Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God


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Pandemic Perspective – Part 19 Offended

Psalm 139:23-24

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

We have become a culture that is easily offended. Why are so many quick to be offended, because we filter everything through our feelings and look at life based on how it affects us. If something hurts our feelings we are offended but do we stop to consider how we are living might be offensive to God? In Psalm 139 David asks God to reveal anything that is offensive because sometimes we don’t see what God sees. This prayer is not the easy or safe prayers we might prefer like God bless us, help us, protect us, God do this and God do that! Don’t get me wrong these are not bad prayers but they are safe prayers, because for the most part they allow us to keep our distance from God. What offends us is primarily outward focused but what offends God is inward its what is in the heart. Thats why in Luke 6:45 Jesus said, “What you say flows from what is in your heart.” Very few Christians pray this prayer because we are more comfortable focusing on others because it keeps the spotlight off of us. But David’s prayer here takes us out of our comfort zone. Interestingly it’s a prayer he prayed right after his enemies and God’s enemies were on the attack, accusing David of having wrong motives. Instead of fighting and defending himself, David turned to God and said SEARCH MY HEART! Our tendency when we are being attacked is to point out all the faults in others not to ask God to sift our hearts. There are four parts to his prayer starting first with discovery.

  • The first thing David prays is, “Search me, O God, and know my heart!”

You may wonder “why would we ask God to search our heart. This is not and exercise for God to discover what’s in our hearts, He already knows, this is for our discovery and benefit. We are asking God to reveal what is really going on in our hearts. When we don’t, we can fall into the trap of self-deception. But praying this prayer gives God the opportunity to show you some things about yourself which can bring you into a more intimate relationship with Him. It’s not safe, but it can make you so much closer to God. Do you know the real motives of your heart? Are you content with a surface faith or do you want God to reveal the cracks in the foundation that need to be dealt with?

  • Second David prays, “Try me and know my anxious thoughts!”

How many of us are really willing to ask God to open us up and reveal what’s really going on in our hearts? What is it that makes you anxious and afraid? Your job, the future, this pandemic, your health, a loved one? Why would we say, “God, show me my anxious thoughts?” Because what we fear the most reveals where we trust God the least. When we are willing to expose ourselves and pray this prayer not only will God better help us to understand our hearts but also what is holding us back from fully trusting Him. Maybe you recognize a sin issue which has been holding you back. Something you’ve been able to rationalize to yourself and maybe even with others. It might have to do with your home life, or work, or with a relationship. Whatever it is God is faithful and He will reveal it to you so that you can grow.

  • David now comes to the third part of the prayer, “And see if there be any offensive way in me.”

David is saying, God, while I’m being really vulnerable with you don’t just show me my fears but also anything within me that is offensive to you. How many of us are willing to ask this in prayer? This type of prayer takes courage, and many of us never pray this prayer because it requires a deep vulnerability and trust in God. The more I rest in my relationship with God the more willing I am to ask Him to show me what’s really going on in my life. Sadly, many of us have a surface relationship with God, He is more of an acquaintance than our heavenly Father. As a result, we are not really willing to go this deep and be this vulnerable. David asked God to show him anything that was displeasing to Him. Most of us focus on how we feel about everything around us but do we ever stop to ask God how He feels about it? Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to see your own sins and yet how easy it is to see everybody else’s? We tend to accuse others, and then we excuse ourselves. But the most common lies are the ones we tell ourselves. That’s why we need to have the courage to say, “Search my heart, God. Test me. Know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me.” God in His grace will point out any sin that is dwelling in our hearts. He will reveal anything that needs to be worked on. Anything that you are trying to deny, things you become defensive about. Don’t deny the truth, submit yourself to what God is trying to show you, and then have the courage to make the changes you need to make. Once God reveals what is really going on in your life confess it and asking God for forgiveness along with anyone else you may have hurt. This is the process of learning to depend on Christ. Maybe it’s an addiction issue, embrace His power to overcome your addiction. It could be a prideful heart; you need His power to be humbled and depend on Him. It might be a lust issue. You need His truth to renew your mind and transform your heart. Or what about a materialistic and greedy heart. If we love the things of this world then you need to fall so in love with Him, that this world is not your home, heaven is your home. Whatever God shows you; it always points directly to your need for Jesus. It takes courage to pray this prayer because when you do God will show you some things about yourself that need to change.

