In Whom We Trust, To Whom We Pray

In whom do you trust? Do you trust in your judgment? Your knowledge? Your wisdom? When confronted with an issue – whether big or small – do you ask God to bless your plan or do you ask God to bless you with a plan?   Recently my wife and I received a major lesson about trusting in someone’s word.

We were approached by a representative of a company that sells very high quality meat. After a few moments of talking, this rep began his sales pitch. He was convincing. He built trust by identifying himself as a Christian once he discovered that we are Christians. Near the close of his presentation, he asked my wife “Can you beat $3.00 per pound for meat at the store?” Stunned by the price, my wife said “I can get that for chicken on sale.” We decided to buy a bunch of meat right then and there. It was a great deal we thought. Well it was a great deal but not for us.   We discovered that this place sells meat by the portion rather than by the pound. That makes a BIG difference. We discovered that we had bought meat at the great price of about $9.00 per pound. Even on my worst day, I can beat that price at the store. I had trusted my judgment. I had trusted my knowledge. We didn’t pray about it. We just took this man at his word. We learned a hard lesson: the only One we can truly trust with full confidence is God Himself. Everyone else, we need to, quoting Ronald Reagan, “trust but verify.”


We jump quickly in the spiritual realm as well. We are confronted with a problem and we are quick to try to figure out how to approach the problem. We come up with a plan (with some backup plans of course). We then seek to spiritualize it by asking God to bless our plans. We really do get the order of operations wrong here. Instead of asking God to bless our plans when we are confronted with a problem, we should be asking God to bless us with a plan. But before we even get to that point we need to be convinced that Gods character is such that He not only CAN answer us, but that He is trustworthy enough TO answer us.  Let’s continue in looking at Nehemiah and learning some lessons about prayer here in chapter one.


After Nehemiah becomes concerned about he issues surrounding Jerusalem, he next expresses his conviction of God’s character in verse 5:

“I said, “I beseech You, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who

preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments…”

In this verse, the word translated “Lord” is the Hebrew YHWH – the covenant name of God. Nehemiah is appealing to the personal name God revealed to Moses. He is appealing to Him based on His covenantal relationship with Israel. Nehemiah is convicted regarding the character of YHWH. YHWH is in charge. YHWH will listen. YHWH will answer. Otherwise, why would Nehemiah even approach Him? What else does Nehemiah say about YHWH? He next refers to His Lord as the “God of Heaven.” He acknowledged that YHWH was beyond the earthly realm and above all other gods. He is the One who is above all others. He is the God of heaven, not just a god in heaven. Do you see the difference? Nehemiah again is convinced of the character of God. He is above all others.


Nehemiah continues by referring to God as “great and awesome”. Have you ever listened to yourself referring to things of this earth as “great” or “awesome”? The Hebrew word we translate “great” has the idea of great in magnitude while the word translated as “awesome” has the idea of great respect or reverence. How many things we flippantly refer to as “awesome” actually deserve to be revered? I would say none, other than God. Ouch, that one left a mark on me. God deserves to be honored, revered and feared by all because of who He is.


Finally, Nehemiah describes God as the one who “keeps His covenant of love.” Nehemiah is convinced about God’s character. God keeps His covenants. Nehemiah is convinced of this fact. God is truthful, faithful and can be trusted. Artaxerxes thought he was in charge. He thought he was something great. He had a high opinion of himself. And Nehemiah, his cupbearer (a fairly high political office), could have thought the same of Artaxerxes and himself. But, as we have seen here, Nehemiah esteemed highly YHWH. He thought of Him as the only One to Whom his prayers need to be directed.


So how are you doing with your prayer time with God? Is He the ONLY One who can answer? If He is not the only One, who else is able? When faced with difficult decisions, what is your first response? What is your last resort? My hope and prayer for you (and me) is that we would all learn to not only be convinced about God’s character, but to rely on His character to answer us with the perfectly correct answer to our prayers.

After all, the One in whom we trust is the One to Whom we pray.

Prayin’ in the Rubble

“we must make prayer our

first course of action rather

than our action of last resort”


I remember reading a bumper sticker once. It sounded so spiritual and good. It said “When all else fails, PRAY!” That sounds good doesn’t it? So, when we’re at the end of our rope, we pray. I mean, what else do we have to lose? But is this the right attitude? IF we wait until there is no other way out, is prayer in its proper place? I don’t think so. When confronted with life—meaning each day, every day, no matter the situation  —we must make prayer our first course of action rather than our action of last resort. In other words, am I concerned enough about being holy to pray first?


In Nehemiah we see a wonderful example of a person who had this correct. We’ll continue on for the next few posts looking at prayer in Nehemiah 1. By the end of this look at Nehemiah, we should have a handle on having an effective prayer life. Now, on to Nehemiah!

So who is this Nehemiah guy?

