Close To God

Imagine being close enough to hear God’s voice—Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left. (Isaiah 30:21)

Here’s a great question I recently heard: “What if God doesn’t want to give us answers, because He wants to give us His presence?” 

Perhaps if God showed me my whole path, I might just take off down the path as fast as I could. Maybe I’d even say something like, “Thanks, God, I’ll take it from here!”

But God wants me close to Him. He wants me to hear His voice at every single step saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” 

The model prayer that Jesus taught us is all about that closeness and total reliance on God’s close presence: 

  • Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name [close enough to worship Him intimately],
  • Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven [close enough to know His heart].
  • Give us today our daily bread [close enough to rely on Him for all of my daily needs].
  • And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors [close enough to know His forgiving love for me and for others].
  • Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one [close enough to His strength to say “no” to temptations that would entice me off of His path].
  • For Yours is the kingdom, and the glory, and the power forever [close enough to bask perpetually in His glory and His power].

God wants us THAT close to Him—to rely on Him, to lean into Him, to be empowered by Him, to be protected in Him. 

A good question for all of us to ponder: How close to God am I?

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Evidence Of Christian Maturity

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Evidence Of Christian Maturity

     One of the first evidences that anyone is a child of God is that he hates with a perfect hatred and seeks to live a holy, Christlike life. … 

     I bless God that I have learned to have very little respect for the vision of the man with the measuring line. When I see an angel with it, I am glad enough; but when I see a man with it, I tell him that he must give me a warrant from God and show me how he is to know the elect by any other method than that laid down by our Lord Jesus Christ: “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). … 

     He who truly grows in grace does not say, “Dear me! I can feel that I am growing; bless the Lord! Let’s sing a hymn. ‘I’m a-growing! I’m a-growing!’” I have often felt that I was growing smaller; I think that is very probable, and a good thing, too. If we are very great in our own estimation, it is because we have a number of cancers, or foul gatherings, that need to be lanced, so as to let out the bad matter that causes us to boast of our bigness. 

From The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon 

Some Dos and Don’ts for Christian growth:

Do—hate those things that keep you from God’s presence
Do—seek to be conformed to the image of Jesus

Don’t—look at other people as your measuring line
Do—make sure your life is fruitful according to God’s standards

Don’t—brag about your growth
Do—humbly thank God for your growth
Do—be quick to repent of un-Christlike things the Holy Spirit reveals to you

Not How But Who

This is part 3 in our series looking at phrases that sound biblical and then asking, “Is that in the Bible?

Statement #3—This is how you should take Communion.… Is that in the Bible? Quite simply: No, it’s not. 

Every church seems to celebrate Communion with its own unique style, typically following an age-old tradition. There’s nothing wrong with traditions per se. The only thing we have to watch out for is when traditions become the focal point, instead of the thing the tradition is pointing us to. Almost as if we are celebrating the celebration (see Isaiah 1:11-14; Mark 7:1-8). 

In 1054 AD the Great Schism occurred between the Roman church (in West) and the Byzantine church (in East). One issue that led to this schism was Communion. The West used unleavened bread, saying that sin was removed. The East said that sounded like they were adopting Judaism, so they used leavened bread, saying that the “rising” symbolized new life. 

Even today there are differences and disagreements—only administered by a priest … only certain church officials can “bless” the elements … a common cup … individual cups … unfermented juice … fermented wine … unleavened wafers … pieces torn off a full loaf of bread. The Bible never says about Communion, “Do it this way.” All of these are man’s traditions. 

Passover was first instituted in Exodus 13. This is before the Law is given through Moses (Exodus 20) and before the instructions for the tabernacle are given (Exodus 25). In the first version, the sacrifice of the lamb was in individual homes, the lamb’s blood was shed on the doorposts of that home, and the family ate the lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs together at home. 

After the tabernacle was operational, there was a change (Deuteronomy 16). Now the sacrifice of the lamb was in the tabernacle, the lamb’s blood was sprinkled on the altar, but the family still ate the lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs together at home. 

By the time of Jesus, there were newer traditions which weren’t prescribed in the Bible that involved as many as five cups of wine, a very specific order that the meal was presented, and the singing of Psalm 113-118 (sometimes people sang all the way through Psalm 138). 

In the last supper Jesus shares with His disciples, we see some of these later elements. We read about the different cups of wine, the unleavened bread, the supper of lamb, and the singing of a hymn (Luke 22:14-20; Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). 

