We Should Seek God’s Face as Opposed to His Hand? Really?

Have you heard that we should seek God’s face and not His hand? This means we ought to want Him for who He is and not what He can do for us. It sounds pretty spiritual on the surface. If I find myself only talking to God about personal concerns and not praying for anyone else, this would be a good reminder. But, I think this can be taken to an extreme. I’ve been thinking about seeking God for who He is as opposed to what He does for us, and my conclusion is that it’s not an either/or situation.

What if David and the other Psalmists thought it wasn’t good to ask God for temporal needs to be met? I think we wouldn’t have very many Psalms. The Psalms are quite a mixture of praise for who God is, as well as the things He’s done. There are also many cries for His help, and sometimes those are pretty desperate cries, wanting immediate help.

Another thing I thought about is the Lord’s Prayer. Like the Psalms, this pryaer is also a mixture of praise for who God is, as well as asking for our needs to be met. Since this prayer is the answer Jesus gave to the question of how we should pray, we are actually being instructed to go to God for our needs. And repeatedly, too. “Give us this day our daily bread” is surely a daily prayer which sometimes will include needs such as physical healing, a job, wanting a mate or a baby, or problems with a relationship. To ask God for the things we need, or even just want, acknowledges that He is our source for everything we have.

Joni Earekson Tada has found the balance, I think. I read her book, A Place of Healing, and also read an interview with her in Table Talk magazine (October 2011 issue). She has learned to enjoy “the Lord being…the Lord.” She also realizes that it’s not our natural state to seek God and He uses painful and difficult circumstances to draw us close to Him. We shouldn’t hold back because we have a need that is overwhelming everything else at the moment. God puts these things in our lives for His purposes and we need to go to Him when we have a need.

When we think of who we are and who God is, this isn’t like two friends on equal footing. You know how it is when you realize someone is only hanging out with you because of what you can do for them? If we go to God only when we need something and totally neglect Him otherwise, I think we haven’t realized who we are and who He is. I think the idea is that a Christian ought to be at God’s disposal, praising Him for who He is, praying for His will to be done, being willing to do His will. And we need to realize that we are dependent creatures.

I see this as a ‘both’ situation. I need God for who He is, but I also need to ask for daily needs to be met, and usually, if not always, that’s even more than once a day.

Happy Independence Day?

This is a sad 4th of July for me. It’s one thing to celebrate the beginning of our country, but quite another thing to realize what we have become. I can’t separate the two.

How can I celebrate a country that has allowed the President to have a “kill list” with any person who is merely suspected of being a terrorist on the list? They can be shot or a bomb dropped on them and anyone who is with them when it happens is just collateral damage. What happened to the rule of law, warrants for searches and charges being filed and a trial in a courtroom? We still have indefinite detention, and even if they didn’t detain American citizens (Do you trust them on this? I don’t.), but only non-citizens, what can be done to one will eventually be done to all. Anyone who participates in a protest can be suspected of terrorist activity. There doesn’t seem to be a definition of that word, terrorist. It seems to change with the circumstances and the whims of the accuser.

Our military is misused. We go to war to protect “our interests” rather than defending our country against foreign military attacks.  And speaking of the military – we have been militarizing our city police and county sheriffs. Look at the equipment these guys have these days. Tanks? Huge guns? Drones? OH…drones. Yes, those, too. Won’t be long and we will have thousands of them in our skies. They say this is to “keep us safe”?

Just writing something like this may land me on a list of some sort. I am complaining, after all. I’m looking back at how our founders didn’t trust big government and didn’t want a standing army. They didn’t want a government that could do to citizens even a fraction of what ours can, and does, do to us. I guess this article, along with all of our email, phone calls and whatever else they can gather up, will be in their huge database. If you wonder what I’m talking about, just do a search of “NSA database.”

We have a government agency in our airports that has a Ha-Ha I See You Naked Machine, which one can refuse to stand in front of and have their naked body viewed by a stranger, only to then be mauled by the gloved hands of a different stranger. The only basis for such invasive government activity seems to be that one is traveling. Even Henry Kissinger was groped by TSA agents who didn’t even recognize his name. This one truly turns the 4th Amendment on its head.

The abuses and losses just go on and on.

So, how did this mess happen? I read the other day that someone once asked Alexander Solzhenitsyn how Russia became a Communist state? What happened to allow that? His answer was that “the people forgot God.”

Now, if you have read much of my political or spiritual writings on this blog, you know that I am not in favor of making Christianity into a civil religion. I think when a country declares itself to be a “Christian Nation” and then behaves like ours does, invading countries that have not attacked us, going back on promises made to other countries and to groups of people who were fighting off dictators (ones we didn’t support),  just generally running over anyone who gets in our way, it gives Christianity a bad name worldwide. I don’t care if we have “In God We Trust” on our money, or not. I don’t care for the trappings of a show of religion. The church does not need the support of the state, and in fact, it seems to weaken the church when it has had that. The church, and all religions, only need the freedom to practice their beliefs and to speak out in the public square.

