Loving the Invisible God

“To know, know, know him, is to love, love, love him…” Remember that old song? It’s a 1958 single by the Teddy Bears. It wasn’t written about God, but I like to use it about God.

We humans are very tied to our natural world, what we can see, touch, smell and hear. We very much depend on the concrete things in life. Invisible things are too intangible for most humans. The debate about the existence of God has been going on since the beginning of time, and it continues to this day. Many cannot fathom an invisible God they cannot see, touch, smell and hear, a God outside of their natural senses.

So just how do we go about knowing and loving an invisible God? Well, He did leave us a Book about Himself. That Book is the Bible. If you say you don’t believe or trust the Bible, I’m not sure what’s left, except that you could still have a personal encounter with Him. The Bible is the history of God. I challenge anyone who says they don’t believe the Bible to actually read the whole thing through, read all the prophecies that came to pass hundreds of years after they were uttered, and then say the Bible can’t be true. The Bible actually confirms itself, by recording prophecies uttered by men of faith that were eventually seen coming to pass in the natural world. These fulfilled prophecies were also recorded.

I, and many other believers, can tell you plenty of stories about our own encounters with God, such as the time I prayed for green peppers, a fan, and a depiction of a panda eating bamboo to create a sweatshirt for my niece. Those were three quickly answered prayers that my Father did for me. The panda story is especially poignant and made me cry, because the whole incident was proof of an invisible God who cares about every little thing about us. I cried because it was proof of His love for my little niece and His care about what she desired.

For Christmas one year, my 9 or 10 year old niece requested a sweatshirt with a panda eating bamboo on it. She was very specific, which I knew would make my task more difficult. The morning I left home to travel one hour to shop, I asked God to help make my quest profitable, as my time was limited. I assumed I would visit fabric shops and (keeping my fingers crossed), maybe, possibly encounter some fabric with pandas on it, even though I could not recall ever seeing one before. I went to the first shop, which happened to be a place where I had taught classes; I knew the people there. I asked about fabric with pandas on it. No one thought there was any in the shop. However, a worker pointed out a sample quilt hanging in the shop that had embroidered animals on it. Guess what? There was a panda eating bamboo on it! I inquired about who had made the quilt. Turns out, a friend of mine had made it. Easy peasy. I contacted her, asked if she would make me an embroidered patch of the panda eating bamboo and I would pay her. She agreed and promptly made it. I only had to order the sweatshirt, get the patch and sew it to the front of Katelyn’s shirt in time for Christmas. That is how God works.

Another story: At the end of “fan” season, one summer, the little fan in my room went ka-put. Bad time to have a fan go out. I use a fan year round in my room at night to block outdoor noises. I asked God for a fan, knowing it might be tough finding one because summer was over. We visited a different Walmart than we usually do one day,  and I began to search for a fan. I happened to look down an aisle that looked like it might not be the one, but I turned and went that way anyway. There were two fans, just two, and I got one. Without stressing. That’s the beauty of it. Just tell Him what you need and go on living…He can get it to you. God is for us!

I have lots of personal stories like that in my almost 35 years of walking with God. He is REAL! He is personal. YOU can know Him! He loves to prove Himself to you.

“To know, know, know Him is to love, love, love Him…and I do.”

Let’s pray: Dear Jesus, I want to know You like that. I want to experience You in my life. I want to see You prove Yourself. I accept Your sacrifice of Jesus as payment for my sins and I now wish to walk in Your light. I want to have fellowship with You and get to know You better.

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Who was Rahab?

I have been writing a lot here lately about the righteousness imputed to us by God and His generous grace. Something came up recently in a conversation about Rahab and I had to go and re-read her story. Her life is a great example of the great forgiveness and redemption plan of our God.

Rahab was a harlot in Jericho. Jericho was the first city conquered by the Israelites when they came out of the wilderness and began to inherit the Promised Land. It was the first battle in that land of the second generation Israelites who were the children of the group that came out of Egypt, the group that grumbled and complained against God, the group that committed idolatry and lusted. Many of that group died, not receiving God’s promises. Let us not be like them.

When two Israelite spies showed up in Jericho, sent by Joshua, the new leader after Moses died, Rahab the harlot sheltered them. She hid them from the authorities who came looking for them. She lied for them and helped them escape. Why did she do this for strangers? Because she had heard of the Israelites, and she knew that their God was real and that He was with them. She had faith. She told those two spies that everyone in Jericho was deathly afraid of the Israelites. She knew the city of Jericho was in trouble and she asked the spies to have regard for her and save her family from destruction, which they granted. Her house was on the wall around Jericho and the spies told her to make sure she had a red rope tied in the window. This is a picture similar to the Israelites posting blood on their door posts when the last plague swept over Egypt. It was a symbol of their reliance on the blood of the Lamb (Jesus), for their protection. The spies promised her all would be well as long as her whole family was in her house and that red rope was seen in her window. She and they would be safe.