I want to specifically focus on the second cup of wine Jesus used in this supper. Paul calls this cup the cup of thanksgiving and the cup of the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:16, 21). Why? Because Jesus switched cups with us! 

The Bible tells us that we have all sinned, and therefore we are supposed to drink the cup of God’s wrath—For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup of His wrath, and the wine foams and is red, well mixed; and He pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth must drain it and drink its dregs (Psalm 75:8 AMP). 

But Jesus switched cups with us. He took the full wrath of God upon Himself, and then gave us God’s new covenant of forgiveness—“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke My covenant…. This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. … For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 33:31-34). 

Jesus said, “When you drink this, do this in remembrance of Me.” THIS is what we’re called remember and celebrate! 

It’s not HOW we celebrate Communion but WHO we remember when we do celebrate. 

Let’s not celebrate the celebration, but let’s celebrate the Savior who paid the price so that we could celebrate the forgiveness of our sins under God’s new covenant! 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—“Follow Me”

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

“Follow Me”

     “As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ So he arose and followed Him” [Matthew 9:9]. … I know another man, not named Matthew, but Charles, and the Lord said to him, “Follow Me,” and he also arose and followed Him. I do not know all that He saw when He looked upon me. I fear that He saw nothing in me but sin and evil and vanity, but I believe that He did say to Himself concerning me, “I see one to whom I can teach My truth, and who, when he gets ahold of it, will grip it fast and never let it go, and one who will not be afraid to speak it wherever he is.” So the Lord saw what use He could make of me. There is an adaptation in men, even while they are unconverted, that God has put into them for their future service. Luke was qualified to write his gospel because he had been a physician, and Matthew was qualified to write the particular gospel that he has left us because he had been a publican. There may be something about your habits of life, and about your constitution and your condition that will qualify you for some special niche in the church of God in the years to come. Oh, happy day, when Jesus shall look upon you and call you to follow Him! Happy day, when He did look upon some of us, and saw in us what His love meant to put there, that He might make of us vessels of mercy meet for the Master’s use! 

From The Autobiography of Charles Spurgeon

What was true of the apostle Matthew and Charles Spurgeon in past history is true of you today! 

God has plans for you. He has implanted a combination of gifts, talents, and personality in you that is unique to anyone else on this planet. He did this because He foresaw how you could be of use in fulfilling His plans for His kingdom.

Listen! Do you hear Him calling? He is saying to YOU, “Follow Me.” Will you answer that call? 

8 Quotes From “When Faith Fails”

We’ve all been there: an unexpected calamity has rocked our faith, making us question what we previously believed to be true. What do we do with these times of doubt? Dominic Done has given us a helpful resource in his book When Faith Fails. Please check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“An anonymous fourteenth-century mystic once said that we find ourselves ‘in a cloud of unknowing.’ That is why we doubt. We don’t always see the sky. However, what we have to be reminded of here is that all of this was part of God’s design. He purposefully made it like this. He built limits into the system. It wasn’t an accident. He knew we would have to live with so many unknowns. And yet He chose for the human story to look this way. … When God decided to create, He could have said yes to a thousand other possibilities. But He didn’t. He chose this world. He chose you. He chose me. Limits and all. And still, He called it ‘good.’ All of this means that doubts are normal. They’re a natural consequence of living in this world.” 

“If all we care about is certainty, we lose the beauty of mystery. If all we value is explanation, we lose the joy of exploration.” 

“We need to stop vilifying those who live in the tension of conflicted faith. Doubt isn’t a malevolent demon that we need to exorcise out of our brothers and sisters with sanctimonious words. It’s part of their story. It’s part of my story. Jude 22 says, ‘Be merciful to those who doubt.’” 

“What if God made the world like this to push us to deeper faith? … Doubts aren’t just an obstacle; they’re an opportunity. Uncertainty can lead us into the beautiful mystery we call God.” 

“What’s vital to note here is that when the Bible uses the word doubt it’s different from the word unbelief (Matthew 14:31 and Hebrews 3:19). This is important because some Christians assume that doubt and unbelief are synonymous. They’re not. Doubt can lead to unbelief, just as doubt can lead to faith. But the two are not the same. Doubt says, ‘I am unsure of what is right.’ Unbelief says, ‘I don’t care about what is right.’ Doubt is searching for the light. Unbelief is choosing to gouge out your eyes. Doubt is pursuing truth, wherever it may lead. Unbelief is content with a lie. Doubt exists somewhere between belief and unbelief. Doubt is the moment of tension, which in and of itself isn’t good or bad. It’s somewhere in between. … Doubt isn’t the end of the story; it’s the suspense within it.” 

