Tag Archives: knowing God

November 14; To Change or Not To Change, That Is The Question

Acts 7:54-9:31

Simon believed he was someone great. He wasn’t the only one. It sounds like he had quite a following. His sorcery must have been amazing, because people even thought he was divine.

That is, until they heard Philip preach the “good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus.” Many believed in Jesus, and were baptized – including Simon. Simon ended up following Philip around after that. Being a sorcerer, he was amazed at the miracles he saw Philip do.

Then when Simon witnessed Peter and John placing their hands on believers who then received the Holy Spirit, he wanted in on the action. He was willing to buy that ability. Peter recognized Simon for who he really was, and addressed Simon’s sin in no uncertain terms. “You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right with God.”

Simon had believed in Jesus. But Simon was still the same old Simon. His heart had not changed.

Saul, on the other hand, was not only NOT a believer, he had dedicated his life to destroying the church by getting rid of anyone who did believe in Jesus. But his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus changed him.

Completely.

Saul became Paul who then dedicated his life to sharing Jesus with everyone, in hopes that everyone would believe. Paul’s belief in Jesus didn’t stop with the knowledge that Jesus is the Savior. Paul’s belief in Jesus changed his heart.

Do you believe? Scripture tells us even the demons believe, and shudder. (James 2:19). Belief is the first step, but it isn’t the only step.

If accepting Jesus as your Savior hasn’t changed you, let me suggest you check your heart. Is your belief head-knowledge, or a heart-changing, person-transforming, sin-defeating relationship with God Himself?

Change, or no change? That’s the question. And the answer is the difference between being a child of God, and being someone who has no part in His ministry, His kingdom.

Let your belief in Jesus change you.

October 3; Hometown

John 4:27-46; Mark 1:14-15, 21-45; Matthew 4:12-17, 8:1-4, 14-17; Luke 4:14-15, 30-44, 5:12-16

Many of us Baby-Boomers grew up going to church, Sunday School, Bible Schools, and often Wednesday night prayer meetings and youth groups. We were raised with at least a knowledge of God in a country that honored God in many ways. Even the shops were closed on Sundays.

For many of us, our association with all things Christian became more than church attendance. We made it personal when we repented of our sin, and invited Jesus into our hearts and lives.

Fast forward fifty years. Things have changed, haven’t they?

We didn’t give our children the same Biblical foundation. We encouraged them to find truth for themselves. We sacrificed Sunday worship for baseball and soccer games. We stopped meeting on Sunday nights and Wednesday evenings. We chipped away at the foundation that our own lives had been built on. Now our children are raising our grandchildren with no foundation at all.

I know that is a vast generalization. I hope you who are reading this are not described by it. But when I look at our country and our world, I think too many people are.

I got to thinking about this today as I read about Jesus’ ministry in His hometown. Scripture tells us He couldn’t do a lot of great things there among the people closest to Him,  people who had watched Him grow up.

Jesus reminded them that in Elijah’s day there were a lot of starving widows in Israel, but God had to go to Sidon to find a woman of faith. There were plenty of lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha. But it was Naaman the Syrian who had the faith to be healed.

I am reminded it’s not exposure to Jesus, not church attendance, or familiarity with creation, or a belief in a higher power that saves. Living in a house where believers live does not save. You can know everything there is to know about Jesus. But that knowledge won’t save you.

Please don’t assume your kids and grandkids will be saved because of your faith. They, like us, will have to decide to accept grace for themselves. Don’t assume your children know Jesus just because they know about Him. They will have to establish that relationship with the Savior themselves.

Our children can be living in Jesus’ hometown, so to speak, and never put their faith in Him. And God cannot do great things in their lives if that’s the case.

Are we giving our children and grandchildren a chance to build their faith on the Truth of Scripture the sure foundation of Jesus, the Holiness of God, and the only way to the Father? Or are we ok with them watching Christianity from the cheap seats?

People in Jesus day could say, “Yeah. I’m from Jesus’ home town. I grew up with Him.” In our day we can say, “Yeah. My Mom knows Jesus. I grew up in church.”

It’s just not enough.

September 10; Marvelous

Zechariah 7-8; Ezra 5-6

Many times in Scripture God challenges our motivation. Why is it we do what we do for Him? Why do we worship?

“Is it really for me,” God asks, “or for you?”

Zechariah shares that God is going to return to Jerusalem, His people will enjoy prosperity once again. Then He says, “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” (Zechariah 6:6)

We can’t deny that God has blessed His Church in America for centuries. We sit comfortably in our cushioned chairs with air-conditioning and state of the art technology, coffee in hand. We feel pretty blessed to be living in a land where we can go to church without fear. Many Christians in other parts of the world don’t share that reality. We are truly blessed.

