“Shut in with God in a Secret Place,” a song of unknown authorship, invites me to create a space where I remove every distraction and focus entirely upon God. Truthfully, both removing and focusing are a challenge.
Exteriority may be the natural tendency of the sinful heart. Eve and Adam, after their disobedience, practiced exteriority when they hid from God. Maybe, without thinking, they “hid” their exterior.
Surely, our first parents knew their interiority sourced the broken relationship and took the greatest damage. The inclination of the heart, from then until now, is to build a false sense of security through personal emphasis on exteriority.
In hiding my exterior, maybe my shattered and paralyzed interior won’t be noticed. Maybe my idolatry, fraudulence, incompetence, and self preservation can hide from God too.
In the secret place with God I gain the faith to come out from my misbelief that I can and should hide my true heart condition. This same faith walks with me, broken and contrite, toward God.
In this journey toward God, I discover my fears are completely unwarranted.
“The quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise.” Gerald L. Sittser, A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss
In looking for those He will use greatly; God looks for those who are poor in spirit and who worship from poorness of spirit and in truth.
Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? 2 All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. Isaiah 66:1, 2a
Israel’s pride regarding their Temple is nonsensical. Creator God has no need of a man-made residence. The best we can do is to rearrange and create from what God has already created.
Material goods and exteriority do not attract God’s attention, favor, or blessing.
But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. Isaiah 66:2b
God reveals that He will look (notice, favor, bless) upon the person with three qualities: humility, contriteness, and trembles at God’s word.
Why is God attracted to humility? God’s humility of spirit is attracted to human humility of spirit.
- Jesus is the Word. John 1:14
- Jesus is Creator John 1:1-3
- Jesus is the Humility of God. Matthew 11:29
Why is God attracted to those who tremble at His word?
- Those who tremble respect the exceeding and glorious majesty of God.
- Those who tremble fear what God’s word reveals about them.
- Those who tremble fear the eternal outcome of breaking God’s word.
- Those who tremble fear that they might miss the promises of God’s word.
Consider potential opposites of humility, contrite, and trembles.
- Humility’s opposites include arrogant, conceit, vanity
- Contrite’s opposites include unremorseful and unresolved to solve the problem, no sense of guilt
- Tremble’s opposites include unfearful, non-reverential, steady
Listen – My Story
- Please share your Beatitude memory work with your Life Group. :0)
- When one of your friends places their faith in Christ for salvation, what emotions do you feel?
- Do you have a favorite Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames experience?
Learn – Digging Deeper
- Isaiah 66:1-2 speaks of the greatness of God as Creator and of His Word. Read Psalm 19.
- Talk about the greatness of God’s creation in verses 1-6.
- Talk about the greatness of God’s creative Word in verses 7–11.
- In view of God’s creation and God’s word, what are the author’s requests for his life? Verses 12-13
- Upon what should the author’s words and meditations be based? See answers to question 2, 3, and 4.
Life – Taking it Lift – Prayer
- Please share your 21 Days of Fasting and Prayer experiences. Pray for each other to keep the fast until Sunday, February 26.
- Please pray for each other to walk in humility, contriteness, and to tremble at God’s word.
- Please pray for God to reveal to you your role in our upcoming Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames ministry.
Taking it Home
- In response to this teaching, what action steps do you need to take this week?
- Would you like the members of your Life Group to help you with applying a component of this lesson?
Clayton Trotter is today’s Romans class instructor. This link is to his powerpoint notes.
Jesus invites me into poverty of spirit and reveals an almost immeasurable urgency by saying, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).”
The Living Word connects my entrance into the kingdom of heaven with being poor in spirit.
Why then do we exert so much energy, effort, and time to propping up our imagined spiritual assets? Why build a sense of righteousness on a non-existent foundation of self capacity? Why pretend before the All Knowing God?
This 21 Days of Fasting and Prayer I am inviting you into the place of contemplation pictured in the song, “Shut in with God in a Secret Place.”
The sweet Spirit of God begins to open our eyes to various props with which we avoid our total inability to effect salvation or right standing with God.
From my perspective, the largest and most significant prop we hold and that prohibits us from “taking hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us,” is “I.”
The western world has deified personal opinion. “I think” has become this generation’s “infallible and authoritative word of god.” The God of the Ten Commandments, 1 Corinthians 13, and the Beatitudes has been replaced by the false god of “my opinion.”
