Getting to Know God – Part 3

God is Holy

Ps 99:9 Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the LORD our God is holy.

In getting to know God, we must understand that God is Holy. What that means is that He is not like man.  A huge mistake that we make in considering what God is like is thinking that he is like us.  While it is true that man was made in the image of God, God is not in the image of man.  There are a number of major differences.  First of all, man is a created being but God has no beginning.  He is the creator but He was never created, Himself.  Our understanding comes from things that we know and our perspective is from within time and space and not outside of time and space.  Man was made in the similitude of God so that we could get some idea of what God is like but it is a mistake to equate man to God.  Man is finite while God is omnipotent; man is limited in knowledge but God is omniscient; man is contained within time and space while God is omnipresent; and man is under constant change while God is immutable, or unchangeable.  These differences are a great chasm between God and man.  That chasm was created by sin leaving man estranged from God and God estranged from man.  On the one side is Holy God and on the other is sinful man.  God cannot become less than holy or He ceases to be God.  Once man became sinful, he became incapable of making himself holy, righteous and good.

The second fact about the holiness of God is that we cannot make that crossing on our own.  God alone has the power, knowledge, presence, and will to reach across this chasm to make a way for man to cross to Him.  That way to God is Jesus Christ.  John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  That way was opened when Jesus died on the cross and thereby opening the way to God.  Man must now be changed or transformed by the new birth experience which is also known as being born again.  God joins His Holy Spirit in the same way that the sperm is joined with the egg to make a new life; this new birth completes the transformation of the spirit.  The metamorphous must also happen to the soul in a process that we know as sanctification where our mind and will are transformed to be like the mind of Christ and a heart of love.  It is also where we take on the attributes of God, such as longsuffering, patients, etc.  It takes a lifetime for God to complete this change.  Finally, the body is metamorphosed or changed into a new body that is eternal and is like that of the resurrected Christ.  This is called glorification and happens at the rapture or catching away, where we are fully and finally completed in the image of God.

The third and final thing that we should learn about the holiness of God is that we must approach God in reverence, respect and awe.  This is the Biblical response of all who ever came into the presence of God.  It is not a requirement to be met by some merit and cannot be faked.  It is the natural response just as dry ground absorbs the rain.  It is the result of the discovery of who God really is.  It is the spiritual response of a child that has come home.

The Gates of Darkness

As I write this blog, I am thinking of the burden that the Lord has placed on my heart about training the church leadership in the Eastern Asia Countries.  It began last year when I made a mission trip to china and saw the hunger for the Bible and also saw the lack of training available for the house church pastor and church leadership.  The sacrifice they were willing to make just to attend a bible training meeting was soul searching. 

Then to be invited to speak at a Bible training conference in Japan this year had another impact on me.  As we were preparing for the conference, we visited a shrine and a temple there in Japan.  We were told that the entrance to the shrine or temple is always through a gate such as the one shown here. 

The entrance through a shrine gate

The purpose of the shrine is that the people have a place to worship and they would go through various exercises in order that the “gods” would bless them.  The gods were somewhat mystical in how they would respond but there was a void in the culture and this was established to fill that void.  It reminded me of Acts 17:23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

My thoughts then turned to Mt 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  If this worship is not of the only true God, then it is not a god at all but one of Satan’s haven of refuge that teaches his false doctrines and holds people in bondage.  Simply put it is the entrance to hell.  Jesus promised that the church would storm the gates of hell and they would not stand against the forces of God that He would bring against the forces of darkness This faith is the power and method of Christ working through the church.

We felt this power all through the conference that was attended by leadership of churches from 6 countries.  The conference was presented in three languages, English, Japanese and Chinese.  This may seem odd to some as the Chinese and Japanese have fought each other for a long time, yet about half of the attendees in this Japanese setting, came from China.  The theme of the conference was walking by faith and it extended over 4 days.  One of the features was the session in the evening where those attending the conference would share from their observations, what they had learned from the days events.  The worship sessions were a special blessing as the music was sang in three languages as well.  As we sang and worshiped together there was a unity of spirit that overshadowed all other separations so that we all focused on Christ alone and His presence was especially felt.  The afterglow that followed the day’s events was also a special blessing as it was spent in sharing and counseling as late as midnight and beyond.  This was a tremendous meeting and following it there have been additional results of three additional mission trips, and opened doors to additional possibilities.

