Category Archives: Knowing God

What is fellowship with God?

What is Fellowship with God?

God in and among us

There are two (2) biblical truths that should motivate us to live our  lives “more fully and abundantly” (John 10:10).

The first truth is that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, presently lives within us.  Jesus promised this to us who “believeth on and in Him” (John 14:16-17).

The second is that we live continuously in the presence of God (Ps. 139:7).  There is never a time nor is there any circumstance in our life where we will find ourselves outside God’s love and purview.

Both truths are “spiritual blessings” gifted to us from our heavenly Father (Eph. 1:3).   But even with God’s commitment to be in and among us, we have a responsibility to draw “near to God” (James 4:8) by entering into intentional fellowship with Him.  God will not force His presence upon us.  He will, however, invite us into fellowship with Him.

What is fellowship?

What does “fellowship with God” look like in our life?  Fellowship has been described as the sharing of experiences with likeminded people.

However, fellowship with God is much more, because “who has known the mind of God?” (Romans 11:34) Our fellowship with the Father is dependent upon accepting His Son as Lord and Savior.  It is through Jesus Christ that we begin to “know by experience” God’s heart and mind.

Such was the case with the Apostle John and the disciples who were uniquely privileged to witness, first hand, the person and works of Christ.

“That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.   And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.”    1 John 1:3-4

Can I get a witness?

  • “That which was seen” included the many miracles of Christ; miracles that would attest to the coming of the promised Messiah (Matt. 11:2-5). 
  • “That which was heard” were truths that Christ declared concerning the kingdom of God and His offer of eternal life (Luke 4:43; 9:11).
  • “That which was looked upon and our hands handed” recounted the disciples’ examination of Christ’s glorified body after the resurrection (John 20:27).

All of the disciples’ senses were engaged as Christ manifested (revealed) Himself and the Father.  Since Father and Son are one (John 17:11, 22), the disciples concurrently experienced fellowship with the Father (v. 3).  The disciple’s experience with Christ was not viewed from a distance but up close and personal.

Unending communion

Fellowship (koinonia or koy-nohn-ee’-ah) is translated as “communion” and “joint participation in a common life.”   John’s personal witness was an invitation to the early church to participate in a lifestyle that centered on relationship–an unending communion with God the Father and the Son.    Therein is the basis for John’s reason for sharing about fellowship with God:  so that their “joy may be full” (1 John 1:3-4).

Joy (pleroo or play-ro’o) means “to fill to the top so nothing is wanting; to complete”.  Joy can also be explained as “God’s will obeyed” and “God’s promises fulfilled”.   Joy begins and ends with fellowship with the Father and the Son (Luke 4:21).

Fellowship with God as a lifestyle

Ask yourself these questions.  How would I describe my fellowship with God?  Have I seen, heard, and looked upon Christ’s presence in my daily walk of faith?  Do I have joy and is it full?

Many times, we miss opportunities to fellowship with God. Perhaps we have become distracted by competing priorities and the busyness of life. Have our sinful behavior patterns and unhealthy influences interrupted our fellowship with God?

We are to walk daily in fellowship with God, armed with the knowledge that we are no longer “slaves to sin”.  Instead we are to be “servants of righteousness” producing fruit of holiness (Rom. 6: 22).

Get up close and personal!

Though John’s letter was written thousands of years ago, its message is still relevant for us today.  Therefore, it is an invitation for us to participate with the only true Source of joy.

Jesus invites us to draw near with faith (Heb. 10:22) and learn of Him (Matt. 11:29). In return, we can enjoy glorious fellowship with Him.  Let us be faithful witnesses to what it means to live in fellowship with God.

What is God revealing?

 

Revealing Hidden Things

As stated last week, secret things belong to God.  Revealed things, however, belong to us and to our children so that we may follow God’s law.  They are truths which God has communicated through the Bible and His Holy Spirit. These also include those things revealed through the whole counsel of God.

This truth, found in Deuteronomy 29:29, falls in the fourth address to the children of Israel by Moses.  It is a summary of the covenant demands and an appeal for covenant obedience (Deut. 29:2-29).

For the Israelites, the secret things of the LORD probably referred to future details that God had not revealed to Moses.  Yet what He had revealed (e.g., future judgment for disobedience, future blessing for obedience, His requirement for holiness, etc.) was enough to encourage the Israelites to follow all the words of the Law.[1]  

Is God’s revealed truth enough to encourage 21st century believers to trust and obey the LORD?  To answer this question, let’s consider four (4) tenets of faith currently revealed by God in His Word and through His Spirit.

These are not meant to be exhaustive, but have proven to anchor one’s faith during tumultuous times (Heb. 6:19).  As we look at our current world situation, it is easy to become weary.  Hopefully, these revealed truths will encourage us not to “lose heart” (2 Cor. 4:16-17).

