An Audience With the King
February 26 – An Audience With the King
Two children were granted an audience with the king. Few had ever seen the king, but his reputation was well known. His creativity and accomplishments were evident to everyone. He had the power to give and take away from his subjects whatever he wanted. Consequently many feared his wrath and chose to keep their distance. Others wanted to gain his favor in order to enhance their worth and hopefully profit from his wealth. Some curious souls just wanted to know him and serve him. A few naysayers didn’t even believe he existed, and chose to live as though he didn’t. They questioned any sovereign rule over their lives.
Both children sought council from others. What should they say in his presence? How should they address him. Can there be any personal gain from such a privilege? Some saw this as the ultimate opportunity to influence the king, and suggest betters ways for him to rule. Others saw it as an incredible opportunity for personal gain. The king had the power to grant almost any wish. There was a rumor that if you gained his favor he could make you prosperous. Some suggested that the two children keep a safe distance, and speak only when spoken to lest the wrath of the king fall upon them.
One child was an opportunist. He compiled a list of issues he was concerned about, and was prepared to petition the King with his requests, which included some small favors for himself. He wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. When his time came to address the king, he shared with passion what was on his mind. The king listened, and thanked him for coming. When asked how the audience went, he said, “I think it went very well. He listened with interest to everything I had to say. He even thanked me for coming. I’m going to see if I can talk to him again tomorrow.”
The other child was just plain curious. Who was this man that had such power and was it possible to have some kind of relationship with him? He came with no fixed agenda. He marveled at the immensity of the palace and the beauty of the throne. When he first saw the king he couldn’t contain himself. Words of praise burst from his mouth, and he fell on his face before his presence. Suddenly he felt totally insignificant and unworthy to be in such a place. There was a moment of fear and wondered if the sword would fall any minute. The king leaned over and gently lifted his head, and the child looked up into the face of pure love. He was speechless. All he wanted to do was hug him and learn all about him. Never before had he ever sensed such peace.
When he was asked how his audience went with the king, he said, “I am going to spend the rest of my life getting to know him and serve him to the best of my ability. I have heard so many things said about him that are wrong, and I want to tell everyone that my King is the King of all Kings. He is full of joy and wants all his subjects to come into his presence, because they are like children to him, and he loves every one of his children the same. (From the Introduction of Liberating Prayer, Harvest House Publishers)
For Spanish, see http://ficmm.org/blog/
February 26 – Omnipotence
“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns” (Rev. 19:6). Such will be the praise of God’s people in the final judgment when God has proven to everyone that He is the “King of kings and Lord of Lords” (vs. 16). The adjective, “omnipotent” is rendered “Almighty” in Scripture and occurs only in the book of Revelation (1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 26:7,14; 19:6, 15; 21:22) except for 2 Cor. 6:18. God alone has the power to create something out of nothing. In addition to His original creation, the Bible records many “mighty acts” that no other created being can accomplish. He continues to express His power by creating new things (Matt. 3:9; Rom. 4:17), according to His pleasure, because nothing is too hard for God (Gen. 18:14). In God resides the power to produce and control everything that comes to pass.
The power of God is demonstrated in His ability to ensure that all prophesies are fulfilled. To do that God must have the ability to orchestrate whatever events are necessary in order for His word to come true. This power is uniquely demonstrated in granting the barren Elizabeth to be pregnant with John the Baptist, and impregnating the Virgin Mary so that Jesus could rightfully sit on the throne of David (Lu. 1:26-38). When the astonished Mary asked how this could be, “The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you . . . For nothing is impossible with God’” (Lu. 1:35,37).
The omnipotence of God is only limited by His Word and nature, because His power is of His own essence. For instance, God cannot lie (Heb. 6:18). God cannot be self-contradictory by sinning or dying. God cannot pretend that what has happened has not happened. God cannot use His power in an unwise or unholy way and therefore He cannot abuse his power. Absolute authority corrupts absolutely for those who are corruptible, but God is incorruptible. God’s omnipotence is constrained by His love.
Knowing the omnipotence of God is a tremendous blessing for the children of God. First, we are assured of His protection. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’” (Ps. 91:1,2). Second, “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). Third, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13). It is incredible to think, but highly profitable to know that God has extended His power to those who believe (Eph. 1:19). As believers, we don’t have the power to do whatever we want, we have God’s power to do His will. We can do everything through Christ that is consistent with His nature and will.
