It’s Not Magic. We all have one thing in common, how to keep sin out of our lives? Even the Psalmist asked the question: “how can a man keep his way pure?” [Psalms 119:9 NIV] Then he turned right around gave the answer by saying “by living according to your word.” Our world is full of “how to” books and seminars. The most consistent answer to living as God would want us to live, is by realizing that it’s only by a divine intervention that man can shape his character so that is pleasing to God. God has provided us that divine intervention. It’s not magic. How do we do it? Be intentional about living according to God’s word. We start the process and God does the rest.
For example, suppose at the beginning of the New Year I make a resolution. I am never going to look at pornography again, ever. But that resolution soon gets broken. The problem is I am seeking God with my head and not my heart. It’s easy to agree with God’s word in my head. But it’s in the heart where God makes the changes. Jesus makes it clear that it is from the heart where the “want” to look at pornography comes from, along with every other sin. God has the solution for us.
Memorization is one of the most effective tools God provides for us in combating sin. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” But you might say “Well memorization is something you do with your head.” And you’d be correct. But here’s what happens. As we memorize God’s word we are actually hiding it in our heart. The Holy Spirit can remind us of how He wants us to live. It’s at that point that we have the opportunity to meditate on what we memorized. IF we choose, we can apply it to our lives. As we go through the process of considering what we memorized and considering what God is telling us, we gain the opportunity to try to apply it to our lives. And here is what’s really cool. One outcome is discovering that we are changing. We start delighting in reading His word. And the more we work the process the more we find that we will not neglect finding time get into His word.
The process memorizing, meditating and applying God’s word is much like the old illustration but we’ve all heard. A glass of muddy water stands on the counter. Move the glass under the tap and let the tap run water into the glass. Eventually the running water will push out the dirty water. As we fill our life with God’s words, the pressures of sin become negated and pushed away, replaced by God’s word. “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.” [Psalm 119:15-16 ESV]
Here are four things that from my experience I can count on:
- When I meditate on God’s precepts [directions for living] this affects my thoughts.
- When I fix my eyes on God’s ways this changes my attitude.
- When I delight myself in God’s statues [God’s permanent rules established to govern my internal life] this affects what I strive for.
- When I make a conscious effort not to forget God’s word, this changes what I remember; old things get nailed to the cross and God makes things new in my life.
Like I said the beginning this is not magic. God wants to support me changing my life. All He wants me to do is to start the action. Listen to the Psalmist: I seek…, I have hidden…, I rejoice…, I meditate…, and I delight. [vs. 10, 13, 14, 15 & 16] Only I can start the process of exchanging my dirty undrinkable water with His clean living water, Jesus. What are you waiting for?
Many people start life in difficult and incredibly ‘unfair’ circumstances. There many around us who begin life rejected by parents. Many grow up in families surrounded by murderers, rapist, treachery, addictions and con-artists. Some grow up in slavery or are sold into slavery, even here in the US. Consider Joseph, who is held up as a hero of the Bible. Jacob his father was a conniving and treacherous. He stole his older brother’s inheritance. Jacob’s sons took after their father. Joseph was the 11th son, the youngest. Jacob played favorites with his sons and Joseph was his favorite. This created animosity and jealousy among the other 10 older brothers. They made a plan and sold Joseph into slavery to some Egyptians slave traders. Then they created an elaborate lie complete with evidence to convince their father of Joseph’s unfortunate demise by a wild animal attack. Joseph started life as a loved and cherished son and suddenly found himself in a foreign country as a slave among foreign gods. But did he focus on yesterday? No. He remained faithful to his God and “The Lord was with Joseph…” [Genesis 39:2] That changes everything. That changes most of all our attitude. God being with us levels the playing field. He can change tomorrow. Many people go through life looking at the wrongs people do to us in the yesterdays. They fail to see that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” [Hebrews 13:8 ESV] God can help us with the wrongs and heal our hurts. That does not mean that God is necessarily going to ‘fix’ those who have wronged us. We may not escape the circumstance we are in or resolve it to our liking. The good news is that “if God is for us, who can be against us?” [Romans 8:31 NIV]. When everything is all said and done, if God is in us then it does not matter who is against us! Beginnings are not endings!
“Unless the LORD Almighty had left us some survivors…” Isaiah 1:9
Yesterday’s headlined news story was a second day “in infamy” for our nation. The story was how we had a national day of mourning for the loss of life ten years ago, on our soil. All day the TV ran unfolding stories of the tragedy and heroism that occurred. Commentators compared 9-11 to Pearl Harbor. Aside from the surprise attack, these two events cannot be compared. The Pearl Harbor story has an ending with the total defeat of the Japanese empire and the totalitarian German government. We healing for the wound of Pearl Harbor in the victory of WW II. Pearl Harbor was avenged. But what about 9-11 … Where is the closure? Where is the victory? Sure we killed Bin Laden but we still have 100,000 spread out on various foreign soils being exposed to acts of deadly force. Peace has become elusive for us. The story of 9-11 is not ended.
Watching the news events unfold yesterday once again affirmed to me that we have lost our moorings as a nation. With a double mind we contemptuously throw God out of the public affairs and then ask for His protection and blessing in times of national need. We commit national fraud by denying Christian prayers or symbols in schools or government lands but then invoke the name of this same Christian God to help us heal. We watch our Presidents ask for God’s blessing today while tomorrow supporting laws that hinder His name being invoked in governmental sanctioned places. Are we insane? If this God whose name we keep invoking is real, then He is making the same assessment … that we are insane. With our own flimsy resources we build wall and then white wash them. We cry peace but there is no peace. We reject this God’s authority so we can live as we please, seeking comfort and love without the truth. This is the stuff that fairy tales; we have become a nation believing in fairy tales.
