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Friday, October 28, 2011

Sure, You Prayed But Did You Inquire of the Lord?

Joshua 9:3-15 (ESV) 3 But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, 4 they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, 5 with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly. 6 And they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us.” 7 But the men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a covenant with you?” 8 They said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” And Joshua said to them, “Who are you? And where do you come from?” 9 They said to him, “From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God. For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt, 10 and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon the king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth. 11 So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country said to us, ‘Take provisions in your hand for the journey and go to meet them and say to them, “We are your servants. Come now, make a covenant with us.”’ 12 Here is our bread. It was still warm when we took it from our houses as our food for the journey on the day we set out to come to you, but now, behold, it is dry and crumbly. 13 These wineskins were new when we filled them, and behold, they have burst. And these garments and sandals of ours are worn out from the very long journey.” 14 So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD. 15 And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.
There are lots of times I don't ask for the Lord's will. For example, I didn't ask the Lord which shirt I should wear this morning. My wife would tell you that I should have, or, at least, asked her before I got dressed but I did it all by myself. Which shirt I wear today was not a concern for me so I didn't take it to the Lord. I don't think He was concerned either.

However, many times I need a "word" from God to tell me what I should do. The circumstances may be plain and the evidence on what I should do may be obvious but I still need to ask Him what I should do. These decisions have consequences. They need more than the cursory prayers said at the beginning and the end of church meetings. Those who want the Lord's will have to wait until the Lord answers them. There is a greater commitment here than merely saying a prayer. It takes patience.

Godly decisions cannot be determined by hearing the testimonies of others and examining the evidence alone. Surely, every con man knows that these "reasons" become the basis for running every con. Never forget, the "con" comes from the "con-fidence." Apparent evidence for great gain is at the heart of every con.

I had a member of a church I served come to me with great news. This person had won the grand prize in a national contest which would allow him to have more money than he had ever had. He wanted to give some of it to the church. However, the company awarding the prize told him that he must first pay the income tax on his winnings. All he needed to do was send them a check and the money would come. I told him that this was a scam. I told him that the IRS did not require anyone to pay taxes on money they had not yet earned. I called the police in this person's presence and had a policewoman tell me that this was a scam. He left my office feeling dejected and disappointed.

A few weeks later I learned that the guy sent the money anyway. The "prize awarding" company gave him phone numbers of people who could verify the need to send the tax money in advance. He had made these calls and was assured that the whole process was legitimate. Of course, he never received anything from his winnings.

Now, I believe he prayed about it. That is, I believe he said a prayer. I know he didn't wait for a word from the Lord because he was listening to the lies of the "company" and the evidence of the "testimonies" of supposed past winners.

So, how do you hear this word form God? You first make a commitment to do nothing until you hear from God. This humbles you because you simply can't do what you want when you want to do it. You place yourself as a servant of the Lord who does His will.

Then, listen for the Lord still speaks. Sometimes He uses godly people. Those who are walking with the Lord can bring you His word. Sometimes He uses your quiet time when your heart is fully listening to Him. He brings a scripture to you quiet time. He brings a word from the Spirit to you. He gives you an unexplained peace within your heart. Somehow you know that it is a word from God.

The greatest problems in my life were created when I said a prayer, listened to others and looked at the evidence but did not inquire of the Lord. Yes, I prayed but I didn't honestly ask; I told God what I wanted to hear. I accepted my own prayer as His word. I made sure that I heard what I wanted to hear.

Decisions cannot always be made by testimonies and evidence. They can't always be what others want you to do. Remember that Peter, out of his love for Jesus, rebuked Jesus for saying He would go to Jerusalem to die. This is the same man who, not so long before, had the revelation that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus had blessed him for his faith in Jesus as the Christ but he rebukes Peter in the greatest possible way when Peter tells Jesus that He shouldn't die in Jerusalem. He calls Peter Satan and a stumbling block. He tells Peter that his mind is not set on what God wants but on what Peter wants.

Thus, if you are facing a decision which will have consequences, you must inquire of the Lord beyond merely praying. You must be willing to listen.

Are you listening now?


Anthony Chia said...

I guess this is one of the most difficult lessons for Man to learn. It is already bad at times, we do NOT bother to hear; we then do NOT really want to listen.

