Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Spirituality #4: Prayer

Matthew 6:5 – 15

Spirituality #4: Prayer


What is the ONLY thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them?


“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” [Luke 11:1]


Prayer was such an important part of Jesus life, the disciples wanted to know how to pray. Paul directs us to: “Pray continually.” [1 Thessalonians 5:17]


In our quest for spirituality, we are attempting to connect with God. Let’s take a look this part of being “spiritual.”

 

I.         Prayer can be very difficult.

 

            A.        We have many misunderstandings. (Based on James Houston’s book “The Prayer”)

 

                        1.         We reduce prayer to “another activity.”

 

                                    a.         We study technique, develop catagorize and build a generic model.

 

                                    b.         While those can be helpful, it is possible to lose sight of relationship, which is the reason for prayer.

 

                        2.         We reduce prayer to a “custom.”

 

                                    a.         Prayer becomes a “feel good” habit. (We feel good, that we have done our duty, if we do it.)


(Ill.) In one MI school district (NOT Sault Ste. Marie) there was one teacher who was hostile to Christianity... so if she caught a student praying at lunch time, she would send them to the office to be disciplined or give them detention.


Many Christian social activists blame the Supreme Court’s ruling to “take prayer out of school” as the event that began the decline. (Social studies seem to correlate the decline of American society with this decision.)

 

                                    b.         Prayer has become a mark of who we are...

 

                                    c.         While this is good, it can “inoculate” us from “a vibrant relationship with God.”


What these CAN do is exchange the practice of spirituality (or religion) with authentic relationship with God.

 

                        3.         We reduce prayer to “an exercise in magic.”

 

                                    a.         We have a list of what we want God to do for us...


Jesus warned us: “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. [8] Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” [Matthew 6:7 – 8]

 

                                    b.         We speak words, run a formula to get our own way

 

                                    c.         There tends to be a chain reaction that brings dangerous results.


“But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his counsel. [14] In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test. [15] So he gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them.” [Psalm 106:13 – 15]

 

                                                1.)       When we forget God we will not live by the First Principle (listen carefully, do what is right, pay attention, and obey the Lord).

 

                                                2.)       Then we will not wait for God’s leading (counsel). Which means the plans we have are our own and done under our own power.

 

                                                3.)       When we are not waiting for God, then what drives us is our own cravings.


(Ill. Walking the dog... he pulls to get to where he wants to go. Sometimes, I’m willing to let him go where he wants... but this gives him the impression that his will is mine, that he controls me. So he constantly struggles against me on his walks... until I take charge. That’s what we are doing with God. We constantly struggle against God’s leading because we want what we want. When God does take charge it can be a shocking and painful experience.)

 

                                                4.)       Result: “So he gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them.” 


Just because you get what you want does not mean it’s good for you.


(Ill. I know a man who had a reputation for lying and cheating his way through life. It was all for his love of money. One day God decided to curse him with around $33 million. Why was it a curse? Because the money made him completely miserable and stressed him out thinking everyone was after it.)

 

            B.        We have obstacles that pervert prayer. (Based on Houston...)

 

                        1.         We are “wounded” people.

 

                                    a.         Sin scratches, dents, marks, and hurts us.

 

                                    b.         There are emotional problems, some bigger than they should be.

 

                                    c.         Healing is painful. We know pain, it keeps us from accepting responsibility. Ultimately we fear God will heal us if we come into authentic contact with Him.

 

                        2.         We are “focused on accomplishment.”

 

                                    a.         Our society tells us we are measured by our accomplishments.

 

                                    b.         We judge ourselves and others by our achievements.

 

                                    c.         We are compulsive in our need to do so... and become foolish.


“Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” [2 Corinthians 10:12 ESV]

 

                        3.         We are carrying “inner darkness.”

 

                                    a.         Sometimes they are simple fears

 

                                    b.         Sometimes we are struggling with sin in the form of addictions, compulsive behavior, and guilt.

 

                                    c.         Symptom of this person is that prayer is often “fighting.” As in fighting the powers and principalities, fighting a continual sense of sin (and its control)... “sin in word, deed, and thought everyday.”


