THE RIGHTEOUS ARE LIKE A TREE

TREE

The righteous are likened to trees in several Scriptures, and specifically to a palm tree in Psalm 92:12, “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.”

Palm trees grow in tropical climates, under conditions that would be deadly to some types of trees. But that which is deadly to another is life-giving to a palm.  In fact, the hotter it is the more the palm seems to flourish. The righteous flourish in heat—that is, in times of distress, trial, and persecution.

One of my favorite passages that likens believers to trees is Psalm 1. Look at verse one.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.”  The progression of walk, stand, sit points to the manner in which sin can progressively snare the soul.

We are not to walk “in the counsel of the ungodly”—which reflects ungodly values.  You talk about your marriage to somebody at work, and he says, “I wouldn’t put up with that, if I were you!”  The counsel of people in the world will always reflect their ungodly values.

We are not to stand “in the path of sinners”—which is a reference to ungodly morals.  It may be seem relatively harmless, on the surface, to join the men at work for a “guy’s night out,” but it’s dangerous to stand with others who are sinning, even if you are not sinning directly yourself.

And thirdly, we are not to sit “in the seat of the scornful”—this speaks of ungodly attitudes.  If we hang out with people of the world, we’ll begin to talk like them, and even think like them.

The psalmist proceeded to describe the godly man who avoids all that other stuff:  “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” (verses 2-3).

The godly man, the verse says, is like a tree.  When I think of a tree, I think of the following qualities:

1. Fruitful in season.  

The man of God goes through seasons.  Just like in the created order, we experience spring, summer, harvest, and winter.  Not all of life is characterized by harvest.  There are also dry seasons, cold seasons, damp seasons.  But the godly man progresses normally through all the seasons of life, and has a consistent history of fruitfulness at the right times.

2. Strong in dry times.

The man of God doesn’t always look good.  In winter, he may lose his leaves.  But mark this:  in the drought of summer his leaves never wither.  Grass nearby is parched and yellow, but the godly man is green and verdant—because his roots go down into the riverbed.  He has tapped into the lifesource of the Holy Spirit, and when others are withering, he is refreshed from a hidden water source.

3. Stands out as a landmark.

Trees are often used as landmarks because they stand tall against their surroundings.  Similarly, the godly man rises in stature and stands tall above the others who surround him.  Among the employees, he is exemplary.  He is an example to his family.  His life is noticeable, compelling, and noteworthy.

4. Unmoved by storms.

Like a tree, the man of God is shaken at times by the winds of life.  Difficulty might leave him really rocking.  But he’s never uprooted and moved.  He has longevity because he’s deeply rooted in the grace of God. Long after others have been moved off by this or that, he continues to stand, strong and stable.  He’s a pillar in his community because he has not succumbed to the popular temptation to pick up and move to another state at the first whiff of adversity.

5. Provides shade for others.

Because of the qualities of Jesus that radiate from the godly, he or she is a source of refreshing and relief to others.  A tree doesn’t have to try to provide shade, it just happens.  In the same way, the godly refresh the hearts of others continually and effortlessly.

6. “Whatever he does shall prosper.”

That is both a promise for the tough times, and a reality that will inevitably manifest.  He is blessed because he has found a place of special affection in the heart of God.  And in the final analysis, that is the ultimate reward of the godly:  the smile of Jesus.

NEW FILM – I AM WITH YOU

I am with you blog pic

Two years after my debilitating vocal injury, I found myself in the darkest place of my life, groping for answers and reaching desperately to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. It was there, in my darkest hour, that the Lord gave me a sign of His nearness and favor that I will never forget.

Click here to watch the film.

Film by Joel Sorge
Music by JoJo Riddering

LESSONS FROM JACOB – COMPLETE SERIES

lessons from jacob full

Waiting on God

Jacob was the only person in Genesis to talk about waiting on God. While prophesying over his sons, he stopped to exclaim, “I have waited for your salvation, O LORD!” (Gen. 49:18). The statement appears out of place in its context, but when you realize how waiting was so central to Jacob’s story, it makes sense. Even though it took many years, eventually he saw the day when God sent from heaven and saved him.

