Sunday, May 25, 2008

Wondrous Things From God

Open Thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law. Psalm 119:18
For the past few weeks I have been trying, with the help of the Lord, to share truths that will help us in these last days. I think that we all realize that things are happening fast and that our time on earth is short.

Matthew 24 talks about the conditions before Christ’s return: "Because lawlessness will abound the love of many will grow cold."
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition. II Thessalonians 2:1-3
I believe we are in the falling away time and we are going to need the greatest help we can find and that is in the Word. So, again today, I would like to share with you some truths that I feel that the Lord has laid on my heart to help build us up spiritually for whatever comes.

The Psalmist had a spiritual base by which he could ask God to open our eyes.

Verses 1 and 2 give us the foundation for this prayer. He refers to the blessed, that is to say happy, person.
Blessed are the blameless, Who WALK in the Word. Psalm 119:1
Having received the Lord Jesus as our Saviour we must began living a life to the best of our knowledge to please Him.
They do no iniquity; They walk in His ways. Psalm 119:3
Some of you may remember that I have shared with you from Paul’s writings in the book of Ephesians five spiritual walks. Let me share them again.
  1. "Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called." Ephesians 4:1
  2. "Walk not as the Gentiles walk." Ephesians 4:17
  3. "Walk in love." Ephesians 5:2
  4. "Walk as children as light." Ephesians 5:8
  5. "Walk circumspectly not as fools." Ephesians 5:15
Blessed are those who keep His testimonies (words). Psalm 119:2
This speaks of both the outspokenness and the dependability of the word of God.

To keep the words of God is to live by the words of God.
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. Deuteronomy 6: 6-9
Look at some of the key words in this passage:
  • "...these words shall be in thine heart..."
  • "...teach them diligently..."
  • " of them..."
  • "...bind them... upon thine hand..." (Hold onto them.)
  • "...they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes."
Now when I came to the word "frontlets" I was stumped . (I know you are smarter then me, you already knew what it means but I had to do research on this word)

From Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible: "In Deuteronomy Moses told the Israelites that the law was to have a very important place in their lives. They were to bind it upon the hand and have it as frontlets between their eyes. It appears that the Jews would write four passages of the law on small bits of parchment, which they enclosed in little boxes, which were worn, bound on the arm and the brow, at morning prayer."

The four passages were:
  1. Exodus 13:1-10
  2. Exodus 13:11- 16
  3. Deuteronomy 6:4-9
  4. Deuteronomy 11:13-21
I will not take time to read them for you but in every passage it says that they were to do it for their children. How important it is today for our children and grandchildren to hear and see us living the word of God.
Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Psalm 119:9-11
It does no good to read the word if we don’t live in it!
Blessed are those who SEEK his Word. Psalm 119:2
To seek is to ask or to pursue diligently; to make inquisition; to search after.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
In Southern Arkansas there is a public diamond mine. People from all over the country go there to look for diamonds. Some camp days there looking for that elusive big shiny diamond. Because sometimes diamonds are found people keep going back. They go in all kinds of weather: hot sunshine, cold, rain that turns into mud. But they still hunt. They are seeking treasure.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Matthew 7:7
If we ever want to get close to God we will do so by seeking out great truths about Him from the word of God that has been given to us by God.
If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Ephesians 3:2-6
And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God. Ephesians 3:9-10
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. Ephesians 3:16-20
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. I Corinthians 2:9-16
How can we ever know the deep truths of God unless we seek for them? If you dig in God's diamond mine you will find truths to help you in these last days.

Dwelling in the word will produce praise to God.
When I look into all your commandments. I will praise you with uprightness of heart. Psalm 119:6-7
In verse 12 the Psalmist show us how to praise God. "Blessed are you, O Lord."