We know from verse 11 that Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king. As cupbearer Nehemiah had a great job: he had intimate access to royalty, political standing, and a place to live in the palace. It was a cushy job that provided everything he needed. And yet, when one of his brothers returned from a road trip to Jerusalem, verse 2 says that Nehemiah “questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.” The word, “question” means “to inquire or demand” an answer. Nehemiah was greatly concerned about what  was happening in Jerusalem. He could have insulated himself if he chose to, but he didn’t. He sought them out and wanted to hear the first-hand report. You see Nehemiah was concerned about the problems  in Jerusalem.

This is an important starting point. It’s so easy for us to stay uninvolved and unaware. Some of us don’t want to even think about stuff that’s going on in our own lives. Even though Nehemiah had never been to Jerusalem, he had heard stories about it, and knew that his ancestors had been led away in chains when Babylon destroyed it. He was doing what Jeremiah 51:50 instructed the exiles to do: “…Remember the Lord in a distant land, and think on Jerusalem.”

As he thought on Jerusalem, he listened to the report in verse 3 that the survivors were in great trouble and disgrace, that the wall of Jerusalem was in shambles and that its gates had been burned with fire. As he tried to imagine the shame in the city of David, he could barely stand it. The phrase, “great trouble” meant that the people had “broken down and were falling to pieces.” Three words summarize the bad news: remnant, ruin, and reproach.

Nehemiah was broken over the complacency of the people of Jerusalem. They were living in ruins and they accepted it. They were willing to walk around the devastation instead of being concerned enough to do something about their situation.

Friends, nothing is ever going to change in your life, in the life of the church, or for that matter, our nation, until we become concerned about the problem. Some of us have become complacent about the way our lives are going. We’re living with rubble and it doesn’t even bother us any more. How sad. When we become so unconcerned with the state of our sanctification that we don’t engage it anymore, we are truly getting a little too comfortable in the rubble of life.

Think about this for a moment: have we lost the walls that once surrounded our lives? I’m not speaking about the protective wall God places around us. No I’m talking about the walls that hem in our actions  – the walls that keep us away from the things that we should avoid, and in the things we should be in. How are you doing here? Are you reading things you shouldn’t read? Are you looking at things that that are impure? We do not need to experience immorality to say immorality is wrong.

When Nehemiah heard this report, he hit the ground and began to weep in verse 4,  much like Jesus did when he cried out in painful tears when he observed the hard hearts of those in Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). He also fasted.  These are all signs of humility and show his deep concern for the problem of the desolation of Jerusalem.

Are you deeply concerned with your closeness to Christ? Or are you too comfortable in the rubble of your life? Have you taken steps to be more intimate with your Savior? Before you DO anything, pray. You know, its really hard to be intimate with someone when you rarely talk to that person.

Take time to be holy…take time to pray.


Holy Marksmanship

Does anyone remember this commercial? (the fact that this commercial appears here does NOT mean I endorse its products, employment practices, environmental record, etc. Its just an illustration, ok?)


Habits of the Holy will help the

Christian to become more Christlike

but they will not make one holy”


Like BASF claims to improve products (but not inventing products), when applied correctly the Habits of the Holy will help the Christian to become more Christlike but they will not make one holy. I see it much like becoming a marksman in the Marine Corps. Once I became a marksman – once I had the rudimentary skills – practicing the acronym BRASS-F became very important. In fact, the more I practiced BRASS-F, the better I got. But doing BRASS-F did not make me a marksman. No, like BASF claims, it simply made my marksmanship skills better.


But what is BRASS-F? It isn’t a metal polishing agent—that is Brasso. It isn’t a new way of interpreting evidence for the Big bang and Darwinian evolution. It isn’t even a new management technique.

So what is BRASS-F?

It represents a habit that, if performed each time, will refine the skills a marksman has developed.  I learned this acronym back in 1982 while in Marine Corps Boot Camp. It has stuck with me all these years. So, what does it mean? I’m glad you asked!

Breathe: Slow, steady breathing is essential to hit the target;

Relax: Relaxation of one’s grip on the weapon of choice is important as is the relaxation of every part of the sharpshooter;

Aim: Get your sight alignment and sight picture correct. Place your front sight on the target. One cannot hit where one does not aim!

Stop: Stop breathing for a moment—but just a moment while you perform the next step

Squeeze: With steady pressure, slowly squeeze the trigger of your weapon. Don’t jerk it back, squeeze it slowly while maintaining  your proper aim.

Follow-through: Let the weapon come to its natural rest.

