Our God Is So Awesome!

I received a message on Facebook Messenger a few weeks ago from my great grandkids with a question for their great grandpa.  Well, it was actually from their mother since Jaxon is 5 years old and Talon is only 3,

THE QUESTION:  “I challenge you to answer the boy’s question in your next blog:  Why is God so cool?  And what about Jesus too?”

It has been a long time since I’ve used the slang word, “Cool”, so before answering their questions, I decided to go to the internet to see if the definition of the word had changed over the years:

“COOL is an acronym abbreviation or slang word meaning AWESOME, GREAT.” (thesaurusyourdictionary.com/cool/awesome – slangs]

Now I’m sure there are many books and commentary written to answer the question of why God is so awesome, so great, so “cool”, but the best book ever is written gives exhaustive reasoning to my great grandkids question is the word of God, the Bible.

SCRIPTURE:  Isaiah 38:4-8; Isaiah Chapter 40:3-8 (9-24); 1 Samuel 17:36; 2 Peter 3:8-13; Psalm 34:18-19.

The Book of Isaiah tells us that God described himself to the Israelites because their king (Hezekiah) was a fickled king who couldn’t make up his mind whether to be loyal to God or not, consequently, the people were questioning their relationship with God.  It was then that God thundered to the people who He really is.

Isaiah 40:9-12 (Amplified Bible)

[9] O you who bring good tidings to Zion, get up to the high mountain.  O you who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

[10]  Behold, the Lord God will come with might, and His arm will rule for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.  [11] He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arm.  He will carry them in His bosom and will gently lead those that have their young.  [12] Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, marked off the heavens with a [nine-inch] span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?

The largest seas in the world are nothing but a handful of water in God’s hands.  That’s AWESOME!  And really “cool” to a five and three-year-old.

Yet, have you ever been in a ship out in the ocean where you can’t see land?  Makes you feel rather small and helpless.

But to God, all those seas are like water in the palm of His hand.

The distance between planets and stars is far in our observance.

How far are galaxies from other galaxies?  If you are traveling at the speed of light as Luke Skywalker was able to accomplish in the Star Wars movie series, you couldn’t reach the end of the universe in your lifetime.

But the Bible tells us that God measures the diameter of the universe with the span of His fingers.  Yet God knows how many grains of sand that are on that beach you collected shells on last Summer.  Now that’s really “cool’!

Verses 13-14 asks:  “Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor?  Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way?  Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?”  [NIV Bible]

These verses tell us about God’s omniscience.  He’s ALL-KNOWING!

Where did God get His knowledge?  

Sometimes we’re impressed by people’s Ph.D.’s or those whose IQ is more than 200, but God’s IQ is infinite.  And here we are trying to make God fit into our prefabricated boxes instead of just opening ourselves up, dispensing with our vanity, and just asking Him to tell us about Himself.  Now that may be difficult to explain to a five and two-year-old boys, but reading out loud verses in the Bible with children about what an awesome God He is a good place to start.

Verse 15 declares:  “Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.”  [NIV]

Our God governs the universe and yet, He’s intimately involved in each of our lives.

Be careful not to think too highly of nations or those who govern.  Some people are tempted to elevate their leaders or governments to the level of God.  But the Scriptures tell us that they’re DUST particles on a scale–or found on a dust mop.

There are some educators today who relate God to the laws of science.  But God’s not a scientist who obeys scientific laws.

He’s the author and finisher of ALL laws and more.  This we see in Isaiah 38:1-8.

In case you don’t know what it means, turning back the sundial ten steps, it’s the same as adding two degrees–or forty minutes–to the length of day.  How “cool” is that?

In other words, our God not only created the universe, but He’s still actively in control of the universe.

He controls the movement of the planets and of time itself!  As it says in Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

I think that’s where many Christians get stumped.  We know, in the abstract, that God can do anything, but we run into a problem that He’ll do anything for us.

The God of the Bible is a living Being–and a very personal one at that.

The Philistines worshipped gods as made of stone or wood.  The Israelites had forsaken God.  But to David, the Lord of all creation is a living God.

In 1 Samuel 17:36, David said to King Saul,  “I, your servant have killed both a lion and a bear!  Goliath the Philistine who is not circumcised will be like the lion or bear I killed.  He will die because he has stood against the living God!”  (International Children’s Bible).

The idea that God was real and alive had not entered the minds of the Philistines and most of Israel either.  They were worshipping gods of stone and wood; god’s devised by their own imaginations.

Isaiah 40:18-20 asks the question:

Maybe you’re thinking we don’t see Christians doing these things.  Wouldn’t it be a little weird to see your neighbor praying to his apple tree?  Or watch him peel an apple then offer it to a rock?  But that’s exactly what Isaiah’s talking about in ancient idolatry.

Today, there’s a different kind of idol worshipping.  Anytime you or I make a person, a god, an institution or anything else that’s equal to or higher than the LIVING GOD in our loyalties, our priorities, then we’re committing idolatry.  

That’s what IDOLATRY is; giving to anyone or anything the loyalty and devotion we should render to God and this includes anything that we feel deserves our time and resources more than our worship of God.

Did you know, we’re all born to be worshippers–even so-called atheists?  They may claim that they worship no god, but in God’s eyes they worship themselves or whatever it is that gives them pleasure.

If you think about it, Isaiah has a real sense of humor.  In verse 20 for instance, he’s saying, “Some of you are poor and you say that you don’t have gold to cover your idol.  Well if that’s the case, be careful of the wood you choose!  Your god may be eaten by termites.”  [paraphrased]

Then he says, “And by the way, be sure to nail your gods down or they may just fall off their pedestal and break!”

Well, God can’t be compared with a physical or human icon–a politician, movie star, or musician (the”American Idol”).  He’s very much alive, and He’s without faults, imperfections, or with failures.  All that He declares is accomplished.  And anything or anyone we put ahead of Him is bowing to deaf and dumb idols of ancient times.

Nevertheless, we do tend to put material things ahead of God.  Every time we make our jobs, our leisure time, our worries or our friends more important than our WORSHIP of God, we show that our view and estimation of God is lacking.

Isaiah 40:21-24 tells us,

  • Don’t you know? …Hasn’t it been told to you from the beginning?
  • It is HE who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants like grasshoppers (READ to your children the verses with “awe”!), (HE) who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them like a tent to live in…

God is not only incomparably “awesome” compared to idols, but He’s incomparably great in His relations with the rulers of this world!

  • …Who makes princes into nobodies, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing  

How “cool” is all that, Jaxon and Talon?

Let me wrap up my observations with THREE POINTS:

#1.  God is all Powerful, all Knowing and He’s everywhere! 

“His arm rules for Him.”  

God’s arm, His Son Jesus Christ, shows us God’s power.  With Jesus, nothing is impossible – be it mountains moved, problems to solve, or bodies to be healed.

He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.  Big words for a 3 and 5-year-old.  It means ALL powerful; Knows everything; He’s present everywhere, all at the same time.

#2.  God is a very personal LIVING Being.

“His reward is with Him.”

God is a very personal God whose greatest desire is a RELATIONSHIP with you.  He knows every pain (“owie”) you will have and sorrow as well as every joy and triumph that you’ll experience.  And He even listens to you–even if you don’t make sense.

#3.  God is the perfect loving Shepherd.

“He tends His flock like a shepherd.”

He shows you that He’s powerful…yet tender as a shepherd who will not abandon His sheep, and wherever He leads you, take you to His perfect PEACE.

 

 

 

Psalm 34:18, 19 reminds us,

Recognize that God is an AWESOME God in your daily lives.  And when you continually recognize and demonstrate His care for you, your children will follow.

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CREDITS:

Photo/Images:  Google Image search.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV); or as noted in the text.

 

“Head” and “Heart” Knowledge: Is there a difference?

Someone once said that the difference of what is in our head and what is in our heart is the longest 12 inches known to man.  And living the Christian life and being able to get head knowledge down to the heart is the difference of whether you will live out your beliefs.

That said, there are a lot of things we know we shoulder that we shouldn’t do in our heads, but stopping or putting them into action begins that struggle within us.  I think that’s why people struggle to come to church consistently.

College kids leave the nest and go off to school with all their fears and anxiety that are never settled and all those questions go unanswered.   You have to be able to address your fears and have your questions answered.  It doesn’t all happen miraculously without your participation.

Hopefully, in this brief study, you and I can get honest about where we are with God by actively participating in God’s Word that takes His Word from head knowledge to your heart and answers questions you’re diligently seeking answers for.

To Be Like Jesus Would Be Our Virtues:

VIRTUES by definition:  “Our behavior of keeping high standards.”

To be like Jesus would be to take His VIRTUES and live them in our lives for that’s God’s design for us.

To think like Jesus–it is our belief.  To believe something isn’t enough, you must believe it as a way of life.

How can we do that?

Setting our standards and moral lives to the standard God desires for us by living it out in our beliefs, producing disciplines that will keep us strong in our faith.  I don’t know about you, but thinking like Jesus–just saying that makes me feel inadequate.

I’ve been a Christian for a long time, but I have a past, I have issues, I have shortcomings, I have kids and family, I have weaknesses, I have attitudes.  All these things keep me from thinking like Jesus because all these things show my imperfections.  So what are we to do?

God tells us that we need a renewed mind [Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:2].

We can’t THINK like Jesus unless we have the mind of Christ, and the only way we can do that is let Jesus RENEW or CHANGE the way we think.

Our Bible Text:  Colossians 2:6-8

Setting Goals –

As we journey in our Christian walk with the Lord, our goal is to allow God to renew or change our thinking about the truths of God.