In verses 1 and 2 the word blessed means "happy" but here in verse 12 the word blessed means "to kneel down before in adoration." There is no better way to praise God than to do what he asks of us.
With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word. Psalm 119:13-16
Do you catch what he is saying he would do? "I will declare , I will rejoice, I will delight, I will not forget!" Now that is praise! Think about what he is saying. It isn’t all about what God will show us from His Word but also about what we will do with truth when He shows us.

How many "I will’s" can you give to God in praise?

The Psalmist ends this lesson with a prayer. In fact the rest of this Psalm is a prayer but we only look at a few verses.
Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word. Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. Psalm 119:17-18
Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight. Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way. Stablish thy word unto thy servant, who is devoted to thy fear. Turn away my reproach which I fear: for thy judgments are good. Behold, I have longed after thy precepts: quicken me in thy righteousness. Psalm 119:33-40
In order for us to find the deep truths we need to pray that God would open our eyes to the wondrous things that he has for us.

How much are you going to need God in these last days? We all agree that we are going to need all the help of God that we can get, to be able to live through the storm that is upon us. The spiritual, physical, economical and mental storms will not get any less until Jesus comes and sets things in order for us. He gives us all the help we need to get through any Storm. All we need is to apply ourselves to His word to get it.

Isn’t it time that we get serious about reading and living God’s Word?

We have a choice to make. What’s most important in your life?

Let's make the song by C.P. Jones our prayer:

Deeper, Deeper,
In the love of Jesus
Daily let me go;
Higher, Higher
in the school of wisdom,
More of grace to know.

Deeper, Deeper!
Blessed Holy Spirit,
Take me deeper still.
Till my life is wholly lost in Jesus
and His perfect will.

Deeper, Deeper!
Tho’ it cost hard trials,
Deeper let me go!
Rooted in the holy love of Jesus,
Let me fruitful grow.

Deeper, Higher,
Every day in Jesus,
Till all conflict past.
Finds me conqu’ror,
and in His own image
Perfected at last.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; Ephesians 6: 10-18

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Living in Response to God

The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. Psalm 145:18
It would seem natural that we would long to be close to God, our Heavenly Father…for every child wants to know the security of being close to their parents: the familiarity of their faces, the security of their strength, the assurance of their words. This is a good model for our relationship with God; except to one degree or another the model has been marred a bit: we get wrapped up in our problems rather than our problem solver!

We wonder if we really can get close to God. If we seek, we find a wonderful surprise. If our souls can clear away the debris of life, we find a very present and relentlessly pursuing.

Our Father is God whose fatherly love said:
…I’ll create an environment that testifies of my love and care.
…I’ll inspire writers to capture all that is fundamental about myself.
…I’ll come and show you what I’m like in person.
…I’ll even impart my own spirit to be placed in you.

That is a Father who wants relationship. The scripture declares that God’s love longs to listen to our hearts, comfort us, counsel us, and challenge us like a father.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will counsel you and watch over you. Psalm 32:8
Jesus, in presenting the coming role of the Holy Spirit, said:
"If anyone loves me they will obey my teaching. My Father will love them and we will come to them and make our home with them." John 14:23

"If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you .Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he loves me well be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." John 14:15-21
Do we really love Jesus? If we really love Jesus, then we will do His will!

Jesus gave us some promises:
  • I will give you my Holy Spirit.
  • He will be with you forever.
  • He shall dwell with you and shall be in you.
  • Because I live you shall live.
  • You shall know "That I am in the Father and You in me and I in you!"
  • If you love me "My Father will love you, And I will love you, and manifest (reveal) myself to you."
And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick ? For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad . If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. Mark 4:21-23
Through the manifesting of Christ to our hearts and our obeying His word we can know Him!

How can we experience this constant companionship? This morning I simply want to focus on some of the challenges faced in any parent-child relationship. It’s helpful for us to realize that God not only relates to us with all the desire of a parent to a child, but also with all the power of a parent to a child.

Think about this truth: Relationship cannot be forced. God will not force Himself on us. In other words, if we don’t want to take the time to get close to God then He won’t force us to.

