“. . .the Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”1 Samuel 16.7 NIV
“Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises!”
Psalm 47:6 NIV
“I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.17 You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.
Psalm 59:16-17 NIV
“Shout for joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name;
make his praise glorious. Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you.
4 All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you,
they sing the praises of your name.” Psalm 66:1-4 NIV
In each of these Scriptures, the writer is passionately crying out to God because he remembers what God has done for him in the past. The psalmist says
“I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.” Ps 143:5 NIV
This believer spends time just thinking about what God has done, and praising Him for His goodness. He is spending deliberate time thanking God for His mighty works, especially the ones God has done for him.
G. Campbell Morgan provides this anecdote: “There is a tale told of that great English actor Macready. An eminent preacher once said to him: ‘I wish you would explain to me something’. ‘Well, what is it? I don’t know that I can explain anything to a preacher.’ ‘What is the reason for the difference between you and me? You are appearing before crowds night after night with fiction, and the crowds come wherever you go. I am preaching the essential and unchangeable truth, and I am not getting any crowd at all.’ Macready’s answer was this: ‘This is quite simple. I can tell you the difference between us. I present my fiction as though it were truth; you present your truth as though it were fiction.’” G. Campbell Morgan, SermonSearch.com
It was a Thursday morning and we sat in our circle at the jail for Women Rising, one young woman spoke in anguish about the struggles in her life and how she couldn’t make any lasting change. She had been in this place many times. Her parents were guardians over her daughter which was the source of her deepest hurt and because of her choices for drugs and criminal behavior; she was not allowed to see her. Her passionate plea was recognized around the circle with many citing the same feelings. Everyone present was struggling with the same challenges to making lasting change. They all wanted something different but didn’t know how to get it. They had been reading the Scriptures and wanted to have Christ in their life fully. He represented everything they were looking for but they didn’t have a starting place on how to do that. “As the deer pants for water so my soul pants for You.” Psalm 42:1 “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” Psalm 84:2 “I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.” Psalm 143:6 “My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you.” Isaiah 26:9 These writers knew about the yearning in the spirit.
To them, each Scripture reference rang true and ministered to their thirsting spirits. They were clean from the drugs and wanted to stay that way. Their addictions were not only to the drugs but unhealthy, abusive partners who they enabled and took care of, thinking that they could fix them and that that was the only kind of love they could get. In that moment, I prayed for the Spirit to give me the right words. I felt that communicating just words to them to describe what I knew about Jesus Christ and walking in the spirit would be like me trying to describe the brilliant colors of the rainbow to someone who only saw in black and white. It must be experienced. Words just aren’t enough. I felt led to tell them that they couldn’t change anything on their own. From that moment on, they would have to let go of everything they were struggling with and just be silent before God, their Father in Heaven, accepting that, of themselves they could do nothing. Even with the ministry that is offered in the jail throughout the week showing them the important steps to take, they were struggling with the manifestation of miraculous change they wanted in their lives. There was one woman who was really trying to feel a spiritual renewal and we talked about all the years of abuse she had endured since childhood and how her self-truths about who she is had been distorted so someone else could control and dominate her for their benefit. Even the smallest evidence of the Spirit leading her was being denied and pushed away because she didn’t believe that God loved her personally or even knew she existed. This is where Satan, the power of this world and the Father of lies, can get the upper hand on someone who is trying to crawl out of the hole they’re in. Satan’s only power is deception, so our distorted self-image because of the lies we believe about ourselves, can really do the harm by us hopelessly continuing down a path of self-destruction. When I went back the next week, there had begun a visible change in her as she had begun to allow in the little miracles and leading of the Spirit she was beginning to see and experience.
In his book, Mere Christianity, author C. S. Lewis writes, “God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He, Himself, is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other.”
It must begin within us, seeing God’s truth about us with new eyes. The redefining of who we are must come about on God’s terms, not ours. Teaching the inmates to trust in this concept is very difficult as they have had every boundary violated since childhood by those whom they have trusted. Dan Kroesen in his writing titled “Prayer” tells us: “While prayer is a passionate search for God and the deliverance which He can offer, it reminds us that we are not in control. Through prayer, we are provided an opportunity to explore the will of God if we are willing to truly seek and willing to surrender. Mark 14:36 KJV records the words of Christ’s prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. ‘Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.’ Christ didn’t pray, ‘God, if you’re able to take this from me. . .’ He affirmed that ‘all things are possible,’ and then prayed, ‘God, if it is in your best interest to remove this suffering, please do so. But if it fulfills your purpose, that is what I want, too.’ This level of surrender does not come easily. Genuine surrender says, ‘Father, if this problem, pain, sickness, or circumstance is needed to fulfill your purpose and glory in my life or in another’s, please do so.’” Published in “The Witness” Spring, 2016
With situations like this, the Recovery Bibles with the Twelve-Step programs help so much. These are instances where this program is a champion of the lost. It gives them a place to start. It helps them to focus on one step at a time and begin to trust their Higher Power for everything. Listed here are the twelve steps in the Alcoholics Anonymous program:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
These steps can apply to any area in our life that is out of control.