There is a difference between the 2 words, "hear" and "listen"; in Hebrew, "Shama" (H8085) comes in shades, with the light side as hearing, and the strongest as listening with intent to consent or grant or obey.

Shama was of course used on God as well as on men. In the Psalms, there were verses about God was hearing/listening or NOT, to our prayers. My own research tells me that God always hear, but He may NOT listen; that is putting it in simple English. You have to understand that in the native language, it is one word, "Shama", with shades.

Sometimes, we will come across believers wanting us to pray for them (there is nothing wrong with that, per se), saying that God will NOT hear them, but this remark is NOT quite right. God hears all the time, and He hears you, but He may NOT listen to you!

Ps 116:1-2 supports God hears all the time, and the Psalmist said he loved God because God heard (hear) him. God might NOT listen to him (listening to consent or grant), but the Psalmist was contented with God just hearing him. All believers should be clear about this: God hears you. That is why you are told to pray. That is why your God is different from the idols made by men, for they hear NOT.

But there is basis for the verse, that said, the prayer of righteous person avails much (James 5:16). You should ignore the overly grace preachers who teach that every believer is righteous all the time, and therefore, the prayer of every believer avails as much; there is no difference at all. If it is like that, why have the verse in, at all! Do NOT listen to them saying that James was directing the verse at non-believers. That is their standard way of perverting Scripture to tie to their flawed core theology of ALL the future sins of a believer had been forgiven of him AT his born-again moment, and NO more confession, repentance, and forgiveness required.

There is such a thing as a righteous believer and unrighteous believer, even though, all believers were justified at their respective born-agains. There is the imputed righteousness of Jesus, and there is the active righteousness from our living out from that state. Scripture said that we are NOT to be fooled, the one who live (does) righteous is righteous (1 John 3:7).

In addition, 1 Pet 3:12 said this:
"For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”"

You see, notwithstanding God is sovereign and does as He pleases, we are to be actively righteous. For if you are NOT so, it is NOT that God does NOT hear you (He hear you alright, but He may turn His face away from you), it is He cannot listen to consent or grant you what you want, for when you are actively UNrighteous, it is highly likely that you are NOT in agreement with God as to His thoughts, and what He wants done, including His timing. I often said, ultimately, our righteousness is all about being right with God; and it is what God considers right, in thoughts (will and desires), in actions and timing, that is right; and NOT what is right in our eyes. It is only when we are passively and actively righteous, that the likelihood of what is right in our eyes coincides with what is right in God's eyes. When that happens, why would God NOT want to give effect to our prayers; it is His will or desires too. This I called bull’s-eye prayer; and God answers bull’s-eye prayer (What if it is NOT bull’s-eye prayer; would God still answer? Possible, but it is purely by grace, and when it is such, it is entirely up to God. Please, I am NOT saying that God’s answering bull’s-eye prayer is NOT grace; it is just that the prayer is also loaded with it being matching His will or desires).

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Anthony Chia said...

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There are many exhortations in Scriptures indicative of a part that we have to play in our righteousness, so that we can be in agreement with God; God is holy and righteous God, we have to defer to Him, NOT the other way round. Here are some verses in support of the need for us to be actively righteous:

Ps 66:18 - "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;"
1 Pet 3:12 - "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
2 Tim 2:20-21 - "If a man cleanses himself from the latter [ignoble], he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work."

What am I getting at? What I am trying to put across, is that it is NOT like what some overly grace preachers tell us, “You just need to accept Jesus as Savior, once you have done that, you are forgiven AT your time of born-again, ALL your sins, including all your future sins, and you are completely righteous all the time, perfect even, and have the full mind of Christ; you no longer need to listen to your conscience, you just bask in grace, and you do not need to be bothered with people’s exhortation for you to do anything, good works or whatever, for that would be “works” and would be against the pure grace of God; purportedly, had you to do anything, you would have known, for you have the full mind of Christ or the Spirit of God would have let you know, and since you have no inclination (and if you have to think, “Should I or NOT”, don’t bother), you just continue to bask in grace, for that is the means and end of being a believer; just love God. Because of the core belief that all sins (incl. future ones) had been forgiven at born again, the Holy Spirit is said to be NEVER convicting a believer of sins or potentially sinful situations in his life; the Holy Spirit only convicts the believers of their righteousness. You have right standing, completely righteous before God; when God sees you, He only sees His Son, Jesus; right standing is all that matters, right living is a matter of the past! Many claimed they are led by the Spirit (for all who are led by the Spirits are sons of God; we better claim so too!), and they have this, and have that, and are blessed, but they do NOT explain how, but insist that we just believe in our identity. The “being led by the Spirit” is so simplified, and as result, mystified, with so many poor chaps, wondering if there are something wrong with themselves, for other “righteous ones” are claiming, purportedly, they are without struggles and without lack; or is it they are just NOT revealing them, or their blessing come by the ways of the world, including misleading others.”

