Ask, Seek, Knock [from the Archives]

Bible

Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr

Sometimes the old things come back to teach us again. This is a message I really think I need to share again with you all. It is a repost from 2009, in my early blog days. Enjoy. 🙂

Greetings,

Matthew 7:7-8 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Devotions are important: crucially important. I am ashamed of how often and how much I have neglected to realize just how important they are. Oh yes, I would do them, but they would be more ‘me-time’ than ‘devoted-to-God’ time. Doing devotions right and getting stuff out of them is just as important as doing them in the first place. Time and focus is a major part of our treasure: ask any businessman. But where are we investing our time, and how are we investing it? Are we truly setting aside time out of our schedules and our hearts for God? I was assuredly not very devoted in my devotions before, and it affected every area of my life.

But what good is it to spend two hours in prayer and two hours in Bible reading every day if you get no fresh, new insights, strength or hope from them? Some people would say that it does not matter: read it anyway. But how many of us have considered that it might be that we are reading the Scriptures the wrong way? Practice only makes perfect if you are practicing right: practicing playing baseball holding the bat from the wrong end will not help you much (it actually might for all I know, I know practically nothing about sports, but I needed an example). The Pharisees were experts in the Scriptures if reading it was all it took: they had all of it memorized, with the commentaries. We ought to do more.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them,] because they are spiritually discerned.

So how ought we to pray and read our Bibles? Well, it is evident from Scripture that the unsaved cannot understand the Scriptures, for their minds are corrupted and earthly, and cannot understand heavenly things. When we are saved, we are given the Holy Spirit, which opens up to us the mysteries of God. Without the Holy Spirit we are helpless. But that means that if we do not rely upon the Holy Spirit, then we are just as helpless as the lost in reading God’s Word, which is a very sad condition.

So we see that we must needs rely on God, and not on ourselves in our devotions. And this is where the title of my article and my text verse comes in. I have learned that we can have utter faith that after every devotion time, we can come away with a new, fresh, empowering truth for the day. But this can only happen by faith and prayer. But it can happen every time: it is a promise from God. To expect anything else is belittling and dishonoring to God. So how do we do this? We ask, seek, and then knock!

First, as we prepare for our devotions, before we approach God in prayer or in His Word, we ask Him in faith to guide us by His Holy Spirit, and to open our eyes, that we may behold the wondrous things that He has for us in His Word. Then, instead of just sitting there and waiting for a voice like a trumpet or a still small voice to speak out of the blue and say: “Pray about ***, then go to Philippians 1:7-9 and see the note that I put in there for you,” we go and seek. Go looking for God’s insights in His Word or start praying about your day or whatever is on your list that you need to pray about. But when something seems to stick out off the page, or if you do not understand something: stop, for you might very well have found it. Then knock, asking God to open it up to you. Sometimes He will use one thing to get you to somewhere completely different, but He always will show you something. And it will be what He knows you need.

This is a Biblical pattern, and the promises are true and faithful, but I will not be so prideful as to say that this is the only way to do your devotions. I am only stating that it has transformed my devotions in the past two days. If you have any other tips, mindsets, Scriptures, experiences, or insights, please feel free to comment (comments are better because others get to see what you say as well) to let me know. This is something that we can all grow in, and I am finding that I need to grow in it especially.

With joy and peace in Christ,
Jay Lauser

Christ in Pain

Holy Spirit painting

When the chips are down. When the rubber meets the road. When all hell breaks loose, literally. When “things don’t quite turn out.” When your life is wrecked, devastated, turned upside down. When your heart is torn into shreds and fed to the dogs. When the worst thing you could imagine… happens. How is God glorified in that?This is really a re-phrasing of the age-old question: How can a loving God allow death and suffering in His world? And although the answer to that is inestimably crucial, the answer is too much for the scope of this article. If you don’t know the answer, please, please email or comment and let me know, and I will be more than happy to explain it. Knowing this is vital, absolutely critical.

But when I phrase it this way… the question opens itself up to being rephrased again, and to really reaching into the heart of a struggle that I see many Christians battling with. A turmoil I see in the lives of people I love. So… you know who you are… this is for you. * smiles *

When everything is against me. When the world opens up at my feet to swallow me…

How do I glorify God in that?

You see how it’s connected? Think about it. God hates sin. He hates evil. He hates death, suffering, misfortune. He uses it, yes, but He doesn’t like it. It is not a part of His perfection which He wants for us (and which He will give us in heaven).

So how is He glorified in it on Earth? And as Christians, where do we fit into that? We are commanded to glorify Him in everything we do, in every circumstance. And really, if you think about it, what else should we want to do?!