But wait! We are just at the good part of the story. In every story there is a hero. This same Christian God is none other than the Hero Jesus Christ and His remnant in this rebellious nation who have not bended the knee to the god of rebellion. To many citizens, Jesus is a stone in their path that they trip over and kick out-of-the-way. But to the remnant this stone is the Rock. They have discovered that He alone is the Source of all comfort and love. They live by His Truth.
Yesterday was a day of mourning for us as a nation “under God.” Today, one day later, we move forward as a nation not under God, on a war footing with no peace in sight. God warrior saints; that is His remnant. This is a small band of Hero followers, equipped for victory. Gideon thought that he needed an army of 32,000 but his Commander ordered a reduction in arms. Gideon obeyed [it was an insane military move] and ended up with a force of 300 and that was enough. Gideon’s remnant received the applause for success but it was the Hero who won the victory. Today there is a rag-tag remnant in our nation. They are obediently expanding the Kingdom of God in their own lives. The Hero’s prayer finds fulfillment as His people in the remnant learn obedience; others see the Hero and obey His call. The final victory is not in the weapons of war but in the salt and light of the remnant.
They tell me that I cannot take anything with me when I die. All of my possessions: my bank accounts, my stocks and bonds, my retirement funds, my real estate, my cars, my toys, my furniture, my books, my art work … all of this stuff is left behind. Once I am dead, I will lose control over every earthly possession that I call mine. When I die my stuff becomes the property of others. The people left behind get to do what they want, as they want, and when they want with my stuff. It is plain for anyone to see “…that even the wise die; the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others.”
It is apparent that I have no control on my stuff. It is also apparent that I have no control on my life. I am exactly one heartbeat away from eternity. I can do nothing that will absolutely control the length of my duration here on earth. In the Bible God tells people that when He decides to:”…take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.” One of the wisest men in the world said after years of study that there is “…a time to be born and a time to die…”
If I am buried in a cemetery plot with a headstone, who cares? Who is going to visit? The next generation in my family line will not visit because they  will not have time and  I am not there so what is the point? Headstones do not carry on conversations! They are cold and impersonal.
They tell me that I cannot take anything with me when I die. If this life is all there is then we are more miserable than any animal. Jesus said “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” It is true; there is nothing tangible that I can take with me. But I can add to the inheritance that Jesus has provided me. Those people that I have taken the time to introduce to the Lord Jesus; those people that I have mentored walked the road with; those who have decided to follow Jesus because of my walk and talk … they are the inheritance I am building. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
“…Who am I that I should go…” [Exodus 2:11]
Are you in the dark about the direction God seems to be leading you? Too often I have heard people tell me that they could not do His will because they did not know the specifics. It is at this point where a battle of wills takes place. We want God to reveal His plan first. But my experience is that God does not work that way. God wants me to decide in advance to trust Him. He wants me to decide that His will is best for my life. Sometime I hesitate simply because I do not want to risk it; I might look like a fool. So He waits patiently for me to be willing to be made willing. The Israelites were in slavery, so God’ sent Moses, an unlikely wanted fugitive, to lead them to the Promised Land.
One reason God doesn’t give me the full picture [learned this from considering Job’s dilemma] is simply that I would be overwhelmed. I would say “The task appears impossible.” Or I would say “I do not have the skills or tools.”
God would say “Bingo. That’s the point! You are a very smart fellow! You cannot do this thing without Me.”
The danger with hesitation in obedience to God is that He may want us to be on a mission very much like Joseph. Here is a young man who did not know what God was doing during his time as a slave or during his long imprisonment. But when Joseph was reunited with his brothers in Egypt, he told them: “Do not fear … you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” [Genesis 50:19-20] Joseph’s brothers incited by jealousy sold him into slavery, but God used it to preserve the Jewish race.
So here you are at a cross-roads. Stop. Look. Listen. You will see and hear some “Who am I?” moments of your own where you’d reached the end of your rope and He came through for you.
I know a man who 45 years ago made the decision to build his career rather than listen to God calling him to work in His Kingdom. He told me that the lure of “getting ahead” was more important than being obedient to the call that God put on his life to go into ministry. “What if God wanted me do something that I hated or that would be outside of my ability to be successful accomplishing?” He described this as a paralyzing fear. He looks back on his life and sees missed divine opportunities on several occasions.
The more I got to know him, the more he revealed how he made a series of choices that took him down paths of rebellion. The consequences were felt emotionally, mentally, financially and physically. He related to me how this pig-headedness caused undue stress in not only his own life but those closest to him. As he moved further away from God he sought to expel any remnants that God had been part of his life.
He told me that all of his best efforts to build the career that he desired failed. “There is not one company I have worked for that is still in existence under original ownership or name” he claimed. “During this frenzy of trying to build my career I was twice fired; three different companies I worked for changed owners and the new owners laid me off; four times the companies downsized due to economic conditions with a subsequent layoff. During the 30 odd years of frustration, he told me that his stubbornness prevented him from turning from his rebellion. He never did obtain the career he sought after. He became in his mind a ‘victim’ with no sense of contentment or security. He emphasized that those early choices to go his own way … to walk away from God’s plan for him … put him and his family into needless hardships.
“But you know what? God does not give up on us! As Jesus told Peter after he boasted about what he would do for Jesus, ‘after you have turned, strengthen your brothers.’” This man is walking now where God is directing him.