Although trying to explain that we need to live righteous, both may NOT sound like simplifying matter, and making it any easier to hear from God, it is indeed the core exhortation of the Bible. You see, if we cannot accept that our God is a holy and righteous God, and so we are also to carry ourselves after our God, be holy as He is holy, and be righteous as He is righteous, how then can we be honestly praying according to His heartbeats, and if our prayers are NOT in sync with His ways, how can we expect Him to render His support for us.

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Anthony Chia said...

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If we truly fear our God and want to honor Him, we should be careful to check with Him (inquire of Him) if what we are thinking or wanting to do, is in anyway offensive to Him, after all, it is His holiness and righteousness that matters, NOT those of any others. But often, we do NOT do that; instead, we tell God what we want! If we are after God’s heart, we should be after what He wants. Do you honestly think you have the full mind of Christ? If NOT, shouldn’t you be asking Him, what He wants, out of your life, rather than what you want for your life, after all, our lives are NOT ours anymore, but His, when we accepted Him as our Lord and Saviour (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

I think we are all guilty of giving only lip-service to God; taking Him for granted, while insisting our eternal life and blessing! We still want to do our own things; Some even conveniently pervert Scriptures to suit their new found theology of faith that put all responsibility and accountability back on God, that since He has allowed one into salvation, He “die, die” must get him to Heaven, since, in the first place, he merited NOT, and so, purportedly, there cannot be anything that could forfeit his place in Heaven!

Seriously, back to the word, “Shama”, are we hearing but NOT listening? Are we NOT listening to obey? As applied to us, the strongest, “Shama” is that we are to listen to obey, if NOT, Jehovah is NOT Jehovah Shammah for you; the “Lord is there”, is NOT there. Why must He be there, when you won’t listen to Him!

First, our heart posture must right, and that is, that we want to do what the Lord wants done. God looks at the heart, we cannot fool God, so what if you went to church, went to the all night prayer, said a prayer; it is whose will you want done, yours or His, that matters?

Second, we must NOT run away with the idea that we know it all, that such and such, must be the rhema will of God for the moment or season. That is why we need to pray to God, talk to God, and ask Him. If we think we know it all, self-pride is at the door of the heart, we better be careful, for once self-pride takes root, God is opposing you. Yah, Scripture said God opposes the proud. Incidentally, the pact the Israelites did with the Gibeonites (Hivites) (Joshua 9) showed that perhaps, the Israelites then, their heart posture was NOT bend on wanting to do their own thing, but they erred in being they did NOT check with God if it was God’s rhema will for them to make pact with the Gibeonites. Had they inquired of God, perhaps, the LORD would have told them that the Gibeonites were deceivers. God still honored the pact; He accommodated the Israelites, and that was grace, perhaps, on the account that the Israelites were NOT intentionally bent on doing things their way (verse 7 was the clue), but rather they did NOT check back with God.

Thirdly, we must NOT treat God like a genie from the bottle; when we want something, we call on Him; other than that, we do NOT intend Him to be seen or heard. This was perhaps, where the Israelites failed in the Joshua 9 account. We are often guilty of excluding God from certain affairs of our lives. Yes, sometimes, it really doesn’t seem to matter if you should wear a blue or orange shirt to work. Yes, there is nothing spiritual about the color blue or orange!

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Anthony Chia said...