Rahab and her family were saved in Jericho and she went on to marry an Israelite man and become the mother of Salmon, who was the father of Boaz, who married Ruth, the Moabitess (another outsider grafted into Israel) and eventually wind up as an ancestor to Jesus Christ, God’s Son. What an awesome picture of grace and redemption, that a heathen girl in a heathen city marked for destruction was brought into the lineage of Jesus. It just goes to show that God is no respecter of persons indeed! Ruth the Moabitess, also was grafted into the lineage of Jesus, by her allegiance to Naomi after the loss of her husband, who was Naomi’s son. Moab was the lowest of the low as far as sinfulness was concerned.

Rahab is also mentioned in the “Hall of Faith” chapter, Hebrews 11. God loves us, folks! He takes the lowliest of people and lifts them up to become something they never dreamed of becoming. Rahab did not miss her opportunity to become more than she was.

May we never forget God’s heart for the lowly and outcast of our society. Jesus touched and healed lepers, who were outcasts. He allowed a harlot to anoint His feet with an expensive perfume that took a year’s wages to purchase. Where she came up with that amount of money is beyond me. Would you save a year’s wages? And if you did, would you spend it all on a perfume and then spill that perfume over a man? It was an extravagant action.

But that harlot was in love with the Man who had forgiven her of her sins and brought her into right relationship with God. Jesus said this about her, that he who is forgiven much, loves much. Have you been forgiven much? If so, do you love much? One can’t help but love much when they fully realize what they have been forgiven for and saved from, and the fact that God let His Son die a cruel death on the cross so that WE could be saved and set free from the devil’s dominion. What a Savior we have! What amazing grace!

“…Jesus….who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2. The joy set before Him was OUR FREEDOM!

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But I still sin!

If your sin bothers you, you have come to the right place! The true believer is grieved by their sin, and looking for a way out!

In some Christian circles, it is still fashionable to say, “I’m just a sinner, saved by grace.” Personally, I think that may just be a religious statement meant to sound humble. Sounds good, but is it true?

If you are truly the saved, I maintain it is not true. It was true maybe at one time, but if you are now the righteousness of God in Christ, how can it still be true? We are no longer sin-ners. Do we sin? Yes, we do, but we are not sin-ners. What that means is, we no longer PRACTICE sin. At least, that’s what the word of God says. Will you argue with that? The bible says we are the righteousness of God  in Christ. 2 Cor. 5:21 “For He has made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”

Let’s break it down a little. The righteous (if you are truly saved) are no longer looking to find a way to sin. In fact, the righteous are looking to find a way OUT of sin. The righteous no longer WANT to sin. They stay as far away from sinning as they can! They struggle against sin. They cry about it. It upsets the righteous when they sin. That’s because they love God and want to please Him. There is a Holy Spirit on the inside of them who lovingly convicts them when they sin. They can’t be happy about sinning!

Unsaved people don’t behave that way. Some are looking to do more evil. That is the difference. Which one are you? Does your sin grieve you? That’s a good thing if it does. If it doesn’t grieve you, you should pray.

“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” Hebrews 10:4 “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God…For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:12-14.

That last part is perhaps one of the most hope-filled passages in the bible. That’s Jesus!

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How does God present me faultless?

A scripture that always befuddled me several years ago was Jude 1:24. “Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,..”  I had so much sin consciousness then. How was it possible for God to present me faultless? I am not without fault. I sin…sometimes a lot. I’m not talking about smoking, or drinking or cussing. I’m talking about attitude sins, how I treat others. I miss the mark all the time. How is it possible for God to present me faultless?

Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is how. Because I have faith in His sacrifice that washed my sins away and made me a new creation, God treats me as if I have never sinned. That’s great news! Hebrews 10:14 is stated a bit differently in different translations, but essentially says this… “For by one offering He has perfected forever them that are sanctified” or those that are “being sanctified.” Our acceptance of His death on the cross means we are “perfected forever” just as this scripture says. This is a positional perfection, meaning God treats us as if we never sinned. Hebrews 12:23 speaks of “the spirits of just men made perfect.” We who are saved are in that number.

It’s grace, pure grace. The Holy Spirit inside of me lets me know when He is displeased with something I have done, but I still belong to God. He still loves me and does not cast me aside. I know there are times the Holy Spirit has been pretty upset with me, and I’m upset with me too!! Righteousness, perfection, faultless…all is available on the basis of grace alone. I didn’t do anything to earn it. I can’t possibly be good enough to earn it.

I love something I heard Pastor Joseph Prince say a few weeks ago. He is a wonderful teacher on grace. He said, “You can’t lose your salvation, because you didn’t do anything to get it.” What an amazing statement! But it’s true.