This brings me to my burden for a training center in Japan.  I shared it with my pastor who not only endorsed it but also stated that this is where our mission efforts are projected.  He challenged me to write down my vision for such a conference and agreed to work with me in its concepts.  One of the pastors that attended the conference is now moving to Oklahoma to pastor a Chinese church there and we are meeting in December to also pray and plan for this Training Center.  Also, we will be meeting with Dr. Alan Bandy who is the NT professor at Oklahoma Baptist University who I spent a few days with over the Thanksgiving Day holidays.  I have also contacted some other Christian education schools who have also indicated their intentions to work with us on this project.

As my wife and I were returning home on the flight, I was following our progress on the monitor and considering the idea of a training center, I was jolted by what I saw on the monitor.  The route showed a satellite view of the ocean floor and just below the Aleutian Islands and on our route I saw 17:7, below the route and near the center of the picture.  The Aleutian Islands are above the route line and the islands are shown as the white portions.  You can see it also on Google Maps in the satellite view.

It has been there for thousands of years and was truly put there by God when He created the earth.  It was so plain but what did it mean?  I noted that this is the chapter and verse designation used in the Bible of separating the chapter and verse by a colon.  I began to look at each book that has 17 chapters or more and in the 17th chapter has a 7th verse.  There are 23 such verses in the Bible so which one was intended? 

Of the 23 verses in the Bible that have a 17:7 location, one stands out above all the rest because it is the only one that  references sacrifices offered unto devils and it is found in Leviticus 17:7 And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. This shall be a statute forever unto them throughout their generations. 

So I sense that the message is simply this, Go in faith that God intends to deliver those in bondage to false gods so that they may come to know the only true God, Jesus who is the Christ and He will deliver them.  Satan does not have the power to withstand against the church that walks by faith in Christ alone.

Getting to Know God – Part 2

God is light

1 John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

In coming to know God, I cannot think of a better illustration of God to the human mind than the concept of light.  God wants for us to know Him as He is, and has taken the initiative in showing Himself to us, using the illustration of light. Light exposes all other materials in time and space just as God exposes Himself beyond time and space.  Light is a pure energy form different from that of other types of matter.  So also, God is a life form beyond life as we know it within time and space.  Light is not to be considered as a perfect definition of God, for He is past finding out, but it is illustrative of who He is.

Genesis 1:3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.  On the first day of creation, light was introduced as an intricate part of God’s creation.  We learn of our creation through our physical senses and sight is by far the greatest sense to teach is about our environment.  Without light we wouldn’t know anything near what we do know because of sight, which is possible because of light. 

Taking this thought to the next step, John 1:7-9 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.  8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.  9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.  John the Baptist declared that he was not that light but he also declared that Jesus is that true light.  Since God is light and Jesus is that true light, there can be but one conclusion and that is that Jesus is God.  He declared that He is the light of the world in John 9:5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.  Then a second time He repeated the claim in John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.  Onthis occasion He added that follows Him as a pattern of life will not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life (Jesus).  The Scripture goes on to state, that the purpose of the light is to illuminate (shine) in our hearts in such a way as to expose the knowledge of the glory of God as we behold the Lord Jesus.  2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Scripture goes on to declare additional benefits of walking in the light of fellowship with other believers and the continued cleansing from all our sin.  1Jo 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

God is indeed light.  Knowing God better will not only enable you to understand Him but will bring added benefit in understanding the spiritual realm; enhance our relationship with other Christians; and the continual cleansing from all our sin.   

Getting to Know God

 Part 1 – God is Love

1 John 4:16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

When we come to the word “love” we need to define the word in order to get an accurate meaning.  In the English translation we only have the one word, Love; but in the original language of the Bible there are several different words that are translated love.  I will only address three as the other words are a variation of these three.

