How To Know God

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John 14:1-14

1“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”

“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

                                

One of the wrong opinions about God is that there is only a limited amount of God and His blessings available to all people.  This idea has come in many forms.   The most obvious way is when a new religion (or even an old one) preaches the message that “there will only be a select few chosen who will get to Heaven (or Paradise), so make sure you are one of the ‘chosen ones'”.  And of course what they mean is, “Be obedient to what we tell you to do and you might be one of the fortunate ones.”

Many cults have been born out of this thinking.  And some of the world religions are not that different from this kind of teaching.  But when you boil it all down to the basics, these people are all preaching some kind of “works” salvation, which tells you all the rules and rituals you need to follow to be accepted by God into Heaven.

    

Unfortunately, I have met many Christians who also have a limited view of God.  They think of God and His blessings as being like a pie.  They say that there is a limit to God’s riches for us, so get what you can, or just accept that you didn’t get a bigger piece of the pie.  But this is just as far away from the truth as some of these cultic groups and their teachings.

Jesus said earlier in John’s Gospel, But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”  When we are a believer in Jesus, we can be refreshed and renewed every day in our spirits, and all who “drink of Jesus” will be granted eternal life.  That is why He is able to say in our passage today, “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.”  All of us can go to be with Jesus and the Father in Heaven.

                                

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. 11 Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.

12 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. 13 You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. 14 Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!

                                

It must have been very frustrating for Jesus to have shared His life so intimately with His 12 disciples, and yet they still understood so little about Him on that night before He was to be crucified.  And I wonder if Jesus gets frustrated with many of us today, who have so many more resources available to us so that we can understand who He is, and what our role is to be within the Kingdom work being done right now here on earth.

When Jesus came to live among people, He revealed the very heart of God the Father to mankind.  And Jesus showed us all the kind of spiritual power and authority that is available to those who are the children of God.  What an amazing concept, to think that we as believers today could also perform the same kind of miracles that Jesus did, and even greater ones.  That is, if we truly have learned who God is, and what He can do in us and through us.

We must remember though, that miracles are not meant to draw attraction to themselves.  No, Jesus never performed miracles just so people could see miracles, or even to bring attention to Himself.  No, the miracles of God are always meant to bring people to a faith in God, and in His Son, Jesus.  That was true back then, and needs to be true still for us today.

As Matthew 5:16 so aptly put it, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

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The Joy of Reading God’s Word

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The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life.

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Passion For The Word Of God

And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Reading God’s Word is one of the simplest and the most common spiritual disciplines for connecting with God’s heart. I choose to expose myself to every verse in the Bible at least once a year. Sometimes I read an inordinate amount of God’s Word in December, but I will finish reading all of it by the end of the year. This is not my study time, nor lesson preparation time, but simply an attempt to understand the broad scope of God’s written Word.

We can have different motives for reading the Bible. One motive is to read through the Bible to accomplish something. A better motive is to read through the Bible to learn something that can glorify our incredible God. Self-glorification comes from focusing on my accomplishing a spiritual activity.

Some of the religious people in Jesus’ day had an issue of spiritual pride. They had an immense knowledge of the Bible, but not a passion for God. Their passion was for accomplishment and self-righteousness. Their Bible knowledge led to more pride in their great accomplishment. When we read the Bible with a desire to develop passion for God, our Bible knowledge will nurture that passion and not lead to pride.

–Taken from The Path toward Passion (Nine Disciplines that Connect Your Heart to God’s) by Dean Trune. (Click on the blue title for more information about this resource).

Holy Spirit, teach me as I read Your word and convict me when I read it only to accomplish rather than to know You better. May I learn how to pray through Your living word, seeking wisdom and knowledge from Your heart.

Posted 30 Aug 2011

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Reading God’s Word is a great thing to do.  Not because we “have to” but because we want to do it.  Reading God’s Word has become a natural part of my daily life.  Or if not daily, certainly it is a regular part of my week.

I heard recently a powerful preacher say that if we can spend some good devotional time in the Bible at least four times a week, then we will see our personal life grow in a positive direction, which includes our marriage, our business life, and our interpersonal relationships with others.

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Now you may have heard about the many “plans” that are out there that are meant to help you with your Bible devotional readings.  And all of them are great, in their own ways.  Having a plan for reading Scripture is a good thing for many of us who like or need to have structure to guide us in our daily lives.

