God Encounters–The Point of it All

We have been talking in the last few post about God Encounters (If you have not read them I encourage you to click back and check them out) and today I really want you to get the point of it all.

Meeting with God in His presence will change your life. Jacob, as we will see next week, limped away after his encounter with God which was an outward reminder of his meeting with God and inwardly the limp was a reminder to walk humbly before God. Moses had a face that shone after his encounter with God which was a reminder to him and to everyone else of the ways God worked in Moses life. Saul became Paul and was called to ministry and Peter was given a new commission as we will see later. You will be changed – that is something that all of us need – we need to be changed by God! God wants to change each of us – will you allow him to do it?

Here is probably one of the most important things in talking about God encounters and that is there will be many things about our encounters with God that we will not understand. God encounters are mysterious and they are and will be different for all of us.  They are mysterious and wonderful and disturbing – all in a good way.

To go along with the mystery, we need to recognize that we still have a sin nature that blinds us spiritually to some of the things happening around us. Paul remind us of this in 1 Corinthians 13:12 when he said,  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. There is a mystery in every encounter with God. Maybe part of the mystery is that God will not explain everything that’s happening around us in the encounter because He is testing our faith. Maybe He wants to know if we will trust and obey Him when His presence comes in and points us in a direction that is uncomfortable or that we in ourselves do not want to go. The point to this is found in these verses we all know – Proverbs 3:5,6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will direct your paths. I am reminded also of these verses – Isaiah 55:8-9  “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. Regardless, God’s ways are right and we need to follow them but will you do it? Will you have an open heart to allow God to encounter you?

What is one thing you have trusted God with recently that you have not ever trusted Him with before or that you had taken back but now have given back to Him?

(This series of post has been inspired by the book – God Encounters by Elmer Towns)

Trust and Leadership

This week in the thoughts on Building Below the Waterline by Gordon MacDonald are in the realm of trust.

On page 71 of his book MacDonald writes this:

One of my theories has been that a leader really does not begin to enjoy leadership “bite” or “traction” that is necessary to get things done until he or she has been leading for about five years.  Therefore, the fifth year and beyond are years where trust is all important because novelty and newness no longer exists.  As my father used to remind me, people will follow you for a while because they picked you.  But they’ll follow you over the long term because they have learned to trust you.

I have been at the church I am at for about 2 and a half years.  I know that there are some who follow me because I am still relatively new and because they have picked me to lead them but I still wonder about the idea of fully trusting me.  Now how do I build trust with them?

MacDonald lists off seven ways he has observed through the years (pages 71, 72):

  1. Trust builds with consistency – consistency of message, of vision, and of the management of people.
  2. Trust builds with dependability – If you make a promise, do you keep it?
  3. Trust builds with openness – In trustworthy people there is an absence of slickness, slogans, and strategies that do not offer the full message.
  4. Trust builds with reputation for hard work – There is a sense that the pastor is on top of the job of congregational leadership
  5. Trust builds with a belief that the pastor has an impartial pastoral eye for everyone – Treating everyone from the rich to the children to the poor with the same recognition.
  6. Trust builds with longevity – The Pastor hangs in for an extended period of time building relationships through ministry (funerals, weddings, baptisms, etc.)
  7. Trust builds with an ever-deepening spirit – Congregations want to feel that their pastor fixes his or her eyes on Jesus.
    Trust is one of those things in life and ministry that makes such a huge difference.  MacDonald I think hits on it with these seven things I believe.

What are your thoughts on trust?  Why do you trust the leader or leaders of your church?  How do you build trust and what would you add to this list of seven that MacDonald has?

This post is a part of the blogging on  the book Building Below the Waterline by Gordon MacDonald with two of the best bloggers out there – Bill Grandi from  Cycleguy’s Spin and Michael Perkins from The Handwritten .  We are sharing each Wednesday our thoughts from 2 chapters,  which means you will be able to see how God will l speak to us as individuals and then you if you read all three blogs you will see how God then weaves what we write all together.  I pray your are encouraged by the blogs.