“Doubt’s greatest strength is secrecy.… But if we name our doubts and drag them into the light, we may find resolution, or we may discover the tension of authentically living in a doubt-filled faith.” 

“Abraham and Sarah doubted God’s promise (Genesis 17:17-22; 18:10-15). Gideon doubted his calling (Judges 6:36). Job doubted God’s character (Job 7:20-21). John the Baptist, whom Jesus called ‘the greatest of all the prophets,’ doubted if Jesus was the Messiah (Matthew 11:1-6). Peter doubted his faith (Mark 14:66-72). Thomas doubted the resurrection (John 20:24-29). The list goes on. Scripture doesn’t edit out the stories of those who struggled to believe. It weaves their heart-rending struggles into the narrative.” 

“If your faith is being shaken by the suffering you see, don’t be content with cheesy Christian truisms or Facebook clichés. … Lean into the chaos. Cry out to God. Talk to people who have gone through pain and have come out on the other side awash with hope. Immerse yourself in Scripture’s lament and redemption. Dare to say, ‘I will not let You go until You bless me.’” 

Does Self-Help Get God’s Help?

This is part 1 in our series looking at phrases that sound biblical and then asking, “Is that in the Bible? 

Statement #1—God helps those who help themselves. Is that in the Bible? No, it is not! 

The reason why I think people have accepted this as biblical is an incorrect view of God. 

  1. Humanism says God is us, which makes us believe, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” 
  2. Fatalism says there is no God and therefore no meaning to life, which makes us believe, “The outcome is what it is and no one has any say in the matter.” 
  3. Deism says there is a God, but it’s hard to get His attention, which makes us believe “He is either disinterested in me or unapproachable. He’s only available for the ‘big’ things.” 

The Bible flat-out rejects all three of these isms. 

Instead, we see a loving, approachable God. One who is both all-powerful and all-loving. He says things like…

  • I made you and know everything about you, and I remain infinitely interested and intimately involved in your life 
  • Come to Me and I will give you rest
  • I want you to cast all your anxieties on Me
  • Don’t be anxious about anything, but tell Me about everything that troubles you (Psalm 139:1-18; Matthew 11:28-29; 1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6)

Not only is “God helps those who help themselves” untrue, but the exact opposite is also true—God helps those who cannot help themselves! 

In Isaiah 40:28-29, we read that God gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 

“Yes, it is our strength, not our weakness, that is our hindrance and stumbling block.” —Horatius Bonar 

God gives power to the weak. He gives strength to those with no might of their own. God does NOT help those who think they can help themselves! God helps those who cannot help themselves! This is what Jesus came to do, and why we should rejoice in the fact that He does indeed help those who could never rescue themselves (Isaiah 53:4-5; 2 Corinthians 12:9)!

It is our can’ts that God uses as His opportunities to show how limitless He is. Our limitations magnify His love and His power. 

One of the best prayers you could ever pray is simply, “God, help!” This simple prayer acknowledges in just two words that you can’t but He most assuredly can! 

But those who wait for the Lord—who expect, look for, and hope in Him—shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up close to God as eagles mount up to the sun; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired. (Isaiah 40:31 AMP) 

Join me next week as we continue to explore various statements and ask, “Is that in the Bible? 

Soul And Spirit

If I were to ask you to define the material/physical part of you versus the immaterial part of you, it probably wouldn’t be too difficult. Obviously, we can touch the physical part but we cannot touch the immaterial part. 

But human as a three-part being—we have a body, a soul, and a spirit. So if I were to now ask you to describe the “dividing line” between the two immaterial parts of us (the soul and the spirit), you would probably have a more difficult time coming up with a definition. 

Both terms are used throughout the Bible. Sometimes it seems the words soul and spirit are almost used interchangeably, but they are most assuredly two separate parts of what makes us us. 

Please check out this chart that I shared with my friends at Calvary Assembly of God, and perhaps even take a few minutes to watch the video below. If you would like to download a PDF version of this chart, you may do so by clicking here → Soul and spirit side-by-side

Verses referenced—Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7; Ezekiel 18:20; Matthew 10:28; Hebrews 4:12

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