After Jacob, the Scriptures are virtually silent on the discipline of waiting on God until the advent of David. The whole thing burst to life in David’s writings. David’s psalmist anointing, which was fueled from a place of long and loving meditation in the word, necessitated an awakening to waiting on God in His presence. Perhaps it is not accidental that as the first scriptural writer to place considerable focus on the grace of waiting, David was also very taken with Jacob. David mentions Jacob in his writings more than any other patriarch.

After David, the next Bible author to pick up the banner of waiting on God was Isaiah. Isaiah is “the king of wait.” Is it accidental that he mentions the name of Jacob forty-two times? Both David and Isaiah placed profound significance upon Jacob as an example for us to follow.

“Waiting” is an excellent word to summarize Jacob’s life. It’s true that over his span of 147 years he had some bell-ringing, catalytic moments. But the vast majority of his story was marked by extended periods of waiting on God. Brief bursts of divine activity were separated by vast expanses of virtual inactivity.

Actually, this is one of God’s signature ways. He separates His most outstanding works by protracted periods of seeming silence. Then, when He finally manifests His glory, it shines all the more brilliantly. Consider the lengthy span between each of God’s most outstanding wonders: from creation to the flood, to the exodus, to the return from exile, to the resurrection of Christ, and then to the future coming of Christ. There’s a long time between each of those six mighty events! It’s those prolonged lapses between His major activities that put the flair into the way God invades and redirects human history. The deafening silence of the thousands of years between each mighty intervention has rumbled throughout history in timpanic drumrolls of suspenseful anticipation.

The waiting seasons actually give God the room He needs to write the story. Those who demand resolution too hastily can forfeit the grandeur of what God was intending to write. By taking things into your own hands prematurely, you can undermine the basis upon which God was planning to write your last, great chapter.

For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, who acts for the one who waits for Him (Isa. 64:4).

Takeaway: Wait on God. Give Him some material to work with.

 

Wrestling to be a Prince

In the wrestling match with Christ, Jacob asked Him to tell His name.

And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” (Gen. 32:28-29).

Jesus did not divulge His name to Jacob. But if He had, He might have said to him, “Israel.” Because Israel is one of the names of Christ. This is seen in Isaiah.

And He said to me, “You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified” (Isa. 49:3).

This verse appears in the “Servant songs” of Isaiah. The context clearly indicates that the Father is the speaker, and He is talking to His Son, the Servant. The Father, addressing His Son, calls Him Israel.

Israel means “Prince with God.” Truly Jesus is the ultimate Prince with God! He wears the name gloriously. Jesus is the true Israel of God. To be in Israel, you must be in Christ, because Christ is Israel.

At Peniel, Jacob was wrestling with Israel! When Jesus gave Jacob the name Israel, He was giving him His own name.

Jacob did not really understand it at the time, but he was wrestling for his name. “If you are to be a Prince with God, Jacob, you are going to have to wrestle down the name.”

Takeaway: To wear the name Christ has for you, don’t be surprised if you have to wrestle it down.

 

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

Several times in Scripture, God identified Himself as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (e.g. Ex. 3:6). Let me explain one reason why that designation is significant to me personally. It helps me define who I serve.

In today’s world of multiple gods, I consider it wise to identify precisely which God I serve. I serve the God of Abraham. But I need to be more specific because Abraham had several sons (1 Chron. 1:32). I do not serve the God of Ishmael (one of Abraham’s sons), but the God of Isaac.

But even that is not precise enough because Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob. I do not serve the God of Esau but of Jacob.

Still, that is not specific enough in today’s world because two major world religions (Judaism and Christianity) trace their roots to Jacob. I serve the God who gave to Jacob the name Israel. In other words, I serve the God and Father of Jesus Christ.

Yes, I can tell you exactly which God I serve. My God is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and the God of Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 3:13). For me, there is no other.

Takeaway: Serve the only and true God of Jacob: the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

The Hard Way

We learn from Jacob’s life that sometimes God wants things to transpire the hard way. God could have made everything so much easier on Jacob by just saying to him, “Jacob, go down to Egypt.” God led Abraham down to Egypt, and He could have just as easily done the same with Jacob.

But instead, God put the squeeze on Jacob. First, he lost Joseph; then he lost Simeon; and the man in Egypt was wanting Benjamin next. Add to that, the intense distress from the famine. His entire household was hungry! The combination of stress factors put incredible pressure on God’s beloved servant. He went through all kinds of emotional gyrations before he was finally presented with the solution of going to Egypt to meet Joseph.