God is far more than an impersonal force that creates mountains and controls the forces of nature. He is the all powerful God within us, who lovingly uses His power to change us from sinners to saints. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).
For Spanish, see http://ficmm.org/blog
God and Mental Health
February 25 – God and Mental Health
I am going to write a lot about mental and emotional health in the coming months, but I want to share this testimony now, because it reveals how our perception of God changes when we become mentally and emotionally free. I met with this 13 year veteran missionary one Friday afternoon. Two months later I received this letter:
I’ve been waiting to write to you for awhile now, but I’ve waited this long to confirm to myself that this is truly for real. This is what I wrote in my diary on Sunday evening following our time together on Friday. “Since Friday afternoon I have felt like a different person. The fits of rage and anger are gone. My spirit is so calm and full of joy. I wake up singing praise to God in my heart. That edge of tension and irritation is gone. I feel so free. The Bible has been really exciting and stimulating and more understandable than ever before. There was nothing dramatic that happened during the session with Neil, yet I know in the deepest part of my being that something has changed. I am no longer bound by accusations, doubts, and thoughts of suicide, or murder, or other harm that came straight from hell into my head. There is a serenity in my mind and spirit, a clarity of consciousness that is profound. I have been set free! It is so wonderful to have joy after so long a darkness.
It’s been over two months since I wrote that in my diary, and I’m firmly convinced of the benefits of Freedom in Christ Ministries. I’ve been in therapy for several months, but there is no comparison with the steps I’m able to make now. My ability to process things has increased many-fold. Not only is my spirit more serene, my head is actually clearer! It’s easier to make connections and integrate things now. It seems like everything is easier to understand now.
My relationship with God has changed significantly. For eight years I felt that He was distant from me. Shortly before I met you, I was desperately crying out to Him — to release me from the bondage I was in. I wanted so badly to meet with Him again, to know His presence with me again. I needed to know him as a friend, as companion, not as the distant authority figure he had become in my mind and experience. Since that day I’ve seen my trust in Him grow, I’ve seen, my ability to be honest with Him increase greatly. I really am experiencing that spiritual growth I’d anticipated in my journal entry. It’s great!
For Spanish, see: http://ficmm.org/blog
February 22 – Omnipresence
“In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands” (Heb. 1:10). God is the Creator. He is not the creation. Every created thing is present somewhere, but God is everywhere present. “The heavens, even the highest heavens cannot contain him” (2 Chron. 2:6). He sustains all things by His powerful word (Heb. 1:3). If God ceased to exist, so would all creation. “For in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
One shouldn’t think of God as being in one place or another. “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Ps. 139: 7-10). Those are comforting words for those who are seeking the security of His presence. On the other hand, it is impossible to flee from God if you are trying to hide from Him. “‘Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth,’ declares the Lord” (Jer. 23:24). Even the cover of darkness cannot hide us from God because darkness is as light to Him (vss. 11,12).
It is impossible to think of God in human terms because we are finite creatures who live in a finite world. Even the expanses of space cannot contain Him, because He contains space. When we think of God as being remote, it is not because He is in some far off galaxy. When we sense that He is far from us, it is because of the dissimilarity of nature not any distance that can be measured. Sin has alienated us from God and there is nothing we can do to reconnect with Him apart from the saving works of Christ.
For those who have been reconciled to God, it is meaningless to invoke God’s presence since He is everywhere present. Instead we ought to acknowledge that God is always present and pray that He will grant us an awareness of His omnipresence. It means nothing ask God to be with our missionaries when God has said he would never leave or forsake them. We should follow David’s example in Psalm 16:8; “I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”
Worship is not a Sunday morning activity. It is living daily with an understanding of God’s attributes and our union with Him. If we sensed the presence of an evil spirit, we should immediately acknowledge God’s presence. That is an act of worship emboldened by truth led by the Holy Spirit. “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him” (Jn. 4:23).
For Spanish, see http://ficmm.org/blog
February 21 – Worship
When I taught at Talbot School of Theology there was a student on campus who was seven feet six inches tall. I felt sorry for him, because people would stare, i.e. until he looked back. They probably didn’t want to, but they could hardly keep themselves from doing so. I found myself sneaking glances at him. Most strangers said nothing to him other than an occasional, “How is the weather up there?” Everyone thought, “That man is really tall!” That is the natural response to attributes that are unusual or outstanding, which is the essence of worship.