The main thing, as the devotional says above, is not to get so caught up in the “plan” that we forget to worship the One who is to be found in the Scriptures.  As I reflect on Scripture passages that speak about the benefits that come from regularly reading God’s Word, the following verses come to mind, each which teach an important truth:

2 Peter 1:20-21  The Bible’s origin comes from God, not man.

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things.  For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Romans 10:14, 17  Salvation and Faith come from hearing Scripture.

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?…. So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

2 Timothy 3:16-17  Every part of Scripture is beneficial for us.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed.

Psalm 119:11, 105  God’s Word guides us and helps us to not sin.

Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.

Your word is a lamp to guide me
and a light for my path.

Joshua 1:8  God’s Word helps steer us to be successful in life.

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

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These are just a few of the rich promises that lay within the pages of the Bible.  And there are many ways in which we can read and learn the messages that God’s Word contains: using devotional guides, studying themes, following Bible reading plans, etc.

The main message here is not to worry so much about “how” to read the Bible, but rather that we are reading God’s Word.  This is how we learn about who God is and what He has done for us.  That is how we build our relationship with God.  And that is what the Christian faith is all about.

Follow Where God Leads – Pt. 1

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Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show Intro

Yes, that’s right.  I’m going to start this article which is a continuation of our “Hard Road Journey” series with the famous Warner Bros. 1961 song that would start the Bugs Bunny & Tweety Hour show every Saturday.  (I loved that show.)  Read the words for fun the first time (and hum the tune if you know it, or look it up on You Tube).  Then read them again and see what words of wisdom are contained in the lyrics:

Overture, curtain, lights
This is it, the night of nights
No more rehearsing and nursing a part
We know every part by heart

Overture, curtains, lights
This is it, we’ll hit the heights
And oh what heights we’ll hit
On with the show this is it

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So here we are, ten months later, and still talking about walking through difficult wilderness experiences.  We have been following the story of the nation of Israel as they walked through the desert for 40 years and learned from their experiences as highlighted and taught by Mark Atteberry in his book, “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel“.

Can you imagine what it would have been like to be one of the Israelite children growing up and wandering around in the desert for 40 years?  Now I’m sure that they would have camped out in some spots for long stretches of time, and had found some oases to enjoy along the way.  (Read the article on “Oases“.)  But it must have been nearly unbearable to hear the stories of how they failed as a nation to enter the Promised Land once, and were still yearning for the next opportunity to come.

And then suddenly, 77 chapters later (from Exodus 13 to Numbers 33) and 40 years after they had left Egypt, they finally camped beside the River Jordan and were able to see across to the other side where God was leading them, the Promised Land of Canaan.  A land that was said to be “flowing in milk and honey”.  But one that also still contained great walled cities and those nasty giants (over 7 ft tall) called the Anakites.

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And this became the great moment of decision once again for the Israelite people.  Did they dare to believe that this was the moment they had all been waiting for.  Just like the lyrics up above, the people had been rehearsing for 40 years to be ready to answer to God when He called on them to act in faith, to follow Him, and to take the precious gift of that abundant land that He had always promised He would give them.

And this is the point to which we have come in Atteberry’s book.  Mark has been encouraging us in his previous eleven chapters on how to walk through the dark valleys of our life experiences, and hang on to the hope that one day, God would bring us out of the wilderness experience.  And when that happens, we are encouraged to not falter in our faith and fail to take hold of what God has placed in front of us.  Hear what Atteberry says on this important point:

When God brings you to the edge of your wilderness and offers you a way out, take it.  Don’t allow fear to paralyze you, which is what the Israelites did the first time around and what a lot of people do today.                                           (page 148)

I believe what can so easily happen to us is that we look back on the previous disappointments and disasters of our lives which resulted in such emotional and psychological pain that we are too afraid to even try to improve our lives.  And Atteberry recognizes this as he does not suggest that we just run forward and throw caution to the wind to grasp at what could be a better life.

Rather, he does suggest that we exercise some wisdom and discretion, even as we push forward to leave our desert experience and follow God into whatever new and wonderful experience He may have in store for us.  In fact, when something looks almost too good to be true, that just might be the case.  But then again, maybe not.

So Atteberry advises us to ask three important questions which will help us to know if this new and wonderful opportunity in life is in fact what we ought to do.  And they are:

Question 1: Having studied, what is my Bible telling me?
Question 2: Having prayed, what is the Spirit telling me?
Question 3: Having listened, what are my friends telling me?