  • Lastly David ends his prayer with this, “And lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

God doesn’t just show us the problems but also the path. God’s way is always the everlasting way! His power, His strength, His courage, His hope, His grace, His love all of which will endure forever! Are you following the Father and His plan and path for your life or yours? In Psalm 23:3 David reminds me that I have a good shepherd that desires to, “guide me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” What if we worried more about offending God and less about being offended? Do you have the courage to pray, Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Pandemic Perspective – Part 18 Forgive or forgo

Matthew 6:12-15

“12 and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. 13 And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. 14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

When we look at the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11, we see Jesus disciples coming to Him and asking Him to teach them to pray. They saw Jesus not only communicating with God but communing with Him and they wanted what He had. So, Jesus taught them to pray and in Matthew 6 we have what we call the Lord’s prayer. Our problem is that we have turned the Lord’s Prayer into a formula for results when in reality it really provides a framework for relationship. The power is not in the words but in the One who hears them. Now for many a formula may not look that different than a framework, but there is a definite difference. Where a prayer formula focuses on the words we say, a prayer framework focuses on the One we say them to. Where a formula for prayer focuses on what we do, a framework focuses on who God is. Instead of the focus being on our action it’s on the Almighty where His character becomes central not our effort. How do you know when you are treating the Lord’s Prayer like a formula, you start using it as a means to get something rather than to get God. Getting something from God is not nearly as great as getting God. Some believe that saying the same thing over and over again somehow helps their prayers become more holy and reverent. But it’s not about repetition it’s about real conversation. When it comes to repetition there is only one part of the prayer that is repeated, that of forgiveness. This one concept was so important that Christ not only mentioned it in the Lord’s prayer he went back to comment on it, using three times more words to define what he said then he used to say it. When we come to the forgiveness piece of prayer, we need to understand that just like prayer forgiveness is not a formula it’s a process. The opposite of forgiveness is trying to make people pay. Right now, our country has become divided over the destructive and deadly disease of racism. We are supposed to treat everyone regardless of their social standing, economic status or skin color with dignity because all people have been created in God’s image. Yet there are those who chose to discriminate and put others down. Our nation has shifted from focusing on the future to looking at the past. What was once a melting pot is now a boiling pot. The question is are we going to be a nation of hatred or one of healing? That depends on whether we chose to focus on our feelings or on forgiveness. Forgiveness looks to the future where trying to make people pay looks at the past. Forgiveness is not about ignoring the hurts of the past it’s about not living there. Where forgiveness frees us trying to make others pay causes us to become stuck in the past. The problem is that revenge never satisfies it just leads to more hurt and pain. It tells us that we will feel better but in truth it leaves us stuck in the prison of our pain. What will we chose the freedom of forgiveness or the prison of making people pay, one is about the pain the other the possibilities. So how do we forgive, especially if those we are forgiving are unrepentant? We look to the Lord and His example. In Luke 23:34 as Jesus hung on the cross of Calvary He prayed: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing” Jesus forgave in the face of unrepentant hearts. Jesus understood why they were doing what they did and understanding why people do the things they do can help us as we take that big step towards forgiving them. The people that were bruising and abusing Jesus were broken, and just like us they suffered from the sickness of sin. When Jesus forgave His focus wasn’t on their faults it was on His Father. Instead of punishing people He prayed for and paid for them. How do we forgive, by focusing on the Father and His forgiveness. You see it’s when we seek His forgiveness and see the serious sickness of our own sin soaked hearts that we realize to withhold His forgiveness would be hypocritical. We forgive by and because of God’s grace. We may never forget, and it might not be good to but over time the memories will, through forgiveness and the Fathers faithfulness lose their power over us. At first forgiveness may not seem to make sense, but we need to remember that it will make a difference. We have a choice, we can forgive or hold onto the hurt and harbor the hate, but when we refuse to forgive, we need to remember that we also forgo the Fathers forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t easy but it’s not as hard as hating, because hating consumes the heart while forgiveness cures the heart. Are you going to put your energy into releasing or resenting? I have learned the hard way that when you have a hurt that needs to heal its best not to pick at it. Many of us carry more spiritual scars than we should because instead of prayer we turned to picking. Today the process our world presents us with for dealing with our disappointments and hurts revolves around revenge and retaliation. But hurting never brings healing, instead of bringing closure it brings chains. It not only adds fuel to the fire but pain to our prison. Seeking to right the wrongs with revenge is like trying to pacify the pain by drinking poison. What the world needs is the radical reconciling love of the Redeemer, and nothing represents our faith and points people to the Father as powerfully as forgiveness. The answer to the continual cultural conflict isn’t more money, education, or legislation it’s the Fathers forgiveness. We are a fallen people that first need to experience the Fathers forgiveness and then seek to extend it. 2000 years ago, Jesus entered and ended the debate on which lives matter when he died for all. Our greatest witness to the world probably isn’t going to be our words but our walk of forgives. Today as you petition the Father for forgiveness who are the people you need to present with His forgiveness? Because the practice of forgiveness is the most powerful and precious present that we can present to the world.