So… how do we do it?

It’s hard.

No… scratch that. It’s not.

It’s impossible.

Really. It is. It is superhuman, supernatural — absolutely completely a miracle.

And that is the key. See, in our own strength we can’t glorify God in circumstances like that. We can’t do anything that would bring Him honor or praise or bless Him in any way. So… we do things we can’t do. Impossible things. It’s really as simple as that.

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

What is peace?

Look at a glass of water or a still lake. Look at it… placid… smooth… unrippled. Untouched, unbroken. It is at peace.

Drop a pebble in. It breaks, the surface begins going everywhere, reacting to the stone. It is troubled.

God’s peace is this: Doing what is right regardless of circumstances.

Some people say it is freedom from harm. Which isn’t true. The Holy Spirit brings about peace, as well as troubles and harm (unless being stoned and drowned and beheaded and robbed and broken and tormented doesn’t count as harm…). If peace is freedom from harm, then He contradicts Himself. God forbid.

It might be more accurate to say that it is freedom from fear of harm. But even that isn’t true, because fear is not something you can really get rid of. It is a God-given impulse of our flesh, and we can’t rid ourselves of it any more than we can remove our need for water and food. What really matters isn’t being unfearful, but being courageous.

Courage is doing what is right despite being scared.

That is peace. It is choosing not to let circumstances control you. It is not reacting to things that happen to you — but choosing to respond instead. It is not letting your heartbreak determine what is on your heart’s throne. Doing that is impossible.

The pain is there. It will be there.

But that pain isn’t bad. Not if you glorify God in it. Then it becomes a wondrous thing.

When the very thing which is a punishment and consequence of rebellion against God brings glory to God, when imperfection blesses perfection… that is glorifying God.

So in essence, the way you glorify God in trials is simply to do what you would have done if you didn’t have trials. Make sense?

You still love. You still have joy (not necessarily happiness, though). You still serve. You still forgive. You still trust. You still pray. You still draw closer to God. You are still a little Christ, a little light of His.

And the very fact that you are doing all that while being tormented is what brings God ten-fold glory. Because it is impossible.

Now, you might have noticed that I didn’t give any Scripture references in this whole blog post. It quotes from the Bible extensively inline, refers to Scripture constantly, and is built solidly upon multiple studies of several topics, but I didn’t give any references. So, I am curious if any of you have any Scripture quotes which apply to this which you would like to share in the comments. Or even if you don’t want to share them, go ahead anyway. 😉

A comment form is right below, and you can get Scripture here: www.sir-emeth.com/bible

Have at it. 🙂

Prayer Vs. Bible Reading: Which is Better?

Prayer is a beautiful, amazing, powerful thing.

Prayer

Image by Chris Yarzab via Flickr

God’s Word is an even more beautiful, amazing, powerful thing.

Or is it the other way around?

Or… does it make any sense either way? I don’t think it does. I often hear people extolling one or other of these glorious things over the other one, and although I get where they are coming from, it still annoys me. Sometimes a person is particularly gifted with the blessing of being able to walk very closely with God in prayer. The same thing happens with the Bible: some people have the grace to glean volumes from Scripture in a way that is positively miraculous and incredible beyond the ‘norm.’ Sometimes both are given to the same person, but not always.

And so when someone has a gift like that, they are generally excited and grateful with boundless joy over it, and because of the glory of what they are experiencing, they strongly encourage and exhort their friends to strive for the same thing. And they won’t exhort as strongly from experience for the other, because they simply don’t have that experience. And so you end up with a natural division… with one group of people dedicating absolutely everything to prayer, and the other group of people dedicating themselves absolutely to Bible meditation and study.

There are extremes, and there are gradients all across the board, but that’s the tendency I see happening.

Is this good?

Well, you can’t deny that focusing on one is better than focusing on none. But why does this disparity occur? Why are some people gifted with an aptitude for one, and not the other?

God gives different gifts in different ways for different reasons.

Some gifts He gives equally to everyone, barring extenuating circumstances, such as rain. The rain falls on the just and on the unjust, unless there’s a drought in judgment from God, and the sun rises on the evil and the good, unless an audaciously faithful commander tells it not to in the name of God.

Some gifts He gives for seemingly no reason (in our earthly wisdom) out of His own plan and grace, such as the talents, challenges, and things that you are born with.

Some gifts He gives in fulfillment of an absolute promise, such as salvation. He promises that if you turn to Him and believe on His name, you will be saved, period, full-stop, no other option. If you seek, you find, if you knock, it will be opened, etc.

