Table of Contents
TURN to HIM
©2016 by E.G. Brown.
All rights reserved.
“Turn to Him. Tell Him you are sorry. Tell Him you want to change. Tell Him you want to be His man or woman.” –William Wilberforce
“Yet even now,” says the LORD, “turn to Me with all your heart” –Joel 2:12
“Therefore turn to your God. Keep kindness and justice, and wait continually for your God.” –Hosea 12:6
“Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.” –Lamentations 3:49
One recent evening I was in bed, trying to sleep. I’d put in my headphones and was listening to a YouTube video discussing the Messiah and reasons to believe in Him. I’ve been a believer for many years but continue to find benefit from listening to sermons and lectures about our Lord. But this night it occurred to me that something was stirring inside. I realized that in many ways my belief was often intellectual. I’d had many experiences which I felt were contact with the Lord and His Spirit, but on a day-to-day basis I often found myself feeling dry.
“ Lord, help my unbelief ”, I seemed to be crying. As I was laying there something came over me all at once. It was the realization that not only was Jesus real and that the pain and suffering he felt was real, but that he was in fact there with me in that moment. I didn’t just know this but I felt His presence. He was sitting in the chair in the bedroom, then he was lying next to me, and as he was there I imagined that he had just been taken down from the cross. I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was there. It sounds strange perhaps, but it is a truth that happened to me. In that moment I began to weep because (once again) the cost He paid for my and all of our sins was so clear to me, all of His pain and suffering. And it’s easy to become disconnected from that, to forget that He actually felt and went through it all. But experiencing His presence in that moment made it all rush back to me. This wasn’t the first time I’d experienced something like this but it was the most intense experience like this in a long time. And I knew in that moment that He was urging me to finish writing this book because the Lord had given me something to say and the means to say it. He was pressing me to go forward and not delay.
And so here is this small book that I write in order to share my experiences as a believer in the Messiah, our Savior and Lord, the Son of the Living God. Because I know that for many of us it is a difficult path filled with confusion. In all of this pain and confusion the key point is that we must turn to God the Father and He that bore our sin on the cross. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.
Caveat emptor: This book isn’t a “10 ways to accomplish something” book. There are no shortcuts in your relationship with the Lord.
Walking the path as a believer in Jesus we may go between extremes of focusing on works and focusing on faith. We may focus on going to church but not keeping God’s commands. There are pitfalls to both and it is between the two extremes that God wants us to be. As put by N.T. Wright, God has opened the door and it is our job to walk through it. God builds His kingdom, not us, but it is our duty to do kingdom works. If we believe we are somehow opening the door by our works, we will be deceiving ourselves. And, if we believe that all is well and we go about the world with a “secret smile on our face”, as Rowan Williams has put it, thinking that the Messiah’s work has done everything and we need not follow the commands of the Living God, we will also be deceiving ourselves. Of course our Savior’s Passover sacrifice has atoned for us, but the Lord has commanded us to obey the Father, notwithstanding. And so, the temptation to either believe that the Kingdom depends on our efforts or to believe that we need not obey, are always close at hand.
Walking the tightrope between these extremes can be difficult. It can feel impossible. We must remain humble and ask God for strength, patience, guidance, and humility. But we stumble and fall. It is in our nature, the core of what we are: broken. We lose hope, get run down, and begin to wonder if God really loves us. As we look at the troubles of the world we may ask God, “ Where are You in all of this? ”
What happens when our faith is challenged? When we feel we have run out of belief and our efforts seem useless and stale? Do we begin to question God and His purpose for us? Do we begin to doubt?
Are these questions you have asked yourself? Do you wonder if your faith has run out or if it is real and true? And do you wonder if God has lost favor with or interest in you? Take heart, for you are not alone. In fact, you are in good company because it is in recognizing that we have these difficulties and problems that we can acknowledge that we are lost, that we are deficient, that we can be corrected. If we don’t face these things we will simply keep on in our delusions and drift farther and farther from truth. Over and above all of these things is that we must come to realize (sometimes over and over) that the Father Almighty loves us, despite all of our flaws.
As we walk our path as believers in Jesus Christ (our brothers and sisters may call Him Yeshua Messiah and we should honor this) we may find ourselves caught up in certain habits of prayer and worship which leave us feeling dry and lifeless in our spirit. Why does this happen? If we examine our prayers and worship practices and the thoughts and feelings we have in these moments we may find the answer to this problem. In many cases we are trying to win God over to our cause; to prove to Him that we are worthy and that we are doing the right things. When we don’t feel His Spirit move in us or when we feel He has turned His face away from us we begin to wonder why He doesn’t seem to appreciate or pay attention to us and just how good we have been trying to be. We wonder why he seems to favor others, whom we deem to be less worthy than us, for his attention and affection. This is of course a trap which we devise for ourselves in our minds. Unfortunately, this trap keeps many of us distracted from the reality of God’s lovingkindness towards us and focused on things of no consequence.
In many cases, the root of our problem is our misguided belief that we are the ones responsible for the renewal of our heart, spirit, and mind. We lose ourselves to pride (and ultimately arrogance) believing that if only we did more of X, Y, or Z, that we could earn the favor and grace of God; that we’d no longer feel His face turned away from us. How ironic that it is our pride and our resistance to full submission to His will that creates the separation in the first place.
We must resist the temptation, ever present, to believe that we are good people because we do good things. We are never a good people in that sense; we are always a fallen people, though a fallen people that God loves. As Jesus taught His disciples, only God is good. Only by the grace of God are we redeemed and restored. Only by the love and atoning sacrifice of our Father and King Jesus Christ are we saved. Only by the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives are we able to do God’s work and achieve His glory. All praise and honor is due to God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We are but vessels, and only if we empty ourselves of pride and arrogance and submit to the truth of His creation and plan. When we open our hearts, like opening the palms of our hands, we may receive the Spirit and let God do His work through us.
We must resist the temptation to believe that in being fallen that we are loathsome and sinful creatures whom God cannot love. This is a temptation that, sadly, many of us give in to precisely because it’s what we’ve been taught. The church has gotten this so badly wrong that I fear that many of us have these ideas so deeply in our habits and subconscious that it can take years to undo. Fortunately, all things are possible for the Father. But we have to turn to Him and away from foolish beliefs and practices which we have turned into a kind of idol. We fall down and say how terrible we are and how unworthy we are. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t repent for sin, obviously we must. But my point is that there is a temptation to make our worship all about ourselves and to lose sight of keeping God at the center. He has redeemed us through His lovingkindness and forgiveness. We should celebrate His glory and creation, His blessings upon us, rather than groveling endlessly in the false belief that we are loathsome and unworthy. God made us to glorify Him. We must trust His plan and be the people he wants us to be, which includes feeling and magnifying His love in the world. Not by walking around feeling bad about ourselves, which does precisely the opposite and does not reflect God’s grace, lovingkindness, and glory.
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"The LORD prefers a bended heart over a bended knee" What happens when our faith is challenged? When we feel we have run out of belief and our efforts seem useless and stale? Do we begin to question God and His purpose for us? Do we begin to doubt? Are these questions you have asked yourself? Do you wonder if your faith has run out or if it is real and true? And do you wonder if God has lost favor with or interest in you? Take heart, for you are not alone. And so here is this small book that I write in order to share my experiences as a believer in the Messiah, our Savior and Lord, the Son of the Living God. Because I know that for many of us it is a difficult path filled with confusion. In all of this pain and confusion the key point is that we must turn to God the Father and He that bore our sin on the cross. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.