What has God revealed?

Our Knowledge of Him (2 Pet. 1:3-5).  Jesus came not only to acquire our salvation but to also manifest (reveal) the Father’s name (nature) to His children (John 17:6; 26).  Armed with that knowledge, we believers have access to divine power and precious promises.  God has also provided us with spiritual wisdom and insight through His Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:9-10).

Our Identity (Eph. 1:3-4). Identity is defined as the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognized or known.   God chose us to be adopted as sons, heirs and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).  Our identity also connects us with other believers in God’s universal Church.  Because of our identity we have access to everything we need to accomplish God’s purpose for our life and His kingdom. (Eph. 2:10)

 Our Salvation (2 Cor. 5:17).  We are new creatures in Christ.  Because of Christ’s substitutional death on the Cross, we have been set free from the penalty and power of sin in our life.  This freedom will be fully experienced once in heaven where we will be delivered from the presence of sin (Rev. 21:4).

Our Hope (Rom. 4:18-21).  Hope is simply defined as the expectation of future good.   “Biblical hope is the anticipation of a favorable outcome under God’s guidance. More specifically, hope is the confidence that what God has done for us in the past guarantees our participation in what God will do in the future. This contrasts to the world’s definition of hope as a feeling that what is wanted will happen.”[2]

What keeps us from trusting what God has revealed?

One reason we may not trust what God is revealing is because we fail to recognize it.   In the 2020 Barna study, Signs of Decline & Hope Among Key Metrics of Faith”, it is noted that there are fewer “faith engagements” occurring among both believers and non-believers.  These include Bible reading, prayer, and church attendance.  These activities are critical to gaining an understanding of what God has revealed in the past and what God is revealing in the present.

The U.S. population is undergoing major religious, social, demographic and digital change. The rise of digital life, including social media, the economic crisis, changing attitudes about social issues and the emergence of younger generations on the scene are some of the factors that are likely to form undercurrents recalibrating Americans’ connection to faith and to Christianity.

Another reason we may not trust what God is revealing is because we choose not to believe.  One’s disbelief may be tied to the feeling that religion and the Bible are no longer relevant to 21st century living.  Such beliefs are not new.  The Apostle Paul warned the young minister Timothy that the time would come when people would not endure sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3-5).   People are choosing other forms of spirituality that “better accommodate” their chosen life style and worldview.

Finally, we may not trust what God is revealing because we choose not to obey God.  Have you ever noticed that when a person is auguring over a specific teaching from the Bible, it is often connected to a personal obedience challenge they are facing in their life?  Obedience is more than just following the letter of the law.  It is discerning what God would want and then seeking that outcome.

So where do we go from here?

As we discover things revealed (and the list is infinite), we gain access the very mind of God (Rom. 11:33-36).  Things revealed may be answers to those persistent questions concerning God’s purpose for our life.  Our receptivity to things revealed may be our entry to God’s power, presence, and provision.

Our life and the current challenges of 21st century living may seem impossible, but with God’s grace and favor, nothing is impossible.   In the midst of this health pandemic, strained human rights, and cries for human justice, we need only to seek Him in the things revealed.

[1]  The Bible Knowledge Commentary , Old Testament

[2]  Holman Bible Dictionary

Does God have a Secret?

 

The secret thing of God

Who doesn’t love a good secret?  Secrets by definition are unknown or unseen.  They are by design created to be kept from others.  As we move through these tumultuous times, we may question, “what is God doing?”  Is there some secret thing God is doing and not sharing with us?

As the children of Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, they, like us, were curious as to what God had planned for their lives.  Moses addressed their curiosity with a clever statement of fact about the revelations of God that still holds true today—“the secret things belong to the LORD but the things revealed belong to us.” (Deut. 29:29 (NIV)

Does God have secret things in 2022 that are known only by Him?  And what are the things God is revealing to us?  Does this verse still hold true as we face the new challenges of 21st century living?  How do the secret things of God affect our life and purpose?

Curiosity and secrets—good or bad?

It is the nature of man to be curious about secret things.  These are things that remain hidden from our immediate view.  This curiosity has led to man’s fascination with astrology, fortune telling and other future gazing activities.  Secret things have contributed to the bizarre growth in social media followings, gossip tabloids and entertainment shows that uncover the latest exposés of the rich and the famous.

Secrets have enormous power.  They add to our nervousness about the future especially when we don’t know what “we don’t know”.

The secret things

The secret things are those things known only by God.  The prophet Isaiah best captures this truth in the difference between human and divine knowledge:  “His (God’s) thoughts are not our thoughts, nor our ways His ways.  As the heavens are higher than earth, so are His ways and thoughts higher than ours” (Isa. 55:8-9).

