Monday, January 10, 2011

Three Out Of Four Ain't Bad. Or Is It?

If there has ever been a time in my life where I need my “land healed” it is now. I don’t want to take up this entire post relating to you all the challenges in my life. Because you might utter some sort of expletive under your breath that starts with the word “holy”. And this blog is not about problems, it is about solutions. So I want to go straight to the source of the solution. And I spent most of the morning thinking about this one scripture:

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 (New King James Version)

Everyone who has been a Christian for any length of time knows this passage. It gets serious airplay on Christian radio teaching and preaching programs. And it definitely has been read at the start of every church fast I have ever had the privilege of being a part of. So why doesn’t it work at times? Why do we continue to be called to a fast, sing with raised hands, give beyond our ability, serve in mundane ways, and talk about God one to another; and yet there are parts of our “land” that never seem to be healed with any lasting, true healing. Once the emotion of Christian synergy wears off, we seem to be left standing in a field of defects and character flaws that glare in Gods face like a tailgating driver with his bright lights on?

I wonder if it is because this recipe for God’s healing doesn’t work without all of the parts being added to the mixing bowl. Have you ever made a cake without the egg? Ever eaten bread without the yeast? Chemical reactions most assuredly take all the right parts in all the right amounts to produce the desired effect. So I whipped out my Strong’s Concordance this morning to look at all four parts of this text in the original Hebrew language.

Part 1: Humble yourself. It pretty much means what you think it means: “to be humble, be humbled, be subdued, be brought down, be low, be under, be brought into subjection”. It also means to bend the knee. This word is translated “subdued” many times throughout the Old Testament when talking about an enemy being conquered. David subdued the Philistines in 2Samuel 8:1. I have done this at many different times in my life; mostly because God has done the humbling…and not me. But still there were several times of strong crying out to God. So I think I understand this part. Interestingly enough: this humbling will eventually take place for all people as every knee bows and every tongue confesses to Jesus.

Part 2: Pray. Yep, this is the easy one. Because the Hebrew word used here (palal) means “to intervene, interpose, pray”. Is there anything else that really needs to be said about prayer except “Just Do It”? In my life I have prayed lots. So when my land is unhealed, it must be either one of two things.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:3 (New King James Version)

Nope, that’s not it. Because all the times I have earnestly prayed for freedom in any area, it was not for my own pleasure, but for the pleasure of being a more pleasing creation to God. Just the converse is true: I don’t really pray for myself at all. I spend almost all of my prayer time in intercession for others. That is because of my dysfunctional belief that I am not worthy to receive anything good. When I’m sick I’ll pray for myself, but seldom at any other time. But that is another blog post also. So that is not a missing ingredient…at least not to me. So pray without ceasing.

I’m going to skip to Part 4: Turn from your wicked ways. That’s easy: “To turn back from or return to; to go or come back to”. It seems like the entire New Testament starting with John the Baptist and ending in Revelation with an angel flying through heaven has the same message of repentance. This one I truly get. I simply need to stop doing the sinful things that will keep me separated from God. And start doing the things that will bolster a relationship with him. I doubt there is anyone who reads this that doesn’t immediately have something come to mind that they either need to either stop or start doing. When we sin, we know it. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are out there “whoring it up” like the prodigal son with a bag of daddy’s money.

Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” James 4:17 (New Living Translation)

There are sins of omission and sins of commission. At least that’s what all the mega-preachers say. I think Part 3 is my missing ingredient.

Part 3: Seek My Face. Here’s what the Hebrew word “bagash” means: to seek, require, desire, exact, request. First of all, I’m not sure what the face of God is. I thought that no man could look upon the face of God and live. So when I asked my wife how that works, she didn’t hesitate to try to explain it to me. I just didn’t get it. She does. When I seek my lost car keys, I start an extensive search for a goal that I can easily picture in my mind. I go through my pockets and tear up the sofa cushions looking for them. And when I have found them, I can hold them in my hand. How will I know if I have found “God’s face”? What will that look like? I have heard His voice at times. I have even experienced miraculous touches from Him. But His face???? I haven’t a clue.