[Verse 6] “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him.”

Christ has saved us from the penalty of our sins.  He adopted us into the family of God because of what Christ has done for us.  We had to go from knowing about Jesus to Jesus being the center of our lives.

REFLECTION:

There’s a big difference between knowing about Jesus and having a relationship with Jesus with Him being the center of your life and mine too!

For us to have the correct belief in God, we have to put God in His rightful place to have an understanding of what Jesus has done for us.

God is the catalyst if you want more of God in your life, and if you want to have more, you must have a relationship with Him.

To have a relationship with God you have to desire to be in the presence of God.  In the presence of God, God makes changes to our lives, and through those changes, He empowers us to live a life that’s not only abundantly full but with blessings overflowing in our lives which are pleasing to Him.

These are the central truths in our Christian faith.

One of them is that we understand who God is and how much He desires a relationship with us.

And, in 1 John 4:19 (AMP)

“We love because He first loved us.”

Because God bestowed on humanity a free will, man is not forced to love Him, but rather consciously and freely chooses the responses he makes to God’s love.  [Footnote: Bible Hub]

God the Father sent God the Son to die for each of us for our sins and Jesus sent God the Holy Spirit to empower our lives for service to Him.

So a key question at this point is…Who IS God?

The Bible opens up with Genesis 1:1 with the very first words from God to us:  IN THE BEGINNING GOD…  everything revolves around God creator, savior, master of the universe. There are of course questions we don’t have answers for–Where did God come from?  At the beginning before time as we know it, God was, God did, God created!  He doesn’t have to explain anything!

How He came about…He IS God and we aren’t.  He owes no explanation.

The Apostle Paul tells us “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–His eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse”  (Romans 1:20 – NIV)

The question isn’t Is there a God?  We know that there is a God because we see His glory every day in our lives as we look around.  We see there’s a creator of all this and we are without excuse.  Scripture makes it clear that there will always be gods (small “g”) that people choose to follow and serve.

God makes no apology that He’s the God of God’s and there’s no one higher and nothing was created by an alternate god.

Here is a Statement of Truth we have to take deep in our heart:  I believe the God of the Bible is the only true God–God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.

I don’t believe that’s blind faith.  I believe that’s faith-based upon the word of God and the anointing power of the Holy Spirit confirming it to our souls.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to understand all about the God I serve, because I take strength and comfort knowing that my God knows more than I can even think or fathom.  What a difference that would make in your life–just think how many struggles would go away if you realized you don’t have to have all the answers.  You can take comfort knowing that He is God and you aren’t.  You can rest knowing that He’s in charge and is in control.  And you have a desire that goes beyond your own abilities and you actively want to follow His will for your life.

What is His will?  He will show you if you’ll let Him.

Once you put that in perspective, God is put in the right perspective.  God loves you and wants to do what’s best for you.  He becomes your God and not one of many gods.

Once you believe the truth that there’s only one God; once you believe that the one God wants to have a personal relationship with you, you will begin to LIVE your belief.

You will live like God is near in your life…

You will live like God can control your life and you are happy to let Him…

You will live a life that has meaning and a purpose because you know God is in it!

Once you know that God that you serve, you LIVE instead of just existing!

PSALM 121 (NKJV)

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CREDITS:

Photo/Images:  Google Image search.

Bible Translations:  New King James Version (NKJV); New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); English Standard Version (ESV).

Music Video:  YouTube:  The Center Of Your Life by Charlie Hall.

 

Every Meal Has A Desired Outcome!

Scripture:  Luke 22:7-27  The Last Supper 

 

I just love the Food Network on television.  The one thing I’ve learned from watching the cook shows over the years is:

Every meal has a DESIRED outcome.

There’s something that the TV Cook intended to accomplish in preparing this meal.  What makes a birthday dinner special?  Or a wedding reception?  Or that special date with a special young girl back in 1964 when I prepared a juicy steak and twice-baked potatoes for the first time.  The MEAL can make all the difference.

Yet the very thing that can make a meal great can also ruin it!

The Three “R’s” of ruining a meal:

  1. RECIPE.
  2. RECEPTION.
  3. RELATIONSHIPS – Conflict and Competition.

The argument at the table

LUKE 22:24-27

The disciples all gathered together for the Passover meal in the upper room with Jesus.  They all wanted to be Numero uno, number one.  And what’s worse, each thought he was!  Each wanted to be Jesus’ right-hand man, His Chief of Staff!

“What is causing so much disharmony among the nations is the fact that some want to beat the big drum, few are willing to face the music, and no one wants to play second fiddle.”  ~ Henry Kissinger

The disciples had their own view of the Kingdom

Jesus followers wanted Jesus to be KING over the Jews, the Romans, the Greeks, and every political power.  They didn’t realize He already was.  He didn’t have to overthrow surrounding nations and governments in order to be King.  His Kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36).  He rules by spiritual relationship.  The disciples thought they should be leaders while Jesus is looking for lovers and lifters.

“Mop Bucket Attitude!” 

The LORD has a GREAT MEAL PLAN for us!

Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s Hamburger, wrote:

“I got my MBA long before my GED.  I even have a photograph of me in my MBA graduation outfit–a snappy knee-length work apron.  I guarantee you that I’m the only founder among America’s big companies whose picture in the corporate Annual report shows him wielding a mop and a plastic bucket!  It wasn’t a gag; it was a case of leading by example.  At Wendy’s, MBA does not mean Master of Business Administration.  It means Mop Bucket Attitude!”

In order not to ruin the great meal the Lord has planned for us (verse 30), we must go from…WHAT will I eat? to…HOW will I GIVE?

Luke 22:25 (NIV)

[25]  Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.”

Earthly leaders normally lord it over their subjects, issue commands, give orders and tell people what to do and where to go.  They are the BOSS.

In Jesus’ day, it was a commonplace practice of rulers to make gestures of goodwill.  They might open the Coliseum and invite the public for free entertainment, or make their soldiers do some project for the common good.  These rulers called themselves “Benefactors”, or “Friends of the People”, one who does good, as if their sole aim was to rule for the good of the people and not their own gain.  They may do good things, but with an ulterior motive.

Followers of Jesus can’t be concerned with position or power.

Jesus said it:  “But you are not to be like that.  Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves” (verse 26).

In order not to ruin the great meal the Lord has a place for us (verse 30).  We must go from …WHERE will I SIT? …to HOW will I SERVE?

PLACE SETTING to PLACE SETTING–

It’s really unfortunate in today’s society that SERVICE has become associated with a business.  We use to have “Service Stations”, where an attendant pumped the gas, checked your oil, washed your windshield, checked the air in your tires, told you potential problems with your car, and all with a smile and for less than 50 cents a gallon!  NEVERMORE!  And yet we really do value good service.  We are willing to pay more if we know the service will be good.

Our habit of connecting service with business makes it hard for us to understand the Biblical language.  In the Bible, the word SERVICE means the kind of work a slave did for his master.  They didn’t get paid for it.

Just as we can have trouble understanding “service” and “business”, so the disciples had trouble bringing the words “servant” and “King” together.

Forgetting about “your place”, “your position”!

What did Jesus do in setting an example for His disciples?

He washed their feet!

What would Jesus do today?

He’d wash our feet.

You never stand taller when you are on your knees! You are never more in control than when you choose to serve:  “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”  (Matthew 20:26-28).

The Communion Song to listen to in reflection of your position as a true believer and of God’s Planned Meal for us:

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CREDITS

Music Video:  The Communion Song by Jonathan Stockstill and Bethany Worship; YouTube.

Photo Images:  Google Image Search–settings, advanced search.

Bible Translations:  English Standard Version (ESV); New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP).

Dave Thomas Story:  Dave’s 5 Values – The Biography of Dave Thomas.

Eternal Security GUARANTEED!

At the core of every human being is the desire to be APPROVED–to be liked.  Our self-esteem is often set by the opinions of others around us.  And from those opinions, so many of us feel bad about ourselves.  That deep down inside our soul we have a sense of failure–failed either to please those around us, ourselves or our heavenly Father.

The Apostle Paul seems to reinforce our own notions of failure in the first seven chapters of the Book of Romans in the Bible.

In my flesh, that is my old nature, Paul tells us,  “dwells no good thing” (Romans 7:5).

Paul sums it up at the end of the chapter by saying, “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  (Romans 7:24)  Then he answers his own question without taking a breath:  “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vs. 25).

So it’s not through our own efforts, through our family line, through our associations or deeds that we receive acceptance–but it’s through the efforts of Jesus Christ on our behalf that we are rescued, cleansed and loved and then empowered and changed by that relationship.

Acceptance Brings Security Forever!

“I DON’T WANT TO GO!  DON’T MAKE ME LEAVE!”

One of the saddest stories I’ve read was about the biological mother of this young boy who had won a bitter legal battle to reclaim her son from his adoptive family.  When she arrived with her lawyer to take him from the only home he had ever known, the terrified 4-year-old little boy pleaded with those he knew as Mommy and Daddy not to give him up to this complete stranger.

“Don’t make me go,” he begged.  “Please, please don’t send me away!”

Without an understanding of the courts, lawyers and legal codes, the boy was removed and left to wonder what he had done to be banished from those who had always said they loved him.

Some Christians live with the terrifying insecurity that in God’s mind lurks a willingness to send them away if they fail or disappoint Him.  Despite their love of God, they fear that God will withdraw His love from them and remove them from His heavenly home forever.

In the Bible, however, God promises His children that once He sets His love on them, we can be secure in that love forever!

The place to begin to understand a believer’s security with God is with God,–for a believer’s security is not rooted in the believer, but in the believer’s God.