With that in mind, I believe God would remind us of the parent-child truths that relate to our intimacy with Him.

As I’ve reflected upon the Scriptures this week, four truths in particular have stood out to me in regard to our lives:

The first factor involved in God’s fatherly interaction is:

Our Mindfulness

God will relate to us according to our attentiveness. Every parent knows the importance of getting a child’s attention. So does God.

So it is, He states most simply in Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God."

Often times we think of merely the need for a quiet place to be with God, and certainly silence lends itself to stillness. But stillness of soul is more than silence. It refers to quieting the inner activity of our souls.

I find this is one of my greatest challenges to enjoying constant closeness with God. Finding a relatively silent place isn’t so difficult, but quieting my soul is. In fact, silence often seems to unveil all the stirrings and voices in my soul.

Have you found that to be true? Just as you get quiet, your mind is flooded with competing thoughts and concerns… as you initially try to focus, you find your soul suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder?

I might add that I think the things we’re most concerned about may be the hardest because our own thoughts and emotions are so involved; our own desires and reactions fill our attentiveness.
At these times, we’re like a wound up child rambling before a parent who waits to really gain our attention.

In schools these days if a child has Attention Disorder they give them Ritalin. But God will not use any thing other than His truth.

God says "Be still"… come, let your thoughts and agendas be still before Me. Let them rest… get centered… die down."

The full attention of God’s heart is always there for us as our Divine Parent… but we cannot really know His attention until we bring Him ours.

What does God have to do to get your attention? Not just silence, but the stillness of your soul? It might be sickness. It might be a child's sickness. It might even be the death of a loved one or friend.

The second factor in any parent-child relationship is:

Our Maturity

Every parent understands that they can only relate to a child according to their maturity and understanding.

Parents begin with "baby talk" and use simple statements that fit within the child’s conceptual realm.

Is it communication? Yes… as real as any other. So it is in our relationship to God, as the apostle Paul described:
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. I Corinthians 13:11-13
Two important implications in this text:
  1. The reality of a distinction of knowledge between ourselves and God. We don’t see the whole picture. Everything God has shown us of Himself is real, but much is still beyond us, just as a parent’s communication is real, true, valid, but doesn’t attempt to be full. As Paul says, "We are fully known, but we do not yet fully know God." God sees all, but we don't. Oftentimes we use our perception of needs as the reference point of being close with God, rather than God's perception of our needs. No good parent will respond simply according to their child’s limited perception of their needs. Their response will take into account their greater understanding. "I need more cookies… to not go to school anymore". If we make our reference point of need the center of our approach to God, we may not sense his involvement. We must not confuse his agreement and acquiescence to our needs with closeness and intimacy. We must surrender to His higher knowledge.
  2. The second thing Paul notes is the we are to progress in our thinking. Paul recognized that in his own lifetime he had naturally come to think differently. Our maturity of understanding must naturally progress in our understanding of God.
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12: 2
Are you allowing your mind to mature according to all that your Father has made known to you? Are you learning to take on His perspective rather than demanding your own?

Our Motivation

We must recognize that God relates to us in ways that reveal our hearts. We should let the word of God motivate us.
...the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
When we think of being close to God, we so often think of God answering our questions. What we find in scripture is that God’s most penetrating interaction came when He asked the question. The first question God is known to have asked is found in the garden. "Where are you?" … Adam and Eve hiding in their shame. Obviously, God knew physically where they were But it was a question of deeper meaning … a question He asks each of us.

God engaged many with revealing questions:
  • To Cain after killing his brother: "Where is your brother?"
  • To Moses as he went on trying to convince God he was the wrong man to lead the people: "What is that in your hand?"
  • To a man paralyzed for 38 years, He asked, "Do you want to be well?"
  • To His disciples when they shared what others were saying about Him, He asked, "Who do you say I am?"
Today God is still asking questions to reveal the things of our hearts. Many of the real answers for our hearts are found in God’s questions. Are you prepared to find answers in God the Father's questions?

