Book Review: Fixing Our Eyes on God

Do your prayers always start with, “Dear God … ” or, “Our Father in heaven … “? “Fixing Our Eyes on God: An A-Z Journey Through The Names of God”, will broaden your understanding of the God who calls you His own, will strengthen your faith showing you how God applies Himself to every aspect of your life and deepen your prayer life.

Maybe you see God kind of one dimensionally. I mean, even when we think hard to give our children meaningful names that represent the person or personality we want them to honor or express, we still only give them one name. And for the rest of their lives we call them by that descriptive. Often, they grow to fulfill that name.

So have you ever wondered why God introduces Himself throughout Scripture using many names?

In her book, “Fixing Our Eyes on God,” Billie Jo Youmans will take you on a simple, daily experience of God as you’ve never known Him before. She identifies names and descriptions of God that perhaps you’ve never heard or thought of before. Can you think of God as your Guide and Guard? What about your Intercessor? She even includes some of God’s names in the original language such as the Omega.

I say that Youmans’ devotional book is simple in that you can enjoy its riches even if you don’t have extensive biblical knowledge or hours to devote to Bible study every day. As the title indicates, there are 26 entries, one for each letter of the alphabet. Each includes a short devotion delving into the name of God highlighted that day. Youmans includes scripture, anecdotes and biblical research to explain each name. Then, a page is provided for journaling.

This book called to mind an old hymn, “He’s Everything to Me.” One line that has always touched me from that song says, “Then I knew that He was more than just a God who didn’t care, who lives away up there … “. Youmans’ book has done just that for me. I understand now, better than before, more of this wonderful, indescribable God who loves me.

You can find Billie Jo’s book here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1518725821?keywords=billie%20jo%20youmans&qid=1455152904&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1#customerReviews

The Problem With “I Did It My Way”

I choose My Way. Words on old wooden board.

I’ve been haunted recently by a fresh perspective of the Gospel. Don’t worry, that’s a perfectly fair use of the word which dictionary.com defines as: “preoccupied, as with an emotion, memory, or idea; obsessed.” So, I’m perfectly happy to have this Gospel ghost invading my thoughts, permeating the atmosphere of my mind.

That doesn’t mean that my mind is completely settled and at peace though. No, instead I’ve come to realize how poorly I’ve assimilated this Good News into my daily life. We’ve been told that the Gospel must get from our head into our hearts, but I think it’s more truthful that the Gospel must rule in both places—occupy both head and heart simultaneously to do us any real good. Otherwise, it may affect our destiny but it won’t change our day-to-day.

You see, since I said “yes” to Jesus at seven years old, I’ve been doing my best to live for him. But, while most of my life has been a valiant effort to please and honor God, it has also been a belligerent rejection of his unrealistic mercy, affection, love and provision. Ultimately, I’ve gotten stuck on the hamster wheel of “Oops, sorry God,” to, “I’ll do better; try harder,” to, “Thanks for giving me eternal life,” to, “See how pretty and shiny my life is now?” and back to, “Oops, sorry God. I’ll do better.” Then, it’s back to work on how best to manage my sin, get my behaviors (the external and obvious sins) under control so that I can go back to being a happy, successful Christian quietly humming, “I Did It My Way.”

So, God’s been relentlessly kind in pointing this out to me through various excellent books: Craving Grace, by Ruthie Delk; Waking Up, by Ted Dekker and of course, the Bible. Now, if you’re interested in joining me on this journey, you’d be wise to read both Delk and Dekker’s books cover to cover. I recommend doing that with the Bible too, but it’s helpful to start with a story that illustrates exactly what I’m talking about. So, let’s look at a lesser-known story—the story of Amaziah, king of Judah, in 2 Chronicles 25.

Young Amaziah, barely 30 years old, was a newbie to ruling a country. But the Bible says right off the bat that he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. (If you know anything about the ancient kings of Judah and Israel, you know that’s not a common characteristic.)

But even though Amaziah (like those of us who call Christ Lord) was obedient to God mostly and desired to do what was right, he still had the human hankering to “do it my way.” Just before heading out to war, he gathered his troops and then decided he needed a few more. So he paid 100,000 men from Israel to join his army. God quickly dispatched a messenger:

“O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the Lord is not with Israel, with all these Ephraimites. But go, act, be strong for the battle. Why should you suppose that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or cast down.”