The Believer’s Relationship with the Holy Spirit

Romans 8:1 (GNT)

“There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus.”

This one verse should be tattooed on everyone’s hand–printed on paper and posted on your fridge, and memorized by every believer.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, how you’ve acted, who you are–how much you think you’ve failed–if you are truly in Christ, you are NOT condemned anymore.  Think about that, let it settle in.

God isn’t sitting in heaven with a big hammer in His hand, waiting for you to mess up so He can whap you on the head.  That’s hard for us to accept–quick to judge ourselves–so Paul goes on to tell us why this is a reality.

Romans 8:2-4 (AMP)

[2]  For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has freed me from the law of sin and death.

[3]  For God has done what the law could not do, [its power] being weakened by the flesh [the entire nature of man without the Holy Slirit].  Sending His own Son in the guise of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh [subdued, overcame, deprived it of its power over all who accept that sacrifice].  [Lev. 7:37]

[4]  So that the righteous and just requirement of the Law might be fully met in us who live and move not in the ways of the flesh but in the ways of the Spirit [our lives governed not by the standards and according to the dictates of the flesh, but controlled by the Holy Spirit].

We are under a new authority–jurisdiction now–it’s like when you leave your residing country, you are no longer under your country’s laws, but the law of whatever country you go to.

By believing in Jesus Christ, you left the country called “the world” and have joined God’s kingdom–and are now under a new law–a law called “the law of the Spirit of life.”

So, in Christ, we are not condemned because we’ve been set free–[in verses 1-4]. 

Set free from what?

Romans 8:5-8

So set your mind on the Spirit–

That’s easier said than done–but it’s important to see the distinction.  I think one of Paul’s points is that we have been empowered and set free–the chains have been broken–so we can now choose which mind will control us.

Before I was a Christian my sinful nature controlled my mind.  There was a little tract being passed around at the time by the Billy Graham organization during his Crusades around the country called “Have you heard of the Spirit-filled life?”  Inside it showed the life of a person who doesn’t have Jesus–priorities, hope. actions–all out of whack with no order or purpose.  We are controlled–either by the sin nature or by the spirit nature–the Spirit of God.

A life controlled by Jesus has order and purpose.

The order becomes more evident the more time you spend in the relationship in Christ.  There’s a wonderful promise here in that even though we continue to live in bodies we live with a nature that’s opposed to God–one day our perishable bodies will put on an imperishable nature.  Like Jesus, we will have a perfect, indestructible body without a flesh nature–won’t that be wonderful?

So where then does our loyalty lie?

Romans 8:12-13 (NIV)

[12]  Therefore, brother and sisters, we have an obligation–but it is not to the flesh to live according to it.  [13]  For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

We have an obligation Paul says–it’s the idea of owing a debt to someone–like a mortgage to a bank.  God gave us life through the Spirit, so we are in debt to Him, He owns us–it’s a spiritual reality we need to make in an outward reality in our lives.  We are no longer indebted to our sinful nature–in fact, we need to put to death the flesh.  [vs. 12-13]

In our Godly relationship, closeness to God means we lose control but given a new nature (verses 14-17).

There is so much here in the above verses and the main point is this: the fleshly nature leads to death and fear–fear of punishment and condemnation.

But when we come to Christ Jesus, we don’t get condemned and we are welcomed into a special, close relationship.

“Abba” was the cry of a child to its daddy.

Not only that but we are now heirs to God’s riches–and boy does He have riches–not the kind you spend in a store, but the kind you live off of for the rest of eternity!

Also, looking at the end, there’s something to sharing in Christ’s sufferings that’s part of the process of becoming a child of God.  [vs. 17-b]

Look at what Paul says about it:

Having this new relationship with Christ Jesus means we will be changed.  Right now, creation itself has been waiting since the fall of mankind for the day when we receive new bodies.  It hasn’t happened yet–but it’s coming.

In the meantime, “eagerly wait for it with perseverance”, Paul says.

How–when we seem to be in constant battle with the flesh and spirit? 

Keep reading on:

There’s a lot of theology in these verses–“predestination and foreknowledge”–commentary, books, etc..

It’s at the bottom of an argument between Calvinism and Arminianism:

Calvinist believe God chose who He was going to save and we had little to do with it.  Armenians believe that we chose God and God had little to do with it,  My position, like a few others, is in the middle–I believe God knew beforehand those that would choose Him and so predestined them–that there is a balance between actions of God and actions on man when it comes to salvation.  What I want to focus on here is in verse 28.

Do people really believe this?  A more literal way to translate this would be:

“to them that love God, all things work together for good according to His [not our] purpose.”

In that case, this Scripture is true:

2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promises, as some understand slowness.  Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Once that repentance happens, ALL THINGS work together for good.

The word, “work together” is a good one–it’s where we get the word synergy.  

Synergy is where more than one thing works together well–“the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  [Dictionary.com]

An isolated event in ones’ life might seem bad at the time–like my visit to the hospital for four days last January from an acute respiratory infection.  But because my illness brought me to a hospital bed, I was able to share and comfort the hospital chaplain intern who came to tears sitting in a chair next to my bed over a rebellious daughter who was living in sin.  Through my sickness, God gave me the wisdom and confidence to be of some comfort.  It “worked together for good”

The word “good” means:  “BENEFIT”.  It’s not “good” like “virtue.”  

God isn’t saying “well you’re going to suffer but it’s a good thing to suffer.”  “No pain, no gain!”

There’s an actual benefit that God works through circumstances–yes there will be pain and suffering at times, but know that part of this relationship we have with Jesus means in the end, God will work even the bad to our benefit.

Now we might not see that benefit till we get to heaven–and that leads to Paul’s final major point in this chapter:

Belonging to God’s family means facing death, but receiving a rich inheritance.

God is on our side and we need fear no enemy–losing our job or sickness, or hardship or even death and taxes.

What a wonderful picture God is building–accepted into a new family (the family of God).  For ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD,  and God, who was our enemy, is now on our side–but it gets better!

Romans 8:37 (NIV)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

So we can CONQUER in God.

The base word for “conquer” means “a means of success.”  Not only that but it’s a “super success.”  An individual, a group of people, can’t be a “conqueror” and be a failure at the same time.

Sin no longer has mastery, trials no longer hold terror, life is no longer something to be dreaded…BECAUSE we ARE conquerors.

Now that doesn’t mean we are free from suffering and pain, BUT we are always connected to the One who works for our benefit–NO MATTER WHAT!

Paul puts the cap on this wonderful chapter of promises with this:

What more could we ask for that “nothing can separate us from God’s love” (vs. 38-39).

God so wants to convince His children that His eternality of His love for them that He devotes an entire chapter in His Word (Psalm 136) in which every one of the 26 verses repeats the PROMISE:

“His steadfast love endures forever.”

And so, if He ever stopped loving a believer in Christ Jesus, He would be lying about His LOVE of being “steadfast” and “forever.”  If God ever allowed anything to separate one believer from His love, He would be a liar.

What great confidence we have then,  There’s no one, nothing, no event, and at no time that you can be torn from God’s loves in Jesus.  There’s no reason to say, “Oh, God can’t love me anymore after what I’ve done.”

Oh yes, He can and does!    Far from separating from you, He wants to forgive and cleanse you (1 John 1:9).

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~ CREDITS ~

Commentary:  Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc., “Secure Forever” by Donald S. Whitney.

Bible Translations:  Good News Translation (GNT); New King James Version (NKJV), New International Version (NIV). Amplified Bible (AMP).

Images:  Google Image search.

And the Church Prayed

I think we sometimes appear to others around us as people of prayer.  After all, we attend church on a regular basis and that’s what “religious people” do.  But we’re not really.

A Sunday School teacher was struggling to open a combination lock to a supply cabinet.  She had been told the combination but couldn’t remember it.  Totally frustrated, she went to the pastor’s study and asked for help.  The pastor came into the room and began to turn the dial.  After the first two numbers, he paused and stared blankly for a moment.  Finally, he said, “You know, I can’t remember the combination either.”  Then he folded his hands and looked heavenward and his lips moved silently.  Then he looked back at the lock, quickly turned to the final number and opened the lock.  The teacher was amazed.  “Pastor, I can’t believe you prayed and God gave you the combination,” she said.  “It’s really nothing,” he answered.  “The combination is written on a piece of paper taped to the ceiling.”

As a church, we don’t know quite what to do about prayer, or how to go about prayer, or even whether we should have any expectation of prayer working in our lives.

Prayer is a major element in the Bible.

This is a strange text from the Book of Acts,  chapter 12.  It begins like a Shakespearian Tragedy.

The church is being persecuted.

King Herod puts a Christin leader, John’s brother James to death.  Herod finds that the masses like this and it helps increase his popularity, so he has Peter arrested and scheduled for execution.

Then the tragedy turns very dramatically as an angel appears by waking him from his sleep leading him out of the prison.  It’s a real mystery event as even Peter doesn’t know if it’s real, or a vision, or just a dream.

The angel and Peter walk up to the gates of the prison and the iron gates open by themselves.

But then the event turns and begins to feel like a comedy.

The whole church is praying for Peter’s release, and the church’s response when they see Peter is to think, “That can’t be Peter–he’s in jail!  We’re here praying for his freedom so he can’t be free!”

Sometimes our prayers seem to go unanswered so often, we find ourselves expecting God to do nothing when we pray.  Sometimes we don’t know what to pray for in a given situation, or how to pray. 

So looking at the Book of Acts, in particular, Chapter 12, it’s study can teach us all some important lessons about prayer.

The first lesson is, the Church should pray!

