Late last Spring I decided to do something I’ve never done before. I put aside my own understanding of things and I asked the Lord if I was deceived. You’re probably wondering what on earth I am talking about. What brought me to ask that question is something that Jesus told His disciples in 3 out of the 4 gospels. When they came to Him and asked Him about the signs of the end and when He would return again, the first thing He told them was “Take heed that no one deceives you” (Matthew 24:4, Mark 13:5, Luke 21:8). As I said, it is repeated 3 times, so I know that it must be important. The funny thing about deception is that it wouldn’t be deception if you know you are deceived. Think about that! So, I put on my big girl panties and asked the question: “Lord, am I deceived in some way?” I want to share with you one of the things He showed me over the course of these past weeks. Let me begin by asking you what may appear to be an off topic question, but really is not. Did you know that in order to bake something, such as a cake or bread, you have to use a specific formula? We call it a recipe but it is a formula because if you don’t use exact ingredients and exact amounts when baking, then the recipe won’t work. I forgot to add salt one day to my bread dough, and the bread didn’t have a good consistency. If you forget to add baking powder or soda to your cake, it won’t rise. So why am I talking about formulas? The first thing the Lord spoke to me about after I asked Him about being deceived, is that He is not a formula. He is not a recipe that requires certain ingredients to get a good result. He is a loving Father, who desires a relationship with each and every one of us. And yet, there are books, teachers and entire schools that teach formulas to get answers to prayer. He tells us to ask Him, to seek Him and to knock on the doors of heaven, but He never has us jump through hoops to get an answer. One of the Scriptures He gave me in response to my question is from 2 Corinthians 11:3, “But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ”. Following Jesus is simple, but it is not easy. He requires purity and devotion. He requires our whole heart, not just some of it. He is a jealous God. (for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Exodus 34:14) Satan likes a formula and if you can just figure out the correct formula that will appease him, then you can bypass a relationship with the living God. Let me repeat that. If you don’t want a relationship because that requires obedience, repentance, devotion, and other things that so many don’t want in these last days, then you come up with a formula to get what you want. If you don’t believe me then do a study on witch doctors and shaman. They all have formulas to appease the gods and if you find the correct concoction, the devil will leave you alone. In Exodus 32 we are told the story of Israel and how they made themselves a golden calf. They had Aaron, the priest of God, make this calf because Moses was taking too long on the mountain. How many times have we grown weary with waiting for our prayers to be answered, and looked elsewhere? If you continue to read the story, he molded a calf out of gold and guess what they called it? Jehovah! Yahweh, the eternal name of God! How many mental graven golden calves have I worshiped over the years, thinking that if I just follow them, I will get my answers quicker? Sooner. More easily? I think in the past, the Lord allowed some of these “Christian” formulas to work, because He is a kind and loving Father and He knew that many who tried the formulas, were ignorant, such as myself, and even innocent in their understanding of Him. But times have changed. I will be so bold as to say that any formula or recipe that you have to follow to get your prayers answered is based on witchcraft. Yes, there are witch doctors out there pretending to be Christians, giving us formulas to appease God. I was shocked that I actually own some of these books, have followed some of these teachings and wondered, why they are not working? So what did work for me? Simple devotion and telling my Father that I trust Him no matter what happens! I am loved and He is my Father. Jesus tells us in Luke 11:11-12 the following: “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?” I am His daughter, His beloved, and if I choose to trust Him, He answers my prayers, not necessarily when I want or how I want, but He listens and He answers. No formulas needed. Trust is not a feeling. Trust is a choice and trust requires me laying down my own understanding and my need to be in control, and allowing Him to be God.
I have a question for you. Now I want you to really think about this and take your time in coming up with an answer. Let’s say one morning you come out of your front door, leaving for work or whatever you have planned that day, and there is a protest on your walkway. The ants have banded together, they have signs and banners, and they are chanting at you. You’re wide awake now and you lean in to hear what they are saying. What you hear amazes you. They are telling you that they want your house and your property and they want you to move out. They say that they no longer believe you are the rightful owner. What would you do? I don’t think it would take you too long to go back into your garage and get out the raid. Am I right? I want to quote to you Psalm 2:1-3:
Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in piecesAnd cast away Their cords from us.”
