IS THERE TIME?
As an author, with a key segment of my readers among seasoned Christian leaders and intercessors, I once questioned whether the crunch of everyday living and the demands of regularly speed-reading vast amounts of information didn’t result in a plague of spiritual A.D.D. (attention deficit disorder), even among such an elite readership.
While such an observation might raise the question of whether there is time, yet roughly 2000 years ago Jesus dealt with much the same issue of focus with Martha, observing that she was worried, anxious and distracted, but then cut to the chase observing that just one thing was really pertinent…. and her sister Mary had bypassed the distraction issues and had found and given her focus to the better portion.
Despite such hurdles, repeatedly for more than two decades, readers of my books and articles have written to express that the topics of my writings have indeed tapped that “better portion.”
So, as a Christian author, it would be contrary to my role as a writer to be negative on the value served in reading Christian books and blogs. However, such is the subtlety of spiritual A.D.D. When the priority of augmented reading replaces time in God’s Word and time with the Lord, it taps the focus issue Jesus addressed with Martha. The faith of the believer is not a philosophy but a relationship, one that requires a lifetime of giving keen priority to getting to know the Lord, His thoughts and His ways.
The story of Abraham represents a life devoted to this priority of coming to know Him. The Bible captures key glimpses of the interactions of Abraham’s responses to God’s thoughts and the resulting progression in the levels of Abraham’s God-consciousness that resulted from these engagements.
Jesus’ earthly ministry was the outworking of Him walking out what He gave priority to in the nights He spent sitting prayerfully with the Father, listening.
Such dependence on the unseen world, challenges not just our intellectual pride, but our trust and the perceived control of our lives driven by the illusion of our self-reliance. Toward the end of his life, the brilliant prophet Isaiah observed that for the One who knows our thoughts and deeds, that apart from Him, all our righteous works are as filthy rags.
It begins with our immersing our thoughts in His, which requires the priority of the time we spend with Him. Solomon knew and advised: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not unto your own understanding. Let all your ways be an acknowledgement of Him — and He will direct your paths.”
I recently was drawn to reread the classic, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” a short story that captures the place of the imagination in the life of one surrounded by the mundane and the toxic. Interestingly, Jesus also tapped the importance of the imagination, indicating it had a significant place, but giving warning to maintaining the boundaries because of the unharnessed potential of this realm of our imaginations. Merely entertaining bitterness and anger in our minds could cross the line into murder, as lust unleashed, in our minds, could become adultery. Sufficient focus given to God and His truth cleanses the triggers of such defilements.
The issue addresses not just whether we give personal time to the Lord and His Truth, but also whether our 21st century life-demands have left time for faith-focused daydreaming, of redirecting the intents of the distractions. The potential, if released according to Jesus, can move mountains. Or whether, by default, we simply have become held hostage by our culturally-driven ambitions, demands and the information-overload marking our day.
So, the issue can be not just the focus of our time, but the entrapment of the mundane. That was what Jesus was addressing to Martha. That was the amusing twist of the escape of Walter Mitty’s “secret life.” Yet, the focus Jesus gave to Mary’s priorities was not an escape, but a nudge into the gateway of what was captured in a book I read over 40 years ago: “The Adventure of Living.”
Paul Tournier was a French psychiatrist and a believer. His message was summed up in his book’s title that God intended our lives to be an adventure, with Him. Dr. Tournier, like others of his profession, dissected the elements comprising our thinking. James Thurber’s “Walter Mitty” further captured a dimension of our thinking, of our imaginations, which Jesus indicated needed to be harnessed and applied with a right focus, to live a meaningful and fruitful spiritual life.
The common thread from Thurber, Tournier and Jesus suggests that, unless we proactively take control of this thought process, that we’re subject to our journeys in life being seduced by and reduced to trivia — spiritual or otherwise, but trivia nonetheless.
The Path of Undisciplined Thoughts
The Bible is real. The historical stories it contains include examples that are warnings that result from the seduction of undisciplined thoughts. When, even the elect reduce their response to God to their own level, they have effectually short-circuited the process to hear from Him and be guided by His ways. If not contained it progressively reduces the ability to know Him.
To know Him begins with the poise of our soul, in our thoughts. It doesn’t take rocket-science to understand what the prophet Isaiah revealed: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are My ways your ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are above the earth, so are My thoughts above your thoughts.”