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These are excellent questions to ask when trying to determine God’s will for you in any given moment when you need to make a decision.  We first need to determine if this “better life” that we are pursuing after is in any way going to compromise or hinder our relationship with God.  Then we need to allow time for God’s Spirit to speak to our spirit about this, and confirmation of a good decision should always be accompanied by the inner peace that only God can give.

Finally, since we do not live in a vacuum, or on an island as they would say, we should always try to consult others who may be affected by this decision.  And seeking out wise advice from godly people will often help us to gain a perspective that we may not have had otherwise.

But then it ultimately comes down to us.  At the end of the day, we will need to make a decision.  And if we have followed through on Atteberry’s three questions and found the answer is yes, then we need to boldly go forward into whatever lies ahead.  Now Atteberry has two more key thoughts to consider as we go forward, and they will be the body of my next article.  I’ll see you then.

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God Wants The Best For Us

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What Is Faith – Part 5

In our study of “Faith” so far, we have looked at some important foundational truths such as that faith comes from hearing, specifically hearing the Word of God, that faith is a matter of the heart not of the head, and that all Christians possess faith. The issue with many Christians I think, is whether they exercise their faith and what they believe they can do by faith.

Let me say this in another way. On the one hand, there are some Christians who after they have accepted Christ by faith, live their lives by the strength of their own hands and the power of their own intellect rather than calling upon God in faith to deal with the issues of this life. On the other hand, there are some Christians who “use” their faith to deal with everything in life.

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It is my opinion that the former group of Christians have not really understood the words of Romans 1:17 which state, “The righteous will live by faith”. That is, we are to exercise our faith on a regular basis involving the daily activities of our lives. But the latter group of Christians I believe, will many times inappropriately apply the promise given by Jesus when he says, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Surely there must be a middle ground between these two positions. And after listening to the next sermon about faith delivered by Leon Fontaine, I have found some very helpful points that I would like to pass on to all my readers. My hope is that we could all share the belief that is expressed in the title of this article, namely that “God wants the very best for us.” What amazes me and even distresses me is that there are still many people who believe God is a vindictive God or an uncaring God. But I will have to wait to address this in a future article.

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So let’s begin with this premise that God is a loving God and in fact does want the very best for us. Does Scripture support this idea? Two verses that immediately come to mind are Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” and John 10:10 where Jesus says, “I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness.” We must be careful though, in how we interpret these two verses.

The promise given in Psalms is not to be taken as a blank check to allow us to wish for and get anything that our heart desires. We must put the stress on the first half of this verse and realize that our primary activity is to “take delight in the Lord”. When we do this, we will find that our heart aligns itself with the heart of God and the mind of God. And so we will find that the things that we will desire will be the same things that God desires. So the emphasis in this verse should not be on our physical or material well-being, but must be spiritually oriented in its application.

The caution on the other side though, is that we may over spiritualize the promises of Scripture. And so some people will interpret John 10:10 as only referring to our spiritual life, and think that this verse is just talking about the wonderful life that we will share with God in heaven throughout all eternity. The truth is that in this verse Jesus is most certainly talking about the quality of life that we will experience here on earth.

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What I especially liked in Leon’s third sermon about faith that I listened to was the idea that “every Christian gets a measure of faith to start with from God.” We then have a choice to either exercise this faith, which will cause it to be strengthened and to grow, or not to use this faith and allow it to lay dormant and possibly even to wither away. It would be like the parable of the Talents, where those who used well the resources given to them by their master would receive more, and the one who buried his Talent lost even the one that he had.

Let us tie this in to another important topic in Scripture. In Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14 and in Ephesians 4, Paul talks about the gifts that God has given to every believer. And then in Ephesians 2:10 he writes, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

It would seem to me that whatever God has called us to do, and gifted us to do, God will have also granted us sufficient faith to be able to fulfill all that he has asked us to do. The example that Leon gives is that of young David. God had planted faith within him, and David had nurtured it and grown it to believe that his God could do great things through him. And when he encountered the giant Goliath, that faith within David rose up to meet the challenge, and as we know he was victorious.

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And so, what about you? Do you believe that God would want you to experience a better quantitative and qualitative life right here and now?  What helps me to believe that this is possible is to picture God’s nature and his resources for us are like a flowing river, always fresh and never depleted. This goes against the picture that some have that God’s nature and resources are like a pie which is cut up into small slices and carefully distributed to some individuals until it is gone.

