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.

The Flaming Sword

Occasionally, I like to address a Scripture that is commonly misunderstood.  Today is one of those days.  The Scripture is found in Genesis 3:22-24 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:  23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.  24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

A common understanding is that since man sinned, he was driven out of the garden where the tree of life was located because he couldn’t be trusted any more and the angel with the flaming sword was stationed there to protect the tree of life by preventing man from ever returning. 

There are several things wrong with that interpretation.  First, God was not protecting the tree of life from man but rather He was protecting man from the tree of life.  Had Adam taken from the tree of life, he would have sealed his own doom because that would have sealed his eternity in the fallen state and God had greater thing planned for man.  It would have destroyed God’s plan of man being completed in God’s image, likeness and authority.  Man needed time to be changed into that likeness.

Second, it was not an angel that was placed at the entrance to the Garden of Eden, but a Cherubim, which means spiritual enforcer.  This was not to prevent man from taking from the Tree of Life, but to restrict man until he would come restored to a right relationship. 

Thirdly there are two directives as to man’s exodus.  In verse 23 states that the Lord sent him forth from the garden to till the ground from whence he was taken.  The ground was cursed for man’s sake (v. 17)  He needed to see the effect of sin in order to turn from it and back to God.  Then in verse 24 we see that man was driven out.  Man had willfully gone against God and he needed to understand that thereare consequences for sin.  God will not lower His standards and wink at our sin.  It will take God’s intervention to deal with sin and it was pictured in the slaying of the animal for their new coverings or clothing.

Fourthly,  the flaming sword is described in Eph 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: as the Word of God.  We know it as the Scriptures or The Bible.  It is further described in Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  You cannot fool God and He will know you to the depth of your inner most being.  Entrance is restricted to only one way, the way of the cross.

Finally, the phrase “to keep the way” does not mean to keep the way closed, but just the opposite, to keep the way open.  Though it is kept open it is still restricted to meet God’s standards.  There is hope for man to complete God’s plan for man by entering in the manner that God is pleased with and that is the was of Faith in Jesus.  However, we must come repentant of our self-government and surrender our will to the Lord Jesus for it is His blood the brings our sin into submission.  Without that blood there is no remission.