Worship is ascribing to God His divine attributes. God doesn’t need us to tell Him who He is. He is completely secure within His own Godhead. Nor do we worship God to appease Him. Some believe that if they keep telling God how good He is, He won’t deal harshly with them, or will grant them favors. That is spiritism, and that is not why we worship. We worship God, because we need to keep fresh in our minds the divine attributes of God. You will never be alone if you know that God is omnipresent. You will never feel powerless if you know that God is omnipotent. You will never feel unloved if you know that God is love.
Suppose you saw the student mentioned above, but he was a mile away. He would appear to be similar to any other mortal, and seeing him from a distance would solicit very little response. If you were standing next to him, you would be in awe. Your natural inclination would be to say or think, “Man, you are really tall!” The dominant thought in your mind would be on that singular attribute. Such is our relationship with God. If you are not practicing His presence, He would seem to be a distant figure, and not too large. He would be easy to ignore. But if you were ushered into His presence you would be overwhelmed by His attributes. If that happened you wouldn’t say, “Praise You.” You would say, “Holy, beautiful, wonderful, powerful, etc.” Nobody would have to tell you to do that. Angels are not forced to worship God. In God’s presence they naturally proclaim His divine attributes.
When I first saw a giant redwood tree in the Sequoia National Park, I stood at its base and was overwhelmed by how big it was. I wanted to tell everyone, “Look at the size of that tree. It would take more than twenty men to put their arms around it!” I don’t worship trees or people. I am naturally in awe of nature, but it is just showing forth the glory of God (Ps. 19:1). I worship God who created trees, sunsets, and rainbows. The closer I draw to my Creator, Redeemer, Savior, and Lord the more natural it is to worship Him, and share Him with others. Should I feel disconnected from Him, I recall to my mind His divine attributes and “therefore I have hope” (See Lam. 3:21-24).
For Spanish, see http://ficmm.org/blog
Personal Satisfaction in Glorifying God
February 20 – Personal Satisfaction in Glorifying God
I had the privilege to help a man who had driven several hundred miles with the hope that I could help him resolve the conflicts going on in his life and home. He was a “successful” man — a superintendent of a public school district. He attended church regularly and appeared to be a pillar of the community. But he was struggling with compulsive thoughts, explosive anger and incredible nightmares that left him depleted every morning. Within hours we were able to resolve his personal and spiritual conflicts and he found his freedom in Christ. He waited several months before he sent me the following letter. He wanted to be sure that what happened would last.
I never really understood the relationship God wanted to have with me. I saw God as an omnipotent but distant and stern father. You helped me realize that God is like a real father in how He loves me, meaning that He wants me to enjoy His presence and live a fulfilling life on this earth. I used to see Him as an aloof disciplinarian, a benevolent disciplinarian, but nevertheless a disciplinarian. I knew that I was to have a personal relationship with Him, but I had no way of knowing what that meant.
I equated my own earthly father’s attitude toward a father/son relationship to the kind of kinship that would be appropriate between God and myself. I was wrong. God not only wants to see me obediently happy, but He also takes joy in my accomplishments. I have struggled with my purpose in life. What did it matter whether I achieved anything? If all my achievements were the result of God’s will, and all the credit belonged to Him, it followed in my small mind that I was nothing but a non-efficacious vessel of the Almighty.
Of course I was willing to accept that concept, as I believed it to be biblical. But I was wrong, and I was basing my belief system on a non-scriptural foundation. My downfall was inevitable. There was no way I could experience joy with this belief. Humility was very important to me, but it meant taking no personal satisfaction for a job well done. Without some sort of personal satisfaction for one’s endeavors, much of life is missed, and God does not want this. He wants me to do good things and take pleasure in doing them well. Just as an earthly father is pleased when his son does well, so too is God pleased when His children do His will.
This revelation instilled a great deal of meaning in my life. I now have a new concept of God’s love and my place in His divine plan. I have meaning, and what I do has meaning. I can take pleasure in doing good things without risking the sin of pride. Now I see the truth — that God is a loving and caring Father. He gave me a will that I am supposed to use to glorify Him, and that is exactly what I intend to do.
