How should we pray before meals?
How do we please God?
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Some suggestions …
- Don’t expect Him to rubber-stamp all of your plans and actions, even if they are from a sincere desire to exercise your gifts and are consistent with Biblical principles and seem to be in His will. God is the Great Ruler but He is also the great Over-ruler. We need to develop humility when our plans don’t bear fruit and acceptance of God’s correction. Sometimes through our zeal we can even obstruct God’s plans, as in the story of the leper that Jesus healed.
A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: "See that you don't tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them." Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere. (Mark 1:40-45)
The key word here is instead, showing the effects of the leper not doing what he was told but, instead, telling everyone about Jesus, which actually had negative effects in this instance.
- Avoid intellectual battles with atheists on trying to prove the existence of God. You are unlikely to convert them, however good your arguments are, as the real blocks to accepting God are spiritual and emotional, rather than intellectual, despite what they may say or think. By doing so you are using Greek tools, following in the footsteps of Thomas Aquinas and Anselm, influenced by the rationalism promoted by Aristotle. It’s the heart that is the problem, not the mind. (Though there’s my book, The Truth is Out There, written for atheists and their ilk, to point them towards the evidence of God’s actions!)
The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." (Psalm 53:1)
- Don’t support any ministry that acts as if God is their servant rather than their Master. There used to be a TV ministry that went by the name of “What God can do for you”. How man-centred is that? Just another consumer choice, to compete alongside spiritualism, socialism and veganism.
About ten years ago something called “The Prayer of Jabez” appeared. Oy Vey, what a triumph of marketing. How a short passage of Scripture can be expanded into a how-to book, describing new ways to manipulate God and sell nine million copies, takes my breath away. Just keep that fella away from Psalm 119!
The prosperity preachers need at least one mention. To promote Christianity as a financial investment with guaranteed returns is a most awful corruption and an affront to everything the Gospel stands for. God does not bless little green prosperity handkerchiefs or heal through bottles of holy water. God is not a special guest invited to special gatherings. Yes, and he’s come all the way from Heaven, to perform his miracles and healings ... let’s put our hands together for ... (and please give generously). This is not to say that God doesn’t ever turn up at these meetings, as it’s part of His gracious nature to work out His plans despite our plans. And He’s never double-booked!
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. (2 Peter 2:1-3)
- Think before you speak. If God devoted one of His ten commandments to a dire warning about misusing His name, then we must sit up and take notice.
“Oh my God!”, “God help me” and their ilk can be heard in offices, homes and schools throughout the nations. God calls this blasphemy and there are consequences for such flippancies, so be warned. One place you’ll never hear this word (or read it) is in a synagogue or in a religious Jewish home.
Yes, you may say, it’s because they use the Hebrew word for it, you’re trying to trick me! No, religious Jews have such a reverence for God that they can’t even write or say His name. When a scribe was copying Scripture onto a new scroll and came across the name of God, he had to use a special quill to write this most holy of names.
In conversation these days, when referring to Him they use the word HaShem, which simply means “The Name”. They take the Third Commandment seriously! When they need to write His name down they miss out the vowel and write either G–d or L–rd. It is a practical reverence and, to be honest, for some it is borderline superstitious, but the intention is sincere.
Many Christians use the Lord’s name in vain without even realising it. Just exclaiming the name of God or Jesus, even if it is in code form or thinly disguised, is more of a casual disrespectfulness than a reverent invocation and one day you may have to stand in front of Him and explain yourself!
You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. (Exodus 20:7)
- Be thankful, in everything, not just at mealtimes, a practice that is not limited to Christians, but is practised by many faiths. Do we say grace when we snack between meals, or if we are eating alone with no-one to impress/satisfy or am I the only hypocrite here? The realisation that God is ever-present in our inner life as well as our comings and goings should provoke in us a sincere desire to thank Him for just about everything.
In Old Testament times, the thank offering was a spontaneous act, but it involved killing something, which may have taken a little of the spontaneity out of the act. We are under a better Covenant, sealed by the blood of Jesus, which ought to be in itself a reason for continuous praise and thanks. Nevertheless, I am endeavouring to be thankful in all things, acknowledging the One who makes it all possible, with a thank you, Lord, sometimes even out loud! We should strive towards spontaneity in this and not to allow it to become a ritual, otherwise it becomes an unacceptable sacrifice.
Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfil your vows to the Most High, (Psalm 50:14)
This list could go on forever, but the intention is to get us thinking Hebraically, in the sense of understanding that God, not us, is at the centre of everything. In time He will prompt us to many new ways to adjust our thinking, as long as we are open to the possibility of change.
Of course, a lot of this is plain to see and these few pointers may already be resonating with you. Hebraic thinking is what this book is all about and many of you may already be Hebraic in your thinking. You don’t have to be Jewish, or Messianic, or especially holy or have any other qualifications to do so. Hebraic thinking ought to be what being a Christian is all about and many of you may already have got it! If so, then rejoice in it, major reprogramming is not needed in your case, though it’s good to work through things that you may not have ever considered.
Above all we need to realise that we’re all in this together and God wants nothing more than Christian brothers and sisters to grow together in their understanding of Him. We also have a responsibility to bring as many others as possible into this journey, particularly those who have strayed off the path, usually through no fault of their own.
Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced. (Psalm 105:1-5)
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