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Thread: In step

  1. #1401
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    Stated Times

    Matthew 6

    "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen." (v. 6)


    In order to go deeper with God we must sit quietly in His presence, talk with Him, and let Him talk with us. Those who say they can develop their relationship with God without stated times of prayer and the reading of His Word are fooling themselves. Jesus (as we saw) is our best example. He knew God's presence better than anyone, yet He made time to get alone with Him and talk to Him in private prayer.

    To say that we can develop a rich relationship with God by recognizing we are always in His presence but without taking time to have a spiritual focus is as senseless as saying that we can live in a state of physical nourishment without having regular meals.


    As I travel I often ask Christians I meet if they have a daily or regular quiet time, and sometimes the answers I receive astonish me. One man told me: "Yes, I get up early, sit quietly in my garden and watch the birds feeding or the goldfish swimming in the pond ... and I feel rejuvenated in my spirit and ready to start the day."

    The modern idea of a quiet time! The whole purpose of the quiet time is to take in the spiritual resources of God. Nature is wonderful and restorative, but for the intake of spiritual resources we need the blessing that comes from the Word of God and prayer.

    The quiet time is where the soul grows receptive, where prayer becomes powerful. In turn we gain the quiet heart, that becomes quiet confidence, and that becomes quiet power.

    Prayer:
    O Father, deepen the conviction within me that I cannot develop my relationship with You without taking the time to commune with You. Help me make my meeting times with You one of life's great priorities. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

  2. #1402
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    Ah, What Then?

    Psalms 46

    "Be still, and know that I am God ..." (v. 10)

    In the quiet time the soul is stilled so that it concentrates on God, and it is through this concentration that the spiritual life is deepened. The great French Christian Blaise Pascal once declared that "nearly all the ills of life spring from this simple source, that we are unable to sit still for long in a quiet room." In this modern age people seem to find it difficult to sit quietly for long.

    They must have a radio blaring or something else to drown the silence. Sitting still can be therapeutic, but what if in the stillness we meet with God? We then receive spiritual therapy. God waits to offer us infinite resources -- for the asking and the taking.

    The quiet time is where the soul grows receptive, where prayer becomes, as a poet put it, "the organ of spiritual touch," where the touch becomes, as effective and as healing as the touch of the woman on the hem of Jesus' garment, where peace flows into our turbulence, where love absorbs our resentments, where joy heals our griefs, and where we enter into the process of being known. The quiet time shuts us in with God, the door closes upon us, and then infinite resources flood into our soul.

    The door opens and we move out, with an increased awareness of God, ready to face a world that knows so little about Him. There is, as we have said, great benefit in stillness, but when we meet with God in the stillness -- ah, what then?

    Prayer: My Father and my God, I see that I need to think more seriously about the whole nature of my quiet times. In avoiding legalism, help me not to go in the other direction either -- the direction of casualness. In Your Son's precious Name I pray. Amen.

  3. #1403
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    Can God Be Trusted?

    Psalms 20

    "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." (v. 7)

    We consider now another matter that is essential if we are to go deeper with God -- confidence in His character. Is God good and can He be trusted? The manner in which we answer this question is crucial to our ongoing relationship with Him. If we have doubts about His character -- His justice for example -- it will most certainly affect the way we view Him and approach Him.

    You may have heard the story of the farmer whose one and only tractor failed. So he decided to walk across the fields to a neighboring farmer whom he knew had three. As he strode to the neighbor's farmhouse, he reflected on what he knew about his fellow farmer.

    He remembered that he never appeared at any of the village's social events, and he had heard somewhere that he had a reputation as a skinflint. More negative thoughts about the farmer entered his head, but by this time he found himself at the door of the farmhouse.

    The farmer, who had seen him coming across the fields, appeared at the doorway and asked: "What's the problem?" "I've come to tell you," said the man, "that you can keep your jolly old tractor!" Many do not realize how profoundly the way we think about God and His, character influences the way we worship Him, the way we work for Him, and the way we witness to Him.

    Any doubts about the goodness of God will result in our souls keeping their distance from Him. If we do not have complete confidence in Him, we will not desire a close relationship with Him.

    Prayer:
    Father, I see how crucial is this issue. Help me deal with any doubts that may be circulating in my mind. I don?t want any distance between You and me; I want closeness. I am listening, dear Father. Continue leading me on. Amen.

  4. #1404
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    Doubt and Disobedience

    Genesis 3

    "[The serpent] said to the woman, 'Did God really say, "You must not eat from any tree in the garden"?'" (v. 1)

    We continue discussing the point that unless we have a strong conviction that God is entirely trustworthy, we will not desire a deep and ongoing relationship with Him. Yesterday we spoke of the distance from God our souls experience when we entertain doubts about His goodness.