So now when I read Jude 1:24, I say thank You Jesus, You are able to present me faultless! What a blessing! I, who am not really faultless…I stand on what He did for me, nothing else. And God counts me as perfect, based on the one offering that Jesus made. He has forever perfected me.

We are to “work out our salvation in fear and trembling” (not fear, as in scared, but as in reverence and sobriety). We are in school, the school of the Holy Spirit. Our spirits have been made perfect in salvation; now we are to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and to follow Him into the destiny that God has planned for us from the foundation of the world. We are under God’s grace…it’s like an eternal second chance! When you mess up, you always get a do-over!

Dear Jesus, You are the God of second chances…and third…and fourth, and so on. Thank you for Your great sacrifice made to lift me out of a life of sin. I want to be worthy of that great love. I love You and adore You.

 

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Knowing God’s Ways

The first generation of Israelites who came out of Egypt were familiar with God’s acts. He did miraculous signs among them. When Moses was pleading with Pharaoh to let them go from Egypt, they saw 10 different plagues come on  Egypt. Water turned into blood, the land was covered with frogs, then gnats; livestock died, boils showed up on the people, an unusual hailstorm destroyed the food, locusts covered the land, an unusual darkness came and finally, the firstborn of the Egyptians died, while Israel’s was spared. Many of these could be attributed to natural disasters, rather than God’s power, but they were the ways that God dealt with Pharaoh for his rebellion. Read Exodus 7-10.

The miracles of God were seen at the parting of the Red Sea for the Israelites to cross over on DRY GROUND, while the Egyptians were destroyed when they tried to do it. Ex. 14. Three days in, they came to a place in the wilderness where the water they found was bitter. Ex. 15. Moses threw a log into it and it became sweet. In Exodus 17, there was no water, and God provided it from a rock. Realize we are talking about satisfying the thirst of a few million people!

Hebrews 3:10, quoting Psalm 95:10, says that the Israelites did not know His ways. They knew His acts, they were used to the supernatural, but they did not know His ways. They continued to grumble and complain and commit other sins. Their hearts did not change! I Corinthians 10:1 says God was not pleased with most of them and they were struck down in the wilderness.

God’s acts are wonderful indeed to see and experience. He fed them from heaven. Every day, manna fell from the sky and they gathered it up and ate.  We are talking about a major amount of food and water here. There were 3 million people in their number. Their clothes and shoes didn’t wear out. The people came to rely on supernatural acts to save them from certain disaster.

When they came to Mt. Sinai and Moses went up the mountain to receive the law on stone tablets, the people were so afraid of the noise coming from the mountain that they asked Moses to hear God for them. They didn’t want to deal with Him themselves. (The priesthood mentality was born.) God intended for all of them to  have relationship with Him, but they didn’t want to do that. Are we like that?

What does it mean to know His ways? I believe it means to have such a love relationship with God, that you would never want to do anything to offend Him. As we come to know Him, we change into His image. He is a holy God. Changing is not only for our benefit, to keep us from evil and keep us safe, but also to display to the world that there really IS a God! And He is good! Knowing God’s ways means knowing and developing His attributes, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. I Cor. 14. He IS all of these things. We are to partake of His actual character. It is possible. 2 Peter chapter 1 says “His divine power has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him,” and that by the exceedingly great and precious promises, we might be partakers of the divine nature having escaped the evil that is in the world through lust.

God was not pleased with most of that first generation of the Israelites. They lusted, they complained, they were idolaters, and they committed immorality. Their faith did not grow. And they suffered the consequences. Their bodies fell in the wilderness. Do we lust? Do we complain? Do we commit immorality? Are we idolaters? If the answer to any of these is yes, do we think we can escape the consequences? We shouldn’t, because “these things happened to them as an example FOR US on whom the end of the ages have come.” I Corinthians 10:6-11. It is important to know His ways in THIS life! God doesn’t grumble or complain. He is always positive.

Even though His acts convey His love, for many of the Israelites, they were unable to see it. It did not touch their hearts and so they died prematurely. I have been known to sit and cry when I hear testimonies of people being healed of incredible life-destroying diseases and disabilities. That’s because I am so greatly touched by that manifestation of God’s great love for people. It’s personal! Let’s be sure we recognize His love for us and respond accordingly, looking to walk always in His ways. Let us TRUST that insanely great love He has for us. That love let His own Son Jesus die a very cruel death on a cross to pay for ALL of our sins, forever. No one else has ever done that.

Pray: Oh God, our finite minds have trouble grasping the eternal, wonderfully immense love that You have for us. Enlarge our understanding through prayer and reading Your Word. Teach us to wait and watch for your intervention in our lives each day, to comprehend and celebrate everything that You do for us. Deliver us from every attitude that displeases You. We want to live our lives in Your kingdom and bring You glory.

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Is Forgiving Yourself Necessary?