Why am I comparing us humans to ants? Because I want you to see things from a different perspective. We look back at the generation that rejected Jesus and crucified Him and we wonder why they did that. But if you look at the circumstances they were in, under Roman occupation, you will quickly realize that they were looking for a Messiah who would come as king and deliver them from their enemies. They didn’t want a suffering servant who died for their sins. So they rejected Him. Fast forward two thousand years and I’m going to suggest that this generation, and perhaps a couple before us, don’t want a conquering King. No, I think we want a suffering servant. We want a docile lamb of God who takes away our sins, heals our diseases and makes us happy. We do not want a God who is King of kings and Lord of lords. Oh no, that would require repentance, humility and fear of the Lord. I don’t believe there is a whole lot of that left on the earth right now. Do you? But let’s go back to Psalm 2:4. Do you know what God does in response to the chanting and protests and breaking free from His rightful ownership of this earth? He laughs. I would say that is about right. I think if I had the ants protest on my property, I too would laugh. And yet, this generation teaches that God is not in control. It teaches that we are! This generation of leaders teaches us that the gospel is about your salvation. I’m sure you’re thinking, well isn’t it? No, actually the gospel is about the Kingdom of God. The “good news” is this: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth!” (Matthew 28:18) Yes, Jesus died for our sins, no question. But that is only part of the equation. Listen to what Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 24:14: “And this ‘gospel of the kingdom’ shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come”. He said “this gospel of the kingdom”, not this gospel of your salvation. So what is the good news? Jesus is the King who sits above all rule, authority and power. Period. We don’t like that however, so we come up with all kinds of beliefs and opinions and we twist the Scriptures to fit our desires. We blame the devil and we come up with all kinds of reasons for why the devil is actually in control, not God. And this year, of all years, makes no sense! I think that God is once again stepping into our little lives, and turning our tables over, and throwing out the money changers and rebuking the leaders and shutting down the churches and saying, “worship Me, and Me alone”! I believe that this year is God’s mercy, not His judgement. He is making it very easy right now to come back to Him and choose to make Him Lord of our lives. I personally don’t want to get sprayed with raid. Do you?
Have you ever thought to yourself, “If I could just understand what God is doing, I could trust Him more?” It’s easy to feel that way, especially in this year of so much confusion and turmoil. At first glance, it would seem to make a great deal of sense. But I want to show you something that God has been teaching me this year. If you look at the word “understand” in scripture, you’ll find that the first time it is used is in Genesis 3:6, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one “wise”, she took of its fruit and ate.” You’ll notice that the word used is wise, but in the original Hebrew that word also means “understand, to have insight, to be prudent, to prosper”. It is translated as wise only a few times and therefore it is easy to miss what is really being conveyed here. What the serpent was telling her is that if she ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she would understand God, and therefore be more like Him, and in effect be able to trust Him more. After all, if you know what is going on, if you understand the situation better, you can trust God and you in effect, become “like God”! It is the original lie. I think this year, of all the years I have lived on this earth has made the least amount of sense. I have been through tough years in my life, but the world still made sense. This year, if we are honest, makes no sense. So what do we do? How do we then live? I believe we need to go back to the scriptures and see what they say to us. If we look at the life of King David, I think we can learn from this man who slayed giants and was called a man after God’s own heart. In the Psalms David used the word “trust” 55 times. No matter what was happening in his life or in his world, David chose over and over again to trust God. Surely, he did not understand why he was anointed King by Samuel and then spent 13 years running for his life. Yet in the midst of the turmoil, confusion and sometimes fear, he chose to trust. How could he have done this? We are told in Psalm 119:97-100, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.” David loved God’s word (the law). David discovered that God’s commandments made him wiser than his enemies. He had more understanding than all his teachers because he meditated on God’s testimonies. And, David kept all of God’s instructions. His trust was in God alone! When the events of today made no sense to David, he focused on scripture and on what God had done in the past, on how He had been faithful to both him and Israel. Trust came before understanding. It has to. If I trust that He is good, that He is faithful, that He is in control, and that He loves me, then even when things happen that don’t make sense, I do not lean on my own understanding, as Satan would like me to, but instead I trust in Him. We are told not to lean on our own understanding and for good reason. Isaiah tells us in chapter 55:8-9 why: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” He knows things we don’t. He sees the hearts of men, we usually don’t. He sees my heart, and knows what I need. Not what I want, but what I need. And since I believe that He is for me and not against me, I can trust Him even when I don’t understand. And the wonderful thing about arriving at a place of complete trust, is that it is rest for my soul.