Issues of Life Archive 131-140

Issues of Life #131

Life at the Next Level #41

Spiritual Growth - Solitude

 

“My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.”  Ps 62:5-7

 

    What do you think of when you hear the word, solitude? To most it would take on the meaning of being alone or maybe time spent in quietness before the Lord. From a spiritual point of view, solitude is a necessity if we’re to have a genuine, intimate relationship with the Father. It is true that Jesus died for a world of sinners like each of us but our relationship with Him is best nurtured in a one-on-one setting in which we learn to hear and to discern His will for our lives. That’s not to minimize the importance of gathering together corporately with the family of believers but in the one-on-one relationship time both our hearts, His and ours, are exposed to the other. I don’t believe that there is a substitute for ‘alone’ time with the Father. We should make it a priority in our lives and as we do, we actually begin to take on His nature.

    In a world that is constantly clamoring for our time and attention, solitude is extremely important. It is in this time of devotion to the Father that He is able to speak those things into our spirit that actually set the course of our lives. It is here in this place of solitude that we learn to ‘slow down’ and receive His love in its purest and clearest form. It is here that we receive instructions for the next phase of our lives. It is here that we learn that what He says, He means. It’s here that we’re commissioned to those things that God has purposed in His heart for us. It is here that we are transformed from an earthly vessel to a heavenly one. It’s the process of God and solitude is a necessity!

 

Continued in the next issue…

 

 

Issues of Life #132

Life at the Next Level #42

Spiritual Growth - Solitude

 

“My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.”  Ps 62:5-7

 

    While solitude alludes to aloneness and quietness in the presence of God, it also takes on a deeper meaning when we take a closer look. God so desires our presence, our attention and our fellowship that He will arrange our lives in such a way as to have us all to Himself at times. He wants us to ‘know’ Him in all His fullness. His presence has an addictive quality to it. Once we have experienced it, we must have more of it. Nothing else can meet the need for His presence. We were created to live our lives in the presence of the Most High God. If we have never experienced it we will continue the search for the one thing that gives our life value. It’s His presence that we long for. I’m afraid that American Christianity may not be conducive to attracting His presence. We are too used to filling our lives with other things less important. In America we may not be desperate enough for His presence. I believe that it is as easy as making the declaration, “God, without Your presence, I’ll die.” He will come! He will do it every time! And every time that He does, you will never be the same.

    I have found that there are times that I can be surrounded by people who love me, people who will pray for me when I need prayer, people who will stand with me through the hard times and do anything for me that I need or request. All of that is very important to our humanity. But the Father, in His sovereignty, seems to enjoy having me in a place where nobody can really help me but Him. This is what I have found to be a genuine state of solitude. It is, at first, extremely uncomfortable! It is incredibly painful to the flesh. But what I eventually find is that He is there. He is there with the very thing that I need every single time. He always knows just what to say. He always knows exactly what to do. He sustains me when nothing else could. I am learning that these times are the best times in my life. I have become an addict in need of His presence.

 

Continued in the next issue…

 

 

Issues of Life #133

Life at the Next Level #43

Spiritual Growth - Solitude

 

“My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.”  Ps 62:5-7

 

    Henri Nouwen has become one of my very favorite authors over the past few years. Nouwen was a Catholic priest who had incredible perspective and insight into the topic of solitude. He was someone who practiced the discipline of solitude and subsequently and distinctly found the many benefits to be had. One of my favorite books of Nouwen’s is titled, “The Way of the Heart”. It’s a great little book. I heartily recommend this book for everyone. It’s one that will definitely change your life. In his section on ‘solitude’ Nouwen states, “When we enter into solitude we will often hear these two voices – the voice of the world and the voice of the Lord pulling us in two contrary directions. But if we keep returning faithfully to the place of solitude, the voice of the Lord will gradually become stronger and we will come to know and understand with mind and heart the peace we are searching for.” What Nouwen learned is that in the times of genuine solitude there is a struggle. First is the struggle of distraction. Our lives are so busy and we have so much to do that it is a formidable challenge when we search for solitude. Unless we discipline ourselves and ‘press on’ through those distractions we won’t find the treasure that’s there to be discovered.

    I have found that, for me, solitude is a necessary discipline that has helped me immensely in growing deeper in intimacy with the Father. It takes commitment, intensity, focus and persistence to really gain the best benefits from solitude. Get alone with no agenda except to encounter the presence of the Father. If you are serious you will learn to ignore and to ‘outlast’ the distractions. There’s not much in life that can match the enjoyment that you will experience when you learn to meet with the Lord in the quietness of solitude.

