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

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A Rant For You

What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? Does it matter? Should we give any thought to anything beyond ourselves? Why should we trust anyone but our own selves? What is there beyond what we see? Are there hopes, dreams, possibilities beyond what we can ken at this moment? Is there hope beyond the now? Can we know, for certain, anything at all? Is there meaning to love? To happiness?

Can we change?

There is one answer to these questions, and every other question that has ever been asked. There is one answer which is the key which unlocks the mysteries of every cloaked and shadowed mystery in all of time and space. There is one meaning which is the meaning of all meanings. There is one hope, which is the hope of hopes — the hope which gives hope life and breath.

There is one life, which is the source of all life. One word which is the greatest of all words. One Person who is the Being of all being.

Look at this verse. Look at it hard. Let its meaning sink into your eyes and down into your heart. Meditate on it. Muse on it. Do not let it go away from you. Think. Even if it is the first time in your life, I want you to think, hard, on this verse.

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

How. Can we… bless the Lord God of hosts, father of glory, eternal, perfect, holy. Think of who He is, and who we are. All that we’ve done to Him. How can we possibly bring anything to Him which He considers valuable?

Why did He make us?

The answer.. is Himself. God. It’s who He is!

The greatness, the wondrousness, it’s all Him. The paradox, the oxymoron, the mystery of all mysteries. It’s Him. He’s perfect, He is love. How amazing is that?!

Don’t let this pass away from you. Take a hold of it, and realize this.

You can.

No matter where you are, no matter how hard things are, no matter what you’ve done, no matter how many times you’ve failed, you can get back up again and go in God’s Name because He. Loves. You.

He is always there. He is always giving you an opportunity as long as you reach out for it. He will never give up on you. You. You. Can bless His Name.

P.S. If… you want to hear the audio version of this article, I do have it. I couldn’t really get it out on paper, so I blurted it into my mobile and recorded it. It’s not exactly the same, since I changed it when I posted it, but if you want it, email me, and I’ll send it.

A little writing… what is love?

What is love?

 

The first cry of a newborn child, echoing in her mother’s heart like the ripples of a new fountain, which never cease to tremor and fill her life with the simple joy that now, she is a mother.

 

The beauty of a rose on a hillside, the grass nestling it against your cheek.

 

The tired ache of a husband, old beside his wife’s grave, longing for the vanished part of him which he will never have again.

 

The joy at the end of a new book, which is now a part of your soul, the people within it, a part of your life.

 

The still shifting of the wind against your frame as you stand on a hill, gazing out over the nation which you have called your own.

 

The slow rising of warm tears, melting your sight as you fall into the depths of her smiling eyes at last.

 

The blood falling to the ground from your friend’s throat, bubbling with the last breaths of the life he gave for you.

 

The pressure of a father’s head against his son’s shoulder in the last embrace of his boyhood, on the threshold of his first step into marriage.

 

The soft touch of a girl’s hand on her baby brother’s sleeping cheek, preceding a small, clumsy kiss through which her soul pours.

 

The sweat loosening the grip of the hand holding the sword between the tyrant and the enslaved.

 

The grume of the earth falling from the pick, the torn hands bringing bread from toil for another, a beloved, to eat.

 

The shrinking of a heart from an invader, saving the promised treasure for another.

 

The pain of a blow struck in the face of a mocker, defending the right and preserving the pure.

 

The glint in the eye over the grim smile of the man who turns away and doggedly chooses yet again the path of righteousness.

 

The tender and committed smile as the ring slips on the young girl’s finger, never to be removed.

 

The shaking hands clenched in prayer, drenched in tears for the sorrow of another’s toils and trials.

 

The comforting word returning upon the bitter lash of a weary tongue.

 

The hope pouring from the crushed visage of a man hanging and broken into the heart of a weary child, seeking rest.

 

The gentle word reaching into my secrets, laying bare to my shuddering sight the vile, mired flesh of my failures.