Some gifts He wants to give us, but won’t until we ask. Some of them He won’t give us until we sacrifice for it and work for it. Some He won’t give until we beg. Is that because He doesn’t want to give them to us? No, He just knows that we can do without them, and that we will be more blessed from them if we dedicate ourselves to seeking for them. He also wants to strengthen us through making us wait sometimes. Patience is a hard learned lesson.

I think it is the latter which plays most into whether or not we are blessed in prayer or the Word. Various things will make a person want to improve their walk with God in one or the other, and they will work at it and seek God in it with tenacious pleading and seeking, and God will give it to them. Sometimes God will give it for less trouble, other times for more. Sometimes He gives it for seemingly very little, perhaps because He knows you’ll need it for something. We never know.

But in any case, we do have a choice in the matter when it comes to where we are now. If one is lacking, believe you this: it will hamper the other. And you need to get it sorted.

Prayer and Bible reading are not really individual acts, or they shouldn’t be. They work in unison. In fact, the closest way I can see of looking at them is as two sides of a coin, or as breathing.

When you breathe (Go ahead, try it. Okay now stop. Just kidding! 😀 ), you breathe in… and you breathe out.

Doing just one and only that one kills you.

Doing one more than the other damages your health.

Praying and Bible study is like that. It’s a conversation.

Praying is talking things out to God: laying your burdens on Him; confessing your faults; praising Him for His goodness; thanking Him for His blessings; interceding on the behalf of others, and etcetera.

When you meditate on God’s Word, you are filling yourself with His Truth, washing yourself in His ways and testimonies, learning and being challenged, seeking exhortation and rebuke, finding answers and being guided, encouraged, equipped, and refreshed.

Do you see the pattern?

One is a form of expression – the other is a form of intake. If you do only one, you get messed up.

So try this experiment, as a kind of illustration. It isn’t the only way to pray or study your Bible, and it isn’t the best way, but it can really help improve both, I’ve found.

Open a passage of Scripture.

Start inhaling as you read.

When you come to the top of your breath, start exhaling as you begin to pray over what you just read or over something that was laid on your heart while you read.

At the bottom of your exhale, start inhaling again and switch to reading again.

(Oh, don’t try and inhale or exhale as much as you possibly can, just breathe normally.)

This isn’t Eastern mysticism or “empty your mind” meditation. It is simply a way of learning the synergistic and symbiotic relationship of praying and Bible reading. And it works.

I’ve seen many very neat blessings come out of this in my own devotions, and I’d like to see what you think when you try it. So don’t forget to come back and comment. 🙂

Mastering the Art of Singletasking

Pomodoro Timer

Image via Wikipedia

Multitasking is a common buzzword right now. And it is both decried as having a viciant and virulent effect on our capability to function with facility, and as being the prime panacea of production. Which is right?

Well, honestly, I don’t think either are right. I think multitasking has its place, and I think it has a great amount of value. But I don’t think it is always the most efficient way to do things, and do think there are many things which require something else: singletasking.

Now, I honestly haven’t really heard anyone talking about singletasking by that term… people generally use words like ‘focus’ and ‘dedication’ and whatnot. Singletasking involves those, but I prefer the term ‘singletask’ because it emphasizes the precisely unique and advantageous nature of itself: it is doing a single task, and nothing else.

And it is quite a bit harder to do, and far more productive, than most people in our multitasking generation realizes.

Being a person who routinely listens to music (sometimes multiple tracks simultaneously), while chatting with upwards of 3-4 people, while reading streams on the internet, while writing up blog posts and emails, I can testify to the possibility of effectively accomplishing much in a short amount of time via multitasking, and to the amount of effort it takes to actually do it instead of fragmenting and spewing inanity across a dozen tasks at once (not the kind of multitasking you are wanting, I’m sure).

And so to someone of my multitasking prowess, it might come as a natural axiom that the fewer things you do, the easier it is to do them. I mean, adding more makes it harder, so taking some away would make it easier, right?

Not quite.

The effort it takes to focus on one thing, and one thing only, for any period of time, is mentally exhausting if one is not used to it. And getting used to it takes a great deal of training.

But is it worth it?

Absolutely.

Just as worth it as learning to multitask. They are two skills, both of which one must be comfortable in to be a master in dealing with tasks (hmm… a taskmaster?) — into diligence. There are other skills which go into it, but these two form a large part of the foundation. I’ll talk more later about the other things I think go into it.

So how do you master this art? Here are a few things I’ve learned which have helped me learn.