The “My Opinion Idol” is worshiped, even to the point of human sacrifice, by millions of folks who have been tricked into the myth of personal opinion transcendence.
However, this idolization of personal opinion is not a new practice.
The children of Israel did the same thing as recorded in Judges 21:25, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” It didn’t end well for Israel and it won’t end well for us.
Total surrender to the Word of God, the will of God, and the ways of God is the only antidote to this diabolical idol. I must be crucified with Christ! All the way on the cross. Dead to self entirely.
In your fasting and prayer closet, will you ask God to “tear down my idols of personal opinion so I stand totally dependent upon God and His grace?”
Day eight of our Twenty-One Days of Fasting and Prayer is being marked by an intensity of prayer and pursuit of God. Glory to God!
Our noon prayer meeting, last week, featured Dick Eastman’s “Hour that Changes the World” model of prayer. Starting today, for the rest of this week, we will be praying each noontime according to a prayer guide I have prepared called, RENEW. The renewal of God’s work within me is one of my great needs.
In our RENEW prayer time we will be considering these five components of renewal, 1. Return, 2. Enter, 3. Notice, 4. Engage, 5. Wonder.
Return Renewal begins with a returning of the whole heart to the Father.
- Luke 15:20 – The prodigal returns to Father
Enter Returning to the Father, we see that He has much for us to enter.
- Ezra 3:11-13 – Upon returning to Israel, they built the foundation of the Temple
Notice As we enter, we notice much about ourselves that must change.
- James 1:22-24 – Forgetting one’s own mirror image
Engage As changed persons, we fully engage ourselves in further renewal.
- Ezra 7:10 – Ezra had set his heart to study, do, and teach the word
Wonder Renewed and fully engaged, we see God’s wondrous graces
- Acts 13:41 – God is doing a work that scoffers won’t believe
- Acts 15:12 – People fall silent upon hearing the wonders of God
May God grant significant renewal to you and me as we humble ourselves in fasting and prayer.
Welcome to our study of the book of Romans.
The link below will take you to Dr. Perkins class notes for today’s Romans 8 teaching.
Today is the seventh day of our twenty-one days of fasting and prayer. May God grant you extra strength in your resolve to faithfully practice this Christian discipline.
We feel God has revealed that the next dimension God has for the MCA Church Network of Ministries is to be entered through fasting, prayer, and worship.
Today’s lesson considers various ways to blend our primary text, “Blessed are the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3), with our secondary text, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24).”
Blending these two texts together, we might say, “God is spirit, and blessed are those who worship Him with deep awareness of the truth that they are poor in spirit.” Consider and contrast Isaiah 57:15 with yourself.
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, By contrast, I am low of spirit
who inhabits eternity, I only inhabit time and space
whose name is Holy: My name is saved by grace
“I dwell in the high and holy place, God is above and beyond me
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit God stoops down to me
to revive the spirit of the lowly, When I encounter God, I revive
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
Consider and contrast the humility of God (Philippians 2:1-8) with human pride (Ezekiel 16:49, 50).
Have this mind among yourselves, Behold, this was the guilt of your sister
which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] Sodom, she and her daughters had
who, though he was in the form of God, arrogance, abundant food and careless
did not count equality with God ease, but she did not help the poor and
a thing to be grasped,[b] needy, “Thus they were haughty
but emptied himself, and committed abominations before me
by taking the form of a servant,[c] Therefore, I removed them when I saw it
being born in the likeness of men. And being
found in human form, he humbled himself by
becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
God-like humility is required to worship in spirit and in truth.
MCA Life Group Homework
Listen – My Story
- Last week we suggested that you begin to memorize the Beatitudes Matthew 5:2-12. How are you doing on memorizing scripture this week?
- In what ways, do you see pride in your life?
- Have you ever found humility in humiliation? Willing to tell your story?
Learn – Digging Deeper
- Does the Bible reveal fasting and prayer as a component of humility? Ezra 8:21
- True or False? Humility is a choice. 1 Peter 5:5,6
- True or False? God would never oppose me because I am a Christian. 1 Peter 5:5, 6
- True or False? Even though I am proud, I have God’s grace. 1 Peter 5:5, 6
- How does God respond to my choice to be humble? 1 Peter 5:5, 6
Life – Taking it Home
- In response to this teaching, what action steps do you need to take this week?