    Do you realize that the reason for the distance between God and the first human couple in the Garden of Eden was doubt about God's goodness? Doubt about God soon leads to dislike of God, and dislike of God soon leads to disobedience.

    When Eve responded to the Tempter's insinuation that God did not have her best interests at heart (by withholding something from her), the doubt she entertained soon led to dislike of God, and then it was relatively easy to take the next step and disobey Him. The moment her doubt about God's goodness expressed itself in taking the forbidden fruit, the foundation on which her relationship with God was established -- trust -- crumbled beneath her feet.

    Adam rapidly followed her in committing the same kind of sin (doubt about God's goodness) and then, inevitably, distance replaced closeness. Since the Fall, every child born into this world has within its nature a basic distrust of God. Paul puts it like this: "The sinful mind is hostile to God" (Rom. 8:7). The word hostility can be translated "enmity."

    No one trusts someone they regard as an enemy. Distance between humankind and God arose when the first human couple doubted His goodness. Closeness between human beings and God comes when we have confidence in His goodness. As we said yesterday, no confidence -- no relationship.

    Prayer:
    O God my Father, help me have an unshakable confidence in Your character so that no doubts prompted by the devil will ever penetrate my soul. I want no distance between us, but an ever growing closeness. Grant it, in Jesus' Name. Amen.

  5. #1405
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    Build on the Rock

    Matthew 7:15-29

    "'... everyone who ... does not put [Jesus' words] into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.'" (v. 26)

    "The biggest problem we face in the Christian life," said Dr. Cynddylan Jones, a famous Welsh preacher, "is distance." He continued: "The only way that distance can be overcome is by having the perspective of Job who said: 'Though He slay me yet will I trust Him.'"

    When I talk to counselors in training I tell them that what they should be listening for as a counselee tells his or her story is distance. That's what underlies most problems that bring people into counseling. This does not mean we should ignore or make light of the surface problems with which people may be struggling.

    But the plain fact is this -- when we are close to God and have a deep and intimate relationship with Him, we may feel downcast but not destroyed. Therefore, every Christian counselor's ultimate goal should be to close any distance there may be between the person and God, and to develop spiritual oneness. Counseling is not effective or complete until this is accomplished.

    How does distance come between ourselves and God? There are many causes -- bitterness and resentment against another, persistent sin, failure to establish a devotional life -- but largely it arises through a lack of trust. If you cut your way through the maze of human problems that's what you find -- an inability to trust.

    That's what happened in the Garden of Eden, and that's what happens in our personal Garden of Eden also. To try to develop a close relationship with God and fail to deal with this most basic issue is about as effective as building a skyscraper on an acre of sand.

    Prayer:
    O God, I see so clearly that although there are many things that bring about distance between You and me, the most basic is lack of trust. Help me settle this issue once and for all over the next few days. In Christ's Name I pray. Amen.

  6. #1406
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    Where Is God?

    Psalms 74

    "Rise up, O God, and defend your cause; remember how fools mock you all day long." (v. 22)

    How do we develop trust in the goodness of God when so much that is happening in the world seems to contradict it? If God is good, how can He allow disasters? Dr. M. Scott Peck opens his book The Road Less Travelled with these words: "Life is difficult. This is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it."

    I have great difficulty with some of Dr. Scott Peck's statements, but I fully endorse these remarks. Once we accept the fact that life is difficult -- that the mystery of why calamities and suffering occur will never be fully solved while we are here on earth -- then we will stop demanding that a satisfactory answer be found and begin to get on with life.

    Christians go down different routes regarding this matter of calamities and suffering. One is to close their eyes and pretend the tremendous problems are not there. But integrity requires that we face whatever is true.

    Reality is grim -- innocent children are abused, starved, massacred -- and countless other forms of atrocity are carried out around the world daily. We must not blind our eyes to these facts and pretend they are untrue because they appear to contradict the concept of God?s goodness.

    Pretense must never be our refuge. We must be willing to look at these things, unpleasant and horrible though they be, and allow ourselves to be jarred by them. When we face life honestly and allow ourselves to be jolted by what we see, then, and only then, are we ready for God to speak.

    Prayer:
    Gracious and loving heavenly Father, give me the courage not to bury my head in the sand and pretend there are no problems. Help me stand even when I cannot understand. For Your own dear Name's sake. Amen.

  7. #1407
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    The God Who is There

    Job 42

    "My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you." (v. 5)

    The Book of Job records the story of a godly man who underwent some of the most bitter experiences it is possible to meet with in this life. At first Job says very little about his difficulties, but later in the book he begins to face the reality of what has happened to him and declares that if he could have an interview with God he would tell Him exactly what he thought of Him (Job 23:1--17). It was when he faced his hardships, recognized how he really felt and admitted it that God came to him and answered him (Job 38:1--41:34).