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But often times, what we decide to do, without consulting God, we are actually doing it/them, to our detriment. The Joshua 9 account showed it; I am assuming that God would have told them that the Gibeonites were indeed locals, which according to God’s original instruction, the locals were NOT to be enjoined to. It can also be that you are deliberately going against the will of God, although in this case (Joshua 9 account), it was NOT. You may think nothing about the blue or orange shirt, but actually, there is an important reason for involving God, even in such apparently non-spiritual matter, and that is you are treating yourself as a servant of God, to serve Him wherever you are, and at whatever time He desired. Who knows, it could be that God had previously whispered into the heart of one who had wanted to commit suicide that he would meet with someone wearing an orange shirt, but because you do NOT want God to be involved in your choice of colors, God simply used another who involved Him (in the choice of colors), to save a life. But please don’t go paranoia, and beating yourself up for failing to ask the Lord what color of underwear you should have worn this morning, or something like that; all I am saying is that a servant must be having the master’s business in mind, and would defer his own affairs to those of the master’s. Start small, and develop from there, bit by bit, until more of the compartments you put “No Entry” to the Holy Spirit, become open to the Spirit of God.

In my comment to Ps Prentis previous entry, I said one of the reasons we don’t pray is because we have developed enough NOT, longsuffering and perseverance, to wait for God to reply us or act on our case; so, we just go ahead and do things on our own, without consulting the Lord. I do NOT think there is a hard and fast rule, but the heart attitude should be, first we want to do God’s will and NOT our will, and then, we would like to serve God as He pleases, NOT at our convenience, at any time and any place, in whatever manner, and then we inquire of the Lord; the more important the matter, the longer we have to wait for an reply or wait for the Lord to act. Or we have to leave room for God to come in, in what we do. What I am saying is that you don’t have to spend as much time waiting on the Lord for an indication of what color of a shirt you should wear to office this morning, as compared to asking the Lord if you should date the girl always in red on Monday mornings, living in the opposite block. If you have asked what color, and no answer came back, just take it that this morning it is NOT important what color you wear; don’t wait 1 hour, you cannot do that, you will be late for work! But if the Spirit prompts you, orange, then wear orange, and don’t say, “I don’t feel like wearing orange, I want to wear blue.” Also, we must really make time for God, you really cannot say, “God, for the whole week, I will give one time, and it is on Sunday, in church, before service, and it is a “big” 10 mins; I will allocate 10 mins (10 mins for the entire week!)”

Well, Ps Prentis shared the same view that because we, all believers, are servants of the Lord, and so, we ought to take instructions from our master, but to commit to “do nothing until you hear from God”, that I believe got to be applied with only the more important matters. I am NOT necessarily saying Ps Prentis cannot be right, after all, perhaps, there are progressions one scales up, and I have NOT reached there yet; and so, I go small, starting with the more important matters.

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Anthony Chia said...

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As far as experience and testimonies, my positions have been a couple of things:

1. Theology and doctrines should be based on truths in the Word, NOT formulated from experience and testimonies.

2. Contemporary experience and testimonies are NOT of same status as those in the Word. What are in the Word, were selected through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and were very much part of the Word, but experience and testimonies outside of the Word, they only testify to the truths in the Word.

3. What we do or do NOT do, has to do with rhema will of God, and nothing to do with men’s past occurrences and testimonies per se. So, the order should be this: actual rhema will of God given; in its absence, discerned logos will of God as the rhema will; and in its absence, overall counsel of the Word.

As to experience and testimonies, they must testify to the categories involved; it is NOT a category in itself. Before we become a believer, it was one category in itself, but now that we are believer, it is subject to the will of God (rhema and logos) and the overall counsel of the Word. There is such thing as a gift of wisdom, and the one with the gift, is believed to be wise, but I caution people from over reliance on such individuals’ wisdom, for I do NOT believe the gift operation cannot be flawed (another subject, another time). It is wise to evaluate any such wisdom. Now, people’s words, you have to test them against the Word; your revelation too, can be subject to testing, by reviewing them with godly people; although at the end of the day, every view still needed to be weighed with the overall counsel of the Word; we just be humble and rightly we should be (humble) to subject our revelations to review; it does NOT mean that we must agree with result of the review, unless the reviewer is correct, that it is contradictory to the Word; but we do have to be humble to be subject to review.