1. Pray for two minutes doing absolutely nothing but praising God. Thank Him, praise Him, glorify Him. Write it out, say it out loud, or pray it in your head, but just keep going until it’s done (a timer helps, though if you’re on a roll, by all means, keep going!). Focus. Be still. If something else comes into your head, acknowledge it, and then think of another thing to glorify God about. Don’t fight thoughts… it puts focus on them and that’s not praising God. Just praise. Let go, and praise. This is one of the best exercises I know of for learning singletasking, because not only is it tremendously effective, but it also can radically transform your prayer life and deepen your relationship with God. And which is more important? Right. Best multitasking ever. 😉

2. Use a Pomodoro timer. Pomodoro timers are an idea created by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, and I’ve been using them to good effect recently. You can learn more about them on Wikipedia, but the principle is simple: set a timer for a specific length of time (25 minutes is traditional) and then focus on doing one thing during that whole 25 minutes. Don’t stop until the timer dings (again, if you’re on a roll, keep going if you want to). And then set it for 5 minutes (or something else that works good for you: it’s your rhythm) and do something else, relax, multitask, check your email, whatever. Then do the whole thing again. It really helps you get down to business and get a lot accomplished.

3. Meditate on Scripture. This isn’t really a timed one like the above two challenges, but it can be if you like working that way. Basically, start working on a piece of Scripture, and using the tactics described in the praying challenge above, keep working on it. Focus, muse, think, study, meditate. Look up other passages related to it, look at the context, read the whole book around it, write notes, pray over it, learn from it, apply it to your life. But mainly, get interested in it. The Bible is absolutely fascinating… and powerful. No other book is like it. And again… this one is really a sneaky way to multitask, because while you’re learning to singletask, you are also drawing closer to God and learning more of Him. Which is just awesome.

I am still learning a lot about this subject, and integrating it into my life. And learning to singletask is certainly one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced in this journey. So I’d be more than grateful for input and things you’ve learned which have helped you to singletask in your own lives.

So use the comments section liberally, and check back for replies! I reply to every comment, and I love it when dialogues get started. 😉

Eccentricity, Mathematics, and Peculiar People

Examples of orbital trajectories with various ...

Image via Wikipedia

I am eccentric. Quite so. In fact, almost invariably so. And I quite like it.

Now, when most people notice my eccentricity (and they do), they generally comment on how weird it is, and then make some comment about fitting in or having to still be able to communicate with people or something along those lines.

They miss it.

Totally.

Why? Because they have a messed up perception of eccentricity and weirdness in general.

What does eccentric mean? What does it really mean?

Well if you go back to the roots, you find that it is founded in mathematics. An eccentric circle is a circle with a different center from another circle.

Not having the same center; — said of circles, ellipses, spheres, etc., which, though coinciding, either in whole or in part, as to area or volume, have not the same center; — opposed to concentric.

This is still a valid definition in use, and it directly affects the other definitions.

Not terminating in the same point, nor directed by the same principle.

So someone who is eccentric isn’t random, arbitrary, or capricious at all. Being eccentric means living with a different set of life principles than those you share company with (either by being in the same circles, or by working on the same things, whatever). You share some things in common with them, but you don’t share a common starting point or worldview.

The modern definitions of eccentric have become synonymous with unpredictable heterodoxes. The whole concept is one of any deviations from the societal norm being wrong by default.

So… which is good? To be eccentric, or not eccentric?

To be eccentric of course! We’re commanded to!

Or are we?

1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

What does peculiar mean?

Appropriate; belonging to a person and to him only. Almost every writer has a peculiar style. Most men have manners peculiar to themselves.

It means you have something unique and special about how you do things… another way to say you have a different set of principles. You have a different center and goal.

So now we know we’re supposed to be eccentric, peculiar, and odd, at least as far as the world goes. Our goal is to have Christ and His Word as the center of our lives, wherever that leads us. Even if it means we disagree with other Christians… if God’s Word is our reason for it, then it isn’t a sin to disagree: the Bible is our center, and that’s what matters. Listen, test your center, always, but don’t be afraid for it to be different from other centers.

So what about communication then? If you’re so off-the-wall that no one can relate with you… what then? How do you impact them?

Good question. 🙂 I’ll write about that later, but for now, you can get started with your ideas in the comments. Go!

I Want to Forget

I have a pretty bad memory. Honest. Yes, I’ve trained it to be able to memorise things rapidly and securely, but I needed to do that because my natural memory is so bad. I’m so bad I can forget the topic of a conversation halfway through the third sentence. I’m even having a hard time remembering all the examples I came up with to illustrate my bad memory!

But I also have a tremendous memory.

A memory that can remember every intricate detail of all the things I most desperately want to forget: my sinful proclivities.