While we may feel that we have the right to be aware of all plans pertaining to our future, it is sovereign God who ultimately determines what needs to be known and what must be accepted by faith alone.  “The just shall live by faith” is an iconic expression of trust and hope.  Its intent is to encourage us to confidently proceed without all the answers (Jer. 29:11-13).

The things that belong to us

The things that belong to us are those truths which God has communicated through His Holy Spirit and through His Word.  With the coming of Pentecost, we as believers have been gifted with the Holy Spirit to live within us.  Jesus provided not only a Comforter with the Holy Spirit but also His Presence to guide us in all truth (John 16:13).

God’s Word continues to reveal His nature and His never ending love for us.  From Genesis to Revelation, God discloses Himself as the Master Creator seeking to restore His relationship with His beloved Creature.

The greatest evidence of God’s persistence and love is His plan of salvation.  Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the penalty of death and reconciled us to our Father.  In addition, we have been empowered to live victoriously with the promise of eternal life, beginning now (1 John 3:2).

Knowledge of the revealed things

Our challenge as Believers will come in our ability to walk in the truth that God has revealed to us and to obediently follow His directions. Through the things that belong to us we gain a thorough knowledge of God and what is needed to live godly lives (2 Pet. 1:3).

Shifting societal and moral norms will force us to “stand fast” in that which has been clearly revealed by God (Eph. 6:11-13; 2 Thess. 2:15).  Such shifts will lead to continual rejection of Christian beliefs and persecution by this fallen world (2 Tim. 3:12).  The current health pandemic, financial downturn and civic discord have added even more pressure on our walk of faith.

Recent studies indicate that we are one generation away from losing our belief in God. Therefore, it is critical that we also teach the revealed truth of God to our children and grandchildren (Deut. 11:19).  Our failure to do so could result the loss of our families to the world.

Go with what we know

Jesus has more than adequately prepared us for such a time as these:  “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  As believers we need not concern ourselves with the secret things we don’t know BUT to trust and obey that which we do know.

Next week we will explore the truths God has revealed to us.

Listening Prayer: Engaging in a Prayer-filled Life

Listening Prayer: Engagaing in a Prayer-Filled Life

The Needful Thing

Last week, we discussed the prayer-filled, contemplative life.  The contemplative life acknowledges the importance of a personal relationship with God and the intimacy gained through focused attention on Him.  Fulfillment of this life involves both love for God and the desire to be in His presence continually.

For many believers, such a pursuit necessitates a return to our First Love (Rev. 2:4) and the desire for “the needful thing” (Luke 10:42).  Both can only be found in fellowship with Infinite God.  So today we will spend time looking at a key practice in the prayer-filled life—listening prayer.

Listening Prayer

Listening prayer is about joining with God at the “heart”.   By heart, I’m not speaking about the emotions only, but that “intuitive part” which instructs the mind and the will.  It is a place of union with God.

In listening prayer, we exchange our “intermittent” requests for “continuous” dialogue with the all wise, all-powerful God. Through the eyes and the ears of the heart we see and “hear” God—who He is and how He operates.

Listening prayer was a new experience for me.  I admit my prayer life was one-sided—asking, seeking, and knocking (Matt. 7:7).  I invested much time in learning what I thought was the “right way” to pray.  I followed the PAPA prayer formula.  I prayed the Scriptures.  I employed the ACTS model (adoration-confession-thanksgiving-supplications).  While I wanted to better communicate with God, I failed to realize what God wanted.  God was not concerned with “correct communications” but God did desire “attentive conversation” with me.

Barriers to Listening Prayer

Hindrances to listening prayer are generally found in two areas:  the desire for an “experience” versus the “presence” of God and the modern split between “head and heart” knowledge of God.

In our society, we are accustomed to being “stimulated” by what we are doing. Unfortunately, that is how we judge whether something has really happened.  We expect to hear God speak in a loud, audible voice.  That is not necessarily how God may choose to communicate.  Remember Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-12).

Most Christians today suffer to one extent or another from “post-enlightenment” mindset—the split between thought and experience.  This split in most Christians is characterized by an acceptance of their conceptual knowledge about God as reality while they simultaneously deny the primary ways of knowing, loving, and walking with God. This is more intuitive than rational. As a result of this split, even committed Christians, do not believe in Christ’s real presence with and within them.[1]

We must be careful to guard against these hinderances to true intimacy with God.

Where to begin?

How do we begin to incorporate listening prayer into our life?

First, we must believe that God desires to communicate with us (Gen. 35:13).  God is not some distant deity disinterested in His children.  We cry “Abba Father” (Gal. 4:6) knowing He hears our every word.  `

Secondly, we must know that God wishes to be in relationship with you (James 4:8a).  By instituting His plan of salvation, He created the means to restore that which was loss in the Garden of Eden—fellowship with mankind.