After Jacob was finally settled in Egypt, I can imagine him wondering, “Lord, why did You make it so hard on me? I would have happily followed Your voice. All You had to do was say to me, ‘Move to Egypt.’ Why did You make it come down the hard way?”

The truth is that often God leads His favorites in the hard way. (The leading example, of course, is the cross of Christ.) Why? Because God accomplishes so many things at multiple levels by letting the thing happen the hard way. He uses the difficulty to excavate hearts and produce greater eternal fruit than if an easier path had been taken.

Takeaway: Do not be thrown off balance if God allows a portion of your journey to come down the hard way.

 

Even Numbers

I have noticed that sometimes God uses even numbers, or numbers with a meaningful association, to draw attention to the significance of a certain person’s story in that moment. Let me give a few examples.

Enoch walked with God for 365 years, and then God took him (Gen. 5:24). Why did God not take him at age 364 or at 366? God waited until Enoch was precisely 365 because of the significance of the number. That number in itself was a message from God: “I want to walk with man 365 days a year in unbroken fellowship.”

God waited to send the flood until Noah was precisely six hundred years old (Gen. 7:6). Why the even number? To indicate that God’s timing was based not on some calendar in heaven but on the calendar of Noah’s life. Through his faith and righteousness, Noah became a timepiece and chronometer to his generation of heaven’s movements in the earth. This underscored the significance of Noah as the man at that time around whom God was writing human history.

How old was Abraham when Isaac was born? One hundred. The even number arrests us. It tells us, “Look at Abraham. He’s My man. What I am doing with him right now is very important.”

Moses’ life divides into three forty-year periods. The timing of the exodus and entrance into the promised land was calibrated to the life of one man, Moses. 40, 80, 120 years. The emphasis of those even numbers highlighted the importance of Moses in God’s redemptive plan.

God waited to lead Israel out of Egypt until their exodus fell precisely on 430 years to the day since God had spoken to Abraham (Ex. 12:41). This was God’s way of saying, “This is purposeful. Pay attention.”

Several men are emphasized in the Bible by making significant moments happen when they were thirty years old. At age thirty, Joseph rose from the prison to the palace; David became king of Judah; God visited Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:1); John the Baptist’s ministry was launched; Christ Jesus’ ministry was launched. Quite often God lines up everything on earth to the timeline of His servant, so that he literally becomes God’s calendar.

Now, here’s how this principle applies to Jacob. The Bible makes a point of noting that when God brought His salvation to Jacob’s life and brought him down to Egypt, Jacob was 130 (Gen. 47:9). The even number is intended to alert us. God did not deliver him at 131, but at an even 130.

At this juncture in Jacob’s narrative, Joseph was 39. Some readers might think that Joseph was the key character in the story at this point, but the use of the numbers tells us otherwise. If Joseph were the main player, God would have waited one year until Joseph was 40 and Jacob 131. But no, Joseph was to be 39, and Jacob was to be an even 130. The numbers, just by themselves, tell us who the primary person is at that moment. Jacob is the man. It is his story that we are to behold.

Takeaway: Be watchful for ways in which God uses numbers to bring emphasis to your story.

 

Compounded Generational Blessings

Jacob was desperate to receive the blessing of his father, Isaac. The intensity of Jacob’s desire for the blessing pointed to its significance. The blessing that Isaac had to give was powerful and eternally important. But now here’s a stunning statement from Jacob, as he spoke to his sons.

The blessings of your father have excelled the blessings of my ancestors, up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills (Gen. 49:26).

Jacob was telling his sons, “As much as I wanted my father’s blessing, I have more to give than he. What I have to give greatly excels the blessing of my father, as high as the everlasting hills.”[1] The implication of his statement is, “I wanted my father’s blessing desperately and did my utmost to get it. How you have lived your lives has demonstrated how badly each of you, in turn, have wanted the blessing that I have to give.”

Reuben, the firstborn, obviously did not earnestly covet his father’s blessing. You don’t sleep with your father’s wife if you are passionate about receiving his blessing.

Of the twelve sons, Joseph was the one who demonstrated the greatest zeal to receive his father’s blessing, so he was the one who got the greatest share.

