only now they were on the other side of the highway. The map was folded across the steering wheel and the man’s arms folded in disgust the kids slumped down in the back seat. I thought I would give this one more try.

This time as I got out the man seemed relieved and smiled as I approached the vehicle.

Their destination was a hotel only 5 minutes from where they were in that moment. As I started pointing I saw the wife’s face and knew that they did not just want me to point but to lead them to their destination. That’s what we did. They followed our family as we made only one turn and then one more onto the exit ramp and right to the hotel entrance. I realize now that the language barrier would have made it nearly impossible to communicate the directions even though they were pretty simple a few hours earlier.

They were a nice family and very sincere about getting to their location but they were lost…

on the wrong road and headed in the wrong direction. Their sincerity had only led them to more and more frustration. I made no apologies to them for speaking confidently when I said, “You guys just follow me” and I will take you there. So many followers of Jesus actually don’t know where they are going specifically and end up serving God in general trying to be good and moral people. Yet general directions when you are headed to a specific location will only serve you so long. Where are you going? Or to the point of this book, defeating giants in your life means being specific as to what you’re really trying to do. When God helps you win this mind war what has He done for you?