 

Continued in the next issue…

 

 

Issues of Life #134

Life at the Next Level #44

Spiritual Growth - Solitude

 

“My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.”  Ps 62:5-7

 

    I have recently found myself returning again and again to the place of solitude. I have experienced many of the benefits to be gleaned from that special time with the Lord. All the while that I have written these articles on solitude it saddens me, somewhat, to know that only a few who read this will actually take the time and effort needed to get the amazing value of genuine solitude. My opinion is that solitude is not just another option on the smorgasbord of spiritual disciplines but one that is necessary in achieving the depths of intimacy that God loves to have with us. Our world has trained us to demand the things that we want and to demand them NOW! We have busied ourselves past the art of ‘waiting’ on the Lord and by doing so we’ve obviously missed dozens of blessings as well as opportunities for the Lord to show Himself strong on our behalf. Somewhere along the way we must reconsider some of these ancient disciplines and make the necessary sacrifices so that we can begin, again, to glean the multiple benefits connected to the discipline of solitude.

    It is that intimate time that we have with the Father that actually sets the course of our lives. It is in that place of solitude that He is able to uncomplicated our lives with just His touch. It is in these times that we actually become who He has created us to be. We should seriously consider the discipline of solitude as a vital component in our trek toward spiritual growth.

 

Continued in the next issue…

 

 

Issues of Life #135

Life at the Next Level #45

Spiritual Growth – Learning to Relate to God as Father

 

 “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we could be called the children of God.” 1 John 3:1

 

    It is the simplest, yet most profound principle of our ‘new’ life. It is much of what the New Testament is all about and it has to be high on God’s list of things to do, to convince us that we are actually His children! Under the Old Covenant the relationship that the Israelites had with God was completely different than His relationship with us should be now. There was always a mediator, someone who had a personal relationship with God by virtue of God’s choosing. This person would be the middle man between God and man. Abraham and Moses are the first early examples of the mediator. Their encounters with the Most High God profoundly influenced them and they, in turn, would bring the things that God said to the people. This was God’s own plan but He had something much more intimate in mind for future generations. God’s own choice is that He would be our Father. It is the very essence of Who He is.

    Under the New Covenant, which the book of Hebrews refers to as a ‘better’ covenant, God wants to relate to people like us in a whole new way. In fact, Hebrews refers to it as a ‘new and living way’. We are to relate to Him as Father. He has taken care of all the details and all that we have to do is to trust Him by faith and allow Him to nurture us as His own children. There’s no excuse for not doing it.

    Many people run to and fro looking for their significance. Some have their relationship with the Bible; some have their relationship with the church. And while these are important pieces of the kingdom puzzle, both miss the mark! Our significance is found in the reality that we are His kids! He has chosen us!

    If you want the most out of your Christian existence it is vital that you engage in the process of learning to relate to God as Father.

 

Continued in the next issue…

 

 

Issues of Life #136

Life at the Next Level #46

Spiritual Growth – Learning to Relate to God as Father

 

 “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we could be called the children of God.” 1 John 3:1

 

    If we’re to get the most out of our spiritual existence we must start at square one. Much of the mystery of spiritual life can be immediately simplified when we take the instructions of Jesus as He taught the twelve to pray. Pray this way, he said, “Our Father which art in heaven”. Most of us have heard this and said this a thousand times and yet it is still possible to miss the emphasis that Jesus placed on this familiar prayer. “Our Father”, Yes, that’s what Jesus was saying; that plain old people like you and I have the opportunity to come to God exactly like Jesus, Himself does. It is the first time in the New Testament that we are given permission to relate to God as Father. We should take full advantage of the opportunity.

    God desires intimacy with His children and that intimacy only comes through our relating to Him as Father and learning to draw life from that relationship. Some would argue with that principle. In fact I often visit with people whose relationship seems to be with the Bible rather than with the Father. I have the greatest respect and reverence for the Word of God but it is not a substitute for relationship with Him. Jesus told the Pharisees, “You search the scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life, but you are not willing to come to Me that you might really have life.” If you can think about it this way: You don’t leave a great restaurant bragging on the menu. You leave talking about the meal! The Bible is the menu; Jesus (and our personal relationship with Him) is the meal! The Bible and the Truth therein is vital but its focus should be to enhance our relationship with the Father. Spiritual growth requires that we learn to relate to Him as Father.

 

Continued in the next issue…

 

 

Issues of Life #137

Life at the Next Level #47

Spiritual Growth – Learning to Relate to God as Father

 

“You search the Scriptures , for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

John 5:39-40

 

    Our relationship should not be with a book, even if the book is the Bible. We should not substitute our relationship with the Father with a lesser form of fellowship. I understand that this is somewhat hard for some people who have placed their dependence on the Bible. I sincerely don’t want to be offensive to you if you’re in that group of people but I do want to provoke you to think different. Jesus didn’t beat around the bush with the religious people of His day, the Pharisees. You see, they were possibly like some of you reading this article. They knew the Word, which at that particular time was what we now know as the Old Testament. They didn’t just know the Word, they were steeped in It. They began to add their own laws and rules to the Word of God.  In doing so Jesus told them that, “because of your tradition you have rendered the Word of God to no effect”. Their righteousness was based on their knowledge of the Word, yet Jesus told His followers that, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees you will by no means enter the kingdom of God.” He didn’t mess around with the religious lifelessness of the Pharisees. He met it head-on! Why do you think that Jesus made such a big deal of how the Pharisees communicated their religious values? I’ll tell you what it is; it is because they elevated their tradition and the Word above relationship with Him. The Old Testament words testified of Jesus, yet the Pharisees totally missed the Son of God walking in their midst! It could happen to you. You could get so entrenched in your religious tradition; you might even elevate the Word above relationship with Him. Those who do that will miss the ‘move of God’ in their generation!

