We All Need God

It’s true. We all need God.

I’m not talking about in the sense of salvation. Yes, we need God to save us from our wretched, sinful lives. But after that we still need Him. Perhaps more than we know. It’s not a one and done.

When life gets hard and crashes over you like massive ocean waves – you need God.

When the unexplainable happens to you – you need God.

When you’re suffering beyond what you can stand – you need God.

In those and a thousand other situations we know that we need Him. And, He knows that we need Him, and He encourages us to come to Him in our time of need (Philippians 4:6, Hebrews 4:14-16).

So, we do what the Psalmist did, and what God encourages us to do – we cry out to Him. We express our anxiety, our pain, our angst, hoping that He will come to our aid.

But He doesn’t always come – at least not when we think He should.

What’s with that? Didn’t He tell us to do exactly that and if we did, He would be there for us in our time of need (NIV Hebrews 4:16)? Not in His time – but in our time! When we are suffering the most. When it feels like we’re going down for the third and final time. Not later, Lord. NOW!

That phrase in our time of need has been difficult to understand since it was first penned.

The old Scottish theologian Alexander Maclaren offered this explanation: the right grace will be most surely given to me to help me in time of need, or, as the words may perhaps be more vigorously and correctly translated, find grace for timely aid, grace punctually and precisely at the very nick of time, at the very exact time determined by heaven’s chronometer, not by ours. It will not come as quickly as impatience might think it ought, it will not come so soon as to prevent an agony of prayer, it will not come in time enough for our impatience, for murmuring, for presumptuous desires; but it will come in time to do all that is needed.

The key is to understand the significance of the word need. It is need as seen from the mountaintop, not the valley. It is need seen from God’s perspective, not ours.

God knows the time of your need far better than you.

Peter’s time of need was not while he was on the water but when he was sinking. Lazarus’ time of need was not when he was sick but when he was in the grave. Paul’s time of need was not in the moment of his suffering but in the experience of never-ending grace.

God will meet us in our time of need which He alone knows.

So, faith hangs onto that truth even as we cry out with the Psalmist My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear (Psalm 22:1).

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

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We have just celebrated the greatest events in the faith of Christianity – the death of Jesus on Good Friday and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. These two events form the core of our Faith.

I hope that you had great services at your church that inspired your faith as you celebrated Jesus.

The death and resurrection of Jesus made me think of The Mystery of God. That is, how little we really know about Him.

In theology various terms are used to express this concept.  Sometimes God is referred to as unknowable, not in the absolute sense but in the sense that there are some things that we will never know about Him in this life. Another term that is used is ineffable, which refers to the idea that God is too great to be described in words. Theologians sometimes talk about the incomprehensibility of God. That is, our minds cannot grasp the knowledge of all that God is.

All of these terms, and a few more, point to the fact that although we know some things about God through His revelation to us, there is much more about God that is still a mystery to us.

The Apostle Paul talks about the mystery of God in 1 Timothy 3 when he writes without controversy great is the mystery of godliness (vs 16).  That statement appears in the context of a larger statement related to salvation. The idea of a mystery is often explained as something that was hidden in the Old Testament and revealed in the New Testament. This certainly applies to all that salvation in Jesus is. However, I think Paul’s statement also refers to the fact that in many ways our salvation is incomprehensible to us. It is one of the mysteries of God.

Why should God love us like this? A mystery. Why should Jesus die willingly (John 10:17-18)? A mystery. Why did God choose you to be saved (John 6:44)? A mystery. How could your sin be transmitted to Jesus and His righteousness to you (Romans 4, especially verse 5, Philippians 3:9). A mystery.

And that’s just one aspect of God. There are so many more things about God that we are not able to comprehend – they are mysteries to us. Things that God has chosen not to reveal.

That raises the question: Why would God hide Himself from us? Doesn’t He want us to know Him – deeply, intimately, personally, fully, completely?

Apparently not. At least not in the way we ask that question.

He wants us to know Him deeply, intimately, personally, fully and completely to the extent that He has revealed Himself. And that should be enough for us. Beyond His self-revelation He remains a designed mystery.

There are probably many reasons for this: God is so infinite that our minds would never be able to understand Him (I wanted to say that your head would explode – and that may be true!). You and I are not omniscience, which we would have to be to know everything about God. We don’t need to know everything about Him (He has given us everything we need to know. 2 Peter 1:3).

But there’s one greater reason that God has not revealed everything about Himself to us – and He has told us what it is. It’s so we will live by Faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

By His silence about Himself, God is building your faith. He wants you to believe based not only on what you know about Him, but on what you don’t know. What you have to accept by faith.