One of the women told about her experiences praying with the inmates before they were discharged. Another woman told about reaching the bottom and not wanting to live any longer. She lived alone, isolated in a remote location but as she began to carry out the suicide with drug overdose and then slitting her wrists, somehow she was discovered before it was too late and taken to the hospital. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” Psalm of David, 139:1-10 (read the other 10 verses, they too, are excellent.)
We talked about her miracle and the message God was sending her through that remarkable experience. By the time I returned the next week, she had been discharged. I hope I will hear from her again. Something I hear over and over is how they are treated in church, where they feel they are continually judged and then abandoned. We have opportunities to help others just in the way we treat them. This may be one of the few windows of opportunity for them to be reached. I praise the church communities who are an oasis for the parched of spirit with life-giving water flowing from one to another.
Their thirsting and hunger for change and renewal – for resurrection was palpable. I discovered there to be more passion in their throes of anguish and regret than is probably in most of our church services of praise music and fervent sermons.
That morning, there was an extraordinary group of women before me. The love my assistant and I felt toward them spilled out in emotional expressions of hope and support to each one individually. Our singing was amazing, rising up freely beyond the concrete barriers: “Letting all those that put their trust in thee rejoice; letting them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them, letting all those who love thy name be joyful in thee, For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favor wilt thou compass (them) with a shield.” Psalm 5:11-12.
Wikipedia states: “Christianity, the Passion (from Latin: passionem “suffering, enduring”) is the short final period in the life of Jesus covering his entrance visit to Jerusalem and leading to his crucifixion on Mount Calvary, defining the climactic event central to Christian doctrine of Salvation History.” During the Passion period we see visceral hate from its lowest depths to love of the highest degree – Jesus, loving us when we were least loveable and laying down His life for us when it was beyond human understanding. Today, we only understand this love because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
“15 I know your deeds; you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were one or the other. 16 So because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of My mouth! 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have grown wealthy and need nothing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.…” Revelations 3:15-17
God would rather we were one or the other, hot or cold. Remember Saul of Tarsus who became known as Paul. Read about his passion starting in the book of Acts.
In the Scriptures . . . a teacher of the law, asks Jesus this question “Which of the commandments of God is first of all?” And Jesus responds: “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength – and — you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Matthew 22:36-40 NIV
Pastor J. Jeffrey Smead writes about passion:
“He (the teacher of the law) may have lacked something in his understanding of God’s law, in God’s will. Perhaps there was too much duty and routine in his life of obedience and not enough eagerness, not enough passion. Perhaps a bit too much holiness – and not enough compassion- not enough empathy. Whatever it is, there is a distance … a separation between the scribe and the Kingdom of God. The distance is enough for the Scribe, and for us, to hear the words “You are not far from the kingdom of God”. What causes this Passion to be implanted in our souls? What causes us to strive to be conformed to the image of Jesus? I have shared this story with some of you before. To me it sheds a light on why mature followers in the faith have a lifelong passion for Christ. One day, a young disciple of Christ desirous of wanting to become all that God has for him visited the home of an elderly Christian. He had heard that this old man over all the years had never lost his first love for Christ. The elderly man was sitting on the porch with his dog taking in a beautiful sunset. The young man posed this question: ‘Why is it, sir, that most Christians zealously chase after God during the first year or two after their conversion, but then fall into a complacent ritual of church once or twice a week and end up not looking any different than their neighbors who are not even Christians? I have heard you are not like that. I have been told that you have fervently sought after God throughout all these years. People see something in you that they do not see in most other people. What makes you different?’ The old man smiled and replied, ‘Let me tell you a story: One day I was sitting here quietly in the sun with my dog. Suddenly a large white rabbit ran across the yard right in front of us. Well, my dog jumped up, and took off after that big rabbit. He chased the rabbit over the hills with a passion. Soon, other dogs joined him, attracted by his barking. What a sight it was, as the pack of dogs ran barking across the creeks, up the stony embankments through thickets and through the thorns! Gradually, however, one by one, the other dogs dropped out of the pursuit, discouraged by the course and frustrated by the chase. Only my dog continued to hotly pursue the white rabbit. In that story, young man, lies the answer to your question.’ The young man sat in confused silence. Finally, he said, ‘Sir, I do not understand. What is the connection between the rabbit chase and the quest for God?’ ‘You fail to understand,” answered the well-seasoned old man, ‘because you failed to ask the obvious question. And that is ‘Why didn’t the other dogs continue on the chase?’ The answer to that question is. . ., they had not seen the rabbit.
Unless you see the prize, the chase is just too difficult. You will lack the passion and determination necessary to continue the chase.” You shall love. Beloved, how can we not love? How can we who have encountered the risen Christ do anything else but love and follow him! Only those who have encountered the Christ, who have seen the risen Lord have the commitment to continue the chase. Only then, will you passionately Love the Lord your God and Love your neighbor as yourself.’” End of quote by J. Jeffrey Smead
John 2:15-16 – Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18 – “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” “For I, says the Lord, will be a wall of fire around you and I will be the glory in your midst.” Zech 2:5
Have you seen the “Rabbit”?