Finally, God relates to us according to:

Our Movement

That is, Gold relates to us according to our responsiveness. Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."

God is not interested in our academic agreement, only in our active agreement. As James described, "Faith without deeds is dead faith" … belief without action is not meaningful belief.
The faith God responds to isn’t an issue of denying our doubts … He honored the one who came saying "We believe, but help us in our unbelief." It’s not doubt of the mind that’s a problem, but the doubt of the will; the unwillingness to act.

The other night Pallie Sue and I were watching Deal or No Deal. There was a contestant who had been married for 25 years and the contestant's sister said they still act like they are on their honeymoon.

Many of us are dating God but we don’t ever make a commitment to Him. He’s coming back for his bride, not an uncommitted dating relationship.

Are you actively believing what God the Father has shown you?
And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? Mark 3:35-41
Let me say in closing that the Disciples were in the right place when the storm came. Close to Jesus!

Are you close enough to Jesus, that when the storms come you can reach Him so that He can calm your life?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Blessed Mother

What do mothers want for Mother’s Day? If you mothers could choose a gift, what would it be? Something just for you. A diamond? A car? A new home? What? What would you think would be a great gift?

Well, I can only guess what you are thinking right now.

Mothers are teachers. Mothers are disciplinarians. Mothers are cleaning ladies. Some mothers are gardeners and mowers of lawns. And most mothers understand that baking cookies is more important than washing windows, too.

Mothers are nurses and doctors and psychologists and counselors and chauffeurs and coaches. Mothers are developers of personalities, molders of vocabularies, and shapers of attitudes. Mothers are soft voices saying, "I love you." And mothers are a link to God, a child’s first impression of God’s love.

Mothers are all of these things and much, much more.

Proverbs gives a description of a great gift that all women should desire.
Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
~~Proverbs 31: 28 (KJV)

Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise.
~~Proverbs 31:28 (The Message)
I would think that praise and blessing would be greater than another gifts. (That’s not to say that you should not buy your mother a gift to show her how much you love her if possible.)

Attorney Michael Minton did a study on the monetary value of a wife’s services in the home. First he listed the various functions she performs:
  • Chauffeur
  • Gardener
  • Family counselor
  • Maintenance worker
  • Cleaning woman
  • Housekeeper
  • Cook
  • Errand runner
  • Bookkeeper
  • Interior decorator
  • Caterer
  • Dietician
  • Secretary
  • Hostess
Using this impressive list of a housewife’s work in today’s labor market, he came up with $985 per week. That’s $51,220 per year!

Now most women are required to work today because most households just can’t make end meet on one salary. I heard on the news the other night that a stay-at-home mother works about 95 hours a week. I got to thinking that you working mothers put in at least 40 hours a week on the job and then you have to come home to your other job! I have one question: When do you have time to sleep?

In Proverbs 31 King Lemuel talks about the Godly prophecy (wisdom) that his mother taught him.
Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. ~~Proverbs 31:10
She is a virtuous woman. The Hebrew word for virtuous indicates a force, an army, strong.
A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: ~~Proverbs 12:4
A crown is something that a man would want to show off. That means that he isn’t ashamed of her. Because the Bible says that the wife is a crown to the husband, he should love her.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
~~Ephesians 5:22-33
Now if the wife is the husband's crown, isn’t this way he should love her? In order for a woman to become a good mother I think she would need a good relationship with her husband.

What are the traits of a virtuous woman?
  • A virtuous woman is trustworthy. Some things should not be spoken outside the home, by either husband or wife.
    The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her. Proverbs 31:11
    • He trusts her chastity (purity).
    • He trusts her conduct.
    • He trusts her in confidence.
  • A virtuous woman is not lazy.
    She works willingly with her hands. Proverbs 31:13
    Let me say, neither is a good man when it comes to the home. If it takes two to make the living then it is only fair that it would take two to keep the home. Paul said that a man should love His wife as much as he loves himself.
  • A virtuous woman is wise.
    She openeth her mouth with wisdom. Proverbs 31:26
  • A virtuous woman fears the Lord.
    Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Proverbs 31:30
One of my favorite columns by Erma Bombeck tells of God in the act of creating mothers. She says that on the day God created mothers He had already worked long overtime. And an angel said to Him, "Lord, you sure are spending a lot of time on this one."