Yet, the challenge involves the undisciplined thoughts, that range from the mundane to the toxic. Scripture directed toward New Testament believers leaves no middle ground with the bar set at bringing every thought captive. Doing so requires a choice to cast down vain imaginations along with all, every chink in the armor, that might erode or defile the process of knowing Him.
After walking those years as a close member of His inner circle, when he should have known better, Peter waffled at a critical juncture when it appeared that the bottom had dropped out and Jesus had been taken captive. Then in facing Jesus after His resurrection, Jesus pointedly asked Peter: “Do you love me more than these?”
The Psalmist, who so intimately embraced the heart of God, offers the undefiled path into His presence, into the wonders of His thoughts and the adventure of living in harmony with Him — with the balance between His ways, His truth, an undivided heart and the fear of the Lord: “Teach me Your ways, O Lord, that I might walk in Your truth. Unite my heart to fear Your name.”
The Apostle James raises the issue of the gap existing between vain and pure religion. He notes that the double-minded are unstable in every area of their lives. His reference to being double-minded parallels the Psalmist’s description of the divided heart in need of being united.
James also notes that while idle talk may mask the double-mindedness, that the fruit will be evident as we walk out and apply the Truth as doers of the Word. The glue to the path is humility, integrity and honor. Yet James similarly notes that giving place to our entertaining our lusts gives entrance to the subtle downfall of our faith or what he describes as vain religion. Pure religion is the fruit of immersing and disciplining ourselves in His thoughts. It is where it starts, but is also the maintenance needed for the entire journey.
Heart Priorities and God Thoughts
Jesus said, “If anyone would serve Me, let him follow Me that where I am, there My servant may be also.” What the Lord was expressing in this passage is the place that one’s life priorities bear on their spiritual maturity. It’s not what we can do for Him, but rather that place in Him where we are in-sync with what He is doing. There’s a significant difference.
This passage unveils the stage of spiritual maturity that preceded His disciples becoming His friends. He defined His friends as those with whom He shares His inner-most thoughts and plans. These are the trusted ones being exposed to what Jesus described as the greater love. The greater love entails the priority given the relationship that results in the willingness to sacrifice themselves for the relationship. THIS represents the stage in the relationship to where our priorities begin to align with His. It’s where our thoughts are illuminated to the level that they begin to merge with His.
Illuminating Our Thoughts
Within communication theory is a construct referred to as inferential leaps. This is where one infers a conclusion from what is said, that makes a leap from an inference that draws a conclusion that bypasses being built upon progressing from one point to another.
Often this dynamic is the product of one with a keen intellect. However, where the jumping to conclusions tends toward misfiring, it can be a reflection of spiritual defilements such as unhealed brokenness, undealt-with bitterness or an ungodly influence. Spiritually speaking, when dealing with God’s thoughts, the mode involves inferential leaps because of the merging of our thoughts with His and because His thoughts are on such a higher level.
Over two decades ago, during the process in which the Lord took me through the needed preparation for the SIGN ministry, the Lord instructed me that I was not to be reading about or listening to tapes on the subjects reflecting the scope of what the SIGN messages were targeting. In other words, the source of input for what I’d be writing about was limited to what I found in the Word of God and what I was discerning from the Holy Spirit in my prayer closet. The quest was for His heart and the better portion.
Keep in mind, I had many years prior gone through the academic and spiritual preparation for ministry and since that time had spent almost a quarter of a century maturing as a serious intercessor and marketplace pioneer. Yet, what this new stage in my walk with Him reflected was a much sharper exposure to the priorities of His heart. It also began a greater honing of my listening skills.
Scripture describes David as a man after God’s heart. From his time as a shepherd boy, he sought His presence. He earnestly yearned to know God’s heart. To do so required a listening heart.
What he captured in the psalms that he wrote give a glimpse into the marvels of his exchange with the Lord. Psalm 15, a very brief but potent psalm, especially grasps the dynamics of David’s abiding, listening and exchanges with God. At the core of this psalm is a key to the purity of this process, which David described as “walking with integrity and speaking truth in his own heart.” One’s quest for truth will fall short until they can face it in their own heart.
We learn from the latter part of his life, when turning the kingdom over to Solomon that David not only wrote psalms that captured the wonders of what he was discerning while with the Lord, but he journaled the plans for building the kingdom that came from his time with the Lord. The priority he gave to God involves this proactive means of discerning and embracing the glimmers from these precious interactions and exposures to God’s heart.
