Living Close to God…by Gene Edwards

Living Close to God (When You’re Not Good At It) by Gene Edwards was written for the spiritually handicapped. Edwards describes the “spiritually handicapped” as those who struggle with intimacy in their fellowship with God, who falls asleep during prayer, who has a difficult time focusing during prayer, or someone who lacks the “spirituality” displayed in other Christians.

The chapters are short and the text is easy to read and understand—even a new believer would be able to grasp the exercises suggested. Edwards explains how learning to fellowship with God need not be limited to rigid devotional times, or lengthy eloquent prayers. One doesn’t need a college degree, a high-school diploma, or even be able to read. Edwards makes some intriguing points concerning the education level of most of Jesus’ followers in the Bible, notably that they were 98 percent illiterate.

Living Close To God makes several suggestions to aid the “spiritually inept” in their journey to experience Jesus and hear His voice. Consistent throughout the book was the importance of slowing down–slowing way down–and speaking words of praise to Jesus. Edwards also talks at length about repeating portions of specific Scriptures out loud to God, along with proclaiming one’s love for God, rather than focusing on prayers of request or personal need.  The author makes several useful suggestions that may help the reader “remember” to focus on the Lord for at least a few seconds every day.

I believe a new Christian would benefit most from this book, or perhaps someone who finds it easy to read/study things about God, but hasn’t developed an intimate relationship with Him. The person who seems to be too busy to slow down or the person raised in a legalistic environment who focused solely on “doing” may also find the tips in Living Close To God helpful.

The only problems I had with this book were of feeling pity for the author and the constant redundancy of the text. He stated many times how he had never been told how to experience Jesus on an intimate level while repeating the same “techniques” to aid in intimacy over and over again. I found it difficult to accept that he had never heard about praying Scripture before. Edwards also talked about the church not coming together to experience the presence of Jesus in this way, and I had to disagree with that. I’ve been to many churches that pray Scripture, encourage slowing down, being still, and listening to God.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone I know mainly because my Christian friends already adopt the tips he suggested. As I mentioned before, however, it may be perfect for a new Christian or one who, like the author, has never been shown how to rest in God’s presence, listen to His voice, and spend time praising Him through word and song.

(I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group and was not required to give a good review.)

Who Are YOU?

Who are you?

Are you a parent? Are you spouse? Are you a musician?  Are you a lawyer? Are you a teacher? Are you a business man (or woman)?

Are you in recovery? Do you suffer with a chronic illness? Have you been abused? Are you a victim? Are you a survivor?

Who are you? How would you answer that question?

Most of us have identified ourselves through our circumstances, but there is a better way to live.

6 months ago if you had asked me that question I may have answered, “I am a recovering addict” or “I’ve survived a terrible illness” or even “I am a pianist”. Today, though, I would not answer that way.

Today I am a child of God, I am free, I am washed, I am clean, I am sanctified, I am pure, and I am righteous in His eyes. In other words, I am united with Christ, I am complete in Him, and He is my identity. I am a not a survivor; I am a Jesus follower who was brought through a painful illness. I am not a recovering addict; I am a redeemed sinner delivered from the bondage of chemicals. I am not a musician; I am a friend of God who enjoys worship through the expression of music.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in what we experience and use that as our identity. We put labels on ourselves and spew them out naturally in our conversations. We’ve been tricked into thinking what we do is who we are. We are not what we do, we are not what we’ve done, we are not our hobbies, we are not our passions, we are not our illnesses, we are not our failures; that is not who we are if we have placed our trust in Jesus.

We are disciples of Jesus who are in a process. We are saved by grace and being sanctified daily. We are loved, cherished, bought for, sought after, ravished with blessings, and free from condemnation. That friends, is who we are. We experience any number of difficult things in our lifetime, but we were never meant to use those experiences as our identity.

Am I a mom? Yes. I am a mother and a wife, but that is not my identity. My identity is solely enveloped in the person of Jesus and I am merely a vessel available for his use in various aspects of living. No doubt, he gives me numerous opportunities to rely on Him.