That’s simple and very logical.   Of course; you say the church should pray.  But I have to say that I wonder if we pray enough in our churches or in our own lives.  Paul says in his New Testament book, First Thessalonians,  “Pray without ceasing.”  Many of us will reverently bow our heads for a few moments and then stop.

Paul didn’t mean that we should be on our knees all the time or living like Monks in a monastery.  He meant that we should be in an attitude of prayer, so even while we’re talking with others around us, part of our mind is in communion with God.  And when we’re driving down the road, part of our mind should be in a quiet relationship with God.

But for many of us, prayer is a rare action.  It’s something we do much too infrequently.

“You are in my prayers”

We find ourselves in a conversation with others who tell us about how they are in the middle of problemed teenager situation, or they are waiting to hear back from doctors and the news might not be good, or they’re struggling to find a job and we give them what we think is comforting–but they aren’t in our prayers.  We say we’ll pray for them but we won’t.  I often will ask them right where they are if I can pray for them at the point of the request.  It helps them know they have my attention and it’s a good reminder for me to keep praying!

One of the things we see in this passage of Acts is that the Church prayed!

Praying is the most powerful thing that we can do as a church.  We need to pray as a community.

Prayer for me is often a private thing.  In the mornings when I’m reading my Bible, it becomes my prayer time as well in which I’m alone with my heavenly Father.  I like to call it ‘Father/son time’.

Hopefully, personal and private time prayer is something we all do, but we also need to pray in community.  It doesn’t have to be the entire church–it could be your small group or your Sunday School Class, or a few church members you contact via email.

The church finds strength as a praying community for one another.

Peter finds the church gathered together in prayer for him.

The strange thing is that even though the church is gathered specifically in prayer for him, a comic moment transpires as the church is caught off guard with the fact that God has heard and answered their prayers.  This brings us to another important lesson about prayer in the Book of Acts:

When we pray, we should expect God to respond!

Looking at the Bible you’ll find many times when prayers were answered.  Abraham’s servant prayed for God’s direction in finding a wife for Isaac, and God led him to Rebekah (Genesis 24:12-15).  

David prayed for strength and was able to defeat Goliath (1 Samuel 17).  

We tend to forget however, there are many times in the Bible that prayer seems to be left unanswered.

Paul prayed three times for the removal of that “thorn in the flesh.”  

Even Jesus prayed a prayer that was left unanswered.  Jesus cried out in the garden, “take the cup of suffering from me.”  He prayed that He wouldn’t have to suffer on the cross.  Instead, He had to suffer the pain of it.

Our own lives are full of unanswered prayers.  So much so, that we begin to live in expectation of our prayers being left unanswered.

And like Rhoda and the church in Acts 12, we reach a point where we are shocked and unbelieving when God answers prayer.  The thought process of why some prayers seem to go unanswered is a complex question.  It’s not a one size fits all sort of question to answer.

There are different reasons for different situations.

Sometimes our prayers aren’t answered because our hearts aren’t right with God:  “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

In Proverbs 15:29, we read “The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.”

Sometimes, the problem with unanswered prayer is our time isn’t God’s time.

And what we often interpret as “unanswered prayer” is simply a matter of an answer that’s delayed.

In Jeremiah 42:2-7 we read where the people asked the prophet to speak to God for providing immediate direction in their lives–“We want it right now!”

Sometimes the answer comes for longer than simply ten days later.  It might be years later.

Sometimes we misunderstand prayer.

We pray out of selfish motives. 

True prayer is God-centered.

But we often turn our prayers into a self-centered activity.  I

n the New Testament Book of James, we’re told: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).  

The object of prayer is that God is glorified and not ourselves.  At times we think of prayer as Aladdin’s lamp to use in glorifying self.  We often think of God as a genie who is at our bidding and command.

Can we not pray for ourselves?

Of course, but we should pray for ourselves unselfishly.  Unselfish prayer for self is a prayer which seeks not self-centered comfort but Christ-centered conformity to God’s will.  Prayer isn’t an end in itself but a means to a greater end which is to glorify God!

The Bible promises us that God will hear our prayers.

The Bible never says that God will obey our orders and sometimes that’s the way we treat prayer.

In the Book of Acts, we don’t see Peter praying self-centered prayers.  He isn’t begging for his freedom.  He’s resting in the comfort of God.  He trusts God so much on the eve of his execution, he falls asleep and he sleeps so soundly that when the angel comes to wake him up, a gentle nudge won’t do.

When I was a young teenager, my mother would come into my room in the morning and wake me up for school–quietly coming to my bedside and gently rocking my shoulder she would say, “Mel, Mel, time to get up and out of bed and go.”  No–that wasn’t the way the angel woke up Peter.  The angel acted like my father.  When Dad would wake me up, he would crack the bedroom door and shout, “Mel.  Get out of bed right now and get to school!!”

Acts even says the angel had to hit Peter in the side to wake him up!  [Acts 12:7 – Interlinear Bible].

And you know, that in itself is really the best answer to prayer–not that God would do this or God would do that, but that He would give us such trust in Him that we could rest comfortably and calmly in His loving presence.

And the church should pray…

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CREDITS

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search – Settings, advanced.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), or as stated.

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old and New Testament Words by W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr.

Commentary:  Drumbeat of Love by Lloyd John Ogilvie.

Contributions by Maynard Pittendreigh in researching commentary on Acts Chapter 12.

Making A Name For Oneself

As I was exiting a grocery store’s parking lot with my wife at the end of an exhausting day, I particularly noticed the car in front us had abruptly stopped.  Politely, they were allowing space for a car to enter traffic.  I mentioned to my wife what a nice, courteous gesture that was: “You don’t see that very often!”

At that point, noticing the welcoming offer of entering the busy road, it was either being rejected or the other driver was confused.  It reminded me of a TV commercial I often laughed at of “You go, no, you go!”

But on this trying day, my reaction was less humorous, saying  “What a Nimrod that guy is!”  for not entering the traffic.  With that regretted outburst, I sheepishly asked my wife where that expression comes from and the meaning behind it.  We left the question with puzzled looks on both our faces for a later time discussion.

And the Study Begins in Genesis 10:8-11; 11:1-9

The Etymology of Words

In some English-speaking countries, Nimrod is used to denote a hunter or warrior, because the Biblical Nimrod is described as “a mighty hunter”.

In American English, however, the term has acquired a derogatory meaning of “idiot”; “stupid”.

The Looney Tunes synonym.

In 1932, Looney Tunes accidentally portrayed and transformed the word Nimrod into a synonym for an idiot but nobody got the joke that sarcastically compared Elmer Fudd (the “hunter”) to the Biblical figure Nimrod (“a mighty hunter”).

 

The Religion of Nimrod

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You can notice in the above verses that Nimrod’s very name means “rebel” or “we will rebel!”

Notice also the words in verse 9 “before the LORD”.  This phrase literally means “against God!”

Nimrod rebelled against the Lord and disregarded the past of the family.

Nimrod would have nothing to do with the faith of his ancestors.  Instead of learning from their experiences, he rebelled against their practices.

Family History of Nimrod

His grandfather Ham and great-grandfather Noah along with the others who survived the great flood left a great heritage for him to emulate.  Out of all mankind, they were the only ones who believed God.  They had found grace in the sight of Almighty God!

After the floods receded from the earth, the first thing his great-grandfather Noah did when he came from the ark was to build an altar, offer a sacrifice to the Lord, something that pleased the Lord.

Nimrod’s Actions…

His actions became the subject of a saying back in those days that Nimrod became a “mighty tyrant in the face of Jehovah.”

He was a “hunter” in the sense that he was relentless in searching out and persuading men to obey his will.

He was powerful in hunting and in wickedness before the Lord, for he was a hunter of the sons of men, and he said to them “Depart from the judgment of the Lord, and adhere to the judgment of Nimrod!”  Therefore is it said:  “This Nimrod the strong one, strong in hunting and in wickedness before the Lord.”  [See Footnote [i].]

When I was rebellious as a child, my mom would say…Mel, you’re stubborn as a mule or when I tell you something it goes in one ear and out the other.  But imagine if you can in Nimrod’s day…they might have said to a rebellious child…“You’re rebellious as Nimrod the mighty hunter who turned against God!”

I can see a bit of the “prodigal” in Nimrod.

He wanted to take care of himself.

He reminds me of the song of Frank Sinatra…“I did it my way”

Nimrod DISOBEYED God’s Principles.

God commanded Noah and his family when they stepped from the ark that they had a responsibility.

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”

This didn’t just mean that God wanted the earth repopulated, but I believe also that He wanted to replenish the earth with people of faith.

Nimrod was content in making a name for himself.

He cared nothing for the kind of faith that his family before him had.  And as far as replenishing the earth…  I find no records in the scripture of Nimrod ever having any children of his own.

Nimrod’s Rulership (Genesis 10:10-11)

[10] The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad, and Kalneh, in Shinar.

[11]  From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah–which is a great city.

Nimrod made quite a name for himself upon the earth.

He was a selfish person whose desire was to prove that he didn’t have to depend upon God as had his family!  He would make it on his own!

The idea of “mighty hunter” shows his great skill and also his ambition.

He was a great sportsman but his greatest sport may have been that of hunting men.  If you have ever seen the movie series, “The Hunger Games”, where we may have a picture of his participation in the games.  Nimrod was no doubt a conqueror of men.

He established a kingdom (verse 10) rather than replenishing the earth.

Nimrod is determined to rule over his own domain, to make it as large as possible.

And what a kingdom it was!

