Tag Archives: fellowship with God

March 20; A Relationship

Deuteronomy 23-26

Religion is full of rules. If you do this, this, and this, and don’t do that or that, your god will accept you, won’t punish you, or will at least tolerate you. We read about religions that advocate sacrificing children, or killing the infidel to appease a god. We hear about religions that require X-number of prayers, abstaining from certain food and drink, or wearing veils and head coverings as part of their religion.

Now I’m not saying Christianity doesn’t have rules. God gave us the Ten Commandments and holds us accountable for obeying them. The Bible, especially the Old Testament like the chapters we read today have pages and pages of rules, often repeated several times.

But there is a reason I believe Christianity stands out from all the rest. The rules God gave His people were given so that He, a Holy God, could fellowship with us. The rules we abide by were given because God loves people.

It’s not about rule-following so we can get Him on our side. He’s already on our side. It’s not rule-following so that He’ll forgive us. He’s already forgiven us by the blood of Jesus. The God of Christianity put down rules so that He can:

“set (us) in praise, fame and honor high above all nations he has made and that (we) will be a people holy to the Lord (our) God, as he promised.” (26:19)

The God of Christianity doesn’t look at people as something to dominate, or control. He looks at His children as “his treasured possession.”

When the followers of most other religions follow their rules, the only thing they can hope for is a god that might let up on them, and maybe promise them some kind of eternal peace. The God of Christianity promises Himself, His Spirit living in us, blessings and joy, as well as an eternity in His Presence.

It’s for that reason I agree with those who say Christianity is not a religion as much as it is a relationship. Here’s God, awesome in power, Holy, Holy, Holy, creator of the universe, wanting to hang out with me. Here is God, knowing that I cannot obey all the rules, that I am a sinner by virtue of the first sin I ever committed, paying the penalty Himself that my sin deserves. Here’s is that same God, knowing I can’t come to Him no matter how many rules I follow, coming to me.

And I, as His child by His grace through Jesus, will demonstrate my love for Him by obeying Him, cherishing Him, walking with Him. It’s not about the rules. It’s about the person of Jesus Christ, a Holy God who came down to my level so that I can have a relationship with Him.

It’s about a God who actually loves me. And I love Him, too.

February 12; Talk To Him

Exodus 30:1-33:6

The psalmist likened prayer to incense in Psalm 141:2.

May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my  hands be like the evening sacrifice. 

When revealing his vision, John wrote in reference to the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders, “Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” (Revelation 5:8)

God told Moses to instruct Aaron and sons to burn fragrant incense as part of their priestly responsibilities. Exodus 31:7-8 tells us they were to burn the incense every morning, then again every evening “so incense would burn regularly before the Lord for generations to come.

We all know what prayer is. It’s that moment when we are faced with a hardship, or a decision, or are in need of healing and we cry out, “Help me, Lord!” And if you are His child, He does.

Or prayer is that quick thank you we blurt out before the food gets cold. Prayer may be a sigh of relief when you have a near-miss on the highway.

I’m not down-playing any of that. God wants us to come to Him with our struggles, and our praise. He delights in answering our prayers according to His riches in glory. But I am reminded today that prayer is not just about me, or even about those for whom I pray.

Prayer is about God.

Scripture tells us our prayers are like a sweet perfume to our Lord. Our prayers are pleasant, maybe even precious to God. After all, the verse in Revelation implies God keeps our prayers in a bowl, like someone who presses a rose in the pages of book in order to preserve it.

God created us to fellowship with Him. When was the last time you actually did that? Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who wasn’t speaking to you? You can hardly call that fellowship.

God told the priests to light the incense in the morning and evening so it would burn regularly. Have you lit your incense yet today? Will you light it again tonight?

Paul tells us to never stop praying. (I Thessalonians 5:16) That constant communication with God is so important, and what a privilege! But it doesn’t take the place of a stop-what-you-are-doing-heart-to-heart conversation with the One who loves you best.

God considers those times of prayer precious. Talk to Him.

2 Kings 21-25; God’s Delight

Jewish history as recorded in the Old testament is full of reports of hard times, disease, wars, famines, slavery. Weren’t these God’s chosen people? Wouldn’t that mean they’d be living on Easy Street?

As I read this morning, my mind kept going to my pastor’s Bible Study from last night’s prayer meeting. We’re going through the Psalms, and last night he spoke on 18:6-19, pointing out three things God delights in:

God delights in our prayers.

God delights in responding to our prayers, answering our prayers.

God delights in me. In you.

So as I read 2 Kings today, it occurred to me that God does NOT delight in punishing His people. Oh, discipline is part of His love for us. He will never turn a blind eye to sin. He rejects those who reject Him.

But He doesn’t like it.

He’d much rather enjoy a relationship with us, pure and holy, as we allow Him to clothe us with Jesus’ purity and holiness, through His blood. When I read the accounts of all the bad kings in Israel, and all the ways God disciplined Israel for disobedience, I find myself feeling bad, not for them, but for God. I’m sorry He had to distance Himself from his disobedient people when He so longed to wrap His arms around them and protect them.