Thirdly, we must declare our intentions and ask to hear His voice. Hearing God is not natural (remember we loss that in the Garden), so we must be intentional (Matt. 11:15).  Initially, we may need to set aside time, to listen for His voice, perhaps during our morning or evening devotional time.

Finally, we must invite God into time with us and expect to hear (1 John 5:14).  We may receive a fleeting impression, an image, even a scripture or a song.  Don’t ignore it!  Write it down, then ask God to explain what we experienced.  This is where our journal comes in handy.

Time to begin!

Listening prayer is not a method, but a walk with God where we intentionally listen for His voice.  It’s more than “doing”, it is about “being” aware of His presence.   Listening prayer is about inviting God into the daily rhythm of our life knowing that He speaks to us continuously.  It is an exciting time of fellowship and discovery.  It is what God has always wanted.

[1] Listening Prayer:  Learning to Hear God’s Voice and Keep a Prayer Journal, Leanne Payne

 

 

Desperately Seeking God: A Prayer-filled Life

 

Desperately Seeking God

“Desperately seeking God”

What would we think if we saw this request in the personal column of our local paper?  Desperately seeking God for ___.   We can fill in the blank with those things that reflect the needs of the human heart—financial security or emotional wholeness, food and lodging or creature comforts, our daily bread or deliverance from evil.

All these qualify as valid requests we can make known to God (Phil. 4:6).  Today, however, we are invited to move from our “needs-based” method of prayer to a more robust and satisfying “prayer-filled life” that will lead to greater intimacy with God (James 4:8).  What exactly is the prayer-filled life?

The Contemplative Tradition and the Prayer-filled Life

In Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster, the prayer-filled life is called the Contemplative Tradition.  Foster describes it as “a life of loving attention to God.”  Imagine, “loving attention to God.”

It includes not only the activity of prayer but also periods of solitude and meditation in which the presence and fellowship with the Lord is nurtured.

It can be likened to the Lord’s encouragement to His disciples to “abide” in Him (John 15: 4, 8).  Jesus describes His intimacy with the Father through the image of the “vine and the husbandman”.  It was through Jesus’ union with His Father that He was able to do all things (John 5:30).  Jesus desperately sought God.

Practicing the Presence and the Prayer-filled Life

Father Lawrence described the prayer-filled life in Practicing the Presence of God.  “Practicing” is the recognition of God intimately present with us and addressing ourselves to Him every moment.

Prayer is considered “divine conversation” that occurs throughout the day—not exercised as an isolated activity or relegated to a specific place.  Prayer is continuous and never ceases (1 Thess. 5:17).   Father Lawrence desperately sought God.

David and the Prayer-filled Life

David serves as our biblical example of one who sought the prayer-filled life.  Throughout the Psalms we can experience the passion and appreciation David had for his private time with the God of Creation (Psalm 19).

As a shepherd boy, he experienced extended periods of solitude and fellowship with the Great Shepherd (Psalm 23).  In the wilderness of Judah, David’s soul “thirsted” for the Lord and longed for the time he could return to the Temple to reunite with Him (Psalm 63).   David desperately sought God.

Which description is right?

Descriptions of the prayer-filled life differ in method and experience.  “Loving attention to God”. “Divine Conversation”. “The soul’s thirst for the Lord”.

However, what these descriptions do have in common is the results—greater intimacy with the Lord.  This is the offer of a prayer-filled life; one that is more relational and less transactional.

Unfortunately, the distractions of this life, our weakened flesh, and the deceitfulness of Satan continually draw us away from a prayer-filled life.  Left unchanged, we will continue our intermittent prayer routine while Jesus invites us to return to our First Love (Rev. 2:4).

Psalm 42:1-3a offers an excellent illustration of what the prayer-filled life looks like.

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night.” 

Let us learn from the deer and seek God. It is in pursuing and lingering in God’s presence that the prayer-filled life is experienced. It is in Him, that our desperate seeking ends.

Life as a Sponge

My Curiosity

In What I Learned in 2021, I shared a quote from one of my favorite writers, F.B. Meyer, about the privilege of being one in Christ and the intimacy that comes with that relationship.  Meyers offered the comparison of that relationship in Christ as that of the life of a sponge.

We must be one with Christ:

we must be in Him as the sponge is in the ocean.”  

A sponge!  I must admit, I had failed to remember that a sponge at one time was a living being.  So with that reminder in hand, I decided to dig deeper. What I discovered and with the Spirit’s enlightenment is our WordBytes today.

Life as a sponge

There are two basic forms in the life cycle of a sponge. Most sponges live their lives attached to a reef. They don’t move around. There was a time in their lives when they were little larvae swimming around the water all by themselves.

