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Approaching God


Approaching God

***

An elderly gentleman passed his granddaughter’s room one night and overheard her repeating the alphabet in an oddly reverent way. What on earth are you up to?” he asked.
“I’m saying my prayers,” explained the little girl.
“But I can’t think of exactly the right words tonight, so I’m just saying all the letters. God will put them together for me, because He knows what I’m thinking.”

***

Who is God?  Jesus, when was talking to the disciples…and curious onlookers…He started right off with our approach.  Let’s define the word approach.  The dictionary says this, “…to come near or nearer to.”  That makes sense.  Jesus starts this section of His Sermon on the Mount with the assumption that the listeners already pray to God…want to get closer to Him…believe in Him.  He starts with, “And when you pray…” (Matthew 6).  Do you think it’s safe to say that Jesus instinctively knows that we want to get close or near to God?  I think so.  So he starts this model prayer with that in mind…our approach.

This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name…’

I divide chapter 6 verse 9 into 3 parts.  First things first.  He invites us to call His father by the same way He does.  Simply “Father.”  This is personal.  We know from Scripture that Jesus really is from Mary and God the Father, but He says we can call His own Father the same way.  I think this fact is easily glossed over.   Many of us have memorized this verse to the point that we don’t think about it.  We talk about the trilogy without thinking what the phrase “God the Father” really means.  We hear or say, “…in the name of the Father…the Son…and the Holy Spirit” during baptisms and don’t think twice that we’re actually saying that word…Father.  He is our Dad.  Jesus could easily say something different.  But He invites us to be his brother and sister when He invites us to call God our dad as well.

Second.  God is as close as a prayer…but for now, its not as close as He would like it to be.  It’s not “Our Father on Earth”…it is “in Heaven.”  There is a separation.  The separation had a cause.  The cause was and is sin.  Our Father is in a perfect place.  We are not.  God has a home that Jesus has already talked about throughout this message beginning in chapter 5.  From here on till His death and Resurrection, Jesus’ followers will hear so much more about Heaven.  It’s where our Dad is, and it’s where He wants us to be someday.  Ironically, the One speaking these words will become the way for us to get to the place where the phrase “Our Father in Heaven…” will change to “Our Father before us.”

Third.  God is our Father, but He is holy and His deserves to be feared.  Now, many of you will look at the word ‘fear’ and hear something that I’m not sure is Biblical.  Jesus does not want us to cower before our Father.  Jesus wants us to respect who He is.  In the Old Testament, God tells Moses His name.  It is simply ‘I Am.’  The Hebrews thought this name so Holy they didn’t even speak it.  They had seen God’s punishments against Pharaoh.  They had seen His fire and smoke on the mountain.  They daily saw the tower of fire and smoke when they camped around the tabernacle.  They knew…felt…and visibly saw the separation.  They knew God was holy and deserved respect.  Our approach to God, our Father, should be humble…knowing that we are creation and not creator, that we are sinful and He is perfect, that He is powerful and we are weak, and that He is judge and we need pardoned.  His name deserves honor, praise, dignity and respect.

Think about it.  Jesus, who was previously with the Father before His birth on this planet, is telling us the best and most wise and perfect way to come before God.  We should take note.  This approach that Christ gives us it not just in ‘form,’ it is for us to understand in our heart and mind.  Jesus wants us to know who God the Father really is.  This prayer defines God, us, and our basic need.

 

Questions for Growth:

  • How do you approach your Creator?  Humbly?  Sporadically?  Like Santa Clause?  Like one who holds your future?
  • After possibly seeing this verse in a new or expanded way, how do you plan to approach God?  Me…personally…I’m going to start with this model.  I can add to it, but if this is how Jesus said to do it, I think I’m starting with His plan.
  • Are there times when you pray that you feel closer to God?  What are you doing then that helps you?  What is your heart’s stance?
  • How will you approach the One you’re praying to next?
  • When will you start a different approach if you feel it’s necessary?  Tonight?

 

Love, Serve, Spread the Word,

edbarnes

No Swearing Gosh Darnit!

March 25, 2011 Leave a comment

 

Just fill in the appropriate letters…

  • A seven-year-old tells his four-year-old brother that they should start swearing. “When we go downstairs for breakfast, I’ll say ‘H_ll’ and you say ‘A_S.'” The four-year-old happily agrees.
  • At breakfast, the seven-year-old says, “Aw H_ll, Mom, I’ll just have some toast.”The surprised mother quickly smacks him. The boy runs upstairs crying.
  • The mother turns to the younger boy, “And what would YOU like for breakfast?”
  • “I don’t know,” the four-year-old blubbers, “but you can bet you’re a_s it’s not gonna be toast!”

When the topic of swearing comes up, we often think of things such as the joke above.  Jesus is directing this portion of the Sermon on the Mount towards something a bit more specific…our word.  By ‘word’ I mean our trustworthiness.  Our integrity.  Our ability to keep a promise.