Genesis 49:26 (above) shows that Jacob had become a profoundly spiritual man. The deposit of grace that he was able to pass to his sons was richer and deeper than the grace on Abraham or Isaac.

Takeaway: You have more to give your children than your parents gave you. Your pinnacle becomes your children’s platform.

 

A Grandfather Anointing

When Joseph brought his two sons to Jacob for a blessing, Jacob crossed his arms, placing his right hand on the younger grandson.

Now when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him; so he took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.” So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will bless, saying, ‘May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh!’” And thus he set Ephraim before Manasseh (Gen. 48:17-20).

Joseph was thinking analytically. He thought it proper for his father to place his right hand upon the firstborn. Jacob, however, was functioning out of his spirit, not his head. In the Spirit, Jacob perceived a greater inheritance for the younger Ephraim.

The grandfather had greater clarity into the calling and destiny of the sons than the father. Where Joseph was clouded, Jacob could see.

It was not uncommon in Scripture for fathers to lack discernment regarding their sons. For example, Isaac favored Esau, even though Jacob was God’s choice. Jesse favored his oldest sons, although David was God’s choice.  Joseph favored Manasseh when Ephraim was God’s choice.  Preconceived ideas can blind a father from accurately recognizing the grace and anointing that rests upon a certain child. This is where the perceptivity of a godly grandfather can complete the picture.

Takeaway for grandparents: Ask God for an anointing in the Holy Spirit to call forth the destiny of your grandchildren.

 

Intimacy Makes it Personal

At the end of his life, Jacob made a statement that is easy to gloss over and not fully absorb. Jacob uttered these words in the context of his blessing over his son, Joseph.

But his bow remained in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel) (Gen. 49:24).

In this verse, Jacob described God as “the Mighty God of Jacob.” It was quite a bold affirmation. It was a very assertive way to say, “He is my God.”

If I were to use the same language, I would say, “He is the Mighty God of Bob.” Go ahead, insert in your own name there. Do you have the confidence—the ownership—to call Him the God of (insert your name)?

I wonder what kind of intimacy and conviction rested in the bosom of Jacob when he spoke to his children of “the Mighty God of Jacob.” The confidence behind this assertion came as a result of God’s salvation in his life. God showed His salvation by returning Joseph, Simeon, and Benjamin to him, and providing abundantly for his family in Goshen. That’s when Jacob realized how vested God was personally in their relationship.

When God took Jacob’s hip out, Jacob took it personally; then, when God restored Jacob’s losses, Jacob realized that the whole story was profoundly personal to God, too. The affection between them was torrential. It was all about love and loyalty.

I am asking God to finish my story in such a manner that at the end of my race I might be able to talk to my children, like Jacob, about “the God of Bob.”

Takeaway: By the time your last chapter is complete, may it be that personal for you, too.

LESSONS FROM JACOB – INTIMACY MAKES IT PERSONAL

PERSONAL

At the end of his life, Jacob made a statement that is easy to gloss over and not fully absorb. Jacob uttered these words in the context of his blessing over his son, Joseph.

But his bow remained in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel) (Gen. 49:24).

In this verse, Jacob described God as “the Mighty God of Jacob.” It was quite a bold affirmation. It was a very assertive way to say, “He is my God.”

If I were to use the same language, I would say, “He is the Mighty God of Bob.” Go ahead, insert in your own name there. Do you have the confidence—the ownership—to call Him the God of (insert your name)?

I wonder what kind of intimacy and conviction rested in the bosom of Jacob when he spoke to his children of “the Mighty God of Jacob.” The confidence behind this assertion came as a result of God’s salvation in his life. God showed His salvation by returning Joseph, Simeon, and Benjamin to him, and providing abundantly for his family in Goshen. That’s when Jacob realized how vested God was personally in their relationship.

When God took Jacob’s hip out, Jacob took it personally; then, when God restored Jacob’s losses, Jacob realized that the whole story was profoundly personal to God, too. The affection between them was torrential. It was all about love and loyalty.

I am asking God to finish my story in such a manner that at the end of my race I might be able to talk to my children, like Jacob, about “the God of Bob.”

Takeaway: By the time your last chapter is complete, may it be that personal for you, too.