Sponges have unspecialized cells.  Sponges do not have nervous, digestive, or circulatory systems. Instead, most rely on maintaining a constant water flow through their bodies to obtain food and oxygen and to remove wastes.

Interesting?  Yes, but where is the connection between our being in Christ and a sponge?

In John 15:1-8, Jesus uses the vine and the branch analogy to describe what an intimate relationship with Him would look like.  In Christ, we would abide in Him. The branch apart from the vine, the source of life and nutrients, could do nothing (v. 5).

So what’s with the sponge?

In Christ Recap

In Christ is the present experience of the risen Christ indwelling our heart by the Holy Spirit.  This results in incorporating the personality of Christ into our life.   It is more than an imitation of the life and teachings of Jesus.  It is our union with Christ as a result of the divine action of grace by God. The result of that action:  we are transformed into a new creation.

In Christ describes our identity with Christ and our position before God the Father. We (in position) can now begin the process of being conformed to the image of Christ (in practice)—righteous and holy. (Romans 12:2)

In Christ, God makes his superabundant blessings available to us by faith in Christ.  What Christ has is ours!  We are able to draw upon the wealth of Christ to accomplish God ‘s purpose and will.

Striving for Oneness

Meyer’s sponge analogy can be described even more accurately in the Apostle Paul’s statement to the Athenians: “For in him we live and move and have our being.”  (Acts 17:28)

It is this oneness with Christ that Meyer’s was describing.    Our oneness is not only our connection by faith alone (Gal. 3:26).  But it is also our life lived in singleness of thought.  And that thought is the glory of God—His will and His purpose.

What do I mean?  What does that look like?   The best example I can give is the relationship Jesus had with God the Father.[1]

John 14:10

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.

John 17:21-23 

That they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.  The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.

Like Jesus and the Father, our oneness in Christ recognizes both our dependency AND celebrates our interdependency.

Live like a Sponge

In our study of the sponge, there are similarities we may note as we strive for oneness in Christ.

The sponge relies on maintaining a constant water flow through its body to obtain food and oxygen and to remove wastes

The first is constancy.  Constancy is defined as the quality of being faithful and dependable.  The sponge attaches itself to the reef, a place that will supply the flowing water current needed to live.  As believers, we must seek out those places where we can “attach ourselves” and “grow in faith” (2 Pet. 3:18; Heb. 6:1).  Communities of faith strengthen our spiritual endurance and maturity, so that we can stand fast in the midst of trials and persecution.

The second is discernment. Water flows through the sponge’s simple systems.  It doesn’t hold on to everything but only keeps what is needed to continue its life cycle.  It removes waste.  In our spiritual life, everything we’re exposed to isn’t “necessary” (1 Cor. 6:12-15).  We must be diligent to carefully filter what flows into our eyes, ear, and mind.

As we seek oneness in Christ our constancy and discernment keep us focused on what really is important for living.  It recognizes our dependency and interdependency with both the Father and Jesus.

Like the sponge, we live life knowing “Christ is the center “of our existence and acknowledge that apart from Him we can do nothing.  Therefore, let us strive moment by moment to live the life of a sponge— “one with Him.” (John 14:20)

[1]  I encourage you to read these in your personal Bible study.  They are amazing spiritual “nuggets” for meditation and prayer.  Ask the Holy Spirit to “open your eyes to see” (Ps. 119:18) what God will share with you on pursuing oneness with Him.

Don’t get it twisted!

 

Don't Get it TwistedWe love superheroes.

I love to watch movies about superheroes. Whether it’s Wonder Woman or Iron Man, I like to see them in action.  They offer themselves unselfishly as they battle intruders from space, another dimension, or the giant mushroom that mutates into some incredible threat.

I am especially drawn to those who band together to save the world. The Marvel superheroes including the Avengers and the X-men hold my attention for hours. Every month it seems a new movie is released highlighting new superheroes who appear to save the world from some horrific ending.  This month’s offering is The Eternals. 

We often seek ways to escape the stress of everyday living. We retreat to a world where “superheroes” share our humanity yet possess mystical abilities to overcome the monsters that threaten the world. Unfortunately with superheroes, we must be careful not to believe their “hype”. It is important to keep reality separated from fantasy.

Health pandemics, economic uncertainties, and erosion of social consciousness leave us longing for someone to “fight our battles”.  If we aren’t careful, we may be misled to believe that superheroes will appear to save the day. But “don’t get it twisted”. Translation:  don’t mistake fantasy for reality. There are no superheroes. But there is, however and more importantly:  The King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God. (1 Timothy 1:17)

Who is God?

To avoid getting it twisted, it is important that we first possess a correct understanding of who God is.  This can be accomplished through learning about His attributes.

