Category Archives: Talking with God

Are You Passing This Class?

Acts 2:42

Commit yourself to good teaching.

A recent administration of the CLA+ (College Learning Assessment Plus) test, which attempts to determine how much college students developed their critical thinking skills over four years, provided, as usual, fairly discouraging results. Without sharing actual numbers, let’s just say that there are not very many schools who will be putting their results in any alumni brag magazines or recruitment materials.

I would expect that someone in those critical years, 18 to 22, working at Starbucks would make some significant gains in their ability to think and solve problems. How can college fail to accomplish that?

Before you start feeling all superior, here’s a parallel thought. How much spiritually “smarter” are you than four years ago? If you’ve been sitting under solid teaching for four years, shouldn’t you be developing your Christian IQ?

Unfortunately, many believers attend most every Sunday, but they do not actually commit themselves to solid Bible teaching. They don’t really pay attention to sermons and lessons, instead thinking about where to go out to lunch when the final space is filled in on the outline. And once they hit the parking lot, the materials have fled from their mind.

I know this to be true, because I’ve been that person. But I’ve also dedicated myself to Bible reading and study. The difference in results is amazing. When we commit ourselves to God’s Word, God uses that Word to make positive changes in our lives.

  • What grade would you give yourself on your commitment to good teaching?
  • What was the last Bible truth that you discovered and applied to your life?
  • Ask God to help you remain constant in your dedication to solid teaching from whatever source.

The Coffee Clutch

Acts 2:42

Commit yourself to fellowship.

Some people find this hard to believe, but I am not the most social person on this planet. Hanging out with my buds just doesn’t come naturally to me. I like people, but I have to make an effort to be normally social.

About a year ago, a couple of friends invited me to join them every Thursday morning at 6:30 at Benetti’s Coffee Experience in bustling downtown Raytown. Let me review the obstacles to this idea. First, in order to attend, I had to get up at 6:00 a.m. on a summer day when I didn’t really need to roll out of bed before noon. Second, it took me out of my comfort zone as an anti-social sort. Third, I don’t like coffee, and the idea of paying better than $3 for a cup of tea seems silly. Still I went, and today I wouldn’t miss it.

There are currently four of us. Sometimes only three make it. Sometimes someone else joins us. We’ll spend an hour to ninety minutes talking over matters. Some weeks are heavily spiritual, while others are much less so. We do not solve the world’s problems or actually accomplish anything tangible.

But here’s the thing. We know that we’re each trying to live Godly lives in a sinful flesh. As different as we are, we are in the same situation. And I’m convinced that any of these men would try to help me whenever I am in need, just as I would try to help them.

Even for an anti-social guy like me, Christianity is not an individual sport.

  • Are you naturally social or naturally unsocial? Does your inclination help or hinder your spiritual walk?
  • Who are the Christians with whom you spend your life beyond the boundaries of the church building?
  • Pray that God will help you to find or strengthen bonds of fellowship at every stage in your life.

Changing the Unchanging

1 John 5:14-15

Pray in God’s will.

Just between you and me, when I read the scripture for today, there’s a part of me that thinks that God sounds like a bit of a con man. It’s sort of like when you walk onto a car lot that brags that they let you “Name your own price.” That’s right, you can name any price you like, but only if it is a price that they like will it do you any good.

God will give you anything you ask as long as you ask Him for what He wants to give you. Isn’t He trying to have it both ways?

That’s a natural human way of looking at things. God will, I hope, forgive us for letting our minds drift in this direction, but it is not at all the whole story.

Prayer will not–in fact it cannot–change God. If God needed changing, that would be a problem, but God doesn’t need to change. Sometimes we’d like to bring Him around to our way of thinking, but in reality we don’t want that. If I could change God through my prayers, then He wouldn’t be much of a God.

Prayer will, however, change the world within the parameters of God’s will. And perhaps more importantly, prayer will change us. Genuine prayer–prayer in God’s will–brings us more firmly into that will. Regardless of other outcomes, being in God’s will is its own reward.

  • Do you have tendencies to pray for things that are clearly not in God’s will? What are they?
  • Have you experienced a correction to your prayers, making them conform with the will of God?
  • Ask God, as in Romans 12:2, to transform your mind to know His will perfectly.

The Cars on a Thousand Hills

Matthew 7:8-11

Ask of God as of a loving father.

Please don’t share this with my son, but I have been forming a plan for him. You see, Thomas is getting married in October. I’m very pleased. He’s pleased. She’s pleased. It’s all good.

Weddings, as you’re probably aware, can be really expensive; however, as the parents of the groom, we’re not finding it too burdensome, which is good because of a desire I have.

Thomas is driving a cast-off minivan with all manner of problems. One of those problems is that left sliding door is held closed by a strap. My desire is to sell the old clunker (which is still in my name) and buy the new couple a better car. Would I buy them a brand new, fancy-schmanzy car? No, but I’d love to put them behind the wheel of a more reliable, newer vehicle.

The problem is that I’m not sure my bank account can make this happen. The van won’t bring a huge sum, and our savings account has other demands on it. Still, I’d really love to make this happen.

My intentions are not as pure as God’s. There’s a part of me that looks at that money selfishly. My abilities are nowhere near as great as God’s. He can provide anything He wants.

If this sinful, limited father can have such positive intentions toward his son, what generous intentions will our sinless, unlimited Father have toward us. We just need to ask.

  • What results have you experienced when you ask God for worthwhile things?
  • Are there important matters in your life in which you don’t ask for God’s assistance?
  • Think of something important that you should ask of God. Then ask of it all this week. See where that goes.

Relative Stranger

John 15:7

Abide in God’s presence and His Word.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the scammers who call senior citizens. Apparently, the conversation goes something like this:

“Grandma?”

“Lester? Is that you?”

“Yes. I’m in trouble in Nairobi. I need $1,000 to get out of jail.”

“Oh dear! Did you call your father?”

“I can’t get him on the phone and I need it within the hour. Could you wire it to me?”

You can guess how the rest of this goes. Obviously this sort of ruse isn’t always going to work. Maybe Grandma doesn’t have any male grandchildren. Maybe she knows that Lester is actually in his apartment across town. The whole scam depends on grandparents not being well enough aware of their grandchildren’s lives to spot the deception.

Of course, for the con-man, it’s a numbers game. You make perhaps 100 calls a day, reaching maybe ten realistic targets. Of those, you get one who doesn’t see through the game and you’re suddenly $1000 richer.

I have four grandchildren. None of them is old enough to be traveling to Kenya independently (although a couple of them could conceivably run afoul of the law). Regardless, I would like to think that I know them all well enough that I’d recognize a voice not belonging to any of them. Hopefully I’ll always maintain that sort of relationship.

God will not be fooled when we come to Him asking for favors and trying to convince Him that we’re His best buds when in fact we’re rarely in contact. If we want results from God, we need to maintain our relationship carefully.

  • How much time to do you spend abiding with God through prayer and meditation? Is it a sufficient amount?
  • How regularly and meaningfully are you invested in the Word?
  • Pray that God will draw you closer to Him over the coming days.