The self help movement has infiltrated church teachings. If you are not a LOVER of the word of God, you most likely will fall for lies. I believe the whole concept of forgiving yourself is one of them. I have heard this talked about a lot through the years.

Forgiving YOURSELF is not in the Scriptures. Please hear me out. Jesus never commanded it; the apostle Paul never talked about it. What IS in the Scriptures is GOD’S forgiveness that was obtained for you through Jesus’ sacrifice. BIG difference.

I maintain that if you feel the need to forgive yourself, check to see if you have REALLY received the forgiveness that Jesus died to give you. The death of one innocent Man was enough to pay for the forgiveness of all the sins you have ever committed or WILL ever commit in the future. God was absolutely satisfied with it. If you say you need to add something to this, like forgiving yourself, you have not really accepted what He did for you, once and for all. You have not yet come to FAITH in the Word of God.

“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” Hebrews 10:4 “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God…For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:12-14. That last part is perhaps one of the most hope-filled passages in the bible.

The distance from the brain to the heart is approximately 18 inches. The word of God must move from mental assent to heartfelt belief and faith. In order for this to happen, it has been my experience that saying those promises out loud is necessary. My ears and my heart need to hear the word of God.

The bible talks about confession. “If you confess with your mouth, and believe in your heart, ….you shall be saved,” Romans 10:9. (The Greek word translated saved has many implications. Salvation is not just from sin, but that discussion is for another time.)  This is my confession, that “if I confess my sins, He is faithful and just to forgive me and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9.  “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, Who forgives all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from destruction; who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies; Who satisfies your mouth with good things; so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103: 2-4.

Do you believe these scriptures? Rom. 8:35 “What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 8:38-39.

If you can’t say yes to that question, check the status of your salvation. Have you accepted the Lord Jesus Christ’s sacrifice as payment for all of your sins? If you are truly saved by faith in his sacrifice, then let’s work on  developing your faith in the word of God. You first must know WHAT it says, what those promises are. Studying His word is so important. Then confess it out loud. Incorporate it into your prayers. His sacrifice has FOREVER paid for all your past sins and any that you may commit in the future. There is no need to forgive your SELF! His forgiveness is ENOUGH!!! Receive it today! You won’t be disappointed.

Pray this. Dear Jesus, I am so full of worldly thinking. I repent for conforming to the world rather than to Your word. Forgive me for not studying your word as I should. I thank you for your cleansing power that brings wholeness into my life. With Your help, I want to commit myself to studying Your word and renewing my mind to it. Thank You for everything You have done for me.

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What does it mean to be made righteous?

I was listening to Pastor Joseph Prince talk about Abraham and how he sort of lied to Abimelech the king about his wife Sarah. The story is in Genesis Chapter 20. Abraham was afraid the men of the land would kill him to get his wife, so he told the king that Sarah was his sister (she was a half sister, so it was not entirely a lie, but he left out the wife part). The next thing we see is God appearing to King Abimelech in a dream saying “You are a dead man for taking Abraham’s wife.” The king did not know Sarah was Abraham’s wife, so it’s hard to fault him for the situation. But God gets on his case. We wait to see if he says anything to Abraham, but we never see it. I’ve always wondered about that situation. Pastor Prince said he thought God was getting onto the wrong guy. I tend to agree!

So why didn’t God chastise Abraham about his deception? Could it be God was not aware of it?  I doubt it, if one believes God knows everything. It seems to me that God was OVERLOOKING Abraham’s part in the whole thing. Why would he do that? Because “Abraham’s faith was accounted to him as righteousness.” Galatians 3:6  In God’s eyes, Abraham was righteous because of his faith in God. He had favor with God and a covenant just by having faith. Abimelech did not.

If we believe that God has accounts on everyone and is keeping score, let’s look at it this way…before Abraham had faith, his sins were mounting up higher and higher in his account. Then one day, he came to faith in God, and believed that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him, as the New Testament says in Hebrews 11:6. All of a sudden, Abraham’s sins are wiped out.  There is nothing in the account, EXCEPT now God puts a positive in the place of the sin. It’s called RIGHTEOUSNESS, right standing with God. Once we come to FAITH, and in the new testament, we call it salvation (whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved, Romans 10:13), God puts our sins away “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12) and remembers them no more.

That’s why, as we look at the life of King David, who actually committed adultery and murder, and even after the prophet corrects him, he is still called a man after God’s own heart. God still likes him even though he did those things. (David still suffered consequences, but did not lose God’s love.) 

The same way that Jesus, who knew no sin was MADE to be sin (2 Cor. 5:21), we were MADE the righteousness of God in Christ. It was an exchange. He became sin and we became righteous. He lowered Himself for the human race. We were elevated back to the original position that Adam had before he sinned. It’s as simple as that. This is how deep is the love, grace and mercy of our God.

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