THE SECRET OF TIME

secret of time
A friend recently told me, “The secret place has been the point of greatest frustration and attack in my personal walk.” I know he’s not alone. Since the secret place holds the keys to authentic kingdom overcoming, the enemy will cause his strongest assaults to bear upon this single point of a Christian’s life.

Our enemy will do anything to get us to curtail the amount of time we devote to the secret place with God. He will push, distract, harass, incite, oppress, entice, weary, lie, intimidate—whatever it takes. Make no mistake, when you devote yourself to knowing God, all of hell seems to resurrect against you.

The full potential of the secret place with God requires one great overarching element: time.  Lots of it. The more exclusive time you devote to Him, the more meaningful the relationship becomes. The principle of 2 Corinthians 9:6 really does apply here, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” The more time that you sow into the secret place, the greater the bounty you will enjoy.

There is a threshold to cross in terms of uncovering the full joy of the secret place. Until you find the threshold, you will find that you’re consistently pushing yourself to get into the secret place, as though it’s a burden instead of a joy. But once you cross the threshold, the secret place becomes a place of delight that you will gladly prioritize over other competing demands.

How do we find that threshold? By giving much time to the secret place. I never consider time invested in the secret place to be wasteful; and even if it is, I gladly waste it upon my Lord! Even when we feel like we’re spinning our wheels spiritually, every hour invested is a filling up of the vial. One day the vial will be full, and the Lord will take us through the threshold into another dimension of delight and intimacy. But we’ll never get there without investing time.

Another friend told me she had feelings of guilt over not taking enough time to be with the Lord. This is a very common feeling, but it is seriously misdirected. Feelings of guilt will never motivate anyone to spend more time with God; in actuality, they will discourage you and make you feel like a failure. Guilt has the potential to totally snuff out whatever small flame there presently might be.

Guilt is always founded on satanic lies. Satan wants you to believe that God is ticked with you because you haven’t been meeting your daily quota of time with Him. He militates against the truth of God’s word which states that our acceptance with God has to do with nothing but faith in Christ. God is very unimpressed with your performance, but He is deeply impressed with Christ’s performance. When you put childlike faith in Christ, Christ’s performance record is credited to you. Faith in Christ unlocks the Father’s heart to you. When you believe on His beloved Son, the Father’s heart explodes in affirmation and acceptance and delight—totally independently of your diligence or lack thereof.

God is your greatest fan. As your heavenly Father, He is constantly coaxing you forward into the heights of spiritual victory. When you neglect the secret place, He’s not disappointed in you, He’s disappointed for you. He sees the spiritual riches available to you, and His heart breaks when He watches you getting bypassed. He wants you to share in heaven’s best, and He looks with wistful longing when you short-change yourself spiritually.

Someone said to me recently, “The greatest lie Satan attacks me with is, ‘You deserve a break today!’” Some of Satan’s lies are so stupid they’re literally ridiculous. As though time away from the secret place is a break!  It’s not a break; it’s a loss. You missed drinking deeply of the Spirit’s fountain; you missed being washed and cleansed and renewed in His presence; you missed getting fed by the illumination of God’s word; you missed taking the time to calm your hectic heart and hear His precious voice; you missed the intimate communion of the secret garden. As the saying goes, “You was robbed.”

So instead of feeling guilty, we should feel ripped off!  When circumstances or emotions are successful at robbing your secret place, don’t get guilty—get indignant! Let lovesickness arise in your breast. “Oh Lord, I love You so much; I am really upset at the way I’ve allowed the cares of this life to crowd You out. This has to stop, things have got to change. I can’t live without You. I’m coming back! I’ve got to have more time with You. You are my very life, my breath. Oh, I love You, Lord!” And then exert spiritual violence to get your priorities back in line.

On a practical note, many of those who have uncovered great joy in their secret life with God have found it necessary to devote a specific portion of the day to meeting with Him. Giving themselves in a disciplined way to a consistent time slot has been very important in finding the higher dimensions of joy and delight. When we relegate the secret place to spontaneity, in retrospect we find that we didn’t give it much time. Go with whatever works for you—because the point is to carve out entire chunks of time that we can devote to long and loving meditation on the beauty and splendor of Christ Jesus our Lord.