Nimrod was the founder of the place called Babylon and surrounding areas which is modern-day Iraq.  All the cities mentioned in the above verses became major worship centers of many pagan deities including the “moon god”…”Allah”.

In Verse 11, we see a person whose main ambition, objective, and purpose in life is to be above others, to have more than others, and never satisfied.

Those who will make pleasure, power, and prestige their goal is never content no matter how much control they gain.

Nimrod isn’t content with what he established (verse 10) but goes forth now to Assyria (verse 11) and beyond building cities in Nineveh, Rehoboth, Calah, and Resen.  They all became worship centers for pagan deities.

Moving on to Chapter 11 we see furthered domination.

Genesis 11:3-4 (NIV)

“Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.”  They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.  then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

The person who would be a dictator can only be a dictator if the people below him are willing to follow.

Nimrod had quite a following!

Nimrod had been given quite a legacy to follow, but he rebelled against the idea and have no part in it.

His family had found grace in the eyes of the LORD, but he preferred trying to make it on his own merits.  His ambition…” to make a name for himself.”

GRACE glorifies the LORD while religion glorifies man!

Notice the drastic contrast between Noah and Nimrod.

Noah, Nimrod’s great-grandfather, built an ark so that his family might be saved!

Nimrod built a tower so that he could make a name!

We can see these two attitudes even today and at work in our society.  Some are concerned about the family structure, and the salvation of their family…children.  While others only concerns are about making a name.

Nimrod’s Religion was secular.

  • Genesis 11:3 –  And they said one to another…let us make brick.
  • Genesis 11:4 – And they said…let us build us a city.
  • Genesis 11:4 – and let us make a name.

God comes down to mankind that we might be lifted up to Him.

Nimrod and his religion say…let’s build our own way and let’s just do it on our own!  Sounds a bit like a commercial advertisement in today’s secular society.  “Just Do It!”

Nimrod’s religion was sinful.

We don’t often think of “religion” as being sinful.  There’s a common saying…”It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something!”

That’s one of the most foolish concepts in the world.  It’s also what is one of the most destructive.

What we believe is important because it influences our behavior and most important it decides where we’ll spend eternity!

Nimrod’s religion was sinful because it was an utter rebellion against God!

His religion was sympathetic.

Nimrod’s religion was the beginning of the Universal Church movement.  It’s a religion that prevails in our society today.

It’s a religion that says, let’s put aside our beliefs and all come together.

It’s the religion that will embrace any type of belief and any form of behavior.

The most politically correct term of our day is “tolerance”.

It’s a word used and spoken in our kindergarten classes, from America’s pulpits, from the sidewalks and from the governmental buildings in Washington, D.C.

I want you to understand where I’m coming from in my writing.  We should be loving people and care that our attitude doesn’t come across as being hateful, and bigoted.

I GET IT!

And yet, at the same time we need to take a stand on what’s right and against what’s wrong.  we can and should be sympathetic toward the predicament of sinners, to those of other beliefs, but to embrace their beliefs and behavior is to put a blessing on the very thing that may lead to their destruction…both here and in eternity!

Nimrod’s religion is the harlot mentioned in Revelation 17.

The True Church is one that’s a bride without a spot and without a blemish.

The World’s Church is one that is a harlot–prostitute.  One that is filled with blasphemy, abominations, and filthiness!

Revelation 17:5  (AMP) – “And on her forehead, there was inscribed a name of mystery  [with a secret symbolic meaning]:  Babylon the great, the mother of prostitutes  (idolatresses)  and of filth and atrocities and abominations of the earth.”

NOTICE verse 6:

Revelation 17:6 (NIV) – “I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.”

Two dangerous attitudes in the churches:

“Don’t offend anyone!”

“Don’t get involved!”

THE RUIN OF NIMROD (Genesis 11:5-8)

The LORD Saw!

[5]  But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.

The LORD sees and knows everything, but when the scripture speaks…the Lord coming down to see for Himself, it denotes the seriousness of the matter!

There’s something we need to clearly understand.  God knows what’s going on both on earth and each of our hearts.  He knows whether our religion is sincere or whether it’s a substitute.

The LORD spoke!

[6]  The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”

He spoke out against their desire for a one world religion.

“Indeed the people are one, and they have one language”

He spoke out against their enterprise.

“This they began to do”

He spoke out against their evil.

“…nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined doing”

COMPARE this to Genesis 6:5 (NIV)

The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every indication of the thoughts of the human heart was deeply troubled.

The LORD scattered!  (verse 8-9 – AMP)

The phrase used in the Amplified Bible reads “scattered them abroad” is translated   “to dash onto pieces”.  The Lord dealt with them by confounding their languages where they could no longer communicate by dispersing them.

The LORD shattered!  (verse 8-9)

“…they gave up building”

The religion of man is doomed.  God shall one day scatter, and shatter the ‘New Order’.

For further reading on the topic, you might compare how God deals with the Great Harlot Babylon (Rome) in Revelation Chapter 18.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [I] :  The Jerusalem Targum.

Video:  4-Way Stop:  You Go, No You Go – Youtube.

Entymology of Words:  The term “Nimrod” in American slang:  “What is the meaning of the slang term “Nimrod”?  by Quora.

Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  Primarily the New International Version (NIV) and the Amplified Bible (AMP).

 

 

 

 

Where Has the REVERENCE and AWESOMENESS of God Gone?

 

 

I want to begin this study with a question:  Do you ever feel like something has changed in your life where maybe you used to get excited about something and then, it has just become part of the day in/day out a mundane living?

It seems the longer we are occupied with something, the more it becomes a part of our life and the more likely that we become less excited over it.

Before I retired from the mechanical contracting business, people would ask me if my job was exciting and typically I would answer that it’s a job like any other.

But it wasn’t always that way.  It always was a daily challenge with the responsibilities that came with the different positions I held, but there was the daily excitement of accomplishing and succeeding and new things.  Doing my best was always in place because of the way I was raised, but going beyond the best and succeeding was thrilling.

Looking at Marriage Relationships

Before I was married, the excitement of talking to my intended on the phone, seeing her in person, the getting ready to go on a date, putting on cologne and nice clothes, looking my best, the getting married, the wedding night and honeymoon, even the first couple of years.

Then you get into a routine and the excitement and awe seem to fade.  And even in our relationship with God, the routine can set in without notice.

When you first become a Christian you couldn’t get enough of the Bible.  You wanted to be talking to others about Jesus whenever and wherever you had a chance.

And right now you’re still enjoying being in God’s Word, but the same AWE and EXCITEMENT isn’t always there.

Hebrews 12:28-29 (AMP)

If we are truly going to worship God in Spirit and Truth–to be true worshippers, there needs to be “reverence and AWE”.

“AWE” – Definition: “Fear mingled with reverence and wonder” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia – 1996)

“AWE” –  “a very strong feeling of wonder, reverence (or fear) caused by something grand or powerful” (www.Wordsmyth.com)

I asked myself the question over the last several months: Am I worshipping on Sundays and the rest of the weekdays with AWE as it’s defined?  I have reverence for the Lord, but sometimes, I confess, I don’t have that sense of awe and wonder.

And when we lose a sense of awe of God, the scripture tells us that we fail to worship God acceptably.  I don’t know about where you are right now, but I want you, us, to return to a sense of being In AWE of God.  Maybe you’ve never experienced that sense, but it’s available for all.

To do that though. I think it’s important to ask ourselves some questions.  We know that it happens, but why does it happen? Why do we lose our sense of awe?

I believe as we become all too familiar with anything, including our own faith in God, it starts to become commonplace.

There is a balance for us to maintain.

As we grow with the Lord, our understanding and relationship with Him will grow as well and we become closer and more familiar. 

We need to recognize that when we approach our heavenly Father with confidence and with closeness, as a child approaches his daddy (Abba), but at the same time, we need to approach with a sense of awe and wonder that we have God Almighty as our Father.

We need to avoid our faith becoming common, that we look at God as we sometimes look at our earthly fathers as someone who pays the bills and lets us borrow the car.

How do we do that?  How do we maintain or get back our sense of AWE for God?

I think it originates in our heads, in our thinking, or lack of thinking.

In my marriage, if I was thinking each and every day how blessed I am to have a wife who chose me to spend her life with, who is there making our house a home, and who cares for me and about me, I know I would have a better and more grateful attitude toward her than I sometimes do.

But it all starts in our minds.

And the same is true about our Godly relationship.

Our minds need to be focused on the relationship so that we can recapture our AWE for God.

Instead of just focusing on God, we need to be focusing on specific aspects of God and it starts by recognizing who God is.

I believe there are some specific things we need to focus on about who God is if we’re going to have that sense of excitement and AWE for God.

  1. RECOGNIZE GOD AS CREATOR.

The Scriptures support this approach as well.  Often when Awe is being discussed, it’s in context with Creation.

Job 25:2 (NIV)

[2] “Dominion and awe belong to God; He establishes order in the heights of heaven”

Psalm 33:6-9 

God has made all of Creation, sustains all of Creation and if we stop to think about it, it’s absolutely unbelievable and awe-inspiring.  The problem is, we often don’t think about it because we live here and this too has become commonplace.

With that thought in mind, I want to take the time here to refocus on this place where we reside that God has made and created for our benefit.

  • The Universe–the vastness of the universe.
  • The Body–the intricacies of the design of the human body.

We have 30 to 100 trillion (with a “T”) cells in our body that work independently, yet must work in coordination with the other cells.  I’ve worked in offices for over 30 years where 10 people couldn’t work in coordination with each other. And yet, the body is self-healing; it has reproduction properties.