Attributes are a window through which we can think about who God is. God’s attributes are first introduced in the biblical record through His mighty act of Creation.  Triune God banded together to create the world!

God ultimately reveals Himself through Jesus who was made, “a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death…that He might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9).  Jesus came to save the world from a horrific ending!

Understanding God is more than “head knowledge”.  God desires that we have a personal relationship with Him.  As we experience the challenges of 21st century living, we learn more about who God is.  Through His presence and His power, we learn to trust and depend on Him (Ps. 89:13).

Eugene H. Peterson writes in Practicing Resurrection, the importance of keeping our focus on the reality of God and His work in the life of the believer.

When we squander life on anything less than the God revealed in Jesus, and made present in the Spirit, we miss out on life itself, resurrection life, the life of Jesus.

Keeping it Real

Once we know who God is, it is then critical that we develop a Christian worldview. The term worldview is used to describe a core set of values and principles through which the world is understood.  It is our reality. 

Our worldview consists of our beliefs (what we view as true) and our values (what we view is good).  Our worldview impacts every decision.  It will ultimately determine our behavior (what we will do).

As Christians, our worldview is seen through Jesus’ eyes (John 14:6).  It is the determining factor in all we do, how we live, and how we react to life.  We form our worldview based on His life and teachings.  It is the only way to navigate through this world.

Don’t get it twisted

When we know who God is and develop a Christian worldview, we are less likely to “get it twisted.”

God’s Word, His promises, and His Spirit help us keep it real.  While we love superheroes we never are confused “where our help comes from” (Ps. 121:1-8).  The King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God is our real Superhero.

Fear and Knowledge of the Holy

 

Fear and Knowledge of the Holy

Fear me!

In last week’s WordBytes, Mike Glenn, in The Fear of God, shared how his father helped him understand the “true meaning” of fear.

Now, son. You’re getting into a new phase of your life. You’re becoming a man. You’ll be going places where I won’t be. You’ll be doing things I won’t see. You’ll be pressured by your friends to do some things, and some of those things, you know, are things I don’t want you to do.”

 “And in that moment, you’ll have to make a decision. You’ll have to decide. Are you more afraid of your friends? Or are you more afraid of me?”  

Then he leaned across the table, put his eyes directly on mine and said, “You’d better be more afraid of me.”

This exchange was not only a lesson about fear, but also an object lesson on knowledge.  Mike Glenn knew his father’s expectations.  These expectations coupled with fear guided Mike Glenn in making good decisions and wise choices.  The same can be said about our fear of the LORD and our knowledge of the Holy One.

That is why Solomon penned, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Prov. 9:10)

Fear-> Wisdom->Knowledge

Man has always searched for the best method to assist him in making good decisions, right judgments, and sound pronouncements.  In primitive times, groups would cast lots and dice, leaving the outcome to the proverbial “fates” (Lev. 16:8; Joshua 18:8).

In Israel’s early formation, decisions were informed by the High Priest who consulted the Urim and Thummin (Exo. 28:30).  As the nation grew, Israel deferred key moral and political decisions to God’s chosen representatives.  Judges and kings, counseled by wise prophets and priests, became the source of national decision-making.

The fear of the Lord offered motivation to seek “God’s face” (Num. 6:25-26).  However, it was the knowledge of the Holy One that established the critical link to God.  God was (and still is) the source of all knowledge and wisdom.

Knowledge of the Holy One

The true source of wisdom is identified in the parallel statements found in Proverbs 9:10:  the fear of the LORD and knowledge of the Holy One.  Knowledge provides insight and discernment based on personal experiences.

It involves the process by which one can recognize, classify, and organize information gained from varied experiences and use them to develop an appropriate response.  This “process of knowing” is illustrated in the story of Moses.

Moses’ early knowledge of God came vicariously through others in Pharaoh’s court.  He, personally, knew little about God.  Therefore, God had no part in his thinking or planning.  However, forty years later, Moses experienced God for himself at the burning bush (Exod. 3:2).  In seeing that the fire did not consume the bush, Moses recognized God’s power and holiness.  Moses’ response to knowing God was awe and reverence (Exod. 3:5).

After witnessing the ten (10) plagues against Pharaoh and Egypt, Moses’ knowledge was exponentially expanded.  As Moses observed (classified) the different ways God dealt with Pharaoh’s resistance, he knew that God was more powerful than any god worshiped in Egypt.

Moses’ knowledge of God through his various experiences resulted in the organized deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt.  Their collective response to God was worship and praise (Exodus 15: 1, 11).   On the other hand, Pharaoh’s disregard of what he knew of God, led to the destruction of his army (Ex. 14:18).  Pharaoh refused to factor in his knowledge of the Holy One.