It seems marvelous to us. But what is God’s take on it?

God makes it clear He’s not interested in the show. He is only interested in our hearts. Do we get out of bed every Sunday to worship God in Truth? Or do we go to church because it makes us feel good? Is our motivation for giving, or volunteering, or visiting shut-ins, our own self-esteem, or have we emptied ourselves and allowed God to use us for His glory?

I’m reminded there are some who are doing things in Jesus’ name, who don’t really know Him. In the end, those people will join the unrepentant sinners in an ugly eternity separated from God.

Let’s not take our blessings for granted. But let’s also not forget why and Who we worship. I pray that our motivation for life, and worship will be to please God out of grateful hearts for what Jesus did for us. Period. I pray that what seems marvelous to us, will be truly and gloriously marvelous to God.

September 5; The Other

Ezra 2:21-70; Nehemiah 7:26-73a

Monday I shared that we had been evacuated from our island due to the threat of Hurricane Dorian. I’m thankful today to tell you we are able to go home. The storm has passed, and it’s safe to be on the island again.

The Jews we read about today in Ezra and Nehemiah are going home, too. Finally after seventy years of captivity, they were free. They didn’t know what to expect when they got there, but they were on their way home and, if they were anything like us returning islanders, they were excited. There is just something about going home, isn’t there?

The passages we read today are full of genealogies. Ezra reports name after name of people whose families were going home. And if reading the phone book isn’t boring enough for you, Nehemiah does us the favor of repeating the same list. So we get to read the list of name after name after name, twice! Woo Hoo!

What can we learn from these lists? Well, my friend, never blow off what God has breathed into print. He has something to say on every page of the Bible.

Here’s a blast from the past: “Newhart.” Bob and wife running an inn. A scraggly hillbilly comes through the door, followed by two more scraggly hillbillies. He introduces himself, “My name is Larry. This is my brother Darryl, this is my other brother Darryl.” (You are going to have to be a certain age to remember this one! Sorry, kids.)

I thought of them this morning as I read this genealogy record, then read it again. Because in Ezra 2:31, then again in Nehemiah 7:34 we meet “the other Elam.” Makes me wonder about the other Elam, or the first Elam, or the more important Elam. What would cause a person to be known as “the other?”

Most of us would admit that we like to be the one recognized as important, significant, talented, irreplaceable, whatever. We at least like to be recognized for what we have contributed to the work of God. But here we have a man who the only thing we know about him is, he isn’t THE Elam. He’s the other one.

This is what God whispered in my ear as I read this today. This Elam is going home. This Elam is listed with those who were freed from slavery, and he and his family were going home. He won’t be remembered for anything other than his freedom, and his destination. That’s all we need to know.

And that’s what needs to be known about each of us. Are you a Christian? Have you repented of sin and asked God to give you what Jesus’ death bought you? Do you know the Savior?

Then, friend, you are free! You are free from the chains and the penalty of sin. You are God’s child in every sense of the word, and you are headed home. Home! Eternity with God in glory.

And I know, without a doubt that when you look into Jesus’ eyes He won’t see you as just another Christian, or “the other” sinner He died for. You will look into His eyes and know He sees no-one but you, loves no-one more than He loves you, considers no-one else more important than you.

You won’t be “the other.” You will be “the one!”

 

 

 

 

August 10; Mind-Blowing

Ezekiel 1-4

Have you ever wanted to see God? The Old Testament tells us a person could not look God in the face and live. He is that Holy, that awesome, truly mind-blowing. Once in a while though, God gives us a peek. Once in a while God cracks open the door with the “Do Not Enter” sign, and shows us a glimpse of Himself.

Like here in Ezekiel’s vision. Now, I’m not going to try to draw a picture of four living creatures with multiple faces and wings, because that is not what God looks like. It is, however, who God wants us to see. It’s what God wants us to know about Himself.

I see a force that reveals God in nature, a power so incredible that the sun doesn’t rise without God raising it, animals and birds don’t even move unless He moves.  I see a fire burning so brightly we can’t get close. We are all subject to the One in Ezekiel’s vision.

And this is what thrills me about this awesome, untouchable God: Ezekiel “saw a hand stretched out to (him)” (2:9). In that hand was a scroll that Ezekiel was instructed to eat. Do you see what I see?

Scripture makes it plain that we cannot even hope to approach God. We can never go to Him. He is too holy, too powerful, too awesome. So He comes to us!