All these are trust issues.

 

II.       Prayer is necessary.

 

            A.        It connects us to God.

 

                        1.         Jesus taught us to pray: “Our Father...” (Only a child could call another person, father.)

 

                                    a.         We begin our conversation by acknowledging our relationship to God (and one another).

 

                                    b.         Relationship reality: if you are not in meaningful two way conversation then you are probably building walls.

 

                        2.         Prayer will open your deepest parts to God.

 

                                    a.         “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. [24] See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” [Psalm 136:23 – 24]

 

                                    b.         Ultimately only God knows our heart.


“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? [10] "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” [Jeremiah 17:9 – 10]

 

                                    c.         Prayer will put you into contact with God’s intimate knowledge about yourself.

 

            B.        Prayer submits to God.

 

                        1.         Whom do you ask?

 

                                    a.         You ask someone who knows. (God’s will...)

 

                                    b.         You ask someone who can do it. (Daily bread, forgive debts, deliver from temptation and the evil one...)

 

                                    c.         When you ask, you place yourself UNDER the knowledge, ability, or authority of someone else. (Unless it is “Why?” Why can have judgmental assumptions.)

 

                        2.         There is a shift in attitude in authentic prayer.

 

                                    a.         When you are talking to God (and God is talking to you through the Bible), your focus on God and not enjoying the experience.

 

                                    b.         As you seek God, its not possible to seek you own.

 

                        3.         Think about it this way: God WANTS you.

 

                                    a.         The wounds, accomplishments, inner darkness do NOT define you.

 

                                    b.         God’s love and desire for right relationship with you DOES define you.


(Ill. There was once two brothers. The younger one went though a time when he did not want to be around his dad. So he went to his dad and demanded his share of the inheritance. Shortly after getting it, he packed everything and when off on his own. The young man was less than wise and started to squander his money in what can politely be described as wild living. It wasn’t long before he ran out of money and the local economy went bad, very bad. So he got a job feeding pigs. Trouble was, the pigs were eating better than he was... in his mind, he began to think that life with dad wasn’t such a bad thing. I guess you could say, he came to his senses. He decided to go home and ask for forgiveness and a job from his dad. As he got within sight of his home, his dad saw him and ran to meet him. Was he in trouble? Yes, big time. As he humbled himself, dad got all excited and ordered clothes and shoes for his son. Then dad ordered a huge banquet and invited everyone to celebrate. The young son knew he was not worth to be called a son, but dad gave him a king’s welcome. It was like he was coming home from some great accomplishment not some great failure. You see, it wasn’t about what the son did or did not do... this was about the love the father had for his son. – see Luke 15)


What happens in authentic prayer is that you will want God more than anything else.


“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” [Psalm 63:1]

 

III.      God waits for you...

 

            A.        God, the Father, already knows what you want and need.

 

                        1.         So what is the point to praying?

 

                                    a.         When raising a child, do you prefer if they cry or use words when they need something?

 

                                    b.         There is value in our effort: “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. [10] For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” [Luke 11:9 – 10]

 

                                    c.         To teach a child to walk, you eventually let go...

 

                        2.         God is pleased when we struggle in prayer.

 

                                    a.         Abraham dared to argue with God over the possible destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (at God’s invitation). [see Genesis 18:17 – 33]

 

                                    b.         Jacob wrestled with God for a blessing. [see Genesis 32:24 – 30]

 

                                    c.         Moses put himself between God and the destruction of Israel. [see Exodus 32:32]

 

                                    d.         God told Ezekiel that He was looking for someone to “stand in the gap.” [see Ezekiel 22:30]

 

                                    e.         Jesus struggled in prayer: “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” [Luke 22:44]

 

                                    f.         The early church struggled in prayer: “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” [Acts 12:5]

 

            B.        It is in that struggle that we are changed.

 

                        1.         Look what happened: Abraham became the champion for all people, Jacob was willing to hang on to God even when it hurt, Moses became the leader God chose him to be, Jesus found the strength and peace to endure the cross, and the church sees miracles.