 

Continued in the next issue…

 

 

Issues of Life #138

Life at the Next Level #48

Spiritual Growth – Learning to Relate to God as Father

 

“I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty." 2 Cor 6:18

 

            God wants to be Father. It’s Who He Is! And for us to draw the most of our existence on the planet we must learn to relate to Him as Father. As we move to the next level in our Christian lives spiritual growth becomes increasingly more important. As we further enter the ‘end times’, the Word declares that great deception will invade the earth. I believe that the first building block of spiritual growth, and the best safeguard against that deception, is the reality of learning to relate to God as Father.

            As has been written in this article recently, many people have inadvertently made their relationship with the Bible. The Bible is vitally important but not a substitute for relationship with the Father. I have an incredibly high regard for the Word, please don’t misquote me. His Word should enhance our actual relationship with Him.

            In like manner many have their relationship directed toward the church. This is, again, an incorrect response. The church, like the Bible, is equally important but should not be the focus of our relationship. The Bible never uses the word, ‘church’, to describe a building or a structure. It is always used to refer to a ‘people’. In other words, the church is not a building or an organization, but a people. If you take the people out of the ‘church’ building you don’t have a church, just a building. The church is not meant to be an organization, but an organism, something that is alive. It’s important to have a correct Biblical view of what the church is supposed to be. It is the ‘family of God’. But at its best, the church is not where we should direct the focus of our relationship. God longs for us to enter into the ‘secret place’ with Him. It’s all about relationship with the Father.

 

Continued in the next issue…

 

 

Issues of Life #139

Life at the Next Level #49

Spiritual Growth – Learning to Relate to God as Father

 

“I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty." 2 Cor. 6:18

 

    Our attention, focus and relationship should not be toward other things but directed toward God as Father. So, if it is that important to learn to relate to God as Father, just how do we do it? The first principle is to just receive the truth of it by faith. There is no other way to receive God, or the things of God, except by faith. So, by faith, we receive as Truth the reality that God desires to be our Father. It is that simple.

    Secondly, if we are going to learn to relate to Him as Father, we must keep it simple. Although God is a very complex being, the relationship that He has chosen to have with us is the simplest of all; that of a son or daughter in a loving relationship with a loving Father. Don’t overcomplicate it!

    Third, it is then a matter of engaging in a lifelong (actually eternal) process of learning what it means to be a son or daughter of God. We have the continual help of the Holy Spirit in this learning process. He knows better than we do how to bring us into the presence of the Father over and over again. As we do that we become more accustomed to the process. When we are confronted with the presence of God we will never be the same again. His presence has an addictive quality to it. Once we experience it we must have it again. That’s God’s desire; that we choose to come running after Him time after time. And that, in itself, is the key. We must keep running to Him. We must put our trust in Him. We must take time to voice our prayers to Him. We must allow Him to speak to us whatever is in His heart for us. We must give Him unlimited access to our lives. This is what it’s all about. So, make it a priority to learn to relate to God as Father and don’t forget to keep it simple!

 

Continued in the next issue…

 

 

Issues of Life #140

Life at the Next Level #50

Spiritual Growth – Learning to Relate to God as Father

 

“I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty." 2 Cor. 6:18

 

    In learning to relate to God as Father there are a couple of problems that seem to surface from time to time. For those who have had a good example of a father in the natural, relating to God in a parental way is usually fairly easy. But for those who have had a lesser example it can be extremely difficult. There are extreme cases where one’s father has been abusive, either verbally, physically and sometimes sexually. For this person to abandon himself to the Father, often, takes some major adjustments. I noticed this several years ago when I began teaching about relating to God as Father. I noticed as I preached that what should have been bringing life in individuals seemed to bring a measure of darkness instead. In pursuing why with certain individuals it became clear that what might be easy for one can be almost impossible for someone else. My investigation into this matter brought me to a profound discovery. The institution of fatherhood has been so under attack in our culture that we are now suffering from a lack of good, moral and spiritual men to be a positive example to their own family. It is as it was in Paul’s day, “For though you may have ten thousand instructors in Christ, you don’t have many fathers”. There’s a vacuum in our culture for fathers. Now they are needed more than ever before and they can’t be found. The lack of genuine, loving fathers is causing generations of individuals to be fearful of surrendering their hearts to their heavenly Father!

    The key to overcoming the effects of a bad dad is simple. It must be done by faith. We must choose to relate to Him as Father! When we make the choice, then there is adequate faith released in even the most wounded heart. That’s where the process begins.

 There is that spot in each of us that can’t be touched by our natural fathers no matter how good a dad that they were. We have a need for acceptance and validation from our heavenly Father. Don’t let a bad example ruin it for you! Abandon your heart to a Father that will never let you down!

 

Continued in the next issue…

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