Knowledge I do not want to have, knowledge I wish I never had, is ingrained into me with the tenacity of a demon.

And I wish I could forget.

To never know the vile words I know. To never have seen the sights I’ve seen. To never have heard the sounds I’ve heard. To never have handled the things I’ve handled.

I am repulsed by my past. I abhor my flesh. For even now my nature longs after and craves those old sins, despite my absolute rejection of them and hunger for God. Do I live in them any longer? No. But they still tempt me.

And those bare temptations vex my soul and grate on me. I hate that I ever gave in to them. I hate that those desires linger in me.

Oh, to forget and be innocent!

How I yearn for Heaven, when I shall not be tempted any longer!

How I long for my new body… when my mind will be cleansed from the gutter!

But yet… I have a hope in this Earth, in this life.

God’s word.

It cleans, it washes, it scours, it cuts, it drives away, it renews, it builds, it tears down, it remakes, it heals, it purges, it empowers, it enlivens. And so, it can give a little taste of Heaven to us on Earth. It can fill our mind with rejoicing in God to such a degree that it chases away the profanity within us.

And so I hope.

And I plunge myself into the waters of the Bible.

And slowly, slowly, I change.

Who is More Spiritual?

On the Rebelution forums I recently replied to a thread asking about spirituality and what it means. The starter of the thread pointed out that people often use the word ‘spiritual’ in a derogatory way (either in the sense of “I am more spiritual than you” or “he is so spiritual”), and was wanting to discover its proper use. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, and posted the following short word study on the subject. * grins *

Great conversation, and great questions. I was very pleased to see the depth of thought expressed here. Defining your terms on these kinds of things can make a huge impact in your life.

Pardon me as I rearrange and edit your questions a bit to better fit with the flow of my thoughts on this. Smile

What do you understand as being spiritual, and what do you think it SHOULD be?

Whenever I want to define a word, I always do research beforehand, and I always go to Webster’s 1828 dictionary in my research. I firmly believe that his is the best English dictionary ever created, especially because he based it off of the Bible, and so is actually one of the most powerful study helps you can have for studying the Bible.

Anyways, to paraphrase what he says about spirituality that is germane to our discussion here, to be spiritual is to be holy, and to follow after spiritual things. Which makes perfect sense. (You can look up the full definition here.)

If you really think about it, there actually only two definitions of spirituality that make sense: 1) to walk in the Spirit, or 2) to look like you are walking in the Spirit. This differentiation is vital to our discussion.

Are there any Bible verses/passages we can use to address this issue? Do they help tell us why this issue matters?

There are quite a few, as it turns out. Just do a search for ‘spiritual’ in the Bible (check it out here) and you will find a slew of passages talking about this concept. And in fact I could only find one that might have had a bad connotation with the word. All New Testament mentions contrast spirituality with evil, darkness, carnality, the unsaved, and sin.

But here are some highlights:

Romans 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

Romans 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Colossians 1:9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

Obviously, from the above passages, some people are more spiritual than others, and that is a good thing. We ought to all strive to become more spiritual: that is our goal. And some have gone farther along that road than others.

What does being biblically spiritual look like, in private and public?

In both cases, being spiritual is being Spirit-led. And what is being Spirit-led? It is being Christ-like. Quite simple, really.

John 15:26-27 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.

Romans 8:1-6 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

What are some common misconceptions about spirituality? What kinds of standards do these misconceptions flow from?

Those who maintain a Pharisaical attitude towards others, seeking their own righteousness, not the righteousness of God, behaving in a way that is contrary to the true law of God in order to make themselves look more righteous than others, will often call themselves spiritual, and others will do the same in a derogatory way. But they are the farthest people from true spirituality, for the are not following the Spirit of God, but rather their own fleshly desires.

We only perceive it as spirituality because they, like the devil, make themselves look like angels of light in order to deceive others.

2 Corinthians 10:14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

What are some things that people do that make others consider them to be spiritual, or more spiritual than others?

Legalism is actually the correct term for this attitude, but unfortunately people misuse it so much, I hesitate to promote using for its right use. I wrote an article on it here, if you want to find out, in depth, what I believe on the issue:

https://siremethmimetes.wordpress.com/2009/07/20/legalism/

What steps can we take to work towards the right kind of spirituality, and avoid the wrong kind?

Meditate on God’s Word with the motive of becoming more like Him. Pray to God with the motive of learning to love Him more. Consider things in light of the eternity of God. Learn to see yourself in your proper position, from the eyes of God. Study to see God for what He is, truly. Then you will have the true humility that starts you on the path to true righteousness and a spirit-led life.