 

We’ve often heard it said that in the “olden days” a man’s handshake was his “word.”  Meaning, you could trust a guy if he shook your hand.  It meant something.  Nothing more needed to be said between two men.  A firm handshake meant trust was present…even if the two men were not agreeable.  Jesus, throughout chapter 5 verses 17 and following, has been taking his group of 12 and anyone else within hearing distance, through some basics of why He came.  He is referring back to the 10 commandments and explaining the principles or the foundations behind them.  We’ve talked about His view of hate and murder, lust and adultery, of the finality of divorce, and now he brings up oaths and promises.

 

What we’ve found so far is that His standard is so far above the simple words of the 10 Commandments.  He is helping people to understand that this is how His Kingdom truly looks different than the world.  These are the standards of those who live with Him and under Him.  These principles help us really see what Holiness looks like…what true Love looks like.  Can you envision the picture?  We are in the world but not of the world.

 

Oaths.  Oaths combine two things.  An oath is both verbal and action oriented.  By this I mean that if you promise something, you’re bound to come through on that promise.  Promise your kids that you’re going to McDonald’s, and then pass it by on the way to have bologna sandwiches at home and you’ll know that you’ve broken a promise.  They will call you out!  “DAD!  You just passed McD’s!”  Next time you promise…there will be a flicker of hope and hopelessness in their heart.  They know you might or might not come through based on past experience.

 

Jesus wants us to build a past that looks like Him.  If Jesus promises you McD’s, you know He’s coming through.  Therefore, make sure your Yes for McD’s is a Yes.  He goes a bit deeper though.  Don’t swear an oath.

 

“I swear to God!”  Ever hear that one?  Does it really make you sound like you have more integrity, or does it make you sound desperate?  Jesus comes right out and says, “Don’t misuse my Father’s name.  It’s not for promises.  Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No.”  In fact, He says don’t swear by anything.

 

If you are going to live a life of kept promises, it’s not going to be by how many lofty words you place after the words “I swear…”  Your promise will only be kept or broken by your actions.  He’s lifting up the fact that words have meaning.  Attach God to a potentially broken promise, and you not only lessen your integrity to another person…but they might just look at God differently too.  It’s not the Kingdom way.

 

Words have meaning.  Words spoken that are followed by differing actions show even more of the heart.  What do you want your heart to look like to those around you?  How do you want your friends to see your heart?  How do you want your spouse and kids to see your heart?  How do you want Jesus to see your heart?  Do your actions match your words?  James says it best by writing, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).  Your works will show your faith.  Don’t use God’s name or Heaven or your mother’s grave as a way to make your works, your vows, more than they are.

 

So do you know someone whom you can trust at their word?  They probably give you a fairly good picture of Jesus.  Haha…can you picture Jesus looking you in the eye and saying, “I swear on my earth dad’s head that I’ll come back from Heaven to be with you and take you home!”  No.  Me neither.  I just picture Him saying, “I’ll be back.”  I’m sure when the disciples heard this, they matched those words up with all of His previous actions and trusted Him.  We’re to be Jesus to others.

 

Another tough one.  Most of us talk a lot.  We have grand ideas and plans and promises…and many times we don’t come through.  Let’s get better at that.  Maybe talk less.  Maybe come through more.  It’s all for the Kingdom.

 

Love-Serve-Spread the Word,

Ed

 

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

So what about life?….

February 18, 2011 Leave a comment

I was sitting in the waiting room of the hospital after my wife had gone into labor and the nurse walked out and said to the man sitting next to me, “Congratulations sir, you’re the new father of twins!”

The man replied, “How about that, I work for the Doublemint Chewing Gum Company.” The man then followed the woman to his wife’s room.

About an hour later, the same nurse entered the waiting room and announced that Mr. Smith’s wife has just had triplets.

Mr. Smith stood up and said, “Well, how do ya like that, I work for the 3M Company.”

The gentleman that was sitting next to me then got up and started to leave. When I asked him why he was leaving, he remarked, “I think I need a breath of fresh air.” The man continued, “I work for 7-UP.”

Life.  Life is precious.  Many who will read this no doubt have been on both sides of the word “precious.”  Because life is precious, it can bring both extreme happiness and extreme sadness.  Life is a gift of God.

 

Life began in the Garden of Eden.  Specifically, human life became the crown jewel of creation when on the 6th day God formed man and woman and breathed into their lungs.  They were alive.  Hearts were beating.  Blood was flowing through their veins.  Their eyes could see.  Their hands could feel the touch of God’s hand in them.  You know how it feels to walk out on a cool morning and take a deep breath.  Adam and Eve took the very first refreshing deep breaths ever.

 

God created them.  That’s where we start with the subject of life.  We cannot start anywhere else. All of our ideas about human kind have to start here.  All of our considerations towards the value of life have to start here.  God created.