 

The strong voice beating into a rebel’s heart, washing and driving against his fears to turn him from death.

 

The touch of the creator’s hand on a broken life, never to leave it again.

 

Love is…

 

Go Kill Yourself

I really hate myself.

I really do. I do stuff that is just plain evil. I seek after the wrong things. I do things that are utterly unpleasing to God. I am so far from God’s desire for me that it isn’t even funny. Every time I try to do right I don’t make it. It seems like everything I do is a waste a lot of the time because I simply am not doing it for God but for myself.

Bleach. Why don’t I just kill myself? I mean, that is what the Bible says, right? Paul said he ‘dies daily’ and that we are ‘dead to sin.’ The Bible also says that the heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things, so why bother keeping it? Why not just go to heaven and cash in on that great and glorious body that doesn’t sin?

Yes, I do feel like that sometimes. I honestly do. Quite a bit actually.

But it is wrong. And you know it is wrong.

God loves us unconditionally, and He has a plan for us on this planet, even while we struggle daily with sin. That is clearly stated many times in the Bible, and we need to turn to those Scriptures when we feel down about our sin. We need to realize God’s glory in our lives.

But I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding underneath that attitude that is not commonly addressed as wrong, and which, I think, is actually commonly taught and promoted by godly pastors and teachers.

That is sad. And I want to address it here if possible.

The Bible talks extensively about the Old Man. It also talks about the New Man. It talks about our Flesh. It talks about the Holy Spirit. It talks about a lot of things. But how are these particular things connected?

Romans 6:6-7 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with [him,] that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.

Romans 6:11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but [how] to perform that which is good I find not.

So that is pretty clear, right? Our flesh is bad, really bad, and it needs to be as good as dead to us. Really dead. Seriously dead. As dead as we can make it. That means that anything that pleases our flesh ought to be completely cut out of our lives and treated as an abomination to God, right?

I mean, that is what the Bible says over in Romans 8:13 that “if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” And then if you throw in 1 John 2:16 (“For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”) it becomes even more obvious. Our fleshly bodies are absolutely horrendous things, incapable of doing anything good or liking good things.

Actually not that simple.

Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service.

Oh.

God wants… our fleshly bodies to be alive? And not only that, but somehow they are supposed to be holy and acceptable unto God! It almost sounds like we are talking about two different fleshes here.

That is because we are. We are talking about the Old Man and the New Man. Or, as we could also put it, the Old Flesh and the New Flesh.

To see this we are going to take a little trip through some parallel passages in Scripture.

Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service.

2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

We have seen that one already, but I want you to focus on the key phrases highlighted in bold, and keep them in your mind as we go on.

Ephesians 4:22-25 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;

24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

Okay, I want you to notice the parallels between the mentions of renewing of your mind, and between the connection implied thereby between the Living Sacrifice and the New Man. And now we can continue this series with:

Colossians 3:8-12 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;

10 And have put on the new [man,] which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond [nor] free: but Christ [is] all, and in all.

12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;

There is an obvious equivalence between the New Man and the Living Sacrifice, especially when you stack these passages up. And in connection with that is an equally obvious fact that the Old Man and the Flesh is the same thing.

So what does that mean?

It means that our flesh doesn’t have to be bad. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Think about it: God made us with bodies. He invented pleasure. He invented our flesh. He made its desires to be the way they are.

But He made them for a particular purpose: to be a Living Sacrifice. He designed us to live in submission to His Holy Spirit (which is the power that makes us able to obey His Word and become like His Son), so that the flesh does not serve itself only, but rather, Him.

A Living Sacrifice. We trade allegiances, and that makes our flesh into a New Man.

And suddenly passages like 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 make more sense:

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

God wants our flesh to become like the flesh of Christ: wholly submitted to Him. So what does that mean for us, today? It means that we don’t just kill the Old Man, our flesh: we need to resurrect our flesh as the New Man by the power of Christ.