I challenge you then  to read the New Testament and see whether or not my picture of God is contained there. And if God is truly a loving and generous God as I suggest, then align your thoughts with Him, rise up in faith, exercise your “faith muscles” and see what great and mighty things that he will do in you, for you, and through you.

The Facts About Faith

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What Is Faith – Part 2

This is the second article in this miniseries that I want to write on the topic of faith.  In the first article, “Faith Comes by Hearing“, we learned that faith is something that we can actually get.  And this comes, or begins, at the moment when we first hear the Good News about Christ, and accept that message as being true and we put our faith, or trust, in Christ.

What we are declaring is that everything that is said about this man Jesus is true, and that all the things that He has said are also true.  But there is one fallacy that I would like to correct that is in the minds of some people, namely that faith (or belief) is something that was important in the past, and will one day be rewarded in the future (namely our acceptance by God into Heaven), and have very little connection to our daily lives today.

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You see, true faith is not just a decision made in the past, nor is it just a spiritual reality that only relates to our future in Heaven.  Rather, faith is a journey to be traveled, and it is based upon a relationship with God, and is to be lived out in our daily lives..  Romans 1:17 says it well as Paul wrote, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

As we go through life and encounter all kinds of difficult situations, we must believe that God will work things out positively for us, or He will provide the resources (or the means) to be able to walk through those difficult periods in our lives.  Otherwise, all of the numerous promises found within Scripture (such as God being our Provider, our Healer, our Comforter, etc) get reduced to just figurative speech and are of little value to us right now.

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In listening to one of the sermons from Leon Fontaine on this topic of faith, he tells us that as Christians, we all have faith within us.  We do not need to psyche ourselves up to get or find faith, but rather, we are to actually exercise our faith.  When we accepted Christ into our lives, we were given the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.

So the question is not whether we have faith or not, but whether our faith is active or if we let it lay dormant.  Jesus showed the disciples what things can happen when we exercise this kind of faith in Mark chapter 11. This is where Jesus spoke against the fig tree that had not produced any fruit and within a day it had completely withered from the roots up.

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When the disciples responded with amazement at this miracle, Jesus told them that they too could do mighty things simply by faith. He told them that the mountains can be moved by faith. (Personally, I take this to be one place where Jesus was using hyperbole or figurative language to teach an important truth.) The message that Jesus was trying to get across was that no matter what kind of obstacle lies in our path, by faith we can overcome.

There was one more point in pastor Leon’s message that I thought was interesting. He mentioned how Jesus told his disciples that they should “speak to the mountain”.  I think there is truth to the idea that when we actually speak something aloud that there is power in those words. Not that the words themselves carry power, because that would be very similar to the idea of using magic incantations, but rather by speaking them aloud it simply reveals the faith that is there in the person’s heart.

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I can still remember an event that happened in my life that I think can illustrate the things that I have just written. In my teenage years, I struggled with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and had to constantly be eating throughout the day to keep my sugar levels in balance. It got to the point by the time I was almost 20 that I felt like I was in bondage to food.

Due to the dangers of going into a hypoglycemic attack, which could look like I was having a seizure, I wore a medical alert bracelet on my wrist. But a very interesting thing happened while I was part of a traveling mission group. I had been studying the Bible on the topic of healing  and on one night that I was to lead the devotional time, I literally felt a surge of faith within me and I knew I was to speak these words of faith with regards to my illness.

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I turned to one of my friends in the group and I asked him to come over and take the bracelet off my wrist. When he asked me why, I told him and the group that I had a strong sense that God was going to heal me, but to actualize that faith I had to say out loud, “I’m healed! So now as an act of faith I want you to remove this bracelet.”

And guess what? Ever since that day in 1979, I’ve been free from the bondage to food and from serious hypoglycemic attacks. I still to this day believe that it was because I was walking in a daily relationship with God that I sensed him telling me that I was healed, and that when I spoke to my “mountain” that my faith was fully realized and actualized in my life. My faith relationship with God at that moment expanded beyond just the spiritual realm to impact me at the physical level.

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STAY  TUNED…

In a few days, I will listen to the next sermon on faith and then I will share what I’ve learned in another article. I pray that this article has been an encouragement to other Christians to speak out their faith and to see mighty things happen as well in their lives.