God Coming Through

We are going to continue on  looking at the victories of David from 2nd Samuel 8:3-8: 3 Then David defeated Hadadezer, the son of Rehob king of Zobah, as he went to restore his rule at the River. 4 David captured from him 1,700 horsemen and 20,000 foot soldiers; and David hamstrung the chariot horses, but reserved enough of them for 100 chariots. 5 When the Arameans of Damascus came to help Hadadezer, king of Zobah, David killed 22,000 Arameans. 6 Then David put garrisons among the Arameans of Damascus, and the Arameans became servants to David, bringing tribute. And the LORD helped David wherever he went. 7 David took the shields of gold which were carried by the servants of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem. 8 From Betah and from Berothai, cities of Hadadezer, King David took a very large amount of bronze.

Here we see that David is now going to the North and getting his next victory over the King Hadadazer and the Arameans. You have these two groups trying to make a military maneuver here but David saw it coming and now David and Israel are so powerful and that the Arameans cannot stop them.

David then goes in and hamstrung the horses which according to most would make them able to be on a farm but unable to pull a chariot. He keeps some for chariots for his own army. He could not leave them for the enemy so he had to hamstring the rest. Some might think doing this might not seem to be very smart. They might ask why not just keep all the horses for yourself? Well we do not know but maybe David had Psalms 20:7 in mind, Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

This area that David wins here gives him control over the trade routes which will be great source of income as they tax those who bring goods through. So now to the north, Israel and David control the trade routes and have military installations put into place. David is taking over all the land that is promised to Israel by God.

David then has all of gold and bronze shields that were captured carried back to Jerusalem and we will see why this is important tomorrow. David is reclaiming land, taking new land, expanding the boarders to where they are supposed to be according the promises of God, as well as taking all kinds of spoils for Israel. David is completely successful following through with what God has called him to.

Why is this? The end of verse 6 says this: And the LORD helped David wherever he went – here is a case where I like what the New International Version says better which is And the Lord gave David victory where he went. God was with David and David was with God and that is the reason for the success. God is blessing David.

David wrote Psalm 60 during this time. The first 10 verses describe the people in 2 Samuel 8 that David has conquered, but let me share with you David’s conclusion in Ps.60:11, 12, Give us help from trouble, For the help of man is useless. Through God we will do valiantly, For it is He who shall tread down our enemies. David understood that is God who he was to trust and who would come through for him. Give us men and women that trust God truly like this.

What one way that God has come through for you in your life?

Abraham- 5 Lessons–Part 5

 The Final lessons in these 5 lessons is:

God Blessed when Abraham trusted.

Genesis 22:15 – 18Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, "By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the  sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."

Because Abrahams trusted God for the provision, God provided abundantly. God just did not bless Abraham a little but he blessed his socks off. Have you ever met those people that God just seems to bless them around every turn? I would say that most likely they are people who are trusting God with radical obedience.

Abraham was blessed by God in the present and in the future. Keep that in mind, because there might be those times when you are faithful and the blessing do not seem to be right on the heels of your faithfulness. God gave a might blessing but there was plenty of obedience required to get to that point. God may choose to bless earlier here on Earth but the real blessings come when that day we reach heaven. We need to be storing up our treasures in heaven as Jesus tells us.

Are you trusting and being blessed beyond measure?  Trust God and Store up those treasures in heaven!

When you are done reading this today I want you to remember the 5 lessons from Abraham that we looked at this week:

1. God calls you by name so be listening and respond.

2. God has given us instructions  and so we need to be obedient to them regardless of how much information we are given.

3. Trust God for any and all results

4. God provides when we trust.

5. God will bless when we trust.

We need to be placing our trust in God and live it out in obedience and he will take care of us.

What do you think about all this?

Abraham–5 Lessons- Part 4

Lesson #4 -  God provided when Abraham trusted

Genesis 22:9, 10 – Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.  Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

Picture in your mind this teen boy getting everything ready and wondering where the sacrifice is then his dad says – come on over here I need to tie you up. You have this boy who is big enough to fight back but he does not. At this time, Abraham was more than 100 years old, and Isaac would have been able to get away had he chosen to. Yet he submits to his father perfectly. In remembering Abraham’s faith, we should never forget Isaac’s faith. Abraham then says to Isaac, Go ahead and climb up on that pile of wood there. You can see the tears streaming down Abrahams cheeks as he lifts the knife. Imagine the look on the face Isaac as he sees his dad with the knife over him.