 

                        2.         Jesus summed up the struggle this way: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” [Luke 11:13]


(Ill. A boy selling fruit on the streets of a big city during the depression constantly endured being cuffed, cursed, and kicked around. One day a person knocked the fruit out of his basket and a total stranger stopped to pick up all the fruit, then gave him the money for the fruit.


The boy looked at the man and asked, “Mister are you Jesus?”


The man answered, “No, I’m just one of His boys.”) [Unknown]


Conclusion:

 

            1.         Who’s your God? (Do you know about God, or truly know God? Do you believe in a way that actually changes you?)

 

            2.         Do you spend time with God? The kind that you are honest enough with God and yourself where you ask Him for one day where you don’t let Him down? (We are not even talking about the issue of sin...)

 

            3.         Can you honestly say you have been changed through and through by your prayer life?


[Note, the use of outside sources and illustrations is not intended as an endorsement.]

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spirituality #3: How do I meditate?

Psalm 1

Spirituality #3: How do I meditate?


When I say “meditate” what images does that bring to mind? The Bible says, “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” [Psalm 1:2]


There are two words in the Old Testament that are translated meditate. The one means to rehearse (suach), the other means to mutter (hagah). “May the words of my mouth and the meditation (hagig) of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” [Psalm 19:14]


You already know how to do this: Ever get a song stuck in your head? Ever get a mental picture you could not forget? Ever worry? Then you know how to meditate... you do it naturally.


So let’s take a Biblical look at what it means to meditate.

 

I.         Meditation is directed toward God.

 

            A.        We are often confused about “meditation.”

 

                        1.         Sometimes, meditation is considered to be simple relaxation technique.

 

                                    a.         There is great debate over the necessity, value, and validity over the technique needed to “relax.”

 

                                                1.)       There are postures and breathing techniques that are supposed to help people relax.

 

                                                2.)       Old fashioned hard physical labor will also help a person’s muscles and mind to relax.

 

                                    b.         The real danger is when other religions make in-roads by selling themselves as something they are not.

 

                                                1.)       One false religion attempted to remake itself by giving modern America specific relaxation techniques. It claimed to be a non-religious/trans-religious technique.

 

                                                2.)       Many Christians buy into some forms of yoga (meaning “union”) which is Hindu and cannot be made Christian.


It has been tired... it is called “syncretism.” The idea is to mingle or borrow concepts of other faiths. Sometimes this is deliberate, sometimes it comes from unconscious cultural pollution. For instance, early Christians picked up Greek philosophy. The veneration/worship of Mary... Even the “church growth movement” has distinct non-Christian roots.

 

                        2.         The discussion about meditation is colored by a lot of false religious concepts and frightens us. How do we make the distinction?

 

                                    a.         Question #1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: What is the chief end of [every person]? Answer: “[The] chief end is to glorify God, (a) and to enjoy [H]im for ever. (b)”


(a). Ps. 86:9; Isa. 60:21; Rom. 11:36; I Cor. 6:20; 10:31; Rev. 4:11 (b). Ps. 16:5-11; 144:15; Isa. 12:2; Luke 2:10; Phil. 4:4; Rev. 21:3-4

 

                                    b.         The reality is a relationship with God. Not a specific technique.

 

                                    c.         Jesus Christ is in the believer.


“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” [Galatians 2:20]


“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” [Colossians 1:27]

 

                                    d.         The believer is in Jesus Christ.


“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” [2 Corinthians 5:17]

 

            B.        Sometimes this discussion exposes serious spiritual problems.

 

                        1.         Relationship with God requires a certain level of purity (holiness).

 

                                    a.         Divided hearts and dirty lives find it difficult to be in the presence of the living God (whom we do not control).


“Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.” [Psalm 24:3 – 4]

 

                                    b.         Even “holy” people find the presence of God uncomfortable. (Which raises an interesting red flag on feel-good worship.)