The Lord turned and said, "Have you read the specs on this model? She is supposed to be completely washable, but not plastic. She is to have 180 moving parts, all of them replaceable. She is to have a kiss that will heal everything from a broken leg to a broken heart. She is to have a lap that will disappear whenever she stands up. She is to be able to function on black coffee and leftovers. And she is supposed to have six pairs of hands."

"Six pairs of hands," said the angel, "that’s impossible."

"It’s not the six pairs of hands that bother me." said the Lord, "It’s the three pairs of eyes. She is supposed to have one pair that sees through closed doors so that whenever she says, `What are you kids doing in there?’ she already knows what they’re doing in there."

"She has another pair in the back of her head to see all the things she is not supposed to see but must see. And then she has one pair right in front that can look at a child that just goofed and communicate love and understanding without saying a word."

"That’s too much." said the angel, "You can’t put that much in one model. Why don’t you rest for a while and resume your creating tomorrow?"

"No, I can’t," said the Lord. "I’m close to creating someone very much like myself. I’ve already come up with a model who can heal herself when she is sick - who can feed a family of six with one pound of hamburger - and who can persuade a nine-year-old to take a shower."

Then the angel looked at the model of motherhood a little more closely and said, "She’s too soft."

"Oh, but she is tough," said the Lord. "You’d be surprised at how much this mother can do."

"Can she think?" asked the angel.

"Not only can she think," said the Lord, "but she can reason and compromise and persuade."

Then the angel reached over and touched her cheek. "This one has a leak," he said. "I told you that you couldn’t put that much in one model."

"That’s not a leak," said the Lord. "That’s a tear."

"What’s a tear for?" asked the angel.

"Well, it’s for joy, for sadness, for sorrow, for disappointment, for pride."

"You’re a genius," said the angel.

And the Lord said, "Oh, but I didn’t put it there."
  • My mother taught me LOGIC: "If you fall off that swing and break your neck, you can’t go to the store with me," as well as, "If everyone else jumped off a cliff would you do it too?"
  • My mother taught me MEDICINE: "If you don’t stop crossing your eyes, they’re going to freeze that way."
  • My mother taught me TO THINK AHEAD: "If you don’t pass your spelling test, you’ll never get a good job!"
  • My mother taught me TO MEET A CHALLENGE: "What were you thinking? Answer me when I talk to you... Don’t talk back to me!"
  • My mother taught me HUMOR: "When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don’t come running to me."
  • My mother taught me how to BECOME AN ADULT: "If you don’t eat your vegetables, you’ll never grow up.
  • My mother taught me about GENETICS: "You are just like your father!"
  • My mother taught me about my ROOTS: "Do you think you were born in a barn?"
  • My mother taught me about the WISDOM of AGE: "When you get to be my age, you will understand," or, "I will explain it all when you get older."
  • My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION: "Just wait until your father gets home."
  • My mother taught me about RECEIVING: "You are going to get it when I get you home."
  • And the all-time favorite thing my mother taught me, JUSTICE: "One day you will have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you. Then you’ll see what it’s like! I can’t wait!"
Happy Mothers Day!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Personal Encounter

When electricity became available in remote rural areas, one woman went to great trouble and expense to have electricity installed in her home. A few months after the power was turned on; the power company noticed that the home didn’t use very much power. Fearing that there was a problem they sent a meter reader to check on the matter.

The meter reader saw that the power was indeed working properly and then asked thewoman, "Do you use your electricity?"

The woman replied, "Of course we do. We turn it on every night when it gets dark so we can see to light our lamps and then we turn it back off."