Going back to the relationship, relationships take time and to operate beyond the mundane they take priority. I have often pondered on the intensity that must have accompanied those of Jesus’ inner circle. These relationships with Jesus went through a process that took them from being believers to disciples, and then to becoming servants. From servants they became friends before being considered as sons. The transition between the time of being servants and friends was significant.
Becoming His friends entailed a level of love that could only operate on trust. It was the level that Jesus described as a “greater love” that would be willing to sacrifice all for the relationship. This was the place to where Jesus extended the trust to allow those who had been serving Him to gain entrance into His inner-most thoughts and plans.
The challenge for the “better portion” is in part, one of culture. Jesus responded to practicing sinners, as well as the demon-possessed with gentleness and kindness and the Kingdom standard. These were those at the brink of the first stage of the relationship.
However, the reason scripture refers to God “blotting out” our iniquities is because iniquities are those socially or culturally-acceptable sins that, as a community, we have become blind to. We are called to be in the world, but not of the world. In other words, the Lord has observed that our lives are ones to be lived as a culture within a culture. As such, we are game-changers, because as representatives of Kingdom culture, we uphold a different standard as we live by that different standard.
The Phillip’s translation of Paul’s words to the Romans admonishes: “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.” As the relationship progresses, becoming friends of Jesus entails a cultural identity and purpose that carries a cost. It suggests the question Jesus posed to Peter: “Do you love Me more than these?” Jesus observed that: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Responding to the trust of that greater love of being His friend entails a great responsibility. The only ones Jesus was ever harsh with were those who should have known better, who as spiritual leaders adversely influenced those seeking to enter the Kingdom by culturally modifying the Kingdom-standards with the precepts of men.
This relationship process defines what we refer to as spiritual maturity. It is the advancement to the place beyond self that punctuates Jesus’ truth of “whoever loves his life will lose it.” Moses expressed God’s heart of seeing His people grow to this level as a community. Paul likewise wrote the Ephesians of the time when our God-consciousness and focus would be as one, as the game-changing, glorious church.
The final step of becoming sons (and daughters) is where His inner-most thoughts and plans become our inner-most thoughts and plans. This is the stage when it is no longer an issue of time and priorities, because His heart and priorities have become our heart and priorities. When, as a Body, the ripples of spiritual maturity begin taking root at this level, it will mark the Apostle’s prophetic insight expressed to the Romans that “Creation itself longs for the revealing of the sons of God that it might be delivered from the bondage of corruption.” Now and then, this is the place beyond the press of time, beyond the mundane and the toxic, where we experience Life in the realm of the “better portion.”
Morris Ruddick has been a forerunner and spokesman for the higher dimensions of business leadership since the mid-90s. As founder of Global Initiatives Foundation and designer of the God’s Economy Entrepreneurial Equippers Program, Mr. Ruddick imparts hope and equips economic community builders to be blessed to be a blessing where God’s light is dim in diverse regions around the globe.
He is author of “The Joseph-Daniel Calling;” “Gods Economy, Israel and the Nations;” “The Heart of a King;” “Something More;” “Righteous Power in a Corrupt World;” “Leadership by Anointing;” and “Mantle of Fire,” which address the mobilization of business and governmental leaders with destinies to impact their communities. They are available in print and e-versions from www.Amazon.com, www.apple.com/ibooks and www.BarnesandNoble.com.
Global Initiatives Foundation (www.strategic-initiatives.org) is a tax-exempt 501 (c) 3 non-profit whose efforts are enabled by the generosity of a remnant of faithful friends and contributors whose vision aligns with God’s heart to mobilize economic community builders imparting influence and the blessings of God. Checks on US banks should be made out to Global Initiatives and mailed to PO Box 370291, Denver CO 80237 or by credit card at http://strategicintercession.org/support/
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2018 Copyright Morris Ruddick — firstname.lastname@example.org
Reproduction is prohibited unless permission is given by a SIGN advisor. Since early 1996, the Strategic Intercession Global Network (SIGN) has mobilized prophetic intercessors and leaders committed to targeting strategic-level issues impacting the Body on a global basis. For previous posts or more information on SIGN, check: http://www.strategicintercession.org