He comes to us in the form of Scripture, that scroll Ezekiel ate, the Bible you hold in your hand. God is in there and He wants you to know Him through His own words. He doesn’t want you to just read it. He wants you to ingest it, devour it, make it a part of you.

He comes to us in the human person of Jesus, His Son. God experienced life on earth, not so He could understand what it was like to be human, but so humans could be assured He’s always understood us. Jesus came, died, and rose again so that “Do Not Enter” sign could be removed once and for all who accept what Jesus did for them.

Ezekiel’s response to seeing this vision was to fall on his face in worship. He sat for seven days afterward, “overwhelmed.” And that’s what I want my response to be, too.

When faced with the reality of who God truly is, I can only fall on my face before Him and cry, “Holy! Holy! Holy!” I am unworthy to stand in His Presence. But look at what God does when Ezekiel was facedown in the dirt:

As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. (2:2)

Wow. Just, Wow!

This holy, untouchable God wants to be touched. We can’t reach up to Him, but He reaches down to us, and lifts us up to Himself. It’s not an out-of-body experience. It’s an out-of-self experience. The Spirit of God comes into me and raises me to great heights that I cannot hope to reach without Him.

To think that the God of the Universe, the Creator God, Holy, Holy Holy, reaches down to me to lift me up, that He wants me to be with Him, that He loves me, died for me. And one day, I will look straight into His face without fear, because I have received what He Himself bought for me.

Mind-blowing.

 

July 13; Blind and Numb

Isaiah 29-32

Who would intentionally blind themselves? Who chooses to live life in a stupor? Yet God says in 29:9:

Be stunned and amazed, blind yourselves and be sightless; be drunk, but not from wine; stagger, but not from beer.”

Now, before you suggest we all take needles to our eyes and have a lobotomy, let me remind us God is warning His people about the consequences that are coming their way because of sin. Then He says, “Go ahead. Put your head in the sand if you want. Numb yourselves against the Truth if that’s how you want to handle it.”

In verse 11 He goes on to say they are taking His warnings like nothing more than words on a scroll. They give the scroll to someone, but the recipient can’t open the scroll. They hand the scroll to someone else, but that person can’t even read.

“Well,” the people of God say, “We tried to warn them.”

These people come near to me with their mouths and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (29:13)

First of all, are you aware of the Truth of Scripture, or have you blinded yourself and numbed yourself to the warnings? If that’s the case, stop right here and get out your Bible. You have the Truth at your fingertips. Ingest it.

Secondly, if you know the Truth, how are you sharing it? Or are you? Do you think everybody should just “know” what God says simply by watching your lifestyle? Do you expect people to understand God when they are ignorant of who He even is? I hope you aren’t just throwing a verse or two their way and expecting them to get it. People without the Truth have blinded themselves. They are numb toward anything from God. How are you reaching them?

And lastly, where is your heart in relationship to God’s? That may be the most important question of all.

As you read these chapters today, let me encourage you to allow God to speak to you as though you were one of those ancient Jews. Be Ariel. Be Jacob. Be those obstinate children and hear God’s warnings – and His promises!

He wants to talk to you today about your heart’s condition, about your knowledge of His Truth, and about your witness as one entrusted with this precious gift. Hear Him.

Or are you going to blind yourself and numb yourself toward His Words?

May 29; The Wisdom Cycle

Proverbs 8-10

Solomon seems to talk a lot about the relationship between wisdom and righteousness. First of all, he says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Not the love of the Lord. Not doing things for the Lord. Not a cleaned up life. And not the philosophy of today which tells us love of self is the beginning of wisdom.

Fear of God.

For those people who don’t know Him, that fear ought to look like the cowering, petrified, scared to death kind of fear that ends up in the attempt to escape Him. He is THAT God.

For those who recognize that, who realize the fearfulness of God, PLUS His great sacrificial love, their’s is a fear that looks more like obedience, respect, and awe. Now that’s the beginning of wisdom!

Solomon says that kind of wisdom leads to righteous living. Righteous living is blessed by God. One of those blessings is more wisdom which leads to more righteous living, then blessings, and wisdom, etc.

The “wisdom cycle.”

It’s the never ending cycle of the sanctified life, growing  in grace and knowledge of Jesus. It’s the yieldedness that produces a vital, productive life blessed by God, and used by Him to share the wisdom with others.

Do you fear God? You should. That fear should make you want to resist Satan in every way like I talked about yesterday. Living a righteous life is blessed by God, draws us closer to Him. Living a righteous life is wisdom – with benefits.

Jumping on the “wisdom cycle” is the wise thing to do.