Meanderings of a Minister


“I Wish God Would Show Up Like He Used To”
October 27, 2017, 10:36 am
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard or even said this, “I wish God would show up like He used to.”  Recently, I have been reading a book by J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Maturity.  In the book, Sanders takes on this very question and comes to a little different conclusion.  As a matter of fact, he counters with the question, “Are you REALLY sure you want that?”  Consider the following examples:

Job saw a vision of God.  His character was blameless in his own mind.  He even said, “I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me.”  (Job 33:9)  God even affirmed this in 1:8 when he asked Satan if he had seen Job, His faithful servant.  How did Job react to the vision of God?  “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now thine eye seeth Thee.  Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”  (Job 42:5-6)

Jacob saw a vision of God.  He wrestled with God.  When God asked him his name, Jacob responded with his name as defining his character.  “Confronted by the vision of God, the man who had succeeded in deceiving others was compelled to acknowledge his own secret shame.”

Moses was another man who saw a vision of God.  He had attempted to deliver Israel from Egyptian abuse by his own power, but had to run away.  He lived passively in Midian watching sheep until one day when he came upon the burning busy.  How did Moses, the mighty man of God, respond?  “And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.”  (Exodus 3:6)

Elijah saw a vision of God.  Elijah, the prophet who faced off against 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and experienced God in a dramatic fashion.  Elijah, who prayed and the heavens were shut up and who prayed and they were let loose.  The one who experienced the great, strong wind that tore the mountains apart, the one who saw the earthquake that shook the ground, the one who felt the heat of the fire, how did He respond?  When God showed up in the still small voice, “when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle.”  (1 Kings 19:13)  He could not look at God.

Isaiah saw a vision of God.  The one who would tell of the coming Messiah saw a vision of God.  The one who would, inspired by the Holy Spirit, announce woes on all of the enemies of Israel, and on Israel herself, saw a vision of God.  How did he react?  He was undone!  He cried out to God using the same woe that he would use to denounce his enemies.  He saw himself as unclean compared to the holiness of God.  He fainted away from the presence of God.

Saul was blinded by the vision of the risen Christ.  John was terrified at the Son of God who showed up to give him the Revelation.  On and on the list could go.  When God showed up, people fainted, became like dead men, were made intensely aware of their sin, ran away, were blinded, hid themselves, averted their eyes, averted their faces, and cried out in panic.  And we say we want God to show up like He used to?

Perhaps, rather than look for a vision of God, we ought to look into the Word of God.  The average American owns three Bibles, but less than 10 percent of Bibles purchased in the United States actually ever get read.  Churches offer Bible studies at their churches and very few people avail themselves of the opportunity.  The average Christian does not witness to their neighbor because they do not feel like they know enough scripture, but also are not doing anything about it.  Entire denominations have set the Bible aside to follow tradition, what feels good, what won’t offend, or what is shiny in the moment.  Perhaps we need to spend more time with our face in God’s Book than on Facebook.  Perhaps we need to spend time reading of more characters in the Bible than trying to format our message in 140 characters on Twitter.  Maybe we need to pin our hopes on our relationship with Jesus than on the pictures we can post on Pintrest.  Maybe we need to spend more time chatting with Jesus than Snap Chatting with friends.  Maybe we need to link in with God’s Holy Spirit more than we are Linked In with our business associates.  Maybe we need to spend more time on knee mail than email.

We don’t so much need for God to show up as for us to show up for worship, daily devotion, sacrificial giving, selfless serving and enthusiastic evangelism.  Just a thought.

Advertisements


Be Strong in the Lord

The Easter celebrations are over.  The family has returned home or you have returned home.  You have been back at work for a week.  The decisions you made to be more faithful have been tried.  How do you keep the momentum going and maintain the growth that has started in your heart and in your walk with Christ?

While a different setting, David dealt with similar issues when he wrote Psalm 27:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, In spite of this I shall be confident. One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord And to meditate in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock. And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord. Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, And be gracious to me and answer me. When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” Do not hide Your face from me, Do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; Do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation! For my father and my mother have forsaken me, But the Lord will take me up. Teach me Your way, O Lord, And lead me in a level path Because of my foes. Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries, For false witnesses have risen against me, And such as breathe out violence. I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.

First, David believed that he did not need to fear anyone or anything that opposed him because he believed God to be more powerful than his enemies.  God is more powerful than the enemy within and the enemies without.  He did not let the fear of failure, loss, or even war cause him to fear to the point that he took his eyes off of God.  We must not allow our fears and failures to take our eyes off of God either.