Romans 6:4-5 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also [in the likeness] of [his] resurrection:

We can stop being miserable with our Old Flesh, and start living in victory with our New Flesh. Our ‘fleshly’ appetites are not our enemies… when submitted to Christ and His glory.

So, does that make sense? How do you see this affecting your daily walk?

4 Appetites that Change Your Life

Doesn't that make you hungry?I have been thinking about appetites lately. It started back when I listened to the Reformer’s Unanimous message on Principle # 4 again: “You cannot satisfy a fleshly appetite by indulging in it,” a couple weeks or so ago.

It is really a very good principle. There is a lot of truth packed into it.

Let me unwrap a little bit of it for you. It is what I have been pondering on, and putting into practice for the last couple weeks, and I am really excited about it.

There are a few different kinds of appetites, and you can classify them in a few different ways.

If you classify them by the object of desire, for example, you have basically two kinds: good and bad. An example of a good appetite would be reading God’s Word, or righteousness. God clearly commands us to desire and hunger after these things over and over in the Bible. And example of a bad appetite would be sinful sexual lust, drugs, and stuff like that.

Those are obvious examples, but it gets harder to categorize things when you start trying to classify things like healthy food. Is that a fleshly appetite? Is that a godly appetite? Is that an appetite that could grow to be a consuming appetite? It is actually all of those, which makes it tough to see whether it is good or bad. I mean, think about it. If it is kept under control, and it doesn’t become an idol (that is, your appetite for it becomes overwhelming), it is good and right, and should be encouraged. So it seems almost like….

A gradient! Oh no!

You have black (bad appetites) and white (good appetites) and gray (appetites that are… um middly). Gray areas are not good, are they? They just smell of compromise and wishy-washy-ness and relative morality and… bleagch.

So that is why I was thinking about this, and I discovered another way to categorize appetites: by the nature of the appetite.

Let’s illustrate with food, because it is near to our hearts and easy to apply.

Did you know that if you consistently eat food that satisfies your nutritional needs (yes, that is what food is for), you won’t fill your stomach up? It actually isn’t good for you to eat until your stomach is full: you are supposed to eat until your nutritional requirements are met for that meal. If you do it right, your appetite actually turns off and you can’t eat another bite.

Of course if you aren’t eating food that satisfies those needs, you won’t have that effect, and the only way you can feel sort of ‘satisfied’ is to eat until your stomach is full of food. The problem with that is that your stomach isn’t really made to handle that, and it will expand and stretch to hold it all. And your appetite will grow with it. So you will gradually eat more and more at each meal.

What happens then is that you start to eat to satisfy your mouth. You eat because it tastes good going through your mouth, and you keep on sending food through until either your mouth says it is enough, or your stomach begins to complain that it is overloaded, and you stop because you don’t want to face the consequences of overeating.

Unfortunately if you keep going in that direction you will get to the point where it doesn’t matter any more. You begin to despise your food, and your body is screaming in misery at you because it is being abused, but you can’t stop eating. You are eating to satisfy, not your needs, not your stomach, not your mouth, but your appetite itself. You are a slave to your … addiction.

So we have four kinds of appetites there, and the progression between them. Notice that you don’t start down this slippery slope unless you change your intake to something that doesn’t have safeguards to protect you from abusing it.

Here is where it gets exciting.

Our spiritual life has this same division of appetites!

When you are doing something for God, something that God wants you to do, by definition it won’t take control of your life. That is how it is designed to work. You can’t spend too much time reading God’s Word, if you are doing it for the right reasons, because it will drive you to get out and take action on what it is talking about. The same thing goes for prayer or any other spiritual discipline. This also applies to things that God calls you to do, like spending time with your family, having a successful job, resting, or recreation. Each of these things, when done with the right motivation, will fall into place in God’s big picture of your life and will never take over more room than they need.

But if you start focusing on anything for its own sake, it starts to grow, and you begin to toe the line of it beginning to encroach on your other tasks and duties in life. The problem with toeing the line, though, is that it moves. It moves farther and farther out (in your eyes, not in God’s), until you are far away from where God wants you to be, and that thing has become a stronghold in your life.