 

We do, however, have an adversary that wants to alter where we start when we think about ‘human life.’  Satan would rather us start thinking and feeling with our own thoughts of humanity…based on our emotions, experiences, selfishness, and the worldly values that often seep into our hearts.  Satan would want us to forget Who it was that began life itself.

 

David, the ancient King and Psalmist, said that God knew Him before he was formed (Psalm 139).  David wrote that God formed him and watched him as he grew in his mother’s womb (Psalm 139).  Incredible insight.

 

We also see how important life is through the life of Jesus.  Christ died for humanity.  If humanity was something that could be defined by science or evolution theories, I’m not sure we’d need a buried and risen savior.  Jesus died for our very existence.  God created…Jesus saved.

 

Next…again, based on what we know and believe…there is a place in Heaven being prepared for us (John 14:2).  God Created.  Jesus Saved.  God is planning on us being with Him again.  I’m not sure about you, but through the eyes of God…human life is precious.

 

The 10 Commandments speak also of God’s feelings towards His creation.  We are not to kill one another.  We are not to lie to one another.  We are not to steal from one another.  We are to respect each other possessions and family as well as our own.  God Created…and created a life plan.  Jesus Saved.  God is planning for us to be with Him again for eternity.

 

If we base all of what we believe about human life on just these things, we see why Jesus said the greatest commandment is in two parts…Love God, and Love the others that He created as well.

 

I’m so glad there’s forgiveness when it comes to how I/we treat each other. From abortion, to lying, to hate, to selfishness, to jealousy, to adultery, to murder, to stealing…we have all fallen short of God’s plan for life.  Adam and Eve had a taste…they lost it.  We now have a chance to taste the forgiveness that will lead to a life with God again…hand in hand.  The greatest thing is that we have the privilege of being asked to participate in passing this blessing around (Genesis 12:2-3).

 

Love, Serve, Spread the Word,

ed

Go Die! Let Jesus Live In You!

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment


I Thessalonians 2:1-8

Instead of a joke, I want to give you the chorus of a song that was suggested as very relative to this week’s lesson. The author is Brandon Heath and the title is Give Me Your Eyes.

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me you heart for the ones forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see

Read the section of God’s word 1st and then read the lyrics of this song. I’d encourage you to read chapter 1 of I Thessalonians as well. What you’ll see is that this book is being written by Paul, Silas and Timothy as an encouragement and a confirmation that the church family in this city is showing evidence of a true Christ-like heart…they’ve given up themselves for the sake of Jesus’ mission.

They are not keeping themselves for themselves. They are sharing themselves and the Jesus that lives in them. They are forgetting the world around them. True, we see that some of them have suffered for not only their belief but actions as well. They continue though, to live as though Jesus has taken over their very lives. The evidence? People in nearby and far away towns are hearing about what’s taking place in Thessalonica. They are hearing of the great things the Christians there are doing. And guess what? The Thessalonian church family is not becoming famous…Jesus is. The evidence for this? Jesus is now being preached in the nearby and far towns and cities…because of the church family in Thessalonica. Wow! They died to themselves and are living Jesus each day.

Do you notice that in this section of Scripture, there is not commendation given to specific leaders or the success of specific programs or “church” events? There is not commendation given to growing Sunday School classes or Youth Groups or Kids’ Groups. There is simply commendation given for their faith in action (1:8-9). Paul then reminds them that they, the church family in Thessalonica, is doing just what he and his cohorts showed them. He shared not only the Gospel, but his own life as well. He had died to himself so Jesus could live through him. I hope that makes sense. Word of the church wasn’t traveling fast…word of Jesus was traveling fast! And not only was the Word traveling fast, but people were accepting it for themselves just as fast as well! Lives were being changed because people gave up their own ‘stuff’ for the stuff of Christ.

How do we teach people to give up themselves…to die to themselves? We have to show it. This is an action oriented lesson. Sure, it can be taught that Paul and his fellow disciples did this, but taking knowledge to life changing action is a different story. This lesson is often caught, not taught.

This lesson is not just about sharing with other people. It is more about sacrifice. It’s easy to share when you have enough, or you still feel comfortable, or you know that you’ll be ok. Sacrifice is when you are truly going to give up something that you might not get back. Sacrifice is to give more than you feel comfortable doing. Sacrifice is when you give without knowing if it will return to you. Sacrifice is when you die to yourself and your needs and your feelings, and let Jesus live through you.

Adults and teens will get this. It’s pretty concrete. Little kids will get this too…but on a different level. Life for them is primarily built out of necessity because they can’t do much for themselves quite yet. As verse 7 of chapter 2 states, this is why children need a caring parent. When they are older, or when they have kids…or friends or neighbors, they can look back at how a parent gave up life for their sake…and hopefully they will live the same philosophy towards not only their own children, but for everyone around them as well.

Categories: Jesus Tags: , , , ,
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