 “I was [those things] but now I am washed, I am sanctified, I am justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of my God.” (1 Cor. 6:11)

Personalizing Scripture is an excellent way to retrain your mind in understanding your identity. Turning “you” into “I” and “me” helps the brain make a connection from God’s word into daily living. Eventually it will be natural to claim your identity for what it really is. You’ll be less tempted to sulk in self-pity as a victim of your circumstances, but will be able to boldly proclaim the truth.

So, once again I ask, who are you?

 

Balancing Act

“Let my tongue sing about your word, for all your commands are right.” Psalm 119:172 NLT

Balancing Act

I have been wearing corrective lenses since I was in kindergarten. I remember the first time I wore them to school I was miserably teased. Throughout my growing up years I would continue to be teased for things such as my weight, glasses, and acne. I basically grew up with a distorted view of myself. God said one thing in his word, but I saw myself in a completely different way, based on the experiences my life had taught me. My focus was blurred.

Once I got to my early teens I recognized the need to lose weight or be condemned to a life as an outcast (in my mind that was my reality). What started off as diet and exercise developed into bulimia and self-mutilation; even attempted suicide. It took years of struggling with insecurity and doubt before I finally began to grasp how God made me truly was wonderful. It’s only been in the last couple of years that I have accepted my physical appearance and weight. I spent many hours in Psalm 139 pouring over passages about being fearfully and wonderfully made, but it never sank into my heart, it was a truth that remained in my head. As long as my focus remained on myself and my imperfections, I remained out of balance.

In much the same way we easily become out of balance when we approach the word of God. We often focus on our favorite passages and stay there. For some it’s Isaiah, some it’s Psalms, some it’s the Gospels. It’s easy to become out of balance when we don’t take in the word as a whole, how it was intended to be taken in. How many times have you seen a random verse be taken and used to support an idea you know to be contrary to the word of God as a whole?

Balance! We need balance!

I have been immersed in Psalm 119 for almost a year now, and surely over a year by the time this project is complete, and throughout this time I have not remained solely in this chapter or even this book. I have kept myself growing and learning through the resources of several other studies in other books of the Bible. God’s word was intended to be read as a whole, taken in as a whole, absorbed as a whole, and we often get confused when we take bits and pieces and build ideas and philosophies off of them. Let’s face it; there wouldn’t be dozens, if not hundreds of different religious denominations if there weren’t people interpreting Scriptures differently, with different focuses.

Psalm 119 is clear about one thing. Our focus should always be the word, not a chapter, or a verse, or even a book. Obviously we cannot read all of scripture at once, and sometimes “reading through the Bible in a year” type plans can be a little dry and aren’t necessarily for everyone (though I recommend doing it at least once), but we can certainly stay balanced in our studies by not focusing solely on one passage over and over in our personal time. Doing so is like allowing our spiritual lenses to become blurry and distorted.

The Psalmist declares “…all your commands are right.”

”All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable…” 2 Timothy 3:16

The word is right, the word is just, all the word profits, and the best way to stay balanced as a believer and continue to mature is to keep searching and learning and exploring passages new and fresh. Ask the Spirit to lead us to uncharted territory, books we’ve never read (Hezekiah anyone?!) or doctrines we’ve never studied. If nothing else, we can understand why we believe what we do even better, but as we search deeper into the word of God we will only be scratching the surface. We will discover the clever ways he has tied in his Old Testament prophecies, illustrations and stories with the coming of Jesus; we will see treasures never before uncovered due to apathy of what we didn’t know or fear of what we might not understand. There is enough in the righteous word of God to study for a lifetime! You might spend 30 days in this Psalm 119 devotional, and then move on to a Gospel, or perhaps an obscure Old Testament prophet! Be daring and try something new! You’ll be simply amazed at the intricacies of his word, and compelled to worship even more when you see every infinite detail! Truly you will want to let your tongue sing about the word!

Prayer

Lord, I ask that you keep me balanced as I spend time in your word. Keep me in your truth, guide me in your righteous word, and lead me in the studies you want me to participate in. Show me where I have been unbalanced in my spiritual life, perhaps focusing too much on one thing while neglecting something else. As I continue to walk in your ways today, convict me of any area that needs the corrective lens of your Holy Spirit to redirect my focus.