“Woe to me! I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” [Isaiah’s reaction to seeing God, found in Isaiah 6:5]


“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” [The Apostle John’s reaction to seeing Jesus, as recorded in Revelation 1:17]

 

                        2.         Relationship with God requires us to not be self-centered.

 

                                    a.         We are required to seek God.


“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” [Hebrews 11:6]


“God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” [Acts 17:27]

 

                                    b.         We are required to depend on God’s grace. (Grace does not exclude effort, it excludes earning...)


“When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.” [Acts 13:43]

 

II.       What can we meditate on?

 

            A.        We can meditate on the characteristics of God.

 

                        1.         “Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.” [Psalm 48:9]

 

                        2.         “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.” [Psalm 136:1] (His love endures forever occurs 26 times in Psalm 136)

 

            B.        We can meditate on the Bible.

 

                        1.         I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.” [Psalm 119:15]

 

                        2.         “I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees.” [Psalm 119:48]

 

            C.        We can meditate on God’s promises and actions

 

                        1.         “My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.” [Psalm 119:148]

 

                        2.         “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. [12] I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.” [Psalm 77:11 – 12]



 

III.      Are there any other ideas on how to meditate?

 

            A.        We must “wait” on God.

 

                        1.         Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” [Psalm 37:7]

 

                                    a.         The idea of being “still” runs contrary to our “need” to be busy. Maybe we are busy because we are running from God.

 

                                    b.         Mental and emotional chaos hinders us from being in God’s presence. It’s a form of idolatry, because its more important than God.

 

                        2.         Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” [Psalm 46:10]

 

                                    a.         As we direct our minds and emotions towards God there is a trust that settles into our souls.

 

                                    b.         There is also a joy that matches the realization of knowing God.

 

            B.        We must “hope” in God.

 

                        1.         “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. [30] Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; [31] but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” [Isaiah 40:29 – 31]

 

                                    a.         As we wait (KJV) and hope on the Lord, our strength is renewed.

 

                                    b.         Sometimes we get drained. The only thing that will revive us is to reconnect to God.

 

                        2.         “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” [Psalm 42:11]

 

                                    a.         Ever get “down” or “disturbed”? When we are self-centered, we do not have much to encourage us or energize us.

 

                                    b.         As we hope in God... we praise Him. We get over ourselves.

 

IV.      What you do with the Bible points toward your eternal destiny.

 

            A.        Lessons from Psalm 1:

 

                        1.         “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.” [1 Corinthians 15:33] “A person is known by the company they keep.” [American proverb from Aesop’s fables]

 

                                    a.         The godly are NOT guided by ungodly counsel (advice, planning, ruling, principles).

 

                                    b.         The godly are NOT on the same moral path that influences behavior as the ungodly.

 

                                    c.         The godly are NOT in close chosen company with those who mock or scorn God, the Bible, Jesus, salvation, etc...


The godly do NOT “keep in step” with wicked/ungodly. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” [Galatians 5:25]

 

                        2.         The godly are unmistakably marked by an irresistible attraction to God’s Word (the Bible).

 

                                    a.         If sin is distinguished by self-will/rule then godliness are focused on a right relationship with God and making God’s will their will.

 

                                    b.         This is done by prayerfully reading and absorbing as much of God’s Word as possible.


“Acts fix habits, habits settle character, and character determines destiny.” [Unknown]

 

            B.        It’s a choice.

 

                        1.         What environment do you want to be in?

 

                                    a.         Influenced by those who do not know God. (Result: “They are like chaff that the wind blows away.” [see Psalm 1:4])

 

                                    b.         Influenced by God. (Result: “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” [Psalm 1:3]

 

                        2.         What eternal harvest do you want?


(Reference to “God” is no a generic “god” but God Almighty, Creator of the Universe... Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.)

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Spirituality #2: Test the Spirits

1 John 4:1 – 6

Spirituality #2: Test the Spirits


Last week we started a series on “spirituality.” The “First Principle” in the Bible is to listen carefully (to the Lord), do what is right (in the Lord’s sight), pay attention (to the Lord), and keep all the decrees of the Lord.


This week is a warning against blindly accepting whatever is the “latest and greatest.”