But, what happens when the people forget God? What happens when Christians forget about the dignity and reverence for life? What happens when they forget that all men are created in God’s image and deserve to be treated accordingly? They vote their pocketbook, that’s what. They look at their retirement accounts and want more regulation. We’ve got it, folks, and it’s intrusive.* They look at their bank accounts and vote for more welfare and care of every sort. We’ve got that, too. And everything we get takes something away. It takes our privacy and our dignity in being able to live our lives like adults who are able to care for themselves. We get protection that we need to be protected from.

So, now what we have is a President who has a “kill list” and local police who look like soldiers when they do raids and they act like soldiers, too. We have unreasonable searches in our airports and homes. Our papers (all our communications) are subject to the scrutiny of the federal government without our knowledge or consent. No dignity. No respect. This is what happens when we forget God.

*Someone showed me the questionnaire that is required by the Dodd-Frank Act. It asks not only about investments, but also, “For Natural Person, Estate, and Trust clients: Is the client, clients (sic) family member or other person who shares the client’s household a government official?” If the answer is “Yes” they want the name, relationship to the client, jurisdiction, etc.

Serendipity in Bible Reading

Last night I discovered a flow from one place to another, and then to a third, in the Bible that I’ve never noticed before. First, I’ll explain what I’ve been doing in my reading lately, since that has to do with how this was discovered.

Sometimes, like last year, I read through the Bible in a year, following a reading plan. On Saturday evening I would also read the chapter that our pastor would be preaching from the next day. He preaches straight through books, so it makes it easy to know where he’s going. I haven’t been reading by a plan this year. I’ve been reading a chapter of Proverbs each night that corresponds to whatever date is on the calendar. You can read the whole book 12 times through the year that way, only missing the last chapter a few times, unless you just tack it on when you come to the 30th day of the month. (I got that idea from a pastor years ago.)

I’ve also been reading the section that our pastor covered two weeks back, the one he preached from the past Sunday and the one where he will be on the coming Sunday. I read those in rotation, one chapter or section a night, starting with the one to come on Sunday evening. The way this works out has me reading through those three sections twice in the week, ending (for its third reading) with the part he will preach from the next day. This helps me keep things in mind that he has said in his sermons and helps me learn the books better.

Along with these two things, I read from another book, or section of a book. I read just sort of wherever I feel like reading, or I go to a subject that has been on my mind. A few weeks ago I started reading Romans. When I came to chapter 8 I just hung out there for several nights and kept reading it over and over. Then a few nights ago I saw Isaiah 53 when I was turning pages going from one place to another, and I stopped and read it. Two nights ago I read Isaiah 53 then went to Romans 8. That was pretty cool. But last night, seeing how Isaiah 53 ends and also seeing a note I had written in the margin, “John 17,” I decided to read that chapter then go to Romans. That’s when I saw an interesting progression and flow from Isaiah 53, to John 17, and then to Romans 8. Oh, man, I think I’ll hang out on this one for a while!

God Sure is Patient

While ago, I was doing something that involved reading. I can see better without my glasses when I’m reading so I took them off and laid them on my desk. When I put them back on there was something interfering with my eye. I thought it was hair behind the glasses and kept trying to get my hair out of my way. Nothing was changing, so I took my glasses off and saw a piece of tape on them. (I’m keeping a couple of tiny pieces of sparkly cut glass on this tape. It’s a long story.) The tape was on my desk and it had gotten stuck on my glasses. I immediately thought of something similar that happened years ago.

Once when I was newly married, I was complaining to myself about my husband. Not out loud. Just in my thoughts. But God hears our thoughts. As I was complaining in my head about him being tight-fisted with money (which he’s not!) I sat down on the edge of the bed. At that moment I saw a penny on the floor. When I bent over to pick it up, I bonked my eyeglasses on the nightstand. The first thing I thought was that I needed to get the nightstand out of my own eye before I tried to get a splinter out of my husband’s.(Matthew 7:3-5)

Today, I was complaining in my head, when I took my glasses off… I’ve GOT to learn this lesson!

One Christian’s Thoughts on Revolution in the Middle East

So the whole Middle East seems to be in an uproar. Starting in Tunisia and spreading to Egypt, and with rumblings in Algeria, Morocco, Yemen, and who knows where else? I have a friend in Iraq (who is working on bringing our soldiers home) who says everyone is in the streets demonstrating for electricity and clean water. Even in Iraq? They have a democracy, but it’s corrupt, and that’s why they don’t have decent utility service. I think that makes a good case for privately owned utilities, but that’s a different subject.