This was Amaziah’s first opportunity and he triumphed. He quickly released the Israelite soldiers and headed into battle confident God’s way was best. God delivered. Amaziah and his army conquered their enemies and took much spoil. But suddenly, Amaziah’s pride at his success took a turn for the worse.

“I Did It My Way,” must have been playing in his head too, as he took the idols of his conquered foe and set them up at home. Another messenger arrived saying, “Why have you sought the gods of a people who did not deliver their own people from your hand?” (Good question!)

But Amaziah replied angrily, “Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop!”

Let’s stop here. Can you see yourself? I see me as clearly as if a polished mirror lay between the pages of my Bible.

How often have I sought to obey and Lord, been successful—even acquired the admiration of other Christians—only to pat myself on the back (discreetly) and think, “I’ve got this good-God thing down!”

Don’t deny it. It happens to every. single. one. of us. The telling point is what we do next. God faithfully sends a reminder to each of us, in every situation (The Holy Spirit is called the counselor for a reason!) to pull us back from the devastating affects of our own way.

What next? Will you shout (with the memory of your most recent victory playing in your head) that, “I’m doing okay doing it my way!” Or, will you quickly see again the cross, the Good News, the Gospel—the resurrection—and realize that every single victory is from the Lord. Will you realize that if you adopt the idol of your most recent success you will quickly find yourself in the position of your defeated foe—guarded by something that cannot deliver or save?

Submission: How to Want To Do It

Has your husband ever done something that just dropped you to your knees? You know, that submissive position–but in a good way?

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We often bristle at the word “submission.” It makes us feel beneath someone else, second rate and spineless. But I wonder if God’s command for submission should have a whole different feeling, flavor, context and evoke a different physical reaction …

So I ask again: Has your husband, or anyone, ever done something that just dropped you to your knees?

Maybe he knocked 15 things off the “please, honey do list,” or you came home from a long day and he’d vacuumed the house and done laundry. Maybe, on the way home from work he picked up your favorite coffee. Maybe, he dumped the cat litter pan even though that’s “your” job. Maybe he did something 1000 times better, but often, for me, it’s something relatively small but shows that he knows me, my desires, my heart and my needs.

When Patrick turns off the alarm on a Saturday morning, rolls over and pulls me into him, I’m suddenly awash with a gooey feeling like, “I’ll do anything you want–ever!” Or, if he pours me a beer and suggests we sit on the back porch in the evening and listen to a thunder storm, I’m struck with an almost primal-deep desire to do something for him in return, something he loves and longs for. Suddenly, I want to make his favorite dinner, or offer to not give him grief if he wants to play a video game for five hours.

His kindness toward me evokes a response of submissive love, gratitude and a desire to serve him. For a moment, I’m not huffy at all about doing what he wants, about seeking out his desires or preferring him to myself (Philippians 2)–about submitting to him. 

And, I wonder if that’s really how we are supposed to submit to God?

I was reading Psalm 45 this morning. It’s a riveting love song. Truthfully, it can be applied to Christ and the church, to the relationship between Jesus and me. Listen to verses 10-11:

“Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people and your father’s house. Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.”

I heard the Father say to me: Imagine one day being loved like you’ve always wanted. Imagine that everything you’ve ever hoped your husband would do for you, every word you longed for him to say or expression of affection is granted–liberally. That’s what it will be like when you walk with me face-to-face. Indeed, I love you that much now, but your human eyes and heart don’t have the capacity to experience it. Just wait … 

Imagine indeed. What kind of response would that kind of love evoke in me?

And there I think is the key to submission to the Heavenly Father, trusting His goodness and His (often difficult) will, embracing His purpose for our lives and serving Him at cost to ourselves. Did you catch it?

The key to embracing God’s purpose for our lives and serving Him at cost to ourselves is understanding what He has actually done for us … for you … for me. 

Unfortunately, that’s where we fall short. That’s another hurdle that our human minds can barely, if at all, clear: what Christ has done for us. The essence of the Gospel. Admittedly, on a daily basis, I glimpse only shadows of the very truth I have staked all my eternity on–the selfless act of Jesus Christ on the cross and three days later, the powerful act of Almighty God erupting from a tomb.

I don’t know the secret of keeping the Gospel always before my face, but I do know it’s the key to igniting that irrational love response that says, “God, I’ll do anything you want!”

What do you do to keep the truth of the Gospel always before your eyes?

On another note, a wonderful novel based on this passage of Scripture was written by a friend of mine and edited by yours truly! Check it out:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B016AYQV9S?keywords=the+king+will+desire+tomko&qid=1444491137&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1