So here I sit typing this blog with a flat cake. It still tastes pretty good because three of the four ingredients are very sweet. I’m hoping that this week God comes down with the frosting. And I hope I get to lick the beater.

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Messenger of Sweat

The stretching mat at LA Fitness Gym is an interesting place to learn spiritual lessons. Before you discount that idea, think about something. As you stretch your hamstrings, you can look around at all the members of the club. And at the club I work out in, there is a wide range of potential physical champions ranging from young kids to geriatric plate bangers who have the spirit of the grim reaper himself hovering over them; as if to “spot them” while they push up that one last rep on the bench press.

So today was a cornucopia of delight where my people watching passions are concerned. It was what the military calls a “target rich environment”. There was a young man who is approximately one third my age; which incidentally put the exact same weight on his bench press bar that I do. Nothing deflates the fragile male ego faster than watching Mr. Punyverse effortlessly bang out more reps with the same weight as you do. There were the usual suspects of mirror watching, roided self obsessed Guidos. There was even a Barry White look alike who was wearing lots of bling to the gym. I noticed him because he shouted out something indicating that either he had turrets syndrome, or had dropped a dumbbell on his left testicle. It became apparent after careful observation that he was simply rapping along to the Ipod playing somebody obnoxious like Cee Low at 100 decibels into tiny Walmart ear buds. There was a “twenty something” normal looking girl on the leg abduction machine who constantly scanned the club with a shame based countenance, convinced that every man there was checking her out with a lustfully perverse fascination. I really don’t think anybody was even aware of her existence, other than me.

But the reason I mention this is because of two older men who owned the crunch machine for a while. Taking turns and exerting as little energy as possible, they made sure that nobody else had access to it. Possession is 9/10ths of the law they say. I was on the mat no more than 10 feet from them. And wasn’t even stealthy in my desire to eavesdrop. They rambled on about Ronald Reagan destroying this country, and something else that sounded like the adults on the Charlie Brown cartoons. Blah, blah, blah. Then I heard the word that immediately got my attention: Jesus. It seems that one of the men had been recently laid off from his job after many years of hard work and dedicated devotion to that business. And I noticed on his face something that I own and wear frequently. It’s the “everything’s going to be alright mask”. When men get scared, they usually put up a power façade. It’s the reason that barking dogs never bite. And also the reason that the wizard of Oz was really just an old man behind the curtain. And one man wore it proudly like a football jersey on a rabid fan at the Super Bowl. The other man was doing exactly what needed to be done: quoting scripture. He was relaying his own testimony of how he had been out of work for two years and somehow God always provided for him. He said that it was miraculous how people would give him things when he needed it most. He never lacked food, money, electricity, water, or anything that would be considered a “need”. It made me think of this scripture:

“I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread.” Psalm 37:25 (New King James Version)

I felt the pull of my quadriceps as I listened and pondered. They were unaware that I was taking in that message as if it were specifically given for me. It’s funny how God works that way. They moved on to the lat pull down machine, and I relocated to the elliptical rider. And hours later I sit here at my computer writing this to let you know that God knows exactly what you need, and when you need to hear it. You see, I have been put in a position this week where I need to trust God. And the first thing I did was to run put on my man mask. But deep down inside I needed to hear what the man said to his friend. He confirmed what my amazing wife had been saying from day one. The man rattled off scripture after scripture like an anointed Gatling gun. And you know how the word of God is, it doesn’t return void. It accomplishes everything that God wants it to accomplish.

“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11 (King James Version)

So I challenge you to not be a wimp where your knowledge of the Bible is concerned. And to speak it when you feel the tiny tug of prompting. You never know who might be listening in. And maybe some day you will come to an understanding of this great cloud of witnesses you are surrounded by, what you said, seeds you sowed, and fruit that was born because you had the courage to sharpen iron with your innate iron.

“The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry. And a wise friend's timely reprimand is like a gold ring slipped on your finger.” Proverbs 25:11 (The Message)