I followed this acronym each time I had to qualify with my M16A1 Service Rifle. (For the record, my rifle serial number in boot camp was 4799618. Some things one does not forget!) Each time I qualified with my weapon during my time in the Marine Corps, I shot what is termed a “possible” at 500 yards from the target. What is a “possible” you ask? Well that means that for each possible shot I took, I hit the center of the target. That’s right. I have never missed the bull’s-eye from 500 yards away. And the reason isn’t because I am a great sharpshooter. No, I followed BRASS-F and formed a habit. While it was difficult the first few times I practiced BRASS-F, as I practiced it it become automatic. I didn’t have to think about it anymore – I just did it. The habit of practicing BRASS-F made me a better sharpshooter.

But what about holiness? Have I formed a habit regarding my walk with Christ that could be characterized as “holy”? Hmmm. What would THAT look like?

In my first post I explained how we are set apart by God as a holy people. That means that we are separated for a specific use.  That use, I believe, is to glorify God in whatever way He chooses to use us. The Habits of the Holy have to do with becoming much more like Christ in our everyday life. It is a habit that does not make us holy, but makes us holier. Much like BASF, the Habits of the Holy will make us closer to Christ in likeness and conduct. If we apply these habits everyday, we will become progressively more like Him

We need to understand that this won’t be instantaneous. We need to be patient and get out of our microwave, gotta-have-it-now  culture and realize life-change takes awhile. Much like becoming a better sharpshooter, the process of becoming more Christlike – the progressive sanctification process – will take time and effort on our part. We need to be patient and continually move forward toward being more Christ-like. We won’t sprint to get there. No, we’ll need to simply move forward with consistency and purpose. It’ll be like a plodder. Just keep moving forward…just plod along.

So how do we do this? Well, at the risk of being too cute, we each become a PLODR. We must

Pray and Persevere

Listen and Learn

Observe and Obey

Discern and Depend

Rinse and Repeat

Each of these habits are good by themselves. But they are better when practiced together. When we practice these habits together, we cannot help but become more Christlike. We’ll consider these five couplets which comprise the Habits of the Holy in the coming weeks. When we look at each one, I’ll be sharing from Scripture examples that teach each habit. So whaddya say? Wanna be a PLODR along with me and be habitually holy? Our first stop is on prayer.


What does it mean to be “holy”?

We usually associate the word “holy” with a pious individual. We  think they walk on water, never sin or mess up. In other words, we look at “holy” as sinless perfection. But is this accurate? Lets take a look at the words used in the Bible commonly translated as “holy” so we understand what the Bible has to say about this issue. 


Old Testament 

The Old Testament word commonly translated “holy” is the word qedos . There are many forms of qedos. These different forms demonstrate the various nuances of it. These nuances vary from describing a person to describing a place. All these nuances mean the same thing: separateness, special, set aside for a specific purpose. 


New Testament 

In the New Testament the term hagios is most commonly translated as “holy”.  Like the Old Testament term, this word can describe a place or a person. It can also describe an action. It too means that something or someone has been set aside for a specific purpose. 


So the idea of “holy” has less to do with conduct and more to do with purpose. Someone or something has been set aside for a specific purpose. But who does the setting aside? God is the One who sets us aside for a specific purpose. Christians, therefore,  are “holy” people. Notice I did not say we are perfect people. Holiness must never be confused with sinless perfection. But this does not mean that as holy people we do not make progress in the expression of our holiness. 


One of the uses of the term hagios  is  for the idea of  sanctification. The idea of sanctification is again one of separateness or specialness. Theologians typically classify sanctification in three ways: positional sanctification, progressive sanctification, and perfective (or final) sanctification. Lets take a look at each one of these so we understand how I am applying them in this series on holiness. 


Positional Sanctification 

The idea of positional sanctification has to do with our salvation experience. When we are redeemed by the sacrifice Christ made for us, we are immediately sanctified. We are set apart for a specific purpose. We can never lose this position since this is an act of God that is totally dependent Him and not on anything we have done. 


Perfective (Final or future) Sanctification 

This is still future to this writing. At some point in the future, every person who has Christ as Savior -each person who is a born again believer in Christ – will be fully sanctified. That is, there will no longer be sin in our lives, we will no longer even be tempted to sin since sin will have been consigned to the flames of hell. We will be perfect human beings. O what a day that will be! 


Progressive Sanctification 

This is the life we live on this earth in this age. We make progress in becoming Christ-like. We have setbacks. But our trend line should always be on an upward trajectory. Through the trials of life, God is drawing us closer to Him. We will continue to have sin burned out of us as long as we remain in this age. However, we will also continue to become more sensitive to sin. This is sure to happen because God will make it happen. But we have a responsibility in this part of sanctification. This is what “Habits of the Holy” is about. 


As we are progressively sanctified – as we become more like Christ – we should develop some habits that aid in our development as a Christian. Let me be clear: our habits do not make us a Christian or cause us to be holy. No, please understand that these habits are the result of being a Christian and of being set apart by God. 


But what are these habits? How do we develop them in our lives? In my next post, I’ll begin to unwrap what I mean by “Habits of the Holy” and how we can develop these habits.