Many of us remember the TV show Kung Fu of the early 1970’s that entertained us with martial arts. David Carradine (Grasshopper) played the part of an Oriental traveling nomadically across the American West of the late 19thcentury. The TV drama introduced us to the lifestyles of Shaolin priests while teaching their pupils in a Temple in China. I enjoyed the snippets of Grasshopper as he would travel back in his mind reflecting on his youth asking questions of his masters while he was growing up in the Temple.
“Master?” he says as he gazes out over the ocean from a cliff with the bind priest, his favorite teacher.
“Ahhh, yes, Grasshopper, what appears as one color from this spot is totally different when one is closer, much less down under the depths. I have been told there is vast array of colors, more than one can describe. Tell me Grasshopper, since I am blind, describe to me what color you see at this time.”
I made this conversation up. It was never in the script, but it sounds like it. Now let me get to what I really what to talk about, that being “Master.”
I was blessed to be introduced to the Lord as a young teenager. I have always prayed for wisdom, courage, guidance and so forth, however, let me share how I could have improved my walk with the Lord. I’m not sure I looked upon Jesus as my master. Let me explain.
If I prayed, “Lord be with me in this challenge,” or “guide me safely,” it was as if I was asking Jesus to be beside me. To a certain degree there is nothing wrong with this, just as there is nothing wrong with asking for courage. I used to envision God giving me confidence as I embarked on any new challenge or experience. Athletics, college, a new job, whatever. With Jesus beside me I felt safe and secure. Sounds good doesn’t it? But I’m not so sure anymore.
Like most Americans I was raised to be respectful of authority. This was definitely reinforced when I was in athletics, or shall I say it was forcefully enforced. It was again definitely brought home with my time in the military. However, I was never taught to be overly submissive to authority. In some ways that is good. I was also taught it is wrong to be a slave to anything or anyone. Sounds good, but here’s the problem. It has to some degree hindered my relation with Christ. It gives me hesitation in allowing him be in total control, much less bow to him as I would if he were my King. I do not recall ever bowing to anyone or anything. For most of recorded history if you did not bow to a king it very well could have been the last thing you ever did.
The 12 disciples of Christ, his eventual apostles, were very young, much younger than any pictures, paintings or movies depict. Most were probably in their teens while following Christ as their Rabbi. He was elder to them in age and knowledge. I know they sometimes walked beside him as their Rabbi and teacher, but I think most of the time they were merely following him. Watching, observing, learning as an apprentice would of their teacher or master.
As I mature in my Christian walk I am learning to bow more in my prayers, not just physically which I need to do more, but with a submissive reverence and abandonment. I still am going to question things but I want to learn to bow spiritually with a profound respect and happiness when doing so. For many of you this may have never been a challenge, but for me , well let’s just say I’m still a pupil. As I enter into prayerful thought my mind asks, “Jesus, (Master)?”
A voice whispers in my mind, “yes, Keith.”
“What does it mean to rest in the Lord?”
“Ahhhh, yes, my curios one, a very good question,” as a voice once again whispers in my mind. “Let us ponder this thought together.”
Have you ever wanted to explore the ruins of an ancient temple? That would be a unique experience wouldn’t it? If you had asked me what comes to my mind when I hear the word temple, I would think of King Solomon’s Temple. I have been a bible reader all my life so I obviously have given much thought to the ancient Israelite Temple and its significance in God’s Kingdom. God used the Temple to try and convey the nature of himself to mankind just as he had done with Moses and the Tabernacle. God was trying to reveal His Holiness to them: His righteous. He is still trying to do so to us today. By the way, the following passage popped out at me as I was reading the bible just recently.
“This is the basic law of the Temple: absolute holiness!” Ezekiel 43:12
The Mayans had temples, the Greeks and Romans had temples. There are temples all over Asia. There are many to visit, but just for the sake of imagination, would it not be an interesting adventure to explore a temple all to yourself, especially an abandoned temple. A temple no one else has explored, just waiting for you. But, unfortunately, what are the chances of finding an abandoned temple? You may be surprised you don’t have to travel to a distant or remote location.
In the New Testament, many times Jesus tried to teach his followers that God does not dwell in Temples or buildings but within peoples’ hearts. I think this was a challenging concept to his Jewish disciples. During the time of Moses while the Israelites were in the wilderness God would enter the Tabernacle. After King Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem for God, scripture teaches that God chose to indwell there. But why would the Creator want to enter the hearts of people? After all, it is not always a safe place to enter. Greed, envy, anger, lust, deceit: you name it and where does it start? In the heart. Unfortunately, to some degree all of us carry some of this dirty baggage. And yet, amazingly, that is where God chooses to live. The Kingdom of God dwells in our hearts. That is where His Temple is. It is something I think most of us know intuitively, yet something I personally struggle with.
I want God to walk with me on my daily journey but I am hesitant to invite the Lord into my temple: my heart. There are too many distractions. When I sit still and try to pray, my mind wanders; the day’s schedule, bills to be paid, the upcoming football game and so forth. On a more sobering note, I’m not sure God wants to come into my heart when I have anger issues, some degree of unforgiveness towards those who have wronged me in the past, anxiety over finances, and so forth. I have shared these thoughts with my wife. She responded:
“You may need to relax more before the Lord and accept his graciousness. You may not believe you are worthy enough to invite God, but that is a lie from Satan. God is always more than willing to engage you when you genuinely seek him, even if you don’t feel up to it at that moment. Remember , you don’t always have to pray,” she adds.