Beauty of Creation

So often in our world, it seems we need to give up beauty and creativity for functionality.  Not so with the world.

Our world not only functions orderly, but the BEAUTY of what God has created is amazing! And if we can keep our minds focused on the awesomeness of Who God is as Creator and recognize the awesomeness of His Creation on a daily basis, then I think we will go a long way toward having an AWE inspiring view of God.

Each day we should seek to view the Lord’s creation in a specific way that recognizes this awesomeness.

Each and every day, even on the way to church on Sunday morning…make it a point in the car to point out God’s awesomeness,  And by the way, it’s a great lesson for our children as well.

But we need to not only be AWED by God as Creator, but we also need to realize and recognize God as Judge  (Hebrews 28-29).

God is a “consuming fire” and He will JUDGE the world in regards to His Holiness.

That brings to mind, that “If one receives Jesus Christ as Savior, then they won’t be judged, right?”

You will not be judged to your salvation.  That’s a gift from God.

But each one of us is going to face the judgment seat of Christ in eternity for what we do in terms of our rewards in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:10).

For we must all appear and be revealed as we are before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive [his pay] according to what he has done in the body, whether good or evil [considering what his purpose and motive have been, and what he has achieved, been busy with, and given himself and his attention to accomplishing].  (Amplified Bible)

That’s for every one of us!

And because God is a JUDGE, we should stand in Awe of Him because of His JUDGMENT & AUTHORITY over us.

Just as we enter a courtroom we’re expected to show respect for the power and authority there and if we don’t we may be held in contempt and judged accordingly for those actions.

Therefore, with that premise in mind, should we show any less respect on Sunday morning worship–coffee mug in hand, baseball hats on our heads, Smart Phones checking out the latest sports scores, etc.?

We should always stand in Awe and respect of God for the One Who will JUDGE ALL of our actions and attitudes.  And as a Christian, even more so, we should stand in Awe of God as our Judge.

In addition to recognizing Who God is as Creator and Judge, which will help us stand in reverence and Awe, there’s one more thing I think is necessary for us to understand and focus on for standing in Awe and reverence of God, and that’s…

Recognizing who We  Are.

I believe it’s imperative that we have a proper view of ourselves for us to be able to have a proper view of God.

READ what the apostle Paul’s viewpoint regarding who he was and how it gave him a proper, awe-inspiring view of God:

1 Timothy 1:15-17What Paul is saying to me, perhaps to you as well, having a realistic view of our own sinfulness and how it should help us to be in Awe of God.

Are You Standing In Awe of God?

Maybe you have lost that Awe, or maybe you’ve never experienced the Awe at all, and in either case, you’ve been going through the motions of being a Christian and haven’t been feeling the Awe of God that you should be experiencing.  Here some suggestions that I’ve found to start with for all of us:

Open your eyes to God’s Creation and really see things around you.

  • Notice the sky and the Sun.
  • Notice the number of people driving our highways at all hours of the day and recognize God is the creation of each and every one of them and knows every hair on their head.

Think about God, the great and mighty judge of ALL MANKIND that will one day stand before us.

Be on Awe that we will stand in the presence of the greatest authority in the universe, greater than the Supreme Court of the land, with the Son Himself our mediator.

Recognize your own selfishness and the fact that God’s loves you and me anyway and still desires to use us even though we don’t deserve the privilege of being used in God’s plans in such an awesome way.

I want to pray for those who may be feeling a little unconnected from the Lord, that over these next days, weeks and months, that you might be awed by the Lord, God Almighty, our Savior and Judge, and find your self, standing in Awe of Him!

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CREDITS

YouTube Video:  I Stand In Awe Of You

Photo Images:  Google Images–Settings, advance search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version; Amplified Bible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Returning to One’s Own Vomit [Part Two]


I proposed a question for the readers at the close of Part One:

“Could enlightenment, tasting the heavenly gift, sharing in the Holy Spirit, tasting the goodness of God’s Word, and the powers of the coming age…could they be true of a person who has not received Christ as Savior?”

Well, in seeking to interpret this with the view of the Bible as a whole, it’s challenging to understand this as a Christian who LOST their salvation.

Look again of the context of the Letter to the Hebrews that helps us to possibly understand this meaning differently.

Overall, the Letter is saying that Jesus is Greater and the message is greater to persevere through challenges.

Additionally, the immediate context of this passage leading up to our verses in Chapter 6, focused on The Word of God being able to hear it, speak it and digest it and growing in our understanding and knowledge of it and living it out.

So, could these verses, instead of being about a person who is truly saved, be about a person who has heard the word, seen the truth of it and its power, but…has not yet truly TRUSTED & RECEIVED Christ Jesus?

So with the rules–the PRINCIPLES– of the interpretation given and set in place in Part One of the studies, let’s take a look and see if things begin to fit and make sense that another Scripture supports.

Hebrews 6:4 (a) (NIV)

“It is impossible for those who have been enlightened…”

What does “been enlightened” mean?

Does it mean to be a Christian or something else?

“the giving of spiritual light to the soul” – Grk.photizo  [*See footnote]

Enlightenment in this sense, in the context of my previous comments, is the Word of God.

Other Scriptures seem to confirm this.  Ephesians 1:18 (AMP) reads “By having the eyes of your heart flooded with light [“enlightened”], so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones).”

We are enlightened to the HOPE we find in the gospel message,  We respond to that by receiving Christ. That happens before we receive Christ and is necessary to be able to respond and receive.

We need ENLIGHTENMENT so we can come to receive Jesus!

Also, 2 Peter 1:19 says,  “And we have the prophetic word [made] firmer still.  You will do well to pay close attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dismal (squalid and dark) place until the day breaks through [the gloom] and the Morning Star rises (comes into being) in your hearts.” [AMP]

It’s saying to pay close attention to God’s word through the prophets of old because in doing so, it will give you LIGHT (enlighten you) to see and understand.

And Paul tells Timothy something similar about God’s Word:  2 Timothy 3:15 says, “from infancy, you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”  (NIV).

So these other Scriptures should give us confirmation of our understanding of being enlightened.  This enlightenment–this understanding of the Truth of God’s Word and the hope found within it must be before SALVATION, because it’s this “enlightenment” that makes SALVATION even possible!

If you don’t know the message of HOPE found in God’s Word and BELIEVE it, you’ll never be saved!

WHAT’S NEXT?

“TASTING THE HEAVENLY GIFT” — What does it mean?  [vs. 4-6].

[4] It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,  [5] who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age.”

How this ENLIGHTENMENT works.

So what does it mean to have “tasted the heavenly gift”?

It means having read the word of God, is like tasting a new food item on a restaurant’s menu. But, because it seems foreign to your taste buds, you just can’t swallow it and spit it out in your napkin.

Scripture talks about the word being a treasure given to us in 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 (NIV).

Verse 6,  For God, who said, “Let the light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ,”

And Verse 7,

THE WORD OF GOD IS A TREASURE…

A GIFT from heaven to us, to tell us of the HOPE that’s available through Christ Jesus.

“Shared in the Holy Spirit” (Hebrews 6:4)

The meaning here is that the Spirit has revealed truth and drawn you to the Lord.

It doesn’t mean they have the Holy Spirit indwelling them as some think.  But the teaching of the rest of the Bible disputes that idea and it can just mean that you have been on the receiving end and the Holy Spirit’s work is revealing the truth of God’s word to you and His work has drawn you to the Lord.

Let’s remember what the author of Hebrews doesn’t say here.

He hasn’t said, “The Spirit of Truth lives with you and will be in you” – John 14:17

He hasn’t said, you are a temple “of the Holy Spirit, who is in you” –  1 Corinthians 6:19

He hasn’t said, you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit – Ephesians 4:30

Here the author says “Shared in the Holy Spirit”.  It’s a recognition that this person has been a participant in the work of the Holy Spirit which as Jesus says in John 16:13, “guide you into all truth”.

“TASTED THE GOODNESS OF THE WORD OF GOD”  (vs. 5)

I didn’t find this particular phrase as difficult to understand as the others and pretty self-explanatory in that a person knows God’s word is “good” and true.  You have seen the WORD working in people’s lives and know its goodness and truth.

What does “tasted the powers of the coming age” mean?

You’ve seen miracles that have been performed among you that have been used to confirm the message of the gospel.

Looking back at the author’s words in Hebrews 2 about the message of SALVATION.

Hebrews 2:3-4 (NIV)

[3] how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?  This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.

[4] God also testified to it by signs, wonders, and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

The person being spoken about has been enlightened by the work of the Holy Spirit to the truth of God’s word, the Gospel.  It’s not a person that’s already in Christ but a person that has all they need to know to become a Christian.

This person has seen it all and knows the truth of it since the Spirit has shown them these things and drawn them to Lord Jesus, but they haven’t yet truly believed in and received Christ Jesus and if after all of that, they turn away from the Lord’s calling and the Truth set forth by the gospel; there’s no hope for them of ever coming back to this point again.

HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?

How can someone, a friend, a neighbor, a family member be enlightened and fall away?

The answer is “I don’t know.”

But we see the truth of it in Scripture who’ve seen all of what the author talks about and yet fall away.

What is described in Hebrews 6:4-6 are the people who the Apostle John refers to in 1 John 2:19 –

This here is one of 2 things that confirm the reality of our salvation.

THE REALITY OF OUR SALVATION IS CONFIRMED BY OUR PERSEVERANCE.

The importance is, it’s not required that you persevere in order to be SAVED.  It’s truly the saved who will persevere!

Your perseverance shows the reality of your salvation.

If you are saved you’ll not fall away.  You’ll persevere.