And I am sorry for the times He has had to remove Himself from me because of my own disobedience, for the times I have robbed Him of fellowship with me because of my pride, or my neglect of Him, or some sin I haven’t confessed.

Nothing can separate me from His love. His love is a given. But my sin can separate me from a relationship with the One who loves me and gave Himself for me, from the One who delights in me.

As I thought about last night’s Bible lesson, I was reminded that this month is Pastor’s Appreciation Month, and I hope you make it a point to let your pastors know what it is you appreciate about their ministries. I’ve shared that I am blessed to be a part of two fellowships, one in Georgia, and another in Ohio. And I am blessed to call Pastor Whit and Pastor Bill my pastors.

Both men have blessed me, challenged me, and encouraged me to go deeper into God’s Word through their sermons. Both men have demonstrated examples what it means to be ready and eager to share Jesus with people in our communities.

So, Pastor Bill. I appreciate you. I appreciate your heart for the people of Bellville. I appreciate how much you do for our little fellowship, how available you are, and how true to God’s Word you are. Your time in God’s Word speaks to my heart every time I am privileged to hear you share what God lays on your heart. I pray for you and Kris, and for your ministry. May you see the fruit of your efforts in a mighty way, and may God be glorified. I know that is the prayer of your heart.

Pastor Whit, I appreciate you. You inspire me to find ways to share Jesus. I appreciate how you take us verse by verse through the Bible, even those hard passages. I appreciate how God’s Word excites you. Your enthusiasm is contagious. I pray for you and Wendy and the kids, as you serve our Lord on this island. (I love how you love our island!) And I pray that God will continue to guide you as you lead our fellowship into this building  project. May we not just grow a building, but enlarge the church for Jesus sake. I know that is your prayer, too.

Pray for your pastors, and not just because it’s Pastors Appreciate Month. When I read God’s Word I am reminded how important leadership is, not just in nations, but in our fellowships as well. God blesses obedience. Pray that your pastor will be obedient. God blesses true worship. Pray that your pastor will lead you to worship God in Spirit and Truth. God blesses the humble. Pray that your pastor will continue to humble himself before the Lord. Pray for your pastor’s relationship with God.

Pray that God will use your pastor to speak to your own heart, to encourage your own obedience, to prompt you to share the good news of Jesus Christ with lost souls.

And may our fellowships be those which God can delight in as we pray, as we recognize answers to our prayers and give Him the glory, and as we serve Him out of grateful hearts. Remember God delights in YOU. God wants to bless YOU, God wants to fellowship with YOU. He would rather not have to discipline you.

May we delight in the One who delights in us. He certainly deserves it.

 

 

Exodus 5 – Never Too Late

Enoch was 65 when he began his walk with the Lord. The Bible seems to link the birth of his son Methuselah with this change. Enoch, you’ll remember, had a walk so real with God that he didn’t die. God took him away.

I’d like to picture God and Enoch were walking together in a meadow where Enoch took one step on the ground, and the next on streets of gold, without missing a beat. I’d like to believe the transition from flesh and blood to his eternal body was seamless and natural.

I know that 65 seems old to many people. But when you lived to be 782, maybe 65 didn’t seem all that ancient back then. I don’t know. But I think there is a lesson for all of us here.

I don’t know how old you are. I do know that if you are reading this, your heart is still beating, and it’s not too late to begin your walk with the Lord, or to pay more attention to your walk with Him. It’s not too late to enjoy that sweet fellowship with your Savior.

Enoch seems to have been challenged to change when he became a father. What challenges you to walk with God? My sisters’ children makes me want to be a godly example to them. My unsaved friends make we want to represent Jesus well. The reality of what Jesus did for me on the cross makes me want to love Him like He deserves.

So I spend time in His Word every day. I pray. I listen, and pay attention to His nudges. I count everything a loss, except for the privilege of knowing Him. Like  Paul, I die daily. Then my prayer is, “Not my will but Thine be done.”

My walk with my Savior is not where it could be. Some days I neglect Him, then wonder why I can’t feel His Presence. But one thing I know, it’s never God’s fault if I feel that way. He wants to walk with me more than I want it for myself.

Whether you are 16 or 66 or 96, it’s not too late for you to take that walk with God. Get to know Him by reading what He wrote to you in Scripture. Spend time with Him.

I was raised in the C&MA church and sang a lot of A.B. Simpson hymns. I want to leave you with the words of one of my favorite hymns of his that speaks to our walk with God:

'Tis so sweet to walk with Jesus, 
Step by step and day by day;
Stepping in His very footprints, 
Walking with Him all the way.

'Tis so safe to walk with Jesus, 
Leaning hard upon His arm,
Following closely where He leads us, 
None can hurt and naught can harm.

Step by step I'll walk with Jesus, 
Just a moment at a time;
Heights I have not wings to soar to, 
Step by step my feet can climb.

Jesus, keep me closer, closer, 
Step by step and day by day;
Stepping in Thy very footprints, 
Walking with Thee all the way.