The Revelation of God

Knowledge of the Holy One is the revelation of God (Ep. 1: 17-18).  It shapes our reality so that we conform to the will of God and respond appropriately to the events of life.  This knowledge is gained through our personal experiences with Him, through His revealed Word, and through the Holy Spirit.

What shapes our key decisions and choices?  What knowledge do we turn to regarding our family, our profession, and our relationships?  Are we like Moses or like Pharaoh?

Knowledge of the Holy One reminds us of three things: (1) whose we are (our relationship with God), (2) who we are (our identity in Christ), and (3) how we are to live (in obedience and service to God).

Fear of the Lord (respect, reverence, and obedience) will lead us to wisdom (a disciplined and holy life).

Knowledge of the Holy One (personal experience) will give us godly insight and discernment to navigate 21st century challenges.

When wisdom enters your heart,

and knowledge is pleasant to your soul;

Discretion will preserve you;

understanding will keep you.

(Prov. 2:10-11, NKJ)

The Fear of the Lord

 

The Fear of the Lord

Why fear?

In my reading this past month, I have been drawn to scripture that speaks to the “fear of the Lord”.  Because of the uncanny way it has repeatedly appeared in my daily devotions, I felt compelled to dedicate more time to study this phrase and share my insights with you.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.”

In Proverbs 1:7a, the writer conveys the belief that the beginning of knowledge, begins with fearing the Lord.  Knowledge, in this context, refers to wisdom.  The person who begins with the fear of God is contrasted with the fool who “despises wisdom and instruction.”

The fear of the Lord is a common expression found in both the Psalms and Proverbs.  Fear, in this context, is interpreted to mean respect and reverence.  No single English word conveys every aspect of the word “fear” in this phrase. The meaning includes worshipful submission, reverential awe, and obedient respect to the covenant-keeping God of Israel.  It has even been defined as “hyper-respect” based on a realization of how awesome God is and how insignificant we are in comparison.

The complexity of fear

Fear is a complex quality, creating a myriad of emotions and feelings based on terrors, both real and imagined.  However, when used in a religious sense, especially with regard to God, it becomes even more intriguing.  Fear of God is a concept which describes both awe and reverence of the Lord.  It results in both obedience to His commandments and rejection of those things which compete for His affection. 

In the Old Testament, fear of God follows the introduction of sin in the Garden of Eden.  Before the fall, Adam and Eve had enjoyed a close and loving relationship with their Creator.  After their gross disobedience, the pair fled from God’s call, nervously explaining, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked” (Gen. 3:10).

They now feared God because of their new awareness of their vulnerability.  Sin made them fearful because of the perceived power of another to harm them, in this case, Creator God.   Do we flee from the voice of the Lord when He calls to us?

Fear of God:  Old Testament

Fear of God in the Old Testament is also linked to the covenant promises.  Protection and loving kindness were exchanged for obedience and loyalty to God.

From the Patriarchs to the great Kings of Israel, special worship and respect was given to the Lord.  This was based not only on His actual awesome presence (Ps. 33:8) but also on the perceived consequences for failure to acquiesce to His laws (Exod. 14:31).

Jacob expressed this reverence by referring to God as the “Fear of Isaac”.  Jacob’s reference suggested that his father was the embodiment of fear (Gen. 31:42).   To fear God meant to reject every competing deity and to serve Him only (Deut. 6:13).  Do we fear the Lord simply to receive His favor or to avoid sin’s consequences?

Fear of God:  New Testament

With the arrival of Jesus came new revelation as to who God the Father was and the unlimited depth of His love.  God’s love was demonstrated by the atoning work of Jesus and freely given to “whosoever would call on the name of the LORD” (Rom. 10:13).

Reverence and awe to the Lord was now to be motivated by love versus fear of reprisal (1 John 4:18).  To fear God meant to live a disciplined and holy life.   Fear, in this case, is expressed in acknowledgment of God’s power and authority in the believer’s life.

In addition, fear of God is expressed by walking in all His ways (2 Cor. 7:1), by loving Him (John 14:15), and by serving Him with all our heart and soul (Luke 10:27).   What is the basis for our fear of God—love or dread?

21st Century view of fear of God

As I survey the world we live in, I ask myself, do we as a nation or even as the universal Church “fear the Lord”?  The greater question is, as individual believers, do we “fear the Lord?”

While fear of God is closely related to morality and obedience to God’s commands, it is also very freeing.  Our awareness of God’s power and of His love releases us from other’s opinions, the world’s influence, and fear of rejection.  These move us to compromise or to disobey the Lord.

Our fear of God is redefined when motivated by love (1 John 4:7-21).  We are then released to live out of the purpose He has ordained for us who love Him (Ep. 2:10).  “His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation.” (Luke 1:50)

I close with these words from Thomas Watson, a Puritan preacher and author.  Though originating in the 17th century, its message still is true.  Why?  Because it speaks truth of the nature and heart of God, which never changes (Mal. 3:6).