When it becomes hard to be a “Christian,” or to act like one anyway, those who aren’t really Christians, either turn to Christ in reality or fall away, showing that they were never really Christians, to begin with.

This is why the author of Hebrews warns his readers and us.  If you have seen the truth and goodness of the word of God and the Spirit of God have demonstrated the truth of it all, enlightening you to its truth as He is drawing you to Jesus, you have got a choice to make.

Will, you receive Christ and truly be SAVED, guaranteeing your salvation by the indwelling presence of the Spirit?

Or, will you not receive Christ truly, but simply go along until it gets hard and then have the reality of your salvation shown for what it is – not real – and that reality will be determined by your falling away and turning from Christianity?

Hard and challenging times await us all, Christians and non-Christians.

Christians will be encouraged in their faith as they persevere and see the reality of their own faith.

We also see that the reality of our Salvation is confirmed by Producing Fruit (Hebrews 6:7-8).

[7] For the soil which has drunk the rain that repeatedly falls upon it and produces vegetation useful to those for whose benefit it is cultivated partakes of a blessing from God.

[8] But if [that same soil] persistently bears thorns and thistles, it is considered worthless and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.  [AMP]

FRUIT is an essential element of salvation.

Again, it doesn’t earn you salvation, it’s evidence of your salvation  [see Matthew 7:17-20, 13:22-23].

A true believer produces good fruit.

There will be differences in the amounts and kinds of fruit produced, but a true Christian will produce fruit!

So what’s all this mean?

There are times when we need to test the reality of our salvation.  2 Corinthians 13:5 says it best:  Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?

We need to stop and examine ourselves in testing the reality of our salvation.

And while the author of Hebrews warns some who have yet to truly TRUST in and receive Christ, he also wants to encourage the majority who are facing hard times and circumstances that their perseverance and fruit are clear and present to others.

Hebrews 6:9-12

Encouragement and help come to the forefront in encouraging themselves and to see their perseverance and fruit.

The text of testing ourselves is not designed to make us constantly question if we are saved, or not.  No, for the truly saved, we should be encouraged to look at the whole of life we’ve been living and know that we have salvation because of the perseverance we’ve had in difficult times and the fruit that is being produced in our lives.

And in this realization, it should be an encouragement to keep on, keeping on, because the author tells us in the closing verses that God’s promises are sure and they should be “an anchor for the soul”  (Hebrews 6:19).

But it’s to those who examine themselves, who don’t see perseverance or fruit, that’s the warning and should be the wake-up call to some.

Don’t think that just knowing about the Bible and all its stories is enough! 

You need to enter into a knowing relationship with Christ Jesus by receiving Him as your Savior, recognizing the REALITY of Who He is and What He has done, FULLY believing in Him!

So if today you’ve examined your life and don’t see fruit or perseverance, and not concerned about your salvation, don’t harden your heart, but turn to Him confessing TRUE BELIEF and follow after Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.

If you do see fruit and perseverance in your life, be encouraged and continue to be strengthened to follow Him.

May God be a blessing in your life!

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES FOR PART TWO ~

Footnote:  The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia/Bible Hub Link.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search – Settings, advance

Note:  Applied credits and footnotes from Part One of this blog-study can also apply to Part Two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following Jesus Comes With Risks


THE RISK OF FEAR –

Many people today are refusing to acknowledge Jesus in their lives because of the fear of other people’s opinions.

They are ashamed to be associated with Christ Jesus in public but attempt to confess Him when they find a need for Him when chaos is breaking loose in their lives.  Jesus describes them in Matthew 15:8 – “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” [NIV]

Everyone who comes face to face with Christ (via media, radio, tv, internet, church, Preacher, blogger, etc.) must do one of two things concerning Him.  Either confess Him or deny Him.  There’s no neutral ground.

During the final few months of Jesus’ life, He traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem along with His followers where He was crucified.  On their journey, Jesus gave them some very important teaching regarding DISCIPLESHIP.

That brings me to our Bible study and the risks involved in following Christ.

LUKE 12:8-12 (NIV)

[8] “I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.  [9] But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.  [10] And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.  [11] “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say,  [12] for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

WARNING…NO HELMET SYSTEM CAN PREVENT CONCUSSIONS OR ELIMINATE THE RISKS OF SERIOUS HEAD OR NECK INJURIES WHILE PLAYING FOOTBALL…”

Schutt Sports, a major supplier of football helmets for the National Football League (NFL), on their website page has inserted a WARNING LABEL and goes on to give information on the symptoms for concussions and concludes with these words:  TO AVOID THESE RISKS…DO NOT ENGAGE IN THE SPORT OF FOOTBALL.

At least this company is honest about the RISKS involved in playing football.

Similarly, the Bible is honest about the RISKS involved in following Jesus.

Paraphrasing, the Bible says, “To avoid the risks of discipleship, don’t engage in following Jesus!”

DISCIPLESHIP IS GOING TO COST YOU!

Following Jesus means opening yourself up to opposition, ridicule, resentment, harm, injury, and even death!

During Jesus’ ministry, He experienced growing opposition and persecution even from His half-siblings–His own family (Mark 3:21).  He noticed that His disciples were becoming increasingly fearful–even standoffish in some cases as they saw what was happening to their teacher.

So, He used His disciples not to FEAR people, but instead to FEAR and REVERENCE God knowing that God cared for each one of them (Luke 12:47).

Then He urged His DISCIPLES to acknowledge Him before men.

I’ve found it interesting when pastors today give an invitation for accepting Jesus as their Savior at the end of Sunday Services with “every head bowed,” [‘no peaky’] and proceeds to encourage the hand raisers to “acknowledge Jesus as Savior before men”!

How does one do that?  And if they don’t do as suggested, what then?

The analysis of ACKNOWLEDGING Christ Jesus before others have both a positive and negative aspect.

I’ve always voted when asked for the “positive” first before the “negative”.

Jesus said in verse 8,  “whoever publicly acknowledges me before others…” 

Jesus puts our relationship to Him in an eternal perspective.  I like the way the Amplified Bible reads:

“Whoever declares openly [speaking out freely] and confesses that he is My worshiper and acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man also will declare and confess and acknowledge him before the angels of God.”

“ACKNOWLEDGE, DECLARE, PROCLAIM”…the point lies in doing it “before men”!  And if we acknowledge Him before others here on earth, then that will lead to Him acknowledging us before the tribunal of heaven.  WOW!

The Bible says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” ~ Romans 10:9 (NIV)

To DECLARE Christ Jesus before others mean that we do ALL THESE THINGS, whatever we do, whether it’s at work or at school or at home or at play, we do it ALL for Jesus.

Jesus’ PROMISE –

When we confess Christ before men, then He will declare us at the Last Day.

What a precious promise that is for every believer!

On the day we die, as we stand before Almighty God, everything about us will be revealed.  All our past sins–even those that are secret–will be exposed.  Each one of us will be condemned by God’s Law, condemned by our sin, condemned by our conscience, condemned by Satan himself.  We will stand before God without HOPE.

BUT…and this is a glorious “but”…if we’ve acknowledged Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior on earth, then Jesus will rise up in our defense!  He will tell the Father and all the angels that we belong to Him by faith.

He will tell the tribunal of heaven because of our FAITH in Him because we’ve received the gospel because we’ve acknowledged Him on earth.

He is acknowledging to all in heaven we belong to Him!

His MERIT covers ALL our faults, our iniquities, our sin and we must be accepted into heaven because of what He has done for us.

Not Acknowledging Christ Before Men Comes With Recompense.

This is the negative aspect of not declaring Christ before man.  Jesus said in verse 9,  “…he who disowns and denies and rejects and refuses to acknowledge Me before men will be disowned and denied and rejected and refused acknowledgment in the presence of the angels of God.”  [AMP]

What does it mean to “deny” Him before men?

It means that we don’t stand with or for Jesus.  It means that we don’t acknowledge that we’re Christians.  It means that when people speak against Christ and Christianity in our every-day-world, we remain silent, making excuses for all the reasons why we shouldn’t acknowledge Him.

“I don’t want them to think I’m a religious nut!”

You can add to this list, I’m sure.

Jesus says that if we don’t acknowledge Him we DENY Him!

And if we “deny” Him, He will “deny” us!

The Principles Laid Down In Acknowledging Christ Before Men –  (Luke 12:10)

VERSE 10 is a difficult verse to understand at first.  That said, I find TWO PRINCIPLES that come into play here.

There’s SIN that’s FORGIVEABLE (Luke 12:10 (a)).

I think Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College and author explains it best when he said, “To speak against the Son of Man is to speak against Jesus Christ without fully understanding who He is or what He has done.”  This isn’t the full and final denial as illustrated by Judas in verse 9.  Nevertheless, to speak a word against the Son of Man is SIN.  But…and here’s the good news…it is a SIN God can and will forgive.

Almost all Christians spoke a word against Jesus before coming to saving faith in Him.  But as soon as we fully understood who He was and what He did, we repented of what we said and received forgiveness from Him.

There’s SIN that’s UNFORGIVABLE (Luke 12:10 (b) ).

Here comes the “BUT”–“…but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”  This is where there’s been some misunderstanding.

What does it mean to “blaspheme” against the Holy Spirit?  What does this one particular sin, this one blasphemy, make it impossible to repent and be forgiven?  What about blasphemy against the Son of God, or God the Father, or angels, or Scripture, or the church?

Why only blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

I think it’s because of the unique and decisive role the Holy Spirit plays in our salvation.  If we look to God the Father and then turn from His glory and embrace sin, that’s bad!  If we look to His Son, Jesus, who He sent into the world and then have turned away from His glory and embrace sin, that’s doubly bad!!