The first one is “eros” and its meaning is sexual love.  It is the root word that we get our English word “erotic” from.  This word is not used anywhere in the Greek New Testament.  When it comes to any type of sexual love the New Testament is completely silent so we know that this does not describe God nor is it an important facet of worshiping Him.  This type of worship is only a part of pagan and heathen practice, and in no way is a part of worship of the one true God.  You won’t get to know God through this avenue.  Its practice is for the purpose of procreation and not worship

The second word is “phileo” and speaks of brotherly love or our value of another one.  It is the word that is used in our English word Philadelphia, known as the city of brotherly love.  The word “phileo” is also used in the word philanthropist, or a benevolent person.  It speaks of the highest type of love a person can have for another person without God’s involvement.  It refers to the love a mother has for her child or a man laying down his life for another.   It is both benevolent and sacrificial and is used several times in the New Testament.

The third word is “agape or agapao” and it describes God’s type of love as seen in John 3: 16 where it states that God so loved that He Gave His only Son.  This type of love is out of the character and nature of God Himself.  It is infinitely beyond phileo love in that it does not demand retribution nor is it based upon merit or degree.  It is freely given, unlimited in scope and without strings.  It is not found in man without God.  It is not natural to man nor can it be manufactured by man but comes only from God.  This is the word that is used to describe God. 

You cannot know this type of love until you come to know God.  Knowing God will bring you to know this type of love.  It is not natural, but supernatural.  His love is expressed in His sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to pay for our sin.  A debt that we could never pay, yet the Bible declares Ro 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  We cannot earn it nor do we deserve it, but it is given to us as a free gift by our returning to Him and receiving it as a free gift.  We call that grace.  If it is not of grace then it is of works and will utterly frustrate the grace of God.  It is disrespectful to attempt to know Him any other way that the way He opened to us.  If you are to know God then you must respond to His love for you in the way of loving Him back and not disrespecting His love for you.

The Necessity of the Struggle

1Co 2:3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.  4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:  5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

When we think of the Apostle Paul, we often think of a man who presented his message powerfully and had everything under control, when in fact that is just the opposite of how it was.  He was a man of small stature, and his appearance was marred because of a physical ailment.  To see him you would not think that he was significant or mighty and would not intimidate you in any way.

He did not even suggest that was the answer to your problems for he had problems of his own.  He struggled continually with the carnal nature and the elements of this world.  So what made him so effective?  It was the struggle itself, because people do not need to see the greatness of another person, but the greatness of God.  When we trust Him, He alone is the solution to our struggles.  By seeing Paul in his weakness, they could see the greatness of God.

We often slip into the thinking that it is our strength, or wisdom or our presentation that conveniences and convicts others to come to Christ.  In reality, that may be the very thing that stands in the way of them trusting God for that is the job of the Holy Spirit.  Even if we could persuade them by our efforts then they would become dependent upon us instead of God and their faith in us would not help them, but would be a hindrance to their faith in God. 

But there is another purpose in God’s plan beyond our usability, and that is our own growth.  Note that Paul specifically stated that it was for our own faith that would bring stability with God.  It is encouraging to see faith work for someone else but it is life changing when faith works in our own life.  Like the adage “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.”, so it is with faith.  Show a man faith and he has the pattern, but when he proves God for himself he has hope and promise.

Faith in God only comes after the old nature has been subdued.  The reason for this is that our old nature fights to be in control and the conflict is not won until the old nature is overcome.  This is a task that we cannot accomplish through any natural means and it requires supernatural power which we do not have until we place our faith in Him.  John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.  The struggle is necessary for the individual to release his grip on the controls and take his place as a passenger on this journey to forever.  We do not have the wisdom nor the skills to navigate life successfully.  The struggle is within us and the victory is won by surrendering to the Lord as our pilot (Savior) by trusting Him to get us home safely. In our weakness, we are made strong and in our coming under His control we are saved.

Planning Ahead

Here it is the middle of January, 2020 and already the calendar is starting to fill up. 