Wise words from the Free Methodist Discipline (2003) “The Bible is God’s written Word, uniquely inspired by the Holy Spirit. ... It has been faithfully persevered and proves itself true in human experience. ... Whatever is not found in the Bible nor can be proved by it is not to be required as an article of belief or as necessary to salvation.”


To that I would argue... or practice.


Unfortunately the lack of the knowledge of Scripture and the replacement of experience for truth has fueled a hunger for the “next experience.” The Apostle John suggest something that would sound like blasphemy in the current American chaos.


John states bluntly: “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” In other words, what we are seeing now is not a new problem and it was a serious concern to the first century church.


What does this mean to us today.

 

I.         Think it through. (“This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God.” [v 2a])


(Ill.) TV personality interviewing an author who insists, “Truth is not something you know, it is something you experience. If you can know it, its wrong.”

 

            A.        The problem is we have created “haves and have nots.”

 

                        1.         Thinking about God is sometimes called “theology.”

 

                                    a.         We have made thinking about God the “special” property of seminaries and professionals.

 

                                    b.         We have made it complicated with lots of extra-biblical material, words, and tag lines.


(Ill.) What is “Openness” theology? Who knows the four defining points of Arminianism? (Hint, if Calvinism is a “TULIP” then Arminianism is a “ROSE”) What are the 30 Wesleyan verses? What is grace? (Hint: there are five types of grace in the New Testament.) What are the presuppositions of liberation theology and its hermeneutical implications?

 

                        2.         Experiencing God has become a mystical (transcends human experience), ecstatic (emotional), or ethereal (light or heavy sensation).

 

                                    a.         Need something special, such as contact with an individual, training or technique.

 

                                    b.         The back lash against the “have/have not” intellectualism is to give experience power over thinking (or reality... or reason)


(Ill.) The idea that a trip to the alter, praying the “sinners prayer,” etc replace Jesus’ requirement to believe.

 

            B.        However, certain “facts” apply.

 

                        1.         Humans have only reliable one source of information about God, salvation, and everything spiritual. The Bible.

 

                                    a.         “Primary source” is the actual facts. If you want to know a person, you talk to them and spend time with them (that’s the Bible’s function).

 

                                    b.         Problem is we use substitutes and mistake them for truth.


(Ill.) We substitute a sermon (or commentary) for earnest study and search of the Bible.

 

                        2.         If the Bible is the primary source then the revealed knowledge of God, salvation, and all things spiritual is open to everyone (who has access to the Bible).

 

                                    a.         There is no distinction between the Ph.D. and the one who has never gone to school (assuming they read or listen to the Bible).

 

                                    b.         The only question is, will we listen carefully, do what is right, pay attention, and keep the decrees of the Lord?


(Ill.) When I say “meditate” what images does that bring to mind? The Bible says, “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” [Psalm 1:2]


There are two words in the Old Testament that are translated meditate. The one means to rehearse (suach), the other means to mutter (hagah). “May the words of my mouth and the meditation (hagig) of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” [Psalm 19:14]


You already know how to do this: Ever get a son stuck in your head? Ever get a mental picture you could not forget? Ever worry? Then you know how to meditate... you do it naturally.

 

II.       Reference it to Jesus.

 

            A.        “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” [1 John 4:2]

 

                        1.         The word the NIV translates “recognize” is commonly translated “know.” [KJV, ESV, CEV, ASV, NKJV, NLT, NASB, NRSV) It means "to know absolutely."

 

                                    a.         The denial of Jesus Christ (God), come in the flesh makes the that person’s teaching “anti-Christ.”


“But every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” [1 John 4:3]

 

                                    b.         Why is it anti-Christ?

 

                                                1.)       Denying the divinity of Jesus takes away everything Jesus did on the cross for our salvation.

 

                                                2.)       Denying the Lordship of Jesus takes away the authority of Jesus to be our pattern for life.