But in either case, there’s hope–the Father has planned redemption and the Son has accomplished redemption.  This redemption is outside of ourselves and available to us as long as we repent of our sin and turn back to Christ in faith.

But it’s a unique and special role of the Holy Spirit plays in our lives to apply the Father’s plan and Son’s accomplishment of it to our hearts.

It’s the Holy Spirit’s work to open our eyes, to grant repentance, to make us beneficiaries for all the Father and Son have done for us.

John Piper gives this definition for the Unforgivable Sin:

The unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an act of resistance which belittles the Holy Spirit so grievously that He withdraws forever with His convicting power so that we are never able to repent and be forgiven.

Sometimes people worry they have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit and have committed a sin that’s unforgivable.  The fact that a person is worrying that he or she might have blasphemed is an indication that he or she hasn’t done so.

A person who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit is so vehemently opposed to Christ that he believes Jesus is from Satan.  And that sin will not be forgiven!  [See Mark 3:20-35]

The Risk of Hostility in Persecution – (12:11a).

“And when they bring you before the synagogues and the magistrates and the authorities…”

Jesus was preparing His disciples for persecution.  It was going to be inevitable that persecution was going to come.  In fact. this happened shortly after Jesus. death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven when Peter and John were arrested and hauled before the Jewish Sanhedrin (Acts 4:1).  The apostles were often arrested for their faith in Christ Jesus.

But Help Is On Its Way! – (12:11b-12:12)

[11b]  “…do not be anxious [beforehand] how you shall reply in defense or what you are to say.  [12] For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour and moment what [you] ought to say”  (AMP).

Although Jesus’ promise was particularly directed to the apostles, it also applies in principle to ALL disciples (followers) of Jesus Christ.

We can trust the Holy Spirit to help us whenever we speak for Jesus. 

You may feel inadequate or ill-prepared or not very knowledgeable of God’s Word.  That’s not the point! It’s the matter of telling what you know about Jesus in a personal way and pray that the Holy Spirit will take what you say–however inadequate it may be–to do His saving work in other peoples lives.

Finally, Taking A Stand for Jesus Christ.

God is calling His disciples–that’s you and me–to take a stand for His Son Jesus!

Acknowledge Him, declare His name with your lips that He is Lord and Savior of your life.

He is calling you to live for Jesus and speak for Jesus in your home, in your office, in your playground, in your neighborhood, and in your school.

And remember, when you do so, you have the glorious PROMISE that Jesus will take a stand for you on the day you appear before God in heaven.

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CREDITS ~

Commentary:  The Power to Risk in the Cause of Christ/John Piper quote – Desiring God.com

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); or where noted in the text or images.

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search – copyrights may apply.

 

HOW BIG AND HOW EFFECTIVE ARE YOUR PRAYERS?

 A STUDY in Psalm 20:1-9; Psalm 13

Before getting started in this Song of David, I hope you will take the time to listen and read the verses contained in Psalm 20.  

Oh, what an awesome God You are!

Does God Answer Prayer?

As good Christians, we are expected to answer that question…”Of course, He does!”  After all, He promises to answer prayer in His Word and God keeps His Word.

Yes, God does answer prayer!  And yet, I’ll ask the same question again – “Does God answer our prayers?”

Think for a moment and consider some of the prayers and petitions you’ve presented to God in the past.  Do you feel God has answered each of your prayers?  Has He provided healing when asked?  Has He saved those for whom you have asked salvation?  Has He sent the rain to earth in the midst of a hot and dry and thirsty season?

To be honest with you, each of us at times struggles somewhat with the question:  “Does God answer prayer?”

He does BUT…

So, what does it mean to answer prayer?  Does it mean “Ask and you should receive?”  Can we say that God ONLY answers us by giving what we ask for?  Can we come to God like a child with (what was a penny) a quarter, which he places in the candy machine and is guaranteed to receive a candy bar?  It comes out automatically and immediately.  We know that it doesn’t always work that way.  We know that God gives us those things for His sake and it has to be according to His will, not ours.

But still, we may wonder why then ask God?  If He’s going to do what He has already determined is His will and what’s best for us.

Perhaps the problem lies in how we expect God to answer.  We see PRAYER as something in which we ASK and in which God GIVES.

“Whole Prayer”

Walter Wangerin, in his book “Whole Prayer” says that PRAYER is communication.  That it’s NOT speaking to God but with God.

So let’s divide our prayers into four activities:

  1. First, we speak.
  2. Second, God listens.
  3. Third, God speaks.
  4. Fourth, we listen!

I wonder in my own prayer life how much time is spent speaking to God and little time listening to Him.  It becomes a one-sided communication.  And when we do this, we then wonder WHY He hasn’t answered us.  Perhaps He has, but we didn’t hear Him.

Psalm 20 is a PRAYER of the people, probably as they gathered before their king David as his army was about to go into battle.

They begin and end the PRAYER with a call for God to ANSWER not just this prayer, but future calls for help as well.

The Hebrew word for ANSWER is “anah”.  It means “to eye or to heed”, i.e. pay attention; to respond; to begin to speak; to sing, shout, testify, announce: -give account, afflict, bring low, cry, hear, lift up, say, speak, testify, (bear) witness. [See footnote [i].]

To ANSWER is to pay attention, to respond with words and/or with action.

The ultimate request was that the Lord protect them and give them victory.  That their plans will succeed.  That is the ANSWER they’re looking for.  That He will give them the DESIRE of David’s heart!  That ALL their requests be granted!

But they, we, have deeper needs.  Even deeper than the need for victory or the desires of our heart.

It’s the need to know that God has heard us; that we come to know God and His perfect will for our lives.

We need to hear Him and to know Him.

It’s in that way that He is not a candy dispenser or need dispenser, but rather one whom we come to know and trust.  To TRUST His answer even more than we do our own requests.

We need to hear His voice!

To hear Him comfort us, console us, and teach us.

And so we consider not just the ANSWER, but how God speaks in return to our requests and petitions.  To let us know He has heard us.

As parents, we don’t want our children to just ask for things then leave and expect us to give in time what they ask.  We want to communicate our LOVE by showing why their request(s) may be wrong and bad for them.

We want to talk about their desires on what they’re based.

So God wants to speak to us.

Even in this Psalm, we see two ways by which God speaks to us.

In VERSE 2, people say “May He send you help from the sanctuary…”

This could mean send help from heaven.  Or, it could refer to God Himself, since He is found in the SANCTUARY, His house.

In the Psalms, the SANCTUARY is always a picture of the place where we meet with God.  It’s where people worshipped and where God spoke to His people.  In Israel, it was the Temple, the place where the Israelites came to get his thoughts straightened out, get his thinking correct.  There they met with God, heard the Word of God, the mind and thoughts of God.

For us, the SANCTUARY can be the church (the “building”) or the Scriptures.  It’s there that God speaks to us.  Our minds are enlightened, that we begin to see the world around us from God’s eyes, not the way it appears, but to tell you the way things really are.

When we need help, we need to LISTEN to God.  And yet, do we really LISTEN to His Word?

God speaks to us through His Word and many of the answers to prayer are already given to us.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

[16] All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

[17] so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

That’s ‘inhaling God’s exhaling’ [God breathed–The Breath of God Almighty].

The people also pray that God would grant them support from Zion.

Psalm 20:2 (b) – “…and give you support from Zion!”

ZION represents God’s Rule.

God’s Rule comes from a heavenly Zion or Jerusalem and the earthly Jerusalem is sometimes referred to as Zion.

Sometimes God answers prayer when He speaks to us by ministering to us in different ways.  He sent His ministering angels to the prophet Elijah at Mt. Carmel and to Jesus in Gethsemane.  In each case, they prayed to God for help in their distress.

Although God didn’t answer by changing their circumstances, He did speak to them so they could see His plan and His will for their lives.

So God can speak to us through angels and through the Holy Spirit, by enabling us to see things from His perspective.

In fact, when we pray, if we listen, we’ll see God’s COMFORT and PRESENCE.

In reading through the Psalms, many begin with cries for help, with anger directed to God even with despair. eg. PSALM 13

But God, as the psalmist listens, draws him to end the psalm or prayer with hope and peace and victory!

Psalm 13:1 (AMP) – HOW LONG will You forget me, O Lord? Forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?

Psalm 13:6 (AMP) – I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.

There are ways God answers us and speaks to us that are not in this psalm.

God speaks to us through our experiences.  God is SOVEREIGN.  He can open and close doors for us.

We may want, desire something so much and yet we don’t know if it’s God’s will in our lives.

TRY AND SEE!  It was The WORD Detective ministry for me.

God also spoke through the counsel of other believers.

Not from Oprah, or the gang at work, but from those who know the Lord and who care.

For the director of music.

 A Psalm of David.

[1]  How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?

[2]  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?  How long will my enemy triumph over me?

[3]  Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.  Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;  [4] my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

[5]  But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 

[6]  I will sing to the LORD. for he has been good to me.

Or Nathan giving counsel to David after David had sinned.

God provides ANSWERS for ALL our prayers!

Do we listen?

Do we hear?

Do we pray?

Tony Evans – Spend 30 seconds praying and 3 hours worrying–better the other way around.

But as we pray, LISTEN TO GOD!

Take time to list!

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CREDITS

Sermon notes:  Psalm 20:1-9 by Glen Branham, May 9, 2005.

Footnote [i] :  Abarim Pub. Anah meaning in Biblical Hebrew.

Bible translations:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted in the text.

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search.

Video:  Youtube – Psalm 20