The one project that I have every year is filing my taxes so this year I have already started.  I got out my receipts and began to organize them so that I can lay my hands on the necessary information much easier.  I was able to get many of them together and organized and am already feeling less stress.

Another project is to teach a 10 week course on Faith, using my book as the basic of the study.  We had our first meeting last night and I felt it went well.  We covered the first 1 ½ chapters and while that sounds like a lot, the first few chapters are rather short and since there are 11 chapters, we will have to hurry to be able to complete the book in 10 1 hour sessions.

Another project that I hope to complete this year is the translation of my book into Japanese and Spanish.  The Japanese translation is nearing completion while the Spanish translation is stalled and I’m not sure what the problem is.  I know that my translator’s mother is not in good health and takes a lot of time but I sense that there is more to it than that and I need to know how to pray for her that Satan’s schemes can be thwarted. 

My Japanese translator’s oldest daughter is going through a tremendous spiritual battle and really could use your prayers.  She must make a choice that will affect her for the rest of her life and she is being pulled greatly in both directions.  Please pray for her victory.

We are in the planning stage for this year’s mission projects.  As you may know, our church is involved in mission projects all over the world.  It is our task to get our marching orders from the Lord.  Sometimes it is hard to distinguish between request from others, our own perception and what the Lord is actually directing.  There are many needs and limitations but we are given the ministry of reconciliation so it is a labor of love. 

Today we went to see the doctor for my wife’s three month checkup since her knee replacement.  She was told that everything looks great and that she is progressing very well.  The doctor even commented that they would like for all their patients to do so well.  We have sensed that the Lord has really helped her through this experience.  She now walks like she did years ago and she is mostly pain free.  She will continue to improve for several months yet and could even become better than she was before she started having problems with it.

Bits and Pieces

Yesterday was a day of progress in several ways.  I began my day with sleeping in because I was up past midnight.  I took a leisurely shower got dressed and spent time with my wife as we usually do.  I then spent some time in my office catching up on different projects and miscellaneous paper work. 

My wife had a luncheon with one of the ladies at church so I fixed myself some lunch.  I had a meeting with my pastor at 2:30 in which we discussed the status of the latest developments of the Christian Training Center for Eastern Asia, that I am working on.  I shared with him about my meeting in Oklahoma City with a Chinese pastor and his chairman of deacons.  We considered the establishing of the Christian Training Center and a suggestion was made to consider Taiwan as a central location as it was fairly central and visas would be easier. What do you think?

We then discussed the organization plan and objective.  My pastor had given me an assignment to write out my vision of what that was and I went over it with him.  We then considered the target audience and I shared the need I see from my perspective.  This is where I need your help.  Would you write me and share with me your ideas and needs?  I know that I do not have a complete view of the real need but here is what I have so far.  The main target is the new pastor or church leader with little or no training in his role in the church.  The objective is to assist and enable him in his development so that he can equip his people in Christian living.  He will be charged with self-study within the bounds of the curriculum.  Our task is to provide an environment of support and guidance as well as the resources for him to accomplish that task.  To this end we noted that we need the curriculum of specific courses of study and identified the first as being that of walking by faith.  This is a project that I will begin immediately.

To achieve this end, I need your prayers, ideas and input to provide the best program to meet your needs.  I need individuals who the Lord has placed in this time and space to step forward with wisdom, resources, prayers and a heart to be God’s hands and feet for such a time as this.  I need to be sensitive to what the Lord is doing and keep in step with Him. 

After my meeting with my pastor, I met with our pastor of Discipleship and shared with him our present status of this project.  He then shared with me that we have within our church, two additional resources.  One is a project that our church is already working with and that is a similar project in Africa.  He will be getting me in contact with the leaders of that project to see what we can glean from what they have already done and enable us to avoid wasted motion.  The second is an individual who has worked with Eastern Asia radio and how we might utilize that resource in our efforts.  I continue to see God’s fingerprints on every step of this effort and am continually being amazed at what He is doing.

