Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fashioning God into Our Image: Part One

Read the account in Leviticus 10:1-3.

Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke saying, ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all I must be glorified.’” Leviticus 10:3

“In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple.” Psalm 5:7

One of the lessons that we can learn from the story of Nadab and Abihu is that all worship is anchored in a reverence for His presence. He must be feared or reverenced, for God has declared, “You shall...reverence My sanctuary: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:30).

The Psalmist picks up on this in Psalm 15, notice ten things are given to answer the question, “who abide in Your tabernacle and who may dwell in Your holy mountain?” We could summarize this list by saying if we want to approach God we must honor Him and those who fear Him. Our approach to God cannot be on our terms, it must be on His!

He cannot be compared to man or approached in a casual way. Psalm 89:6-7 says, “For who in the heavens can be compared to the LORD? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the LORD? God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be held in reverence by all those around Him.”

I think it is interesting to see that before the Psalmist speaks of the fear of the Lord, that he mentions the greatness and glory of the God he serves. He first declares the awesome wonders of God, and then he gives the exhortation to fear Him. He wants us to meditate on God’s unfathomable glory! For how can we duly respect and honor Him if we remain unaware of His greatness or why He deserves our reverence!

This very One who is full of greatness and glory came into this world (John 1:1-3, 10-11). He was the very creator of this vast universe, yet His very creation, at least man, turn our backs on Him. We did not recognize the awesome One for who He was, even though there was much religion when He came. Back in Isaiah 29:13 we read, “In as much as these people draw near Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me and their fear toward Me is taught by commandments of men.” Here He is saying that the people had reduced the glory of the LORD to the level of mere man! They served God in the image they had created of Him and not in His true image. They worshipped Him by their own standards and not His.

This was true back in Isaiah’s day, but it spoke prophetically of what the Lord Jesus would experience from His own. But it wasn’t only the Jewish nation who did not give Him His proper place. His own disciples did this in Matthew 17:4. Peter suggested making three booths, One for Elijah, one for Moses and one for the Lord Jesus. But we can not bring the Lord down to our level to worship Him! This is what Peter was unknowingly was doing and why God the Father could not allow it! There must be reverence for who He is!

The Blessings of Fearing God

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. Ecclesiastes 12:13

Everything in life boils down to this one simple truth, fearing God! So the all important question is what does it mean to fear God? Fearing God includes, but it is not limited to, respecting and reverencing Him. Holy fear gives God the place of glory, honor, reverence, thanksgiving, praise and preeminence He deserves. But simply put, fearing God is to respect His holiness by hating what He hates and loving what He loves, with a wholesome dread of displeasing Him.

What Does God Promise to those who Fear Him?
Let’s stay in the book of Proverbs for now. The term “fear of the Lord” appears 14 times in Proverbs. Here are a few of them and the results of fear the Lord.
• Proverbs 3:7-8 Health and strength
• Proverbs 9:10 Beginning of Wisdom (Wisdom is seeing things through
the eyes of God, Responding the way God would respond)
• Proverbs 10:27 Prolongs life (Eph. 6:1-3)
• Proverbs 14:26 Promotes confidence and provides protection
• Proverbs 15:16 Contentment (1 Tim. 6:6)
• Proverbs 16:6 Strength to turn away from evil
• Proverbs 19:23 Complete satisfaction in life

How do we learn to Fear God?
I would suggest the simple truths:

1. Dig In: Prov. 2:1-5 (The Word of God is likening to buried treasure so we need to dig in. Notice here in these verses there are 8 ways we dig into God’s Word.)
• Receive: means to snatch or cease. Ask the Lord to reveal one truth each time you open the Word of God. One truth that you can snatch up and live by!
• Treasure up: Has the idea of hiding them. (Ps. 119:111) Hold them dear, value them.
• Incline your ear: means to lean toward. Mt. 6:6 (close the door to remove all distraction. Get alone with the Lord!
• Apply your heart: Give it all you have
• Cry out: Shows dependency, like a little baby who will die if they don’t cry out for help!
• Lift your voice: There is an urgent need!
• Seek: Hunting it out!
• Search: Is not to stop!

2. Despise Sin: Prov. 8:13 (How do we look at sin? Often we are concern more about the consequences of sin that commit the sin itself.)
• Luke 3:7 God likens sin to venomous snakes.
• Rom. 3:13 God likens sin to the stench of a sepulchral (a place where human flesh has rotted).
• 2 Peter 2:22 God likens sin to the vomit of dogs.
• 2 Tim. 2:17 God likens sin to leprosy (cancer)

These are all things that we naturally run away from. We naturally try to stay away from things. We don’t try to get as close as we can, we run from them! Is this how we treat sin? God hates sin so much and must deal with it and has dealt with it at Calvary! He sent the Lord Jesus to die to pay the penalty of sin, which is death. So why would we run back to that which we have been set free from and has cost Him so much?