When that happens you start doing it just for the pleasure of doing it. Pleasure is not a bad thing: God designed many of things purely for our pleasure with no ‘practical’ benefits other than just that. But when the pleasure becomes centered on our flesh, rather than on God, bad things begin to happen. You do it as much as possible, and only stop when you fear the consequences. You sleep until you fear losing your job. You work until you fear losing your sleep or your family. You read your Bible (as a self-righteous hypocrite) until you fear losing other things that might be important to you.

But living like that is like playing Russian Roulette. Every day you take a shot at your head, and the cylinder moves the bullet one place closer to you. You don’t know when the day of reckoning will come, but be assured that it will if you don’t change your course. The closer you get the less and less you care about consequences, and you begin to recklessly throw yourself into it. You begin to hate your life; you hate your passion; you hate your appetite; and you hate everything that tries to drag you from it.

You become like Gollum in Lord of the Rings.

And at the end of that road is death. No hope or way of escape is in that direction.

You have to turn around and run for God, casting out all things that feed the wrong appetites: the ones that are not for His glory. You need to seek out those things that satisfy your righteous appetites: the ones that bring God glory. You need to starve those appetites which are displeasing to God.

And if you don’t.

Hell awaits you.

Pity…

I actually noticed this by accident.

Okay I lied. It was a miracle that I noticed this, and I am very grateful to God that He showed it to me. 🙂

I was meditating on this Psalm, and was struck by the beauty of its promises and truths, but was also struck by the oddity of the word choice in the KJV in verse 13 (http://bit.ly/9vJLku).

“Psalms 103:13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.”

Why ‘pity’? The context is comparing us to God, and how weak and frail we are, so the regular meaning for ‘pity’ fits in fine… but it still stuck with me.

So I looked it up in Strongs, and sure enough it had the ‘regular’ definition: compassion, mercy, etc. Very nice. (http://sir-emeth.com/bible/?T=OT&N=7355) It even has the word ‘fondle’ in there, which conjures up some beautiful images of our Father holding and loving us.

But.

The next word in the Strong’s concordance caught my eye. (Like when can I ever read just *one* word in a dictionary?)

Pitieth (the original word I looked up) was raw-kham’ (a verb). The next word was rakh’-am (the noun). Same word, two different accents, two different word forms. But the meaning made me weep.

http://sir-emeth.com/bible/?T=OT&N=7356

The Hebrew language and culture is built upon vivid word pictures, analogies, and similes. That is how they think. That is how they create their words. And the word for pity in the Hebrew…

Means…

Womb.

Because it *cherishes* the fetus.

Think about it.

God. The sovereign Lord of the universe and Savior of the world. He is as a womb to us, and we are as fetuses to Him. That is the word picture that David painted in Psalm 103, and that is the image that would have come to his hearer’s minds.

Wow.

We are absolutely helpless, incapable of sustaining ourselves, feeding ourselves, protecting ourselves, growing ourselves, or anything. We are utterly dependent upon God and His grace, which gives us everything we need and much more. He is a comfort, a protection, our source of life, our all, our universe. He is all around us.

We are in Him.

Validation, an Awesome Movie

If you haven’t noticed, I love movies. Period. Even movies that are from worldviews that are absolutely opposed to mine. I just like movies.

But this one I love.

I absolutely think it is one of the best short films I have watched, and I think you are absolutely missing out if you don’t sit down and watch it sometime. It is only about 15 minutes.

It teaches beautiful and important lessons in a beautiful and striking way.

So without further ado…

Validation.

Love it doncha? 😀

What do you think? How has this inspired you to live your life differently?

And you are awesome if you comment. Seriously. You are. Most people wouldn’t take the time to do it. Most people just drop a ‘thanks’ or something like that. Even those people are awesome. But you guys who comment on my posts with great thoughts (that often times put my writing to shame)…

You.

Are.

Awesome.

😀