(Chorus)
Step by step, step by step, 
I would walk with Jesus,
All the day, all the way, 
Keeping step with Jesus.

July 23 – God Feels Pain

Hosea 8-14

When I read Hosea’s words this morning I was struck by God’s emotions toward His children. Often I’ve read about God’s anger. Today I see Him a bit differently.

My youngest nephew is going off to college. Even though I’m not his mom, I’m pretty close to this crazy teenager. And it’s not easy letting him go. So many memories rush back as I think about him getting in that car and driving away toward adulthood. The first time I held him in my arms, his first wobbly steps, the funny way he rolled his r’s when he was learning to talk, his first soccer game, playing catch in the backyard, watching Space Jam and laughing over The Great Race (MMMMAAAAAAAAAXXX!!!), Indians games, Disney, Chuckie Cheese. If only I could just hold him in those innocent years forever.

I have tears in my eyes just thinking about my nephew leaving the nest. It’s a natural progression of life, but I am still sad that he’ll be going away.

And that’s how I saw God this morning as I read Hosea 11. He’s like a daddy watching His baby walk away. He loved His children. He nurtured them, held them, taught them, protected them. But God’s children aren’t just going off to college. They have turned their backs on God and rejected him.

I am God’s child, too. He’s like the daddy who loves me completely. He’s held me, and taught me to walk, He’s protected me and guided me. It’s those times when I disobey, when I ignore Him, when I make choices that dishonor Him, that He yearns for the days when I totally belonged to Him. I can almost see Him reaching out to me as I take a step away.

I don’t want God to see my back. Ever. I want to be always moving toward Him, arms open wide, eager to receive everything He is. I don’t ever want to be a source of sorrow for my Lord. I don’t want my choices to cause Him pain.

If I feel sadness because of the new chapter in my nephew’s life, and mine, then God’s sadness must be so much greater when He watches His children turn and walk away. May I never be the source of His pain.

March 25 – A Rest From War

Joshua 9-11

These chapters tell of Israel’s taking of the Promised Land. It involved wars, and fire, and hangings, and destruction. Then in 11:23 we see that finally the land had rest from war. But it hadn’t been easy. And it didn’t happen over night.

11:18 says, “Joshua waged war a long time with all the kings.” God had promised the land. But the land needed some serious cleansing. They had to purge the evil before the Jews could live there.

My spiritual Promised Land is mine for the taking, too. It’s there God promises to never leave or forsake me, to live in my heart, to bless and keep me. But, just as with the Jews, there is some purging I must do.

I need to repent of sin, flee youthful lusts, love God with all my heart and soul, cleanse my hands and purify my heart, fight the good fight, put on the whole armor of God. And, just like with the Jews, God is going to fight for me.

God will help me rid my life of sin that so easily entangles me. When I allow God to come in and stand with me against our enemy, there is victory. Then I, too, can live in this world resting from the spiritual war Satan has declared on my soul.

With God I can be more than a conqueror. With God I can know the peace and rest that comes from abiding in Him, living in the Promised Land.

Feb 14 – For Love

Leviticus 5-7

It’s Valentines Day. You hear the word “love” thrown around a lot today. Got me to thinking about what love is all about.

Ravi Zacharias said, “Love is as much a question of the will as it is of the emotion.” Do you remember the popular book from years ago, “Love Is A Choice”? And I’ll always remember a former pastor saying, “Love is something you do.”

So as I’m reading about all the sacrifices and how detailed were God’s instructions, a lightbulb went off. God gave these instructions for love.

Here’s God, separated from the people He created and who He loves with the strongest emotion possible. Here’s God wanting to fellowship with his children but cannot because of sin in their lives. Here’s God, bridging the gap so that sinners could be forgiven, and fellowship restored.

What I read today isn’t a list of arbitrary hoops for people to jump through. This was God, reaching out and saying, “Here’s how you can come to Me. Please come to Me!”

God wants them to ask Him for forgiveness. He’s anxious to do that. God wants them to shed blood on an altar so He can. God is rooting for them, cheering them on, calling to them, and gladly forgiving them when they ask.

These chapters I read today is about love. I think I’ve always read them as though they were about rules. But the message here is definitely love.

God is love. God demonstrated His love for us by sending His Son, Jesus, to bridge that gap created by sin, once and for all. And it’s the same God as the One who gave Moses these directions in these chapters in Leviticus. He’s still anxious to forgive us when we come to Him, He’s still rooting for us, calling to us.

So today, if love is something you do, I would challenge you to love God by doing what He’s asked us to do. Accept Jesus as Savior, repent of sin, live for the One who loved you and gave Himself for you.

Sure, love is an emotion. But that emotion is meaningless and empty if it doesn’t include choice, and action, and obedience.

Thank You, Lord, for demonstrating Your love for Your children by providing a way for them to be forgiven for sin. Thank you for loving those Old Testament people enough to want to fellowship with them. And thank You for Jesus, who is our perfect sacrifice here in the 21st Century. Thank You for love. Thank You for You.