“What do you mean I don’t have to pray? I thought that is what I was supposed to be doing during intimate time with the Lord?” I add, “As a matter of fact I often pace back and forth in the backyard very early in the morning underneath the canopy of the stars in order to reveal the passion of my prayer petitions to the Almighty.” However, I admit to her, “I have wondered if I am working at it more than just, ‘letting it flow,’ so to speak. I’m a disciplined hard worker, so it just seemed natural I would pray that way.”
“But that is just it,” she says. “Sit still, try to clear out the distractions in your mind, and rest. Rest in the Lord.” She goes on to say, “As I said, you don’t even have to pray. If you are inviting the Lord into your heart he will know your prayers. Through Christ we are made righteous. Because of Christ we have the holiness that God wants and therefore He can enter. Some days you will feel the presence of the Lord more than others: some days when you are tired you may even fall asleep. But enjoy it. The more often you relax and enjoy his presence, it will be that much easier for him to indwell within you. It will not be long before you earnestly seek to return to this place of rest and the easier it will be. It won’t have to be in the backyard or in the study, much less a certain time. It will be a state of mind that is abandoning itself to the Lord. That is not to say you do not need to engage in prayer, just don’t feel guilty if some days it does not seem to come naturally. The Holy Spirit will guide you. There will be days when you are drawn to your knees. Other times you may want to ‘just sit,’ and peacefully reflect: yet you are still praying even if you are not directly articulating the words in your mind.”
My wife calls it, “Abandonment to God.” She explains, “We all have experienced the feeling of being abandoned to God. Yet it is those times that provide an opportunity for God to reveal himself or his nature to us: His mysterious ways. You and I grew up with the word ‘surrender,’ but I like the feeling of being abandoned to God’s providence. Each of us has a choice to feel abandoned by God or to abandon ourselves to him.”
As each of us journeys through life we will realize more and more our human limitations physically and emotionally coupled with a spiritual neediness. I think God encourages each of us to invite him into our hearts as we become Temples of Abandonment. Our exploration is probably the most important search of our life. Life’s treasures await us all in these temples…..these abandoned temples………God’s Temples.
The glass window of the receptionist slides back in order to greet you; you then hear in a polite voice, “We will be with you shortly, please have a seat in the waiting room.” A voice whispers in my mind, “You’re going to be here a while, so chill out.” But another voice in my head responds, “I have better things to do than sit here for what will probably be two hours.” Have you ever had that conversation with yourself, probably more times than you would like to recall. Who of us does actually like to wait?
If I were to ask you, the reader, to define the word “wait,” how would you do so? If you asked a young child to wait a moment until you came back and they asked you what does that mean? How would you respond? How would you define “wait” to a child? We all know what it means but it is one of those words that is difficult to define. It would probably be easier to describe than to define it. It is also one of those words that for the most part we know entails doing something we would rather not do, and that is: wait. Most of us would readily admit we don’t like waiting.
As Americans we are not taught to be patient much less wait. We all know about the fast food and rush of our work schedules. We are on the clock basically most of the day, lots of errands, tasks, appointments, etc. We train ourselves to try and not only manage our time wisely but above all to avoid wasting any precious time. I know; I have lived my whole life this way. In large measure I take pride in how well I perceive I have managed my time. Up early, hit the gym, back home to shower, have short devotional time with the Lord, eat a good breakfast, and off to work with time to drive safely. Honor my work, home in time to enjoy dinner with wife, a little quiet time to unwind, back to wife for some meaningful sharing time, and about one or two hours of reading or TV. I’m basically a disciplined individual. I have even convinced myself that I have been a good steward of my time that the Lord has given me. However, whenever my routine is disrupted I often find myself becoming impatient.
I think Americans are considerate while waiting in lines. We have a strong sense of being fair and don’t usually blatantly cut the other guy out. On the other hand, I don’t believe our culture has taught us, including myself, to wait. Of more importance I am now wondering if I know how to wait on the Lord. By the way, what does it mean to wait on the Lord?
“Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength,
They shall mount up with wings like eagles.” Isaiah 40:31
A story in the bible that has always concerned me was the time when King Saul (the first King of Israel) was with his troops waiting to go into battle (I Samuel chapter 13). He had been told to wait for the prophet and high priest Samuel to come and offer a sacrifice prior to the battle. Saul waited seven days and Samuel still had not come. Some of his men began to leave for home. Saul became anxious and decided to take matters into his own hands. He decided to build an altar and offer the sacrifice himself. That duty had been assigned by God directly to and only to Samuel, the high priest. Samuel arrived shortly thereafter and was livid.
He was not only angry at Saul’s impatience, but also sad for King Saul. He told Saul that God has decided to remove the Kingdom from him and give it to someone else. That would be King David, a man whose heart was right with God.
I find myself relating to King Saul more than I would like to admit. When dealing with health problems, financial debt, issues at work, and so forth I want answers; the sooner, the better. I find it difficult to wait and listen for discernment from the Lord. I can look back on my life and see many times I wish I would have listened in the stillness of the morning for God to speak to me. I’m not implying it is easy to do, or that wisdom will come to me on a routine basis. But I do believe if I can discipline myself to try and take the time to listen more for God that in time I will be able to discern His speaking to me. That may come from a scripture I read that day, a devotional book, my wife’s prayers over me, or a friend’s encouraging remarks. With God’s grace I hope to become more like David than Saul. It starts with being obedient in trying to wait and listen for the Lord’s guidance. The times I have discerned God’s guidance have been invaluable experiences. Something to be treasured.
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