 

                        2.         Another way to say this: is it Christ-centered?

 

                                    a.         The way to stay in balance is to look to the “author and perfecter or our faith” [see Hebrews 12:2]

 

                                                1.)       Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” [see John 14:9]

 

                                                2.)       Even the Holy Spirit would draw attention to Jesus, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. [John 14:26]

 

                                    b.         If it is not Christ-centered then it is probably human-centered.

 

            B.        The test is about the work of the Jesus Christ.

 

                        1.         Jesus came to do two things:

 

                                    a.         “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” [Luke 19:10]

 

                                    b.         “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work.” [1 John 3:8b]

 

                        2.         It becomes an issue of who you listen too...

 

“They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.” [1 John 4:6]

 

                                    a.         Here is the question of influence... who do you listen too?

 

                                                1.)       The struggle of the 60's: teens began to listen to their culture rather than their parents (who held socially and morally conservative views). [The rebellion born in culture was nothing more than a money grab.]

 

                                                2.)       Is it a wonder that the first principle God gave His people was LISTEN CAREFULLY/PAY ATTENTION.

 

(Ill.) The other day I was stopped at the light between Ashmun and Easterday. Police car with lights and sirens came roaring up to the intersection. NOBODY stopped or gave the right of way to the police car.

 

                                    b.         If you are not listening carefully and paying attention to God, you are going to look silly at best and turn evil at worst.

 

(Ill.) The TV personality mentioned earlier said the moment they “started thinking” was during a sermon. Their “charismatic” pastor was preaching on the “greatness of God.” Then the pastor said that “God is a jealous god.” The TV personality began to reason, “that’s not right, God is a god of love, jealousy contradicts love...”

 

Someone was not listening. The context of the Bible’s “jealous” statements is that of a mutually exclusive relationship. You are jealous too... If you are in a mutually exclusive relationship, such as marriage, what are you going to think about the other person if they break that exclusive relationship with someone else?

 

III.      Take it to another level.

 

            A.        Fact is that the common garden variety of spirituality proposed by the world and by eastern philosophies and religions is a cheap substitute for the real thing.

 

                        1.         (Ill.) I love to drink soda pop... if its sweet, syrupy, fizzes and says Mt. Dew or some Cola.... The other day I tanked up on Pepsi, then tried to work out. What I managed to do was cramp up. Why? Because liquid sugar and caffeine is not water. It is a pleasant but false substitute. Worse yet, my substitute of choice drains necessary water from my body.

 

                        2.         No spirituality will satisfy your soul. None. Not the common variety. Not the eastern religion and philosophy variety. Not the Christian variety. Only a relationship with God will satisfy your soul.

 

(Ill.) As a kid I was on vacation in the mountains of Arkansas and picked up some shiny gold colored rock. Was I excited! After all, gold was valuable... I wondered why nobody else noticed all this gold or why they didn’t stop me from stuffing my pockets with it.

 

Ever here the expression, “all that glitters is not gold?” That was me, picking up “fools gold.”

 

That’s the person watching the TV guru, Reverend, Doctor, psychic of the month. That’s the person filling their hours so busy they hope to never slow down enough for the pain to catch them. That’s the person so consumed with bitterness they can’t forgive and move on. That’s the person experimenting with drugs or pornography or fame or fortune or power or pleasure.

 

            B.        What you need is Jesus.

 

                        1.         Turn of the 20th century (1900) A. B. Simpson wrote these words:

 

Once it was the blessing, now it is the Lord;

Once it was the feeling, now it is His Word;

Once His gift I wanted, now the Giver own;

Once I sought for healing, now Himself alone.

 

Once it was my working, His it hence shall be;

Once I tried to use Him, Now He uses me;

Once the power I wanted, now the Mighty One;

Once for self I labored, now for Him alone.

 

Once I hoped in Jesus, now I know He’s mine;

Once my lamps were dying, now they brightly shine;

Once for death I waited, now His coming hail;

And my hopes are anchored, safe within the vail.

 

                        2.         Maybe our spiritual hunger comes from:

 

                                    a.         We do not know Jesus. We only know about Jesus.

 

                                    b.         We want to use Jesus to feel good instead of be changed.

 

 

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