- Will you continue to memorizing Jesus’ Beatitudes? Matthew 5:2-12
- Will you commit to attending at least one of our prayer meetings this week? Monday through Friday 7 AM, Noon, and 7 PM options.
Lift – Prayer
- Our Twenty-One Days of Fasting and Prayer is now in week two. Would you like your Life Group to pray for you in this regard?
- During the Valentine’s season, most people think about the people they love. Will you pray for all marriages and relationships within the MCA Worship Community?
- Please pray for the MCA Youth Ministries as the teens prepare for the Fine Arts Festival.
Being “shut in with God in the secret place” often creates a life-shaking crisis of macro magnitude. For this reason I tend to run AWAY from long seasons of intense time with God, separated from my normal routines. What kind of crazy person would intentionally move toward a life-shaking crisis?
God, it seems, gets a big kick out of showing me all of the ways I prop my fragile self up with inferior goods and false beliefs. Knowing that my soul is susceptible to the wind and waves, I intuitively pursue the unmovable, permanent, and unshakeable.
My friend, Rick Enloe, told the story of a new resident of the USA Gulf Coast. Hearing that a hurricane was fast approaching, he immediately went to the beach to save his boat from the approaching storm. The best way (he figured) to secure his prized yacht was to tie it off to a large variety of unmovable, permanent, and unshakeable things.
He tied his prized possession to a towering tree, a boat house, and the dock. About this time an old experienced storm survivor was walking down the beach and said, “Howdy, friend. You are new around here, aren’t you?” Taken back, the guy says, “Yes. How can you tell?”
“Oh, that is easy. You have just tied your boat to everything the hurricane is about to destroy.”
Like the new boat owner, I have tied my life off to many a thing that I mistakenly believe has the power and groundedness to give me a sense of stability.
The scripture says, “My soul finds rest in God alone.” All the props I gather around myself are totally inadequate to provide even a hint of solidity.
It is so easy for me to falsely believe, “My soul finds rest in God and career or God and a retirement plan or God and good health.”
Listening to my life in a season of fasting and prayer allows me to hear God’s tender voice saying, “Son, career, retirement plans, and health are all very fragile gifts. Don’t cling to the gift. Hold strong and long to the Gift Giver.”
One by one God removes my inadequate props and I fear that my self can not survive. In that moment I learn again that my weakly gathered props are not supporting me, but I am supporting them with false hopes and beliefs.
God Himself and God alone is the unmovable, unshakeable, and permanent foundation for life.
As you fast and pray, I invite you to allow God to challenge your props. Tell yourself the truth. Only God is adequate.
I trust that you and I can live honestly before the Lord, prop free.
“It’s not until God is all you have that you understand that God is all you need.” When Pastor Gary Cox said these words many years ago I knew they had depth beyond my comprehension.
When one says, “All I need is God and ________ (job, spouse, busyness, friends, money, car, etc),” the “and” is truly saying,”God isn’t enough.” Whatever my “and” might be, it is an idol and a false god.
Being “shut in with God in a secret place” invites me to confront personal idolatry. As I fast, I notice my brain and body saying, “All I need is God and food.”
However, my spirit knows that if I never eat another calorie, but have God, I genuinely have more than enough.
Today, I confront the idolatry of food.
All I need is God.
Picture from http://www.lucyannmoll.com/say-no-flee-idolatry/
Quiet. Motionless. Focused. Solitude. Meditation. Listening.
To these, against the grain and pressures of life, you are invited by our Lord. Gently, Jesus calls you to seasons of significantly reduced internal and external stimuli so that you can hear, deep in your soul, the voice of the Father.
A song from my childhood begs for reflection on this first day of our fasting and prayer.
The disciples were praying for the power to fall
Ten days they did tarry, on God they did call
Then God sent His spirit to baptize them all
For they had been shut in with God
Shut in with God in a secret place
There in the spirit, beholding His face
Gaining new power to run in this race
Oh, I love to be shut in with God
Of all pleasant places on land or on sea
There’s no place on earth that is sweeter to me
Than to kneel at the feet of my Master and Lord
For there, I’ll be shut in with God
The pathway to Heaven, though rugged it may be
I’ll travel ’til my precious Saviour I’ll see
Then the gates of that city will open for me
And there I’ll be shut in with God
Listen to an old school version here.