Archive for April, 2015

30
Apr
15

GETTING TO KNOW YOU

“The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, A stronghold in times of trouble; And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.”  Psalms 9:9-10

“The King and I” is a Rogers and Hammerstein musical that opened in 1951 to much critical acclaim.  It is based on the real life account of an American woman in the 1800’s who is commissioned to be a governess for the King of Siam in Bangkok.  Their relationship is a tense one, but they each have a love for each other that they are reluctant to admit.  The musical ran for over three years, a record at the time, and won numerous Tony awards.  When the film came out, it was a huge success, with Yul Brenner winning the Best Actor Oscar.  One song in the musical, “Getting To Know You”, is one that Anna, the governess, sings as her relationship warms up with the children.  It has become a standard in the “Great American Songbook” and is a frequently covered tune.
It is significant that the verses above point out that there are benefits for those who “know Your name.”  In getting to know God, it is important that we know His names.  As we get to know His names, we get to know His character.  As we get to know His character, then we deepen our faith and our relationship with Him.
He is first called Elohim in Genesis 1:1, and that name is exclusively used throughout the chapter, and prominently throughout the Old Testament.  It is Elohim who speaks into nothing and creates everything, and from a chaos, He created the cosmos.  Elohim can actually be plural when in Genesis 1, God is quoted as saying, “Let Us create man in Our own image.”  We can also see Elohim promising Noah that that He would never destroy the world with a flood again in Genesis 9.  Elohim is a name that is correlated with power, promises, and plurality (or the trinity).
It is interesting to note that the name Jehovah simply means, “I am.”  Exodus 6:3 says that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob knew God, “but by My name, Lord(Jehovah), I did not make Myself known to them.”  Each of them addressed God as Jehovah, but this verse means that the true essence and meaning of Jehovah was not revealed to them.  When He reveals to us that this name means “I am”, we are being taught that He exists because He exists.  That sounds weird, until you understand that God does not rely on any being for His existence.  He is eternal.  And within the limitations of human language He is revealing this to us.

In Genesis 15:2, Abraham called God Lord.  The Hebrew for this word is Adonai, which is the plural of Adon, also used in the Hebrew to address God.  Various ways that these words have been used are Lord, Lord of Lords, Father and Master.  It has been said that before God can be our savior, He must first be Lord.  This implies that he is master of our whole being.  The term being used as Father intends to put an image in our minds of a rather kind, loving parental figure.  Of course, Master would represent a person who has control of it all.
El Shaddai, used just under 50 times in the Old Testament, means “all sufficient one.”  This tells us that He is the great provider, which points to Jehovah Jireh, meaning “The Lord will provide.”  Jesus tells us that even though the birds don’t work to grow food, then are not starving, and if we are the special creation of God, how much more will He provide for us.  Just as verse 10 says, He has “not forsaken those who seek You.”
If we will seek His name, get to know His character and essence, and trust in Him, then He has told us that He will be our stronghold and He will never let us down!  What an incentive to get to know His name!

28
Apr
15

TAKING YOUR BREATH AWAY

“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.”  Lamentations 3:22-23

My stepdaughter has been babysitting a toddler boy from our church for a little while.  When going to pick her up one day and waiting on the boy’s mother to make it home, I played with him in a room where he had a row of trucks that we played with for quite a few minutes.  After this, he escorted us into his bedroom, where he had a large toy box.  He climbed in the toy box and gasped a large gasp every time he took out a different truck, as if he had found a brand new treasure that he had never seen before.
My stepdaughter giggled and told me that he plays with those trucks every day.  But discovering them once again was like a new, dear, and exciting experience!  What a wonderful world in which this little one has the privilege of living!
How much more should our discovery of God’s lovingkindnesses and compassions to us be every time we encounter them!  In our daily Bible readings, we should discover a new treasure that absolutely takes our breath away.  When we spend our time meditating on God and praying to Him, we ought to have an exciting experience every day.  As we share these experiences and discoveries with others, perhaps they would be so inspired to seek out such encounters.
Why would we have such encounters of discovering treasures and having experiences that take our breath away?  Because His compassion was manifest at the cross.  His lovingkindness was proven at the open tomb.  And His great faithfulness is at walk with us in our daily lives!

Let us be sure to open our minds and hearts to discover and receive His lovingkindnesses, compassions and great faithfulness so that we can be blessed in them and share them with others!