Here’s another practical tip: Work your way up slowly to spending more time with Him. If you’re doing ten minutes a day right now, make it fifteen or twenty. By adding incrementally you are building your spiritual stamina. I was once with a brother who was wanting to devote himself to prayer and study regarding a specific struggle in his life. I was amazed, however, that after giving himself to the study for a few minutes, he had to quit and move on to something else. He had developed virtually no spiritual stamina. Even a mere half-hour of study and prayer was too much. He had a case of spiritual “Attention Deficit Disorder.” It was time, however, for him to mature in God and develop the ability to spend more time in the secret place.

Train for it like an athlete. No athlete expects to run a marathon on his first time out after being sedentary for many months. He knows he’s got to build up his endurance. So every day he adds a little bit more until he’s at the endurance level he desires. Similarly, you can build your endurance to the point where spending large portions of time with Him becomes the great delight of your heart.

When I think of running this race, I think of Psalm 119:32, “I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart.” A runner must develop strength of heart. As he pushes himself to run greater distances, or at a faster pace, the ability of the heart to pump life-sustaining blood to the body is enlarged.  I have asked the Lord to enlarge my heart that I might run a harder pace of pursuing Him.

We’re not finished with this theme yet. So come to the next chapter, I want to talk about a specific way we can plan more time alone with God.

This post in an excerpt of Bob’s bestselling book, Secrets of the Secret Place.  You can order it by clicking here.

 

NO PLAN B

NO PLAN B - BOB SORGE

One of the greatest secrets to intimacy with God is to come to Him as your only source of help and hope.  “Lord, in this situation I have no Plan B—no other options to default to if You don’t come through. You are the only one who can help me!” He loves it when you look to Him alone for deliverance. And the inverse is also true: His jealousy is kindled when we entertain other saviors.

The Lord scoffed at the idolatry of the children of Israel by pointing to the vain hope that a block of wood offered:

He cuts down cedars for himself, and takes the cypress and the oak; he secures it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a pine, and the rain nourishes it. Then it shall be for a man to burn, for he will take some of it and warm himself; yes, he kindles it and bakes bread; indeed he makes a god and worships it; he makes it a carved image, and falls down to it. He burns half of it in the fire; with this half he eats meat; he roasts a roast, and is satisfied. He even warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm, I have seen the fire.” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his carved image. He falls down before it and worships it, prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” They do not know nor understand; for He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. And no one considers in his heart, nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say, “I have burned half of it in the fire, yes, I have also baked bread on its coals; I have roasted meat and eaten it; and shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside; and he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” (Isaiah 44:14-20).

As I was meditating in this passage, the Lord gave me a definition of a false god. This definition helps me because even though in our westernized culture there are very few people who actually worship figures of wood or stone, we too have our own false gods. In the passage, the Lord describes the idolaters as saying to their block of wood, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” So a god is defined as this: anything to which we ascribe the power to deliver us.

Westerners have their own set of false gods—sources to which they turn for deliverance when in times of crisis or need (let the reader understand):

•Money

•Health insurance

•Medical treatment/prescriptions

•Social Security

•Retirement plans and IRA’s

•Credit cards/consolidation loans

•Drugs/alcohol

•Pleasure/entertainment/recreation/sports

•Sex

•Friends (to deliver us from loneliness)

•Counselors

•Lawsuits

•Filing bankruptcy

•etc.

These other saviors campaign for our allegiance. Everywhere we turn, the gods of our culture are promoting their powers. Television commercials promote the many alternatives for relief: “Try me! Let me heal your pain. I am your answer. Look no further. Come to me, and I will deliver you.”

Something dynamic happens in your spirit when you look at some of those sources of deliverance and say, “No! God, You alone are my Deliverer!” Not only is your own spirit tenderized through such singular affection, but the response of the Father in the way He moves upon your heart is quite without parallel.

God-worshipers are those who come to God first in their time of need. They seek God’s face and wait on Him to receive directives for the course to take.  The secret place becomes the threshold where we wait upon God, seeking His powerful intervention, and crying out to Him for wisdom and revelation.