For Spanish, see http://ficmm.org/blog
Glory to God
February 19 – Glory to God
I have discipled a lot of hurting Christians who struggle with the concept of doing all to God’s glory. They reason: God gave me lousy parents. I had no money for a decent education. I’ve been mistreated by others my whole life. Now God wants me to stroke His ego and build His kingdom! People don’t naturally glorify God if they believe that it was God who dealt them the bad hand. Additionally, defeated Christians struggle giving glory to another when they are desperately in need of affirmation themselves. Some believers have a “worm” theology, thinking that God is everything and they are nothing. Jesus didn’t die for nothing. How is God being glorified if His children grovel in some pitiful existence living defeated lives?
If I had to pick a rising star in evangelical circles, this man would have been at the top of my list. He was an excellent student, and an outstanding communicator with a winsome personality. He accepted the challenge of a small pastorate, but he failed morally. After attending one of my conferences this very gifted, intelligent and personable man wrote me the following:
I’ve always figured I was just a no-good, rotten, dirty, stinking sinner, saved by grace yet failing God miserably every day. And all I could look forward to was a lifetime of apologizing every night for not being the man I know He wants me to be. “I’ll try harder tomorrow, Lord.”
As a first-born son, I spent my life trying to earn the approval of highly expectant parents. I’ve related to God the same way. I felt He just couldn’t love me as much as other, “better” believers. Oh sure, I’m saved by grace through faith, but I’m just hanging on until He gets tired of putting up with me here and takes me home to finally stop the failure in progress. Whew, what a treadmill!
Neil, when you explained our new identity in Christ, you totally blew me away. Isn’t that strange, that a guy could go through a good seminary and never latch on to the truth that he is a new creation in Christ? This has been so helpful and liberating to me. I’m beginning to grow out of my old ways of thinking about myself and about God. I don’t constantly picture Him as disappointed in me any more. If He can still love me, be active in me and find use for even me, after I’ve failed Him as badly as I have, then surely my worth to Him can’t be based on my performance. He just plain loves me. Period!
What a new joyful walk I’m experiencing with Him. Praise God. I have been so deeply touched by the realization of who God is and who I am in Christ. Each day of service is a direct gift from God, and I bank each one carefully in heaven’s vault for all eternity to the honor and glory of my Savior.
For Spanish, see http://ficmm.org/blog
Glorify God in Your Body
February 18 – Glorify God In Your Body
“He who speaks from himself, seeks his own glory, but he who is seeking the Glory of the one Who sent him, he is true and there is no unrighteousness in him” (John 7:18). True disciples of Jesus glorify the One who called them. Those who know God’s will, and are guided by Him, do all to the glory of God. Conversely, if we are not glorifying God and being a positive witness by what we are doing and saying, then it can’t be God’s will. That is an easy way to determine whether doing something is right or wrong for you. That simple test challenged me when I was an engineer and the member of a bridge club. I loved the game, but I could no longer play it at noon with my fellow engineers and be a positive witness for the Lord Jesus Christ, nor glorify Him by the way I was playing the game. Bridge wasn’t the problem. I was the problem. So I quite the bridge club, but I did read the bridge column in the paper for years until I reached enough maturity to play the game without compromising who I am in Christ.
Subjugation to the Father’s will is perfectly modeled in the Godhead. Notice first the example of Jesus: “For I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me” (John 8:42). In talking with His Father, Jesus said: “I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work which You gave Me to do . . . Now they know that everything that You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave to Me I have given to them; and they received them, and have come to know in truth that I came from You; and they have believed that You sent Me” (John 17:4,7,8).
The Holy Spirit functions in the same way according to John 14:16; 16:13,14; “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper that He may be with you forever, that is the Spirit of Truth. . . When He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all truth, for He will not speak on His own initiative; whatever He will speak, He will speak and disclose to you what is to come. And He shall glorify Me, for He shall take of Mine and shall disclose it to you.”
According to John 20:21 this directive also applies to us, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Granted, that was said to the apostles, but we have all been commissioned to make disciples. God-sent Christians are called to glorify their Heavenly Father. Those who go on their own initiative seek their own glory. Do you want to be true? Then glorify the one who sent you! The apostle Paul asked; “Do you not know your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in you, Whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19,20).
For Spanish, see http://ficmm.org/blog