24
Apr
15

FAITH TO FACT

“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.  Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God.”  Job 19:25-26

One day, I was doing a search on Google for a project in school, and that search was “What Children Know.”  The articles that popped up were numerous and varied:  “71 Things Your Child Needs to Know Before Kindergarten,” “25 Manners Every Kid Should Know by Age Nine,” and “27 Skills Your Child Needs To Know They Are Not Getting In School.”  Whew!  That is a lot of things kids are supposed to need to know!
When it comes to growing in the grace, wisdom and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we always begin at faith.  We do not walk by sight with anything that is tangible or concrete.  We have the Holy Bible that we can hold, but by faith, we accept that it is the authoritative Word of God, infallible, and the final word on all matters that it addresses.  But as we grow, then we start to accept things almost as if they are fact.  These are things that are no long faith, but things we know.
In the verse above, Job declares that he has first-hand knowledge of the Redeemer, and that he lives.  The first wonderful part of this phrase is that he knows.  He is establishing that that knowledge is now beyond faith, going to factual knowledge.  Second, he declares that he knows “my Redeemer.”  Apparently, he had such a sweet relationship that he called God by a personal pronoun.  He is not “the” Redeemer, He is “my” Redeemer.  Third, Job realizes that he is in need of saving from sin, hence his use of the term “Redeemer.”  Even before the Christ was sent to earth, likely before any of the books of the Bible had been written, he knew that redemption would come!  Fourth, Job knew that “my Redeemer lives.”  We do not serve a dead God, we serve a living God!
Perhaps the most hopeful revelation that we see is that Job knows that after he dies, “from my flesh, I shall see God.”  So unique and close was his relationship with the Redeemer that God revealed to him that we would one day be resurrected with new bodies, and that we would see God!  How special and dear is that faith knowledge!
Let us thank God and praise Him that our Redeemer lives, and that one day, we shall see Him in our flesh!

20
Apr
15

ITS NOT ABOUT ME

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?'” Matthew 16:24-26

There is a story about a young man from the wrong side of the tracks who had a decent heart, but he just couldn’t seem to turn around without finding trouble.  He had been in a few fights, had a couple of run-ins with the law, and was hanging out with guys in a gang.  But then, the new girl started coming to school.  She was sweet, kind, pretty, and just an all-around beautiful young lady.  He was immediately smitten.  The young man sat next to her during the school lunch hour, and they talked every day.  The more he talked to her, he found out what she found undesirable;  the more she talked to him, she found out what his life was like, and she found a lot of things undesirable.
He found himself falling in love, and she found herself having a loving sympathy for him and his plight as she discovered his decent heart.  He started settling down and not getting into as much trouble.  He had determined not to get into any more trouble, and he eventually quit spending as much time with the “toughs” with whom he used to be with constantly.  He was falling in love, and he was deciding to deny the parts of him that she found undesirable so that he could ask her out.
He eventually worked up the courage to ask her out on a date, and she accepted.  They started spending more and more time with each other.  Then the senior prom came, and afterward was college.  After graduation from college, they were married, and they lived their lives together into old age.
This illustrates what our relationship with God is like.  Jesus said that we must first deny ourselves.  That means that we have to change the use of our bodies and thinking of our minds (Romans 12:1-2) to be more like what God has revealed in His Word.  Do we have a different, personal opinion with that?  Do we think that is not the way that it should be?  Then we must remember that God told us “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Many times the choices that we must make to deny ourselves are lifestyle choices.  Perhaps these choices involve not spending time in places that don’t bring glory to God, or consuming things that might give our witness a bad name.  Many times, denying ourselves means that we must kill the attitudes, desires, and lusts of the old man when we are in private.
Jesus makes it pointedly clear that one who has truly been born-again and regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit must lose his life for the sake of the name of Jesus Christ.  For what do we gain if  we find favor with the world, but lose our soul in the process?

15
Apr
15

WALKING WITH GOD: ┬áZACHARIAS AND ELIZABETH

“In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.  They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.” – Luke 1:5-6

This scripture is unique in that it not only describes a man who walked with God, but it also values the walk with God that a woman shared.

Zacharias and Elizabeth both are described was walking with God.  Having such a testimony from the Word of God, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, should cause us to sit up and take notice of these two people and how they lived their lives in such a way as to earn this honor and distinction.

From the scripture, we can see that they were “righteous in the sight of God.”  A creative way of how to be righteous before God could be seen in this mnemonic:  Redeemed by the blood (Ephesians 1:7);  Identifying with Christ (Romans 6:5);  Giving to others (Matthew 25:34-40);  Hating sin (Romans 12:9);  Transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2);  Extraordinary faith (Hebrews 11);  Observing His commands (Deuteronomy 8:6);   Understanding that He is God (Isaiah 55:8-9); Sacrificing ourselves (Like 9:23).

