Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Word Of God

I am on Day 3 of the prayer study, and I must say I am utterly astonished. What I find so astounding is that throughout the reading of the author’s content, I find my mind and heart go to one place – and I feel strongly about that place I have been taken. Then I get to the end, prepared to answer the questions she had laid before me, only to find that I am nowhere near the questions she has asked. My heart and mind went somewhere else entirely. Now I am stuck with a dilemma. Do I follow my heart and mind and focus my energy on what was unearthed, or do I set that aside and focus on the assignment?  

Guess what the answer is…BOTH. This does not thrill me, but when called…

So, here, on Paisley’s Wings, I am going to breakdown the reading and assignment offered by the prayer study. While I will make mention of where I went, I am going to write a separate article for Dove’s Landing to allow for an in depth insight into where God took me. This is so much more than I was expecting when I took on this endeavor, and I can only imagine what is to come as I progress further into this 13 week study. And how much time it is going to take! A part of me is thinking, ARGH! This is hard. I don’t want to do this work! The other part of me is humbled; seriously humbled. God has chosen me to share this study, and He is using this study to pull even more from me than I thought possible.

I have prayed for God to reveal my God given identity. I have no clue where this will lead. I can honestly say that The Paisley Butterfly blog site and this prayer study are certainly avenues of which God is using to reveal my God given self to myself. Does this make sense? I pray for something not expecting this prayer study to be a tool in God’s tool belt. What else is in there? The answer to this question frightens me and excites me. I know I have felt pushed and stretched and expanded beyond anything that I have ever felt remotely comfortable with. Yes, this is scary and difficult. I hyperventilate sometimes, or am at least close to it. I have no idea what I am doing. I don’t have any idea how God is going to use this improved me. I find myself stuck in a revolving circle of questions, wondering if I am hearing God, or if I am going against Him.  What is right? What is wrong? Does God really want me to do this? I talk with my mom, my sister, and most importantly, my husband. When I seek commune with my family, am I saying I don’t trust God? I struggle with this. Then I have to quiet my mind and my soul: Be StillI know in my heart of hearts that God gave us each other to communicate with each other, to work through difficult questions, and to further understand Him. Sometimes He uses those I open up to, to affirm what He has already told me. Sometimes, I want to hear that I should be running back into my hole so I don’t have to feel so uncomfortable, only to be told, No, go back out there and shine!

By the way, I was not expecting this post to become what it currently is. Please bear with me, as I bear myself to you. It will come full circle…

I look back at the past six months: We moved into a place of our own after 10 months of living with another family; I start a blog when I have absolutely no desire to partake in the online social community; I get a job serving people, being forced to share my personality and interact with strangers on weekly bases; I take Kit to the park, the library for story time, putting myself out there to interact with other parents. Basically, I have spent the majority of my son’s life protected from the world outside of my family, to be tossed out into the open with the intent of morphing from a borderline recluse to sharing my inner most thoughts and feelings. All of this change is in the blink of an eye. At least to me, that is how rapidly I see it. This is a huge transformation in an incredibly short time frame. I am freaking out. I am being pushed to reach out to others in every aspect of my life and it scares me. Though I am aware that God was preparing me for this during my time in Silence and Solitude.

But if I am to be transparent, I also love it! There has always been a part of me that has wanted to reach out to others, be outgoing, and not care what others will think of me. I don’t want to constantly sensor my every thought, word, or action. Yes, I want to be responsible, but not to the point that I am missing out on a very important part of life: connecting with people. I want to feel fulfilled, find like-minded and spirited people. I want to be opened up, inspired, and challenged. I want to be forced to think, be surprised, and experience life through the eyes of God. I want to remove the parts of me that learned to be timid, frightful, constantly apologetic, and worrisome. I no longer want to debilitate myself by concerning myself with the possibility of what others may or may not think, and focus on what God needs me to be and do. I want be carefree, effortless, romantic, funny, wise, and thoughtful.

So, how does this coincide with Day 3? I will tell you…

Day 3 begins with a list of bible verses with the intent of showing how God does not change His mind.

Numbers 23:19
God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

1 Samuel 15:29
He who is the Glory of Israel; does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.

Psalm 33:11
But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.

Psalm 119:89
I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

Ecclesiastes 3:14
I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

Ecclesiastes 7:13
Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?

Romans 11:29
For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.

Isaiah 31:2
He does not take back his words.

The purpose of these bible verses is to recognize the power behind The Word of God. His word is Truth. God knows all, and in knowing all is never surprised by the things that come to pass. He created the universe with His Word. He makes promises. He keeps those promises. That is His word. God has a plan that has been in effect since before the world was made. And that plan is to be in place well beyond the end of this world. God’s word is the ultimate in truth.

Then, I read about how in some places within scripture there appears to be a contradiction to the fact that God does not change His mind. The example used is Moses, found in Exodus 32:9-14:

9 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” 11 But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “O Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth;? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” 14 Then the Lord relented and did not bring his people the disaster he had threatened.