3. Desire Him: Prov. 14:2 (Phil. 3:7-10).
• We can not walk with God and walk with sin (1 Jn. 1:5-10).
• We can not walk with God and walk with pride (Prov. 22:4, Jm. 4:6-10).
• We can not walk with God and walk with the world (Prov. 23:17, Jm. 4:3-4).

Read what John said about this in 1 Jn. 2:15-17. In Psalm 73 we have recorded for us a man was doing just what John warns us about. He looked at the world with envy. He thought he was missing out. He saw them seeming to get away with so much and it almost cost him his faith. He almost compromised himself with the world he envied. It would seem that he might have even tried to get as close to it as he could without crossing that line! But what was the antidote for Asaph? What is the antidote for us? Ps. 73:17 tells us that Asaph went into the presence of the Lord. This helps us clean lenses of our spiritual eyes.

I would suggest that Asaph began to fear the Lord! Getting into the presence of the Lord helps us realign or thinking be in tune with God’s thoughts. We begin to see things from His point of view! When we begin to fear the Lord, hate what he hates and love what He loves, we realize what Asaph realized in Ps. 73:25-28, that He is enough the heart and mind to fill! But it all begins with whether or not I fear the Lord!

Billy Graham's Prayer For Our Nation


'Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, 'Woe to those who call evil good,' but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We have
exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have rewarded laziness
and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice.We
have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.We have neglected to
discipline our children and called it building self esteem. We have abused
power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbor's possessions
and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and
pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the
time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin
and Set us free. Amen!'

With the Lord's help, may this prayer sweep over our nation and
wholeheartedly become our desire so that we again can be called 'One nation
under God!'

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Crown Him

By the eye of faith we see our Savior adorned with a wreath of glory (hebrews 2:9), depicting the excellence of the Divine nature-fully manifested in Him. The character of the crown includes honor, of highest value. He is worthy of it, for the great work He has completed at Calvary. Interestingly, the same word is used in Matthew 27:6 as the price of blood, 30 pieces of silver. One day He will receive the crown of honour too. It speaks of His great love for us. Through our worship may we crown Him with praises today!


Daniel (Self-Control)

But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control.
2 Peter 1:5-6a

We all face tempting situations. Yet the world tells us to do whatever makes us happy--even if what we want isn't honoring to God. With the lack of self-control that surrounds us, thankfully we have biblical examples of people who were able to deny the flesh and honor God.

As a young man, Daniel found himself in a tempting situation as a servant to the king of Babylon. The king ordered that Daniel and the other Jewish advisors receive a daily portion of his delicacies and wine. Not wanting to defile his body, Daniel requested to receive only vegetables and water for ten days. At the end of the ten days, his features appeared better and fatter in flesh than the young men who ate the king's portions. And because Daniel exhibited self-control, the Bible says God gave him knowledge and skill in all literature, as well as wisdom and understanding in all visions and dreams (Daniel 1:5-17).

Demonstrating self-control may not be easy at the time, but the sweetness of honoring God is certainly worth the effort.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Will of God (Part Five)

How can we grow in our ability to discern?
1. By consistently practicing the classical spiritual disciplines.
2. By asking God in prayer for and seeking increased discernment in His Word.
3. By developing a healthy distrust for basing our decisions solely on our feelings
4. By consistently putting into practice what we already know to be God’s will.
5. By avoiding unreliable, untrustworthy and ungodly counsel.
6. By seeking a mentoring relationship from a spiritual mature Christian.
7. By being open to the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit in your life.
What practices should we seek to avoid in the process of discerning God’s will?
1. Avoiding taking verses from the Bible out of their complete context.
2. Avoid putting out fleeces—this is not a normative method of knowing God’s will.
3. Avoid the drawing of lots or any other way of putting God in a box.
4. Be careful in what you attribute to God. For example, some people say, "God told me this…" But did He really? Did you hear an audible voice? How do you know it was God?
What questions can I ask in order to make wise decisions?
1. Is the decision in accordance with the clear teaching of God’s Word?
2. Is the decision consistent with what I know about Christ’s character?
3. Is the decision consistent with my understanding of the objective facts?
4. Is the decision consistent with historical, orthodox, biblical Christianity?
5. Is the decision confirmed by other godly Christians who also know me?
6. Is the decision confirmed by a variety of means or sources?
7. Is the decision consistent with my general understanding of God’s will?
8. Is the decision made by prayer and confirmed by a settled peace of mind?
9. Is the decision motivated by a sincere desire to please and glorify God?
10. Is the decision likely to benefit others or is it just selfishly induced?
What is the bottom line?
God always gives His very best to those who leave the choice with Him!