Second, David continued to hold the Lord and worship before his eyes throughout his life.  He was constantly reminded that, even if his enemies would prevail, he would spend eternity in the house of the Lord in Heaven.  If his enemies did not prevail, David would dedicate himself to worshiping at the Tabernacle.  We need to have this confidence as well.  If you have repented of your sins and surrendered your life to following Christ for the rest of your life, then heaven is your ultimate destination.  Until then, nothing can separate us from Him and from the privilege of worshiping Him.

David hungered to learn from God.  He wanted to know God.  He wanted to understand God’s character so that he could become more and more aware of and convinced of God’s love for him.  You and I have a privilege that David did not have.  We have the whole Bible to read and study and use to understand God and His plan for our lives.  In order to keep the momentum going with the decisions we made during the Lenten season and Easter, we must make the study of and obedience to God’s word a constant priority.

Lastly, David was honest with his frustrations as he went along.  He said that he was concerned to the point that he would have despaired if he did not believe that he would see the goodness of God in the land of the living.  David said he was really close to despair, but he was reminded that, even when he was not faithful, God still is.  You and I have that promise as well.  Jesus is coming again to get His children.  When things are hard here, we must keep this future deliverance in mind.  We must let that encourage us not to give up, give in, or give out.



Why Is It That Some Seem So Hardened to the Gospel?

Agnry

Many Christian parents are broken when their son or daughter come home from public schools or university and begin to doubt or deny the faith that they have grown up with.  What causes this to happen?  What is it that these prodigals are saying to us with their doubts?  How are we to react to them?  What do we do to help?  If you have a prodigal, you understand these questions.  The first step to addressing your prodigal is understanding what they are saying to you when they say that they doubt or deny their faith.  Are they saying that they have gone to school and have been taught that there is no God?  Perhaps they have been challenged with their faith and have not been able to provide a response, so they feel like they have to doubt or deny their faith in order to be intellectually honest.  They have been taught that evolution is a fact (while it is only a theory).  They have been taught that there is no such thing as a miracle because science demands that something be witnessed and reproducible in order to be true.  This also causes doubt for the resurrection.  If this is what your prodigal is telling you, then what do you do?  Pray.  Explain your reasons for believing.  Challenge them to read works of scientists like William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, Norm Geisler and others that have dealt with these issues.

Perhaps you prodigal is not struggling with any of the empirical data.  Perhaps they are disillusioned by what they see around them.  They see “Christians” that are mean, abusive, and controlling.  Maybe they see hypocrites that live one way at church and another way at home.  Maybe they struggle with all of the devastation in our world and this all swirls around to make them struggle with the concept of an all-powerful, all-knowing, and loving God.  What can you do for them?  Pray.  Live an example of compassion and faithfulness before them so that they can understand that not all people or fakes or hypocrites.  Be quick to ask forgiveness when you struggle and make sure that they know you care for them.

Maybe they are doubting because believing in God would mean that they need to forgive others that have done them wrong and for which they are holding a grudge.  Since they feel justified in their unforgiveness, they want no part of coming to a God that would require them to forgive.  Perhaps you are the reason for their resistance as you have not treated them with the care and concern a parent should.  Perhaps it was someone at church that wronged them and they are holding on to the pain because to forgive would mean putting himself or herself in to the environment that caused the pain.  What can you do to help them?  Pray.  Apologize for any part you have had in their hurt or disappointment with the church.  Show them a changed life and heart.  Show they the change that God is making in your life.

Yet another reason that they may be denying or doubting their faith is because the sin they are involved in is more “fun” than repentance.  The longer you and I are believers, the more we forget about the lure of sin.  The more we forget that we sinned because it was fun.  Sex outside of Biblically defined marriage may be fun and it may feel fulfilling.  We forget that.  Alcohol and the feelings that come with being under its influence is freeing.  The high of the drugs we used to take really was high.  Only in coming to Christ did we realize this was short lived and left us with a much larger hole it ever filled.  Your prodigal might have gotten involved in a sin that they know they would have to give up if they allowed themselves to believe there is a God with a moral standard.  What can you do to help them?  Pray.  Look for teachable moments to help them understand their error in thinking.  Be careful not to cushion the anvil blows God might want to send their way in order to get them back in line and draw them back to Himself.  Sometimes, the joy of the sin has to be overwhelmed with pain to create change.  Pray, but don’t interfere with what God is doing.  It is hard, but it is best.

Remember, there is hope.  The prodigal came home and yours may as well.  Be ready.  Be praying.  Be ready to celebrate.  Be ready to forgive.  Be ready to explain.  Be ready to love.