The next part that we see shared in this verse is that they walked “blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of The Lord.”  When we are blameless in the commandments, we will love God with all our might and love our neighbor like we would love ourselves (Mark 12:28-31).  So what are the requirements of The Lord?  This particular phrase probably points back to Micah 6:8, which says, “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

In order to have a close, intimate walk with God, we must strive to be righteous according to His Word, love God and man, and do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with Him.  Then it can be said that we walk with God.

15
Apr
15

WALKING WITH GOD: ABRAHAM

“Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly.'” – Genesis 17:1-2

While this verse does not seem to boldly come out and state that Abraham walked with God like the Bible states regarding Enoch and Noah, the fact is still evident.  God commanded Abraham to walk before Him and then God promised to fulfill His covenant to make a great nation through Abraham, which happened.

Why was Abraham found to be worthy of being described as having a walk with God?  Let’s look at some key points to help us discover how we can have a closer walk with God.

First, in the passage from Genesis, God tells Abraham to be “blameless.”  In like manner, Noah and Job were described as being blameless (Genesis 6:9, Job 1:1).  In no way does this mean that they were sinless, because the Bible teaches us that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Rather, we should live our lives in such a way that our fellow men and women could not be justified in claiming that we are not born-again.  Put in another way, if our lives were put on trial as being children of God, would there be enough evidence to convict us?

The next key for seeing Abraham’s description of having a walk with God is found in Hebrews 11:8, when it says, “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed…”  Obedience is such a key ingredient to living a life that is pleasing to God.  Abraham was so obedient that “he went out, not knowing where he was going.”  Try to imagine that conversation with our spouse!  “Honey, we’re moving.”  “Where to?”  “I don’t know.  We’ll know when we get there.”  That kind of conversation would probably cause a call to a hospital, and not the kind where they would stitch up a gash (although we might need that, too)!

But that is exactly what Abraham did.  He saw and acted on what could not be seen.  He was walking and acting by faith and not by sight.  And we must do that same thing in our lives, day in and day out, without fail.

So the key to walking with God like Abraham walked is to live a convincing life before God and men, and to be obedient in walking by faith.  May we all live by these words!

15
Apr
15

WALKING WITH GOD: NOAH

“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.  These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.” – Genesis 6:8-9

Noah was the grandson of Enoch, the first man who is mentioned as having walked with God in the Bible.  What was so extraordinary about the relationship that Noah had with God that caused the Holy Spirit to specifically point out that he walked with God?  Let us examine these simple points.

First, Noah “found favor in the eyes of The Lord.”  How can we find the same kind of favor?  If we could find it, this could go a long way in our having a closer, pleasing walk with God like Noah did!  Fortunately, Proverbs 3 tells us that we should wear “kindness and truth” around our neck and that we should “write them in the tablets of your heart” (v. 3).  This passage also exhorts us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding” (v. 4).  We must cling to the truth of the Word of God and believe that His ways are reliable, trustworthy, and right.

Next, we can see that Noah is called a righteous and blameless man.  Does this mean that Noah never sinned?  Certainly not, because we can see that after the flood, one of the first things he did was to plant a vineyard, make wine and get drunk.  We are presented with a similar conundrum when Job is called “blameless” and “upright” (Job 1:1).  The King James uses the word “perfect.”  This does not mean that either man was sinless in the eyes of The Lord God, but that by the way their fellow men would judge their character, they were devout in their faith.

We should live so that we are seen by men as being blameless and upright.  These days, it seems that the more we stand for truth, the more truth is called evil. When all is said and done, our lives should be lived so that we receive favor from God and not from man.  This would be what is meant when Romans 12:-2 beseeches us to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.”

Last, we can see from Hebrews 11:7 that Noah had a strong faith in what God said.  We are told that God warned him “about things not yet seen,” and that in reverence, he made an ark that saved him and his family from the flood of the rain.  The phrase of being warned “about things not yet seen,” combined with evidence from Genesis 2:5-6, and the idea that there had never been a rainbow until after the flood (Genesis 9:13-16), seem to reveal that rain had never fallen until the flood.  Therefore, Noah never saw rain, but believed that God was going to send it, and acted accordingly.

There are many things that God reveals to us in His Word that we cannot see.  But we are called to walk by faith and not by sight.  It is when we take action on the revelations of God that can’t be seen that we most often receive spiritual growth and acclaim.

Let us determine in our hearts to find favor with God, to be blameless and upright, and to walk by faith and not by sight!  Let us be conformed to Him and not the world!




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