The Will of God (Part Four)

How can we prepare for doing God’s will? Consider the following three characteristics:
Be ready to stretch—God’s plan for us is bigger than our plan. Someone once said, "God doesn’t give us challenges to match our strength; He gives us strength to match our challenges." God wants the best for us and He is willing to help us get it.
Be ready to dream—When God reveals His will for us, He doesn’t give us a blueprint, He gives us a sketch and we fill in many of the details. Our dream or vision needs to be consistent with God’s plan and purpose for our lives. We need to learn to visualize ourselves doing God’s will. Most significant actions are conceived before they are achieved.
Be ready to roll with the punches—We need to be flexible. Many rigid people frequently miss God’s will because they miss valuable opportunities for ministry. The way in which we react to success and failure will have a significant impact in the kind of people we become. We react to failure by not letting it get us down and we react to success by not letting it go to our head. Regardless of the circumstance, we should react in a manner that would please or glorify God.
What is spiritual discernment?
Discernment of sound judgment is the ability to perceive reality as it really is. The opposite is deception and/or delusion. Spiritual blindness is inevitable for all unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4) while believers have a discerning spirit given by the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 2:12-14) In the Old Testament, Solomon asked for a discerning spirit to distinguish right from wrong. (1 Kings 3:9) The writer of Hebrews says that discernment results, in part, from consistently obeying God’s Word. (5:14)
What guiding lights has God given us in order to help us discern God’s will?
If we are on a river at night we must follow the guiding lights in order to stay in the main channel. Here are twelve guiding lights for knowing God’s will:
1. The Bible: what principles apply to our specific situation? How do they apply?
2. Prayer: be specific about your needs. (Distinguish needs from wants)
3. Godly Counsel: people who love us and have a good grasp of God’s Word.
4. Proper Motivation: Is our decision selfish or will it please God and encourage others?
5. Providential Circumstances: God gives the resources for what He calls us to do.
6. Inner Conviction: Involves a settled disposition by being persuaded by the facts.
7. Peace of Mind: Am I uneasy or anxious about a particular course of action?
8. Clear Conscience: Is our conscience clear toward God and others? (Acts 24:16)
9. Personal Desires: Rejoice in the Lord and He will give you your heart’s desire.
10. Common Sense: Wisdom involves common sense and sound judgment about how to live.
11. Anticipated Results: What are the likely consequences of a particular course of action?
12. Personal Experience: What lessons have we learned that might apply to this decision?
Our responsibility is to weigh the input we receive from these sources and arrive at a wise and godly decision. Our decision is only as good as our best option. Sometimes the best option may be to wait for more definitive information. Sometimes we may have to choose between the lesser of two evils.
What are some characteristics of spiritual discernment?
It is rooted in: the truth of God’s Word, objective reality (facts), as well as a sound evaluation of circumstances and experiences. The Spirit of God helps us understand to Word of God so we might know the will of God and become more like the Son of God. (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 3:18)

The Will of God (Part Three)

What are three important presuppositions to knowing God’s will?
Presupposition One: There is a personal God who is interested in us and able to give us personal direction. This God, who revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, is still with us through His Holy Spirit. If we reject this assumption, there’s no need to read the remainder of this article. Our time would be better spent probing the very epistemological presuppositions for the existence of a personal God who has the capacity to reveal Himself to us.
Presupposition Two: We are a person who regularly repent of sin and trust in Christ. We want God to guide us and are praying that He will reveal His will so that we can obey it. If we are not willing to accept this assumption then we need to specifically reflect on our own relationship with the Lord and about what it means to come to personal saving faith in Jesus Christ. We could better spend our time probing the implications of discipleship, whether or not we are prepared to be a follower of the Lord or whether we simply want cosmic goodies showered upon us from the sky or a genie to jump forth at our command.
Presupposition Three: The most important prerequisite to knowing God’s will is to be willing to do it. If we have no intention of obeying God and if we want to wait till we know His will before we decide to obey it, why should God bother to reveal it to us? Furthermore, if our conscience is not functioning properly, this can seriously inhibit our ability in being able to accurately discern God’s will. If we are not doing God’s will now, why would we expect God would give us additional knowledge of His will?
What are some of the common mental obstacles in seeking to discern God’s will?
We may ask some of the following questions:
• What if God’s will is too difficult for me to do?
• What if God’s will is something that I’m afraid to do?
• What if God’s will is something that I don’t want to do?
• Does surrendering to God’s will mean I can no longer decide for myself?
• Is God’s will so detailed that it applies to every decision I make?
• Is God’s will going to conflict with what I want most in life?
• How can I know God’s will and how will I know when I’ve found it?