The fear of God promotes spiritual joy; it is the morning star which ushers in the sunlight of comfort.  Walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, God mingles joy with fear, that fear may not be slavish.

The God of All Comfort: A Time to Revisit

It’s been 6 months since we first published “The God of All Comfort”.  The intent of that March recording was to offer words of encouragement during the extraordinary times created by the coronavirus pandemic.

Since the virus’ arrival, we’ve referred to the changes caused by it as the “new normal”.  However, secretly, we hoped the changes would not be “typical” but instead only “temporary disruptions” that would eventually “go away”.  But they didn’t and they haven’t.

In that video, we shared our belief that God was in control of this situation and that He would be with us during the time of this dreadful health pandemic.  So today, we revisit March 2020 to see where we’ve landed and to see if the God of all comfort has made good on His offer to comfort us.

Where has the time gone?

It’s time to inventory how you’ve been spending your time. In March, we offered several ways to maximize our time while sheltering in place and practicing social distancing.

We talked about the need to sustain our relationships in new ways.  It included expanding our technology to “reach out and touch”.  Since that time, I can’t share the number of Zoom events I’ve attended–meetings with family, Zoom coffees, Zoom birthdays.  God created us for relationship (Gen. 2:18). That’s why it is important to maintain our personal communities during this time.

For Ron (my husband) and I, the most difficult thing with COVID-19 has been separation from our family. We miss the trips to be with siblings and the special times we share–laughing, hugging, and doing silly things together.  I guess that’s why God created family (Gen. 1:28).

In the meanwhile

Stephen Colbert has a segment on his late-night show called, “In the meanwhile”.  It is the perfect lead into this part of my WordBytes today to describe the events that have occurred in tandem with the coronavirus.

In the meanwhile, our shrinking economy, social unrest, and political division are proving to be as deadly as COVID-19.  This is because they further weaken our fragile economy and strain our emotional capacity to deal with all the changes in our life.

In the meanwhile, we now live in a COVID-19 world.  Businesses are slowly reopening.  We’ve implemented public health directives intended to slow the spread of the disease and ensure safety of the community.   Mandates to encourage social distancing and the wearing of masks, like many of the changes we now live with, have been met with anger and resistance.

In the meanwhile, demands for equality and social justice further heighten racial tension within this nation. What is the best way to educate our children–online, in-class, or hybrid?  Only time will tell. In the meanwhile, where is the God of all comfort?

God of All Comfort:  Our Constant

“The God of all comfort” is an Old Testament description of God who is the ultimate source of every true act of comfort (Ps. 23:4; Ps. 119:76).  The Greek word for comfort is related to the familiar word paraclete, one who comes alongside to help.  It is another name for the Holy Spirit (John 14:16).

Comfort is often used to mean softness and ease.  But this is not the meaning in 2 Cor. 1:3-4.  The Apostle Paul is saying that God came to him in the middle of his suffering and trouble to strengthen him and give him courage and boldness.

Paul thanks the God of all Comfort for his deliverance from the trials and tribulations he experienced in Asia (Acts 19).  Consequently, God delivered Paul from all these (2Cor. 1:8-10) and provided for all his needs.  This deepened Paul’s love and trust in God.  It was Paul’s personal need and God’s divine response–His mercy and comfort–that drew Paul even closer to God than before his trials.  Are you closer to God since March 2020?

God is still in the heavens and He reigns over all the world (Ps. 103:19). God has not changed (Mal. 3:6; James 1:17).  Has God not come alongside us (paraclete) to help us during this time of trouble?  Has God not been there to provide divine comfort–strength and courage–during this time of change?

God promises to faithfully care for us even in the midst of our trouble.  This is evident in the fact that WE ARE STILL HERE. It is in recognition of God’s comfort that with gratitude we can lift our hands in praise to God.

That we may be able to comfort…

What have we learned since March 2020 about the God of all Comfort?  How will we share what we have learned with others?   Just as Paul shared with the church at Corinth, sharing how we endured afflictions and trials can benefit others (2 Cor. 1:5-6).  As God comforts us, we can comfort others. In doing so, we not only encourage those going through these difficult times, but also ensure their ability to persevere.

By extending our comfort, we can help our community not only survive but thrive in the midst of change.  We can help others increase their emotional capacity and their ability to move forward rather than being stuck in the past.

Most importantly, we can introduce them to the God of all Comfort.  Gloria Gaither leaves us  this observation about the God of all comfort.

God walks with us. He scoops us up in His arms or simply sits with us in silent strength until we cannot avoid the awesome recognition that yes, even now, He is there.