Occasionally, the Spirit will say to you, “In this instance, I want you to wait on Me only and stand in faith until I intervene sovereignly in your situation.” When God gives you this word, then fasten your seatbelt!  You are in for the ride of your life. You are stepping into the God zone. Here we find the stuff of miracles. This is the dimension where God rises up in His wrath and vengeance and wreaks havoc upon your enemies. Your role is to gaze upon Him, love Him, and grow in patience and faith; His role is to loose resurrection power in His time and way. Not every crisis you face falls into this category, but when it does…get excited! You’re taking the high road of the greatest saints of history, the pathway where God reveals the power of His arm, the splendor of His majestic beauty, and the awesomeness of His eternal purposes.

It is toward this glorious dimension that David pointed:

My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah (Psalm 62:5-8).

 As I write this chapter, I am personally in great need of divine intervention in regard to a physical infirmity. I have been tempted to consider some other avenues of relief, such as those listed above. But instead, I have said to the Lord, “You only are my Helper. If You don’t save me, I am not saved. If You don’t heal me, I am not healed. If You don’t deliver me, I am not delivered. I have no other recourse, no Plan B, no alternative plan. I am not entertaining other options. It’s You and You alone. I worship You. You are my God!”

This is the “single eye” to which Jesus pointed.  Jesus said, “‘If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light’” (Matthew 6:22). The old King James Version says, “If therefore thine eye be single.” Whether translated “good” or “single,” the original Greek word means to be void of duplicity, to have singularity of focus.  When your eye is focused on God alone as your Savior and Deliverer, you open to the fullness of light He destines to fill your entire being.

This singular focus is what David prayed for: “Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name” (Psalm 86:11). By praying, “Unite my heart,” David was saying, “Lord, give me an undivided heart, a single focus that sees only You as the sovereign power to be feared and worshiped.”

In my experience, I have found that the Lord will test us to see if we truly own this reality.  He will allow a great storm to descend upon our lives for a strategic purpose. Our natural reflex will be to find a source of immediate relief. We tend to explore all our options.

Is it possible, though, that this storm has come to guide you into a higher dimension of kingdom living? Oh, I hope you can learn the secret: When the storm hits, run into the secret place, establish your spirit, and say to Him with unwavering resolve, “You alone are my expectation.” Our God loves to prove Himself strong on behalf of those who have no other gods before Him.

THE SECRET OF HUMILITY

SECRET OF HUMILITY

Our violent pursuit of God must be wedded to a gentle and humble spirit. Humility is the foundation of all prayer. Humility says, “Lord, I am empty without Your fullness; I am broken without Your wholeness; I am helpless without Your strength; I am clueless without your wisdom. Apart from You I am nothing. I need You!  I need You so desperately that I am pouring myself out to You here in the secret place.”

Prayerlessness is the first sign of prideful independence. We begin to trim back on our secret time with God when we’re feeling great about ourselves, energetic and optimistic about our future, and confident about the path we’re taking. It’s the first sign that we’re getting full of ourselves.

This morning, even before I knew I would be writing this chapter today, I was enjoying the words of Agur, who wrote, “Surely I am more stupid than any man, and do not have the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom nor have knowledge of the Holy One” (Proverbs 30:2-3). The wisdom of Agur was in having a proper self-assessment of his own stupidity. Would to God that we all owned that same awareness! It would drive us back to our knees, back to the source of all wisdom, back to “the only wise God.” If He alone is wise, where does that place us?

Once you see His greatness and your bankruptcy, there comes great joy in humbling yourself before the Lord. With what delight the elders cast their crowns at the foot of the throne! They take what represents the aggregate compilation of all their achievements and throw it all down at the feet of Him from whom it all proceeded in the first place. He gave it to us that we might give it all back to Him. None of this was our idea, it all started with Him and it all ends with Him. He is everything, and as we are joined to Him the poverty of our personal identity is lost in the fullness of His eternal greatness.

David wrote, “O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory” (Psalm 108:1). We know He is referring in this verse to his secret place because his term “my heart is steadfast” was always used of his personal commitment to being alone with his God. He abandoned his heart to God, so he said, “with my glory.” What was David’s glory? It was the sum total of his attainments. David had the glory of a king—wealth, honor, prestige, dignity, splendor, and power. He also had the glory of being a psalmist and a prophet. He took the total of all God had given him and made him, and presented it to God in song and praise.  The greater his prestige, the greater the joy he had in surrendering that to the majesty of God.  What a privilege to lay all our life attainments at His feet in profound awareness of His all-surpassing greatness! The greater I am, the more joy I have in taking that greatness and bowing it before Him. “And the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it” (Revelation 21:24).