The Will of God (Part Two)

What is the most important prerequisite to knowing God’s will?
The most important prerequisite to knowing God’s will is to decide in advance to do it once we know it. This is necessary in order that we do not confuse our will with God’s will. Proverbs 14: 12 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death."
In order to know God’s will, we must also learn to think His thoughts after Him through the memorization and meditation of Scripture. God says in Isaiah 55:8-9 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways... As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
How do we know if we have a yielded heart? The Psalmist says in Psalm 138:8 that "The Lord will work out His plans in my life." In order for God to do this, we must learn to keep our heart yielded to Him. Here are three important characteristics of a yielded heart:
Thankfulness—is the only appropriate response to God’s grace. If we do not have a positive attitude engendered by the Holy Spirit, then we have a serious defect in our faith. As Christians, we have much for which to be thankful. For example…
• We can thank God that he sent Jesus into the world to die on the cross for our sins.
• We can thank God that he has given the Spirit to empower us for daily living.
• We can thank God that he has given us His Word, the Bible—wonderful words of life.
• We can thank God that he has given us the church—a loving extended spiritual family.
• We can thank God for our job, our home, husband, wife, children, friends, etc.
• We can thank God for every detail of our lives—for he is involved in every aspect of our lives.
Humility—Needless to say, an arrogant/rebellious heart is not a yielded heart. Humble people to not make the mistake of presuming that they already know the will of God. They are open to increased insight into their understanding of Scripture. They display a teachable spirit-open to the work of the Spirit in their lives. The humble know that God ultimately deserves the credit for any good that is accomplished.
Trust—Psalm 23 reminds us that even in the midst of danger, He can be trusted. Having a yielded heart means that we trust God, even in the midst of trial and trouble. We may not know the blue print but we can always trust the architect. James 1:2-8 reminds us that if we want to know God’s wisdom, we must not doubt. Proverbs 3:5-6 says that when we trust God with all our hearts and when we don’t rely on our own insights, He will direct our paths. According to Hebrews 11:6, Faith is the one indispensable ingredient in pleasing God.

The Will of God (Part One)

What is one of the most frequently asked questions about God?
It is, "How can I know the will of God?" As a new teenage Christian, my greatest concern was to know and do the will of God. Forty years later, I have the same concern.
One of the most popular books in contemporary Christendom is, The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Its popularity points to the importance of discovering the purpose that God has for us. Pastor Warren says that we were: 1) planned for God’s pleasure, 2) formed for God’s family, 3) Created to become like Christ, 4) Shaped for serving God and 5) Made for a mission.
If it’s true that we naturally delight in pleasing the one we love; then, one who loves God, delights in pleasing Him. In short, he wants to do what God wants. Doing what God wants first requires knowing what He wants; it requires that we accurately discern the will of God.
What do we mean when we speak of God’s will?
There are several aspects or dimensions of God’s will revealed in Holy Scripture:
• God’s Sovereign Will: (Prov. 16:33; 21:1; Dan. 4:35; Rom. 11:33-36; Eph. 1:11) God’s Word teaches that He has a sovereign plan for the every thing that happens in the universe. This plan is secret in the sense that no one understands it completely but God himself and it is also certain in that no one can ultimately resist His sovereign will. (Romans 9:19)
• God’s Universal Will: God’s universal will is the same for everybody. It consists of clear and universal positive commands and prohibitions contained in Scripture that apply to all across the board. This is revealed, not secret, and we are expected to understand, accept and obey it. To sin means that, in some way, we miss the mark—the mark of God’s wise and loving will.
• God’s General Will: It applies to every one, but instead of specific commands it consists of general principles such as: peace, love, truth, justice, holiness. The way we apply these principles to our lives may differ, but it is God’s will we consistently incorporate them into our lifestyle.
• God’s Particular Will: The specific aspects of God’s will for the individual are not revealed in the Bible, but consist of God’s unique plan for each individual and are revealed to each believer. God leaves many decisions to us that have no moral import, but he has both a desirous and permissive will for each of us.