    We must never be afraid of admitting that what we see around us doesn?t match up with what we know about the character of God. To blind our eyes to the realities of life for fear that what we observe might turn us against God is utterly foolish. We must face difficult issues, for it is only when we do so that we are ready to hear God speak.

    If we refuse to face reality, then our souls are not alert to hear His voice. We fear that we might hear something to make us even more uncertain of God, and thus prefer to take refuge in illusion. When Job faced the reality of his situation and how he really felt, then he was ready for God to speak.

    But notice God didn't give any answers to Job's questions. He gave Himself. Job had an encounter with God that more than satisfied him. He could live without answers when he knew that God was there.

    Prayer:
    Loving Father, the more I learn about You the more wonderful I see You are. Help me never to take refuge in illusion but to bring all my doubts and fears directly to You. Do for me what You did for Job -- enrich me with Your presence. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

  8. #1408
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    Accepting the Inevitable

    Job 36

    "But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction." (v. 15)

    Oswald Chambers said: "Life is more tragic than orderly." Chambers knew that unless Christians are willing to grapple with this truth and accept it, they will be plagued by inner oughts and shoulds that lead them down the road of illusion. They will find themselves saying, "It ought not to be like this" or "Things should be different" -- and the only thing this kind of demandingness produces is frustration and anger.

    The Fall has turned this fair universe of God's into a shambles, and though much about the world is still beautiful, accidents, calamities, and suffering prevail. And these will continue until the time when God brings all things to a conclusion.

    There is nothing wrong with wishing that things were not so, but when we demand that they be different, when we say the effects of the Fall must be reversed and reversed now, we will end up feeling terribly frustrated.

    Life is difficult, as Scott Peck stated, and though prayer does move God to work supernaturally in some situations, life will go on being more "tragic than orderly" until Christ returns and finalizes His plans for this fallen planet. This is reality -- and the sooner we face it the better. True faith is not built upon illusion but upon reality.

    We may not like things the way they are in this world, but to avoid facing them because they don't match up with what we know about God is foolish. As I have been emphasizing, it is only when we face honestly the harsh realities of life that we become ready for God to speak to us.

    Prayer:
    O God, I see that facing the hard things of life honestly drives me to a place where I become desperate for an answer. Then You step in -- and give me not an answer but Yourself. I can live without answers, but I cannot live without You. Stay close to me, my Father. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

  9. #1409
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    Messed Up Theology

    Job 13

    "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him ..." (v. 15)

    A friend of mine who is an instructor in the field of Christian counseling says that one of the things he likes to do with his students is to mess up their theology. He does so by asking them difficult questions about the realities of the universe in order to see how they attempt to square these issues with their view of God. "God always answers the prayer of faith," said one of his students.

    "Then why," he asked the student, "did I pray for an hour for my father who was desperately sick to have a good night and then hear that he had the worst night since he had been in the hospital?" "You didn't pray in faith," replied the student.

    That's the kind of glib answer many people would give to that question. Such people can't sit quietly in the presence of mystery and say: "I don't understand why this is so but nevertheless I still believe God is good."

    They must have some kind of answer that they can hold on to because when they have no answers they have no faith. Faith is Job saying: "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him."

    Anyone can believe when there are explanations and answers. The person who goes on to know God in a deep and intimate way is the one who can affirm that God is good even though there may be a thousand appearances to the contrary. Pray for me and I will pray for you that together we might come to the place of trusting God even when we cannot trace Him.

    Prayer:
    O God, bring us closer day by day to that place of deep confidence and absolute trust. May we know You so deeply that nothing we see around us will shake or shatter our belief in Your unchanging goodness. In our Lord's Name we pray. Amen.

  10. #1410
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    The Old Rugged Cross

    Romans 5

    "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (v. 8)

    Can we believe that God is good even though things may be happening around us that seemingly give the lie to that fact? The only place we Christians can go when we are assailed by doubts about God's goodness is the cross. At Calvary we were given undeniable evidence that God is good. We must cling to the cross when in doubt and remind ourselves that a God who would give His only Son to die for us simply has to be All-Goodness.

    A songwriter put it like this: God is love, I see it in the earth around me; God is love, I feel it in the sky above me; God is love, all nature doth agree; But the greatest proof of His love to me ... is Calvary. Many things about the cross are mysterious, but there is no mystery about divine goodness. There at Calvary it blazes forth for all to see. I often wonder to myself what was happening that was good when my wife was dying with cancer.

    I couldn't see anything, but because I know God is good I accept that something good was being worked out. A good God was in charge, and I am prepared to wait for the clarification of that until I get home. Then I know He will tell me Himself. God is good no matter what the appearances to the contrary. The "old rugged cross" makes that crystal clear. Let us cling to it, come what may.

    Prayer: O Father, I am so thankful for the cross. It is the one place in a dark and mysterious universe where light breaks through. Help me interpret the darkness by the light, not the light by the darkness. For Jesus' sake. Amen.