I read the entirety of chapter 32. I also read the notes provided in my bible.

Before the verses presented above, the people of Israel built an alter housing a calf made of gold, and began to worship it as if it was the god that saved them from the Egyptians. This was a false idol. They celebrated, made offerings, and began to revert to their old ways, ignoring the rules God had given them: “You shall not make yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below” (Exodus 20:4). This is what angered God. They became blind to God’s mercy and love, in their lost need to look upon something familiar, something that they created.

This transpires while Moses is on the mountain. When he came down from the mountain, with the two tablets possessing God’s writing, Moses was angered by the false idols and his people’s actions. He destroyed the idol, condensing it to a powder, and mixed it with water for them to drink. He asked Aaron, the man who collected all of the gold from the people to make the gold calf, why he did such a thing. Aaron had allowed the people to get out of control. Moses asked for those who are for the Lord, and the Levites rallied to him. Moses shared a command of God, and the Levites followed. God blessed them. Moses the next day went back up to the mountain asking God’s forgiveness of their sin with the gold calf.

34 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.” 35 And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.

In the prayer study, the author goes into detail about how God relented to Moses’ prayers to have mercy on His people. In the bible’s notes, the same idea is represented. These notes explain that God did not relent in the way you or I would in the discipline of our children, but that He relented in an effort to remain consistent in His mercy. God said He would change His ways if His people changed their ways, and they did, so God kept His word and changed His.

The prayer study poses this question: “How can we reconcile the sovereign and unchangeable purposes of God with the intercession of His people?” The reason this is confusing for many is because while they appear contradictory, they are both represented within scripture simultaneously, as truth.  

Now, during my readings of everything to do with the relenting of God to Moses’ plea to save the people, I did not have the thought that God changed His mind. Partly because I believe that prayer is about our hearts and minds being changed by God. Through prayer, we are opening a door for God to enter to change us. (This is the topic I will cover under the article to be found in Dove's Landing).

So, when I read through the content of Day 3 and the assignment to follow, what I saw, felt, and understood, is that God already knows the decisions we are going to make. He knew that the Israelites were going to sin in the form of creating a false idol upon freeing them from Egypt. He knew that after telling Moses He was going to destroy them that Moses would pray for God’s mercy upon them. He knew that when He told Moses that they had to change their ways in order for Him to change His, that His people would change their ways. What I see here is not God changing His mind, or even really relenting to our will, but providing an opportunity for us to show Him we choose Him and His ways. He gave Moses the opportunity to ask for mercy, inviting God to show His mercy to the Israelites. God gave the Israelites the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, and experience the punishment given by God knowing it would correct His people. I believe this exercise was about God allowing, aiding, in the change in the Israelite's minds and hearts, to align with God. Prayer is about changing our minds, our hearts. 

In the prayer study, point of view of this story is brought up. We are seeing things from the point of view from earth. The appearance that God changed is mind is apparent, but what really happened? Not much is touched beyond this thought. Then, the author goes into the logic that if Moses did change God's mind, then all of his prayers should have been answered. But they were not. The example given is that God would not allow Moses into the promised land, regardless of how much Moses prayed. 

We do not know God's mind. We do not know God's heart. We do not know God's plan. We do not know all that God sees, hears, and knows. We do not even know all that lies within our own hearts. We do know know what lies in the hearts of those around us. Only God knows the truth of each of us. Perception is not necessarily truth. The perception that God changed His mind choosing to relent to Moses' pleas to save the Israelites from destruction is not the truth. God always knows what He is doing, and He know the outcome before His actions are made known to us. 

Then I am asked to answer the following questions, answering yes or no (this is where I was blown away – my thoughts weren’t along the lines of God’s mind being changed):

Was Moses wiser and more merciful than God? No
Did God re-think His position? No
Did God surrender His sovereignty to Moses? No
Did Moses change God’s mind? No

Following the assignment, I see the familiar prayer:
 ~ Psalm 25:4-5 ~
4 Show me your ways, O Lord, 
teach me your paths;
5 guide me in your truth and teach me, 
for you are God my Savior.

The emphasis today is on the third and fourth words: Your ways. What I felt was. Your will, Your purpose
Based on my heart's understanding of the first four words of this prayer, the prayer within my heart reads: Reveal Your truth, my God given self, Your will,  and Your purpose.

Day 4 is a deeper look into all that has been introduced in Day 3...
For credit purposes, the Prayer Study I am using is: 
Live A Praying Life, New and Revised Anniversary Addition 
Jennifer Kennedy Dean ~ 
This is not an endorsement. This just happens to be the prayer study I am using, and I have decided to share my study experience, here on The Paisley Butterfly

My Bible: Life Application Study Bible, New International Version 
Why I like this bible: There are extensive notes on the verses. Each page has more notes:bible verse ratio. 

Here is a link to an online bible -- there are other online bibles out there, this one just happens to be the one I use most. 

Again, listing my bible references is not for the purpose of endorsement, but an effort to appropriate credit to materials used.

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