He dignifies us that we might have something to lay before Him in humility and devotion. God dignifies us—with sonship, glory, acceptance, royalty, purpose, significance, wealth, honor, salvation, wisdom, revelation, understanding, status, character, holiness, victories—so that we might enjoy the highest privilege of casting it all at His feet. What a holy privilege is ours, to come into the throneroom of His presence and empty ourselves of all dignity by prostrating ourselves before Him, worshiping Him with our entire being.

The servant of God who owns his nothingness finds no greater joy than searching out ever-increasing ways to humble himself in the presence of the Almighty One. “‘And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight’” (2 Samuel 6:22). Throw yourself at His feet today; He is worthy of the highest praise!

This is an excerpt from Bob Sorge’s bestselling book, Secrets of the Secret Place.  Click here for more information on Bob’s books and other resources.

THE SECRET OF THE SHUT DOOR

The Secret of the Shut Door

“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6).

Jesus Himself spoke these blessed words. All Scripture is God-breathed, but followers of Jesus always find special delight in giving particular attention the words Jesus Himself gave us. When Jesus taught on prayer, He gave primary emphasis to the secret place. In fact, the first thing He taught concerning prayer was the primacy of the secret place. In the verses following, He would teach us how to pray, but first He teaches where to pray.

Matthew 6:6 contains a powerful secret regarding the where of prayer, but before I share it let me ask a question. Do you struggle frequently with feeling disconnected from God? Do you strain to feel God’s presence when you pray? Does He seem distant to you? Do you long to know that He is with you, right now, drawing near to you?

If your answer to any of those questions is, “Yes,” then I have some wonderful news for you. There is a guaranteed way to get into God’s presence. There is a sure-fire 100% guaranteed way to have instant intimacy with the Father, and Jesus Himself gave us the key. Jesus gave us this secret in the above verse when He said, “Your Father who is in the secret place.” Jesus is saying, “Your Father is already in the secret place. He has gone ahead of you; He is waiting for you. The moment you get to the secret place, you are in the immediate presence of your Father.”

Jesus affirmed this truth twice in the same chapter. He says it the second time in Matthew 6:18, “‘So that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.’” Jesus says it twice for emphasis, so we know this word is absolutely certain. Our Father is in the secret place!

Furthermore, Jesus gives us the key to finding this secret place. If you’re wondering what you must do to place yourself in the secret place, Jesus made it clear. To get there, all you have to do is shut your door!

When you enter your room, and shut your door, you are in the presence of your Father. Instantaneously! It matters not how you feel. Regardless of your soul’s climate at that moment, you know with absolute confidence you have stepped into the chamber of your Father in heaven. The secret place is your portal to the throne, the place where you taste of heaven itself. Receive this word and you have gained one of the greatest secrets to intimacy with God. Because when you know you are in the immediate presence of your Father, your spirit and soul will often respond to that knowledge with heartfelt connectedness. The knowledge of this truth will set your spirit free to soar.

When you build your life on the blessed intimacy of a secret place relationship with God, you are building on the rock. You’re getting your foundations in order. That’s not simply my opinion, that’s the explicit teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. The principles Jesus gave in Chapters 5-7 of Matthew’s Gospel were all given at one time, in one great sermon. Jesus said that in this sermon He was laying forth the foundation stones of a disciple’s life. Here’s how He expressed it:

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27).

Jesus’ message is unmistakable. He is saying, “If you will hear and do what I have taught you in this Sermon on the Mount, you will build foundations into your life that will survive the harshest storms of life.” And believe me, friend, storms will most certainly come! There are some storms that have yet to hit your life. The question is, will you have the foundation in place to survive the storms?

One of the most essential elements of that foundation is to have an intact secret life with God. Those who hear this word and do it will not only enjoy intimacy with the Father on a daily basis, but they will also be equipped to sustain the greatest storms—whether they originate from hell’s fury or the world’s distractions or the floodgates of heaven’s blessings.

Don’t forget the secret: shut your door.

This is an excerpt from Bob Sorge’s bestselling book, Secrets of the Secret Place.  Click here for more information on Bob’s books and other resources.