At this time, Abraham doesn’t know how God will provide. He is still trusting in the ability of God to raise Isaac from the dead, but he won’t stop trusting just because he doesn’t know how God will come through. Abraham knew God would provide a sacrifice, but where? Where was the lamb? That question had been asked by all the faithful, from Isaac to Moses to David to Isaiah, all the way to the time of John the Baptist when he declares: Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! In John 1:29.

We see that Abraham was ready to do the unthinkable then God provided: Verses 11 – 14 11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." 12 He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." 13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. 14 Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, "In the mount of the LORD it will be provided."

Abraham trusted and it did not look like God was going to come through but then – He stops Abraham and provides a ram. You might say that it is not fair and it is not right that God would tell Abraham to do something then stop him. If God really wanted to test Abraham, why didn’t He make him plunge the knife into his son’s chest? What we fail to understand at times is that God often takes the will for the deed with his people. When He finds them truly willing to make the sacrifice He demands, He often does not require it. People can tell God tell they will not do something – then the say they will – then God says alright – you do not have to do it because you heart is in the right place now.

Abraham displayed his heart towards God in that he was willing to give his only son. God displays His heart towards us in the same way, by giving His only begotten Son. When God asked Abraham for the ultimate demonstration of love and commitment, He asked for Abraham’s son. When the Father wanted to show us the ultimate demonstration of His love and commitment to us, He gave us His Son. Have you accepted the gift of the Son in your life? God has demonstrated His love for us by giving His only son.

That is what happens when we trust God, He Provides for us.  Have you been living in a way that shows your trust in God – He will provide every time!

What are your thoughts?

Abraham–5 Lessons–Part 3

Installment 3 of 5 lessons from Abraham.   Here is today’s lesson:  Abraham Trusted God for the results – even when God was silent and Isaac was not.

Look at Genesis 22 verses 4 – 8 On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you." Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid  it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." And he said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." So the two of them walked on together.

Abraham saw the spot off in the distance where they were to go and sacrifice. We see in verse 5 the optimistic and trusting Abraham telling his servants:"Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” The servants were not to be a part of the sacrifice and so they are given instructions to stay but then notice the key phrase: we will worship and return to you. Do you see the we? Why does he use we – is not he to sacrifice his son on the altar?

You might wonder, does this mean Abraham somehow knew this was only a test and God would not really require this of him? Not at all, but instead, Abraham’s faith is in the knowledge that should he kill Isaac, God would raise him from the dead, because God had promised Isaac would carry on the line of blessing and the covenant.

He knew in Isaac your seed shall be called which is found in Genesis 21:12 and Isaac had yet to have any children. God had to let him live at least long enough to have children! Look at Hebrews 11:17-19 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, "In Isaac your seed shall be called," concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.

Abe knew anything was possible, but it was impossible that God would break His promise. He knew God was not a liar. He had no precedent to believe that he would be raised from the dead because no one in the Bible had yet been raised from the dead, but Abraham knew God was able. God could do it!

Are you modeling that God can and will do amazing things if you allow Him? Do you live life in a way that shows others that God is able or do you worry and manipulate and model a God that is disabled? Remember that others are watching, and so what are you modeling: An Able God or a Disabled God?

God was silent and did not tell Abraham what was going to happen but Abraham had a relationship with God which taught him to trust Him even when he did not understand or have all the answers. Abraham trusted God for the results – whatever that was going to be. How about you – do you trust God for the results for the things happening in your life?

God was silent but Isaac was not. There are many discussions on how old Isaac is at this point – you will hear numbers from 3 to 23. I personally believe that Isaac was a teenager at the time. He knows what is going on and asks the good question:"Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" He knows what needs to be at a sacrifice and he knows what is missing. Imagine what then is going through Abraham’s mind as Isaac asks this question. He though with his response again shows his trust in God: 8Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." So the two of them walked on together. Love the trust in God shown here by Abraham – that trust is built as you get to know God and know that he is faithful. Abraham knows God is able and trusts that fact.

I love also the picture of the two of them walking on together. Abraham the father is walking with his son but also you can see that God the father is walking with Abraham his son. I can see in my minds eye the two of them walking together and Abraham walking along and praying that God will provide a sacrifice and at the same time trusting that God will provide.

As you go through your day today and as you lead those around you trust God even when he is silent and you have a ton of questions.

Any thoughts?