  11. #1411
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    One Long Search for God

    For reading & meditation: Mark 7:8-23

    "For from within, out of mens hearts, come evil thoughts ..." (v. 21)

    We need to be reminded that there is in life a dark and terrible problem - the problem of evil. Herbert Spencer in Natural Law in the Spiritual World defines physical life as "inward correspondence with outward environment." When we take in food, air and water, we live. When we don't, we die. There must be a response to our environment.

    But there is also a spiritual environment to which we must respond, and when we are in correspondence with God we live spiritually. The facts of life fairly faced proclaim with heart-breaking obviousness that human beings are out of touch with their spiritual environment. To be out of touch with God means, inevitably, that we will be out of touch with ourselves and with others.

    But the history of humanity is, as one historian put it, "one long search for God." We stand beside our altars, we breathe our prayers, we make our vows, we repeat our ceremonies, we crave with inexpressible yearnings of the inmost heart, we long for fellowship with God.

    Yet something dark, dreadful, and sinister stands between us and God. We realize God is pure, and because we are conscious of our impurity we hardly dare ask for fellowship with Him. We are separated and guilty. The object of all religions is to bring those who long for fellowship with God into correspondence with Him.

    But how is that achieved? Christianity says it can be done only through the cross. Other religions point to other ways, and claim their way is as valid as the Christian way. But God says the cross is the only way.

    Prayer:
    O God my Father, what way could You have dealt with my sins except through the cross? My sins needed something more than disinfecting; they needed incinerating. In the flames of Calvary that is what happened. Now I am free. And how! Amen.

  12. #1412
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    At-One-Ment

    For reading & meditation: Romans 3:21-31

    "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood." (v. 25)

    Herbert Spencer, whom we quoted earlier, wrote: "The task of religion is at-one-ment: atonement. If it fails to do this it fails at the vital point." Its ritual may be beautiful, its sanctions may be ancient, its precepts may be good, but if it fails to bring men and women into correspondence with God it fails vitally and irretrievably. All else is useless, for if the problem of evil is ignored or passed over, we are like the person who dreams about and plans next year's happiness while an incurable disease is eating at his vitals.

    The wonderful distinctive of Christianity is this - Jesus Christ has done something about the problem of being out of correspondence with God. He puts the hand of a penitent sinner into the hand of a pardoning God. Because of the nature of the problem - the problem of evil - no other solution is possible. Salvation is a task which only God could engineer. As one theologian puts it: "It is a task worthy of God."

    The ancient Greek playwrights used to warn their students that when writing a tragedy they should not bring a god onto the stage unless there was an entanglement worthy of a god. The presence of evil in this world, I suggest, presents an entanglement worthy of God. But it is no mere stage affair. It is a tragic fact. To deliver men and women from evil was a problem that challenged God's power and made the deepest claim upon His love. The cross is the answer. If we don't take God's way of salvation, then nothing else will do.

    Prayer:
    Father, I rejoice that You have brought me to Your way -t he only way. Help the millions who strive to earn their salvation see that the penalty for sin has been fully paid. And all they have to do is humbly receive. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.

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    An Unintentional Tribute

    For reading & meditation: Matthew 27:32-44

    "'He saved others,' they said, 'but he can't save himself!' " (v. 42)

    What humiliation and shame our Lord endured for us on the cross of Calvary. Cicero, a Roman philosopher, said of crucifixion: "Far be the very name of a cross not only from the bodies of Roman citizens, but from their imaginations, eyes and ears." But He, our Lord, though sinless, was crucified on a cross.

    Although His blood was flowing freely from wounds inflicted by the crown of thorns on His head, from His back that had been lacerated by cruel thongs, from His hands and feet through which He was skewered to the tree, yet He refused the deadening drug offered Him. He underwent the ordeal with brain unclouded and with nerves unsoothed.

    The crowd who watched Him cried: "He saved others, but he can't save himself!" But strange as it seems, that mocking phrase became the central truth of the gospel. He was saving others and therefore He could not save Himself.

    That is one of the greatest truths of life -if we are to save others we cannot save ourselves. To quote Spencer again: "It is a great mystery," he says, "yet an everlasting fact, that goodness in all moral natures has the doom of bleeding upon it, allowing it to conquer only as it bleeds. All goodness conquers by a cross."

    This law of saving by self-giving runs through life. Those who save themselves cannot save others, and those who save others cannot save themselves - cannot save themselves trouble, sorrow, hurts, disappointments, pain, and sometimes even death. This is a law of the universe, and it applies to God as much as it does to us.

    Prayer: O God, I have seen this law at work in human nature but I never thought it was part of the divine nature. But where could it have come from other than You? The highest in mankind is the deepest in You. I am staggered by it, but I know it to be true. Thank You, dear Father. Amen.

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