I think that it is important to remember that this is not my project, nor is it our project but that this is God’s project.  He began it and has led it along the way.  We are finding the different resources that He has provided ahead and we proceed based on His power and provision.  In the final analysis, our own development and transformation is His first objective while in the process we become tools in His hands to build His kingdom.

Moses’ Sin

In our Sunday School class yesterday there was some discussion on the severity and purpose of God’s judgment of Moses’ in Moses allowing his anger to change God’s directive to get water for the children of Israel. Here is some information to help clear up the importance of that action.

When the Hebrews ran out of water, Moses was directed to smite (strike) the rock the first time which he did.  Exodus 17:1-7   (Notice verse 6 “I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb”) This was a picture of the once smitten Christ – the price paid for our sin.

40 years later, Moses was directed a second time to get water from a rock but this time to only speak to it. (Numbers 20:8-13)  In his anger and desperation he struck the rock twice which incurred the Lord’s anger and he was forbidden to enter the Promised Land. 

1Corinthians 10:4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 

Hebrews 10:10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  (RSV)

The provision of water from the rock was to be a picture of the crucified Christ who’s death would be sufficient to redeem man from his fallen state.  Moses’ sin wasn’t just that he failed in a moment of weakness for that is common to all men, but his sin was that he spoiled the picture of God’s salvation.  Had God not disciplined Moses, all who followed thereafter could conclude that every time a person sinned, we would have to start over and get saved again.  That would mean that His death was not sufficient and that there was no security in God’s promise to save us.  It would be an insult to God’s Holy name.  Sadly, that is exactly what some teach today. 

The truth is that the death of Jesus on the cross is totally sufficient to satisfy the righteousness of God.  The just dying for the unjust, so that if we are found in Him we are forgiven. He only needed to suffer the death of the cross once and after that, when we sin, we only need to come and confess our sin to be fully forgiven.  1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

GOD’S PLAN FOR MAN

Life here on earth can be quite confusing.  The four basic questions of man (Who am I? Where did I come from?  Why am I here?  And where am I going?) seem to go unanswered.  Before we head out in some direction, we need a direction to head out in or we will find ourselves even further from where we need to be.

There are some basic guidelines that will help us in our quest to find our way.  First of all we should access our situation.  What are our assets and liabilities?  What do I really know about this world that I am in? What are the effects of my choices? These and many other question will bring you to a view (rightly or wrongly) of where you are at.

Secondly, we should set our priorities.  Our choices will be made based on what is important to me at the time.  Are you seeking the truth first or are you seeking a certain result?  Can you trust the source of your information and do you even trust yourself? 

Thirdly, choose a direction and move cautiously, measuring the effect of that choice and be open to the evidence as it is discovered.

Finally, make course corrections as needed.

These are basic guidelines but I am not going to tell you what to choose.  You will do that for yourself, regardless of what I might say.  What I do intend to share with you is a short summary of what I have discovered about this journey.

The first thing you need to know is that there is a plan for man.  It is not your plan, nor is it my plan nor is it any plan that we can come up with.  Simply put, it is God’s plan.  There is a plan and purpose to all of life.  Furthermore, it can be know because God intended for us to know it.  He has given us everything we need to come to know that plan.  It was stated plainly in Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  God made us in the similitude of Himself that we might know Him.  Without that we could never know Him nor could we understand Him.  His purpose for us is that we might become His children and dwell with Him in eternal glory.

This plan has been obscured by sin and now must be rediscovered by our walking in light.  Jesus said that “I am the light of the world” He will lead us on our journey through life to become the sons of God.  That plan was not completed when man was placed in the Garden of Eden nor was it destroyed when man sinned.  God uses the problem of sin in our final development of this plan by our choices to follow the ways of the world or the way of righteousness.  Since we make the choices, we become responsible for the outcome.

So how can I know that this is so?  Jesus said in John 7:17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.  Don’t take my word on it but prove it for yourself.   If you really want to know the truth, you can.  Not knowing is no excuse.  Of all of the people in the world, don’t kid yourself.