Everybody seems to think they know who started the uprising, and who is in control, and who will be running things once it’s all settled. As far as who started all this, I’ve heard everything from an executive at Google named Wael Ghonim, to George Soros, to the Muslim Brotherhood, to everyday people who are fed up with low wages, food shortages, and police and government brutality. I’ve even seen that supporters of George Bush give him credit for his “Freedom Agenda” causing all this. Boy, that’s a stretch.

So, here’s what I think: Revolution is very risky business. Any time a revolution starts it will either be instigated by people with a noble purpose, or people with an evil purpose. As things progress both groups will be involved. How it turns out may be nothing like the ones who started it had hoped for. Instigators, noble or otherwise, can lose control. I am praying for God to use this for His glory and the increase of His Kingdom. And for His Church world-wide to be able to say “It is well with my soul” and to remember that joy is our strength.

 

People Say, “They Call God ‘Allah’!”

Since I was told the other day that someone wants to discuss the beliefs of Muslims with me and it’s been awhile since I’ve read up on it, I decided it’s time to read a book that I picked up, probably at church, on Islam. The name of the book is “Answering Islam: The Crescent in the Light of the Cross” and it’s written by Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb. This book is not a defense of Islam; it’s a critique of the beliefs of Muslims, and offers a defense of the beliefs of Christians. If you want to discuss these things intelligently, it’d be best to educate yourself. I want to, so that is what I’m doing.

I am barely into it and already I’ve run into something that will answer the objection, “They call God ‘Allah’!” that some folks bring up. Ever wondered why they do that? It’s simple, really. It’s Arabic and it means “the Divinity.” They don’t speak English in Arabic countries. Even Christians who speak Arabic call God ‘Allah’.

The use of the word goes back to pre-Islamic times. It’s not something that Mohammed came up with. It’s not derogatory at all. And when an Islamic person speaks of God they are speaking of the same God the Christian is speaking of – the God of Moses and Jesus. We – Muslims and Christians – have a different concept of who God is, but we are speaking of the Creator of all things who is One God, not many gods.

Well, I think this is going to be a very interesting book. Norman Geisler is a Christian who has written many books on apologetics and Abdul Saleeb is a former Muslim who has studied the differences in Islam and Christianity. I’ll be reading this book with a highlighter and an ink pen in hand.

People Say “They all read the same book”

I am up early this morning and have slept only about four hours because I am astonished and frightened by the hatred I saw expressed in comments yesterday on Facebook regarding a news item. The link to the story said, “What should Texas students learn about Islam” and some of the reactions to that were awful. The Texas State Board of Education issued a resolution regarding Islam in textbooks. They said there are some history textbooks that devote more copy to Islam than to Christianity. The article didn’t say what was said about each religion. In comments some people said nothing should be taught about Islam and some said if anything was they would take their children out of public schools. People said Islam is a cult and not a religion and some even think all Muslims ought to be wiped out. People called each other names and yelled at one another over this. (In case you don’t know, to use all caps is yelling.) The article said none of the textbooks mentioned in the resolution are being used in Texas schools.

I find it odd that when I get into discussions over religious freedom and the lines are drawn, standing next to me so to speak, are a few Christians and a lot of agnostics, atheists and pagans. Across the line yelling at us and participating in the name-calling are a bunch of Christians.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life and no man comes to the Father except through me.” I believe this with all my heart. Having said that just to be clear, here are some of the things I’ve noticed.

People say, “They all read the same book.” Yes, Muslims all read the Koran. Christians all read the same Bible, too. And some wear white sheets with pointy hats and hate people who have a darker skin than they have or who follow a different religion. Some vote not to allow the sale of alcohol in their cities so that if they think it’s wrong to drink the stuff, no one else should be allowed to either. Some don’t believe it’s a sin for a man and a man or a woman and a woman to act like they are married to each other. I don’t agree with any of this and I am a Christian. We all read the same book.

This hatred toward Muslims reminds me of how it was in Germany before WWII, except the Jews were the ones who supposedly were going to destroy the country. I think some people don’t really look at history and current events with their eyes open. Can’t people see that the people in power who want more power create an enemy of the state and drum up hatred against that group? This is what happened to the Christians in the early days of Christianity in Rome. And if folks think that our military is willing to give their lives for only Christians to have First Amendment rights, they don’t understand the Constitution they claim we ought to follow. Some act as if every country doesn’t have Christianity as its civil religion, then God’s Kingdom is going to suffer. I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again – God’s Kingdom does not have political boundaries, it doesn’t have a flag and I’ll add that it’s not cultural. Talking about God and praying in public doesn’t make one a Christian. It only means we have the freedom to do such things.

My husband said that sometimes ignorance prevails, and as an example he pointed out what happened to Jesus. I sure hope ignorance doesn’t prevail in our country over the issue of religious freedom. Would you hide a Muslim in your attic?