To God, faith is greater than knowledge. God is not looking for people who know it all, He’s looking for people who believe it, even if they don’t comprehend it.

So, God remains a mystery. And He wants us to Believe in mystery. To Pray in mystery. To Follow Him in mystery. To Worship in mystery. To Accept Him in mystery.

Faith needs mystery in order to grow. Faith needs a God is unknowable; who is greater than us; who is incomprehensible.

I’m reminded of what Jesus said to Thomas, who was struggling with his faith – because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed (John 20:29).

A paraphrase of that might be, blessed are they who have not known everything about Me and yet they believe.

God is honored when we believe even though what we do not know about Him is far greater than what we do know.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Be God’s Hands

I’m getting ready for another trip to Haiti. This year I’ll be speaking at a Bible Conference for a group of churches, teaching two Bible College classes and preaching in a week of evangelistic meetings. I started doing this 29 years ago. It seems like just yesterday I stepped onto the tarmac in Port-au-Prince and stepped back in time a hundred years.

I know what’s been going on in Haiti recently, in fact I’ve kept close watch on it. And yes, it concerns me. I’m not anybody’s hero.

But things are quiet right now and I believe that God has given me this opportunity. That doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing bad will ever happen. I’ve already been caught in two manifestations over the years but God was and is faithful.

That’s what I want to share with you. God is faithful – and He often manifests that faithfulness through people.

In the few times that I’ve been in uncomfortable situations in Haiti, I have always had the same experience – Haitian people watched out for me. People that I didn’t know. People who took it upon themselves to be concerned about me and provided for me because they could look at me and know that I was alone in a foreign country.

You can say what you want about Haiti but there’s one thing that’s true: the people of Haiti are some of the kindest, most helpful people I’ve ever met. They are just great people.

But back to God’s faithfulness. God often works through people. He shows His protection through people. He shows His love through people. He shows His faithfulness through people.

The Apostle Paul touched on this idea in 2 Corinthians 1 when he wrote:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 

Comfort comes from God – but he sends it through people.

I’m so glad that He does.

My contacts with Haitian people, many of whom I didn’t know, have reinforced my perspective that I’m here (and there) for others. To comfort them in their suffering. To encourage them in their poverty. To bless them in their trials. To be God’s servant in whatever way I can.

The challenge for each of us every day is to be the avenue of God’s faithfulness wherever He puts us.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Who Is God?

It’s a good question. In fact, it’s the ultimate $64,000 question – which according to inflation calculators would make it the ultimate $936,000 question!

The biggest problem with this question is how we answer it. More specifically, what criteria or information we use to answer it. It’s our source of information that is the problem.

It seems like most people make God in their own image. That is, God is who or what I make him out to be. I become the source of my own definition of God.

Even Christians do it.

Some make him a god who is all loving but never requires anything of us. Some make him a god who is all about justice and retribution but not of grace. Others make him a god who is tolerant of everything they are tolerant of, while still others make him a god who loves what I love and hates what I hate.

In other words, God is just like me, only a little better.

That’s what most of us do.

We hold to certain beliefs and positions that we define as right or good and then we define God as someone who holds to those same beliefs and positions. In reality that we’ve done is to choose our beliefs and positions without regard to God and then superimposed them back on God. They are OUR preferences so they must certainly be His.

We start with where we are and then define God to fit in.

But you don’t get to do that with God. He existed in His perfection long before we came along (Colossians 1:17) and He doesn’t change just because the world we live in is constantly changing (Malachi 3:6).

If you want to know God, you have to go to His disclosure of Himself. He’s already told us who He is. There’s a reliable source.

That source is the Bible.

We just don’t want to accept it.

But you can’t have God without it. By definition, God is so far above and beyond us that we cannot know Him unless He reveals Himself to us. Do you really want a god that is just like you?

A god without a self-disclosure is no god. It’s a figment of someone’s imagination.

If you want to know about God, then go to His source. Go to the Bible and learn what He says about Himself. You won’t learn everything about Him, but you can learn what He has revealed about Himself.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Where Do You Get Your News?

A government shutdown and millions of innocent people suffer. A dam fails and many, perhaps hundreds of people die. More rape and assault allegations in the sports world against people who were supposed to be taking are of the athletes.

These are just a few of the headlines in the news today.  We’re tempted to ask; is there any GOOD news? 

