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?

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