Doesn’t that just sound ridiculous? Having all of the power you need and the ability to tap into it any time you wish, but only using it to see how to light candles?

Would we ever do anything that made so little sense?

Yes, we do, when we apply that same reasoning to the power and presence of God in our lives. We go out of our way to go to church, but don’t let ourselves become devoted to God. We look forward to our time of worship, but don’t let ourselves get too close to God.And we go through all of our troubles, only to ask God for His help as a last resort.

Many of us are just like the woman who didn’t use her electricity the way it was meant to be used. She went through all the trouble to get it, but didn’t use it enough to understand it.

We need to experience the presence of God to experience His power. Just like electricity. When we remove the presence of God from our lives; we remove His power.

We remove the presence of God in our lives when we decide to do something else we enjoy, rather than go to His house to get closer to Him.

Today, I want to look at a very personal encounter Moses had with God. And I want us to concentrate on three things that happened in this encounter that can lead us to a real relationship with God.

And Moses said unto the LORD, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight.

Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people.

And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.

And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.

For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.

And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.

And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.

And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.

And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.

And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:

And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:

And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.

Exodus 33:12-23
A real relationship with God is when we look forward to doing things for Him, where He wants us to do them.

Moses said to God, "If you don’t go with us then I don’t want to go."

Why did Moses say this? Look at verse 3: "I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people:"

Some of the people had built a God of gold to serve.

And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book Which thou hast written. Exodus 32:31-32

Living and Experiencing God

"Yet you have said ,"I know you by name." Exodus 33:12

There is one thing we need to do every single time we step into the house of God, and that is to bring the word of God with us. You can always tell who has and who does not have the Bible as one of their priorities by who brings it to church. I am glad to be able to say that I think most of you do bring your Bibles.

There is no reason to come to church just to hear somebody else tell you what the Bible says. You need to read it for yourself when you are at home.

You need to "read to discover" and not just skim over a couple of verses and think you are doing a good job as a Christian. Part of walking the walk is reading the book.

Moses said to the LORD, "You have been telling me, `Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, `I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people."

The Lord replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."

Exodus 33:12-14
God created us to have a personal relationship with Him. God literally walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Think about that for a moment. Let it sink in. He came down from heaven and walked with them every evening. Can you imagine the closeness they felt with Him, or passing the hours away in personal conversation with Him? How awesome would that be?

They experienced the closest of relationships with Him. We have to get serious and realize something that is the most important news you will ever hear: God is yearning to have that kind of relationship with you, too, if you will only let Him. He wants it so badly that He even sent His Son to be the blood sacrifice to offer us a way back to Him.

(Speaking of Adam and Eve, I have heard it said that they had the perfect marriage. Adam didn’t have to listen to her talk about all the men she could have married, and she didn’t have to hear about how good his mother cooked.)

In this passage, Moses reminds God of His promises. Now, it isn’t like God forgets what He says, so why did Moses do that? Moses did that because he had a sense of genuine concern. There was no longer a sense of the Divine within the nation of Israel because God had removed His presence from them.

How many times have we felt that way about our lives? We might feel like we are in the middle of our own wilderness and God is nowhere around us, but we don’t tell anyone and just try to ignore it, don’t we?

That even applies to our church at times. How many times do we come into the sanctuary and do not feel the absolute presence of God? We feel that way in our lives and in our church when we are not "experiencing" God on a one-to-one basis. What causes us to feel that way?

We feel that way because we are not purposely trying to seek more of God. We are creatures of habit and we settle for whatever we have without trying to get something better. The problem with that is when we do that, we aren’t growing in Him.

When Moses sought God, he did so through passionate prayer. He sought God by going to his knees. One of the biggest problems in the church today is that people want a deep relationship with God but don’t want to pay the price necessary to get that relationship. We want everything handed to us.

But developing an intimate relationship with God takes time and effort. It doesn’t happen overnight.

I want you to notice what Moses said to God in verse 13. He wanted three things from God if God found his life pleasing.
  1. He wanted God to teach him God’s ways. Moses knew that you can only follow God to where He wants you to go if you know what God wants. And He asked God to teach him what God wanted.
  2. He asked God to let him know God. There is nothing more precious in a Christian’s life than knowing God personally. Moses knew you cannot learn from God unless you also know Him. And it is only when we know God can we become one of His children.
  3. And finally, Moses asked for God’s favor (grace). What is God’s favor? It is when God favors us by giving us more of the things that bring our focus back to Him. Have you ever said a quick prayer that you get thru the light before it turns red? And what do you do when that happens? You thank the Lord, don’t you? Did you know that was God’s favor upon you? It was no less a miracle than the miracle that has healed some of you. All born out of God’s favor. Moses wants God to let him live in God’s favor.
Now, Moses’ attitude was much different than most of our attitudes today. We want God’s favor upon our lives for the wrong reason. We want God’s favor so our lives go easier and we can be more comfortable.

God wants to give us His favor so we can do more work for Him. And most of us will never realize God’s full favor because, although we might want to know Him and have a relationship with Him, we don’t want it badly enough to spend time on our knees talking personally with Him, or we don’t want to spend much time reading His Word so we can understand what He wants for us. But we still want all He can give us, don’t we?

Most of us will spend our lives just circling around the area of God, but not really living in His very presence. We do everything we are supposed to, except pursue Him all the time with hearts that will not rest until we get more of Him.

That is how you can live in the presence of God; by chasing after Him; by searching for more of Him. Now all of this takes time. And so often we give God what’s left of our time, which is very little if any.

Living and Experiencing God's Grace

And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth. And the Lord said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.
Then Moses said to him, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us?
What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?" And the LORD said to Moses, "I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name."
Exodus 33:15-17

Moses again speaks with God and asks God to prove His faithfulness. God’s presence in our lives is directly related to the pleasure He has for our lives.

Let me say it this way: If we are living in a way that God does not approve, we will not see very much of Him in our lives. God proves His faithfulness to us by showing His presence in our lives. So how do we please God?

We start by loving Him with all of our hearts. Now that is different than what most people do today. Most people acknowledge God, but that is as far as their emotional feelings go. You can acknowledge the man behind the meat counter or at the drug store, but you don’t necessarily love him, right? God does not just want us to acknowledge Him. He wants us to love Him.

Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment." Matthew 22:37-38

Notice Jesus doesn’t say this the greatest suggestion or greatest opinion. He says it is the greatest commandment. Our first priority is to love God with every fiber of our being. We are called to love God on purpose. He desires to have the first and foremost place in our lives, and He deserves it.

We also please God by believing in Him.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6

I think this verse says it very well. Without faith it is impossible to please God. There is no way that we will ever be able to please God if we do not believe in Him.

The Greek word, says it much better than any word we have in our English language. It means to trust with all your might ... to rely upon with all your heart to depend upon with your very life and to receive fully everything that is offered.

Is that what you think of when you think of having faith in Christ?

Someone said: "We need to find out what God wants if we want to have what God has."

If we do not fully understand the words used to describe Christianity, how can we understand what a Christian’s walk should be like? We place our faith in God when we trust Him completely, even when life doesn’t make sense. When life seems the most senseless, that is when we need to trust God the most!

Can you place your full trust in someone who is not your friend? At best, it is a very hard thing to do, isn’t it?

Another way to please God is to trust Him enough to obey Him. Certainly, if we trust Him, we know that He would never let us down. Jesus even talked about this.

"You are my friends if you do what I command." John 15:14

Our relationship with God depends most of all on our obedience. Our obedience determines the depth of our relationship with God. Our obedience to His will is how we show that we love Him.

We please God by praising Him in everything we do.

Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Psalm 150:1-2

What is the proper praise? It is just blessing God back for everything He does for you.

We please God by serving Him. God wants you to live your life serving Him. This means more than just showing up on Sunday.

True service is lived out in all you do, every day of your life. Look at your life and pick out those areas where God is doing things for you. And then appreciate it enough to ask Him what you can do for Him. Not just today, but every day.

Living in God's Fullness

Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory." And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But," he said, "You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."
Then the LORD said, "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen." Exodus 33:18-23

Preeminence shows us that God has a never-ending glory. The glory of God is far beyond anything we are able to comprehend. Moses literally asked to see His majesty and power. We can tell that Moses had a deep yearning in his heart to know God and to have a deep personal relationship with Him. He wanted to see God without any of the barriers. He wanted to see God for all that He was and is.

Like the young boy on his birthday: The time had come to serve the cake. As the cake was brought in and placed on the table, the little boy just couldn’t contain himself and said, "I want the biggest piece!"

His mom quietly pulled him aside and said, "Son, it’s not polite to ask for the biggest piece."

With a puzzled expression, he replied, "Well, how else am I going to get it?"

How much of God do you want today? Are you satisfied with just a little bit, or do you want the whole enchilada? Do you want as much of God as you can possibly get? If you do, you will have to pursue Him for it, and you will have to ask Him for it.

The only part that Moses was not allowed to see was His face. God did not allow His face to be seen because there was still a need for separation between God and humanity. Even the most intimate relationship with God could not bridge the gap. This is why God sent Jesus, so He could be our Immanuel, God with us.

The presence of God is with us here today for no other reason than because Jesus lives! When Jesus died on the cross, the temple veil was torn in two. That veil was to separate humanity from the direct presence of God. Jesus torn that separation away and now we can fully experience the divine presence of God.

There are two things that we must do to see the glory of God displayed in our lives.
  1. We need to live in His presence every day, which means we must always be desiring a closer walk with Him.
  2. We need to try and please God with everything we say and do – all the time.
You say that sounds impossible, but I want you to remember how you felt when you were pursuing that lovely young lady who became your wife, or the man of your dreams who became your husband. During that time, you did everything you could to get to know them better, didn’t you? You had them in the front of your thoughts every second of every day. You literally could not wait to see them again. That is exactly how we are to feel towards our heavenly Father.

In the late 1800’s, there was a poor farm boy who had never seen a circus. He heard one was coming to town in a few weeks, so he decided to go stand on the sidewalk to see it as it passed by. From everything he had heard, he just knew it was going to be the best thing he had ever seen. He was so excited that those weeks flew by quickly, and he soon found himself, heart beating fast, on the sidewalk waiting for the great circus to pass him by.

Then he heard the music and everybody started cheering. His excitement grew stronger, and then he saw the marching band coming in front of him. He had never seen bright uniforms and shiny instruments like that before. And behind the band came the clowns. The crowd roared with excitement and laughter. The poor farm boy never imagined anything so wonderful could exist.

As the clowns passed, he quickly ran home and told his parents how wonderful the circus had been. In his excitement to see something wonderful, he missed the very best part, didn’t he?

As Christians, we should be awestruck at how much God loves us and how much He wants to bless us, but we end up acting like that young boy. We take a little bit, get very excited over it, and then we ignore the most wonderful part – the personal relationship.

Are you living in God’s abundant presence today, or are you feeling like you are on the outside of His glory waiting for the chance to go in?

Whether we experience all of God’s glory or not depends on one thing: How obedient we are willing to be to Him. But so many times we wonder why God does not bless but the truth is that we only want Him in our lives when we need Him.

He says be in church. Yet, we find other things to do instead of being in His house. He says read His word. We say we are too busy to do it today, but will listen to it on Sunday. And all the while, we stand up and shout to the world that we are good Christians and love God so much!

Maybe it is time to get serious about Him. Just maybe, it is time to start humbling our hearts, from what we want to what He wants for us. Just maybe it’s time we followed Him instead of expecting Him to follow us.