I want to remind you again that there is good news, especially for the Christian.  It’s all about where you look.  Most people get their news in some form from news organizations and if you keep looking there, you’ll probably continue to get bad news and it will be discouraging.  However, if you get your news from God  there’s plenty of good news.  Here’s just a sample of the good news from God’s Word for you as a Christian:

God is still in control. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. Psalm 33:11

You are on God’s heart. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. Psalm 34:15

We have peace. Therefore, having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

We have hope. Through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2

You don’t have to pay for your sin. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  Psalm 103:12

The problems of today are nothing compared to what is coming. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

A better day is coming. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.  Revelation 21:4

You are loved. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.  1 John 3:14

Think about all of the good news that we have in the Bible. I’m sure that you can add to this list. Don’t be jaded by the news that you get from the television, newspaper or internet – the news from the world isn’t so good, but the news from God’s Word is great!

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Let’s Keep a Balance in the Church

I had a conversation with a dear saint in our church this week about church. In the course of our conversation they commented that something in church ministers to me.

I’m always happy when church ministers to someone and they leave blessed. We live in such a complex, hyper-busy culture that people today need to be blessed. Life is just difficult. For many, church is the fountain of life that they’ve been waiting for all week (as it should be).

As a pastor I need to think about how we can design our services to minister to all of our people – but especially to people who are discouraged, elderly, facing physical problems, run down, unemployed, going through a divorce, etc.

That’s not easy to do.

But people need to be blessed on Sunday.

There’s another side to every church service that we need to keep in balance with our being blessed and that is God being blessed.

I often tell our church that our primary reason for being in church is to bless God. That’s what we do when we worship Him – and worship is why we’re there (Ephesians 1:4-6 He chose us . . . to the praise of the glory of His grace). But I also tell them that I hope they are blessed, encouraged, motivated, and taught while they are blessing God.

The key is balance and order.

By balance I mean it’s not either/or, it’s both/and.

By order I mean that blessing God has to take priority. It has to be the focus of why we are there. Church has to be about God first and us second (in fact all of life has to be about God first and us second). Unfortunately, we often get those two things reversed.

But, and here’s the beauty of it, if you come ready to bless God instead of seeking a blessing, you will go away counting your blessings. God wants us to set our minds on things above, not on things on the earth (Colossians 3:1-2).

It’s not easy to put your focus on God instead of on your problems, especially when you are hurting, but it’s exactly what we need to do. Focusing on self can easily obscure your worship of God and what He wants to do in your life. Whereas, focusing on God helps us keep self and all of life in the right perspective.

Try making church about Him and see if it doesn’t make a difference.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

What if I Don’t Feel God?

I remember talking to a young, recent Bible College graduate, who related that as he preached a sermon he could feel the power of the Holy Spirit come over him. It was obviously a moving experience for him.

I’ve preached hundreds of sermons in multiple churches and in several different countries and I’ve never had that feeling.

Is there something wrong with me?

The subject of feeling God or feeling the presence or power of God is not an easy one to address. It is compounded by our personal experiences and emotions. No one wants to deny what another person says they experienced.

But what if I don’t feel God?

What if I’ve never felt God?

Does that mean that I’m not walking in fellowship with God? Or that I have a sub par faith? Or worse yet, I have no faith at all?

One writer put it this way: When I had expected to feel His warmth, I felt cold. When I had expected to feel peace, I felt fear and anger. When I had expected to feel His presence, I felt emptiness.

Has that been your experience?

I think that it has been the experience of more Christians than want to admit it. After all who wants to admit that they don’t feel God, when everyone else is saying just the opposite?

I don’t know that I have the final answer to this discussion, but there are several things that we need to remember about feelings.

While Scripture talks about feelings, and you’ll see this in relationship to feelings about God in places like Psalm 22:1, our feelings don’t occupy a major place in God’s revelation. Doing is emphasized far more than feeling.

In fact, we’re told that our feelings aren’t always trustworthy (Proverbs 14:12, Jeremiah 17:9, 1 John 3:20). With actions you either do or you don’t, but with feelings you can never be sure.

Another problem with feelings is that something fallible becomes our spiritual guide. While we are on a journey toward ultimate sanctification, we are not there yet. Our feelings or emotions have not yet been fully sanctified. So, what is less than sanctified (feelings) becomes our guide to spiritual reality, decisions and actions. That’s a dangerous place to be.

Instead of focusing on our feelings we need to concentrate on those things that the Word of God holds out to us as reliable guides. Things like faith (1 Peter 1:20-21), hope (1 Peter 1:13), and love (1 Corinthians 13).

When it comes to your feelings it’s best to keep in mind what one writer said; your emotions are gauges not guides.

So, if you don’t feel God, don’t worry. It’s more important to obey God than to feel Him.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve