Believe, Know, Listen, & Follow-Intimacy with God (Part II)

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Photo credit: Son of God movie

John 10:25-30.

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”

I recommend reading all of John 10. In this passage Jesus refers to Himself as the good Shepherd. Shepherds were overseers of flocks. Sheep are not the brightest animals. They will fall into ditches, see another sheep in a ditch and fall in…they can wonder off and be destroyed because they are not wise. Shepherds protected their sheep. They were invested in keeping them safe. They’d lay at the gate to prevent them from escaping. They spent time with the sheep. They rescued wayward sheep.

Jesus is the good Shepherd. We are like the sheep. He’s responsible to care for us, reveal who He is to us, and we are to know and follow Him. We are not an obligation to God. We are His dearly loved children.

In the verses above Jesus is responding to the questions of the Pharisees about who He is. Is He the Christ? I love His responses. He stated, “You do not believe, therefore you are not my sheep. My sheep know and follow me.

Intimacy with God starts with faith. It starts with belief.

Do you believe God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do?
It is not enough to simply believe there is a God or Jesus is the Son of God. Even the demons believe and tremble. (James 2:19), yet they are not saved. There’s no salvation for them. There is for humanity.

If you’re reading this and you’ve never confessed your sins before God, repented (made a decision to turn from sinning and turn to God), asked God to cleanse you of your sins, placed your faith in Jesus Christ as the appropriation for your sins, and asked Him to be your Lord and Savior, I invite you do so. There’s no salvation apart from Him. There’s no entrance to heaven without going through the Son. We can’t do enough good works to earn holiness or righteousness. Jesus did it for us. We by faith, receive what He’s done and accept His righteousness as our own.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” John 14:6.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith,~Romans 3:23-25a.

If you invited God into your life, I would love to hear from you and provide more information to you.

The second step in intimacy with God is being with Him.

Sheep spent their time with the shepherd. They learned his voice, his smell, his mannerisms. It’s impossible to have intimacy (knowing) with someone and you never spend any time. If Sunday morning is the only time you spend with God, well your level of intimacy is not going to be high.

I am not stating you attend worship services all week, lock yourself in a room to pray and read the Bible all day. I am saying we can commune with God every day, as much as we’d like. One of my morning activities is to start the day with worship and thanksgiving. “Good morning God! I love you. Thank you for who you are and all you’ve done. I invite you to be a part of my day. What do you want to do? Who do you want to bless?” And there are days where I’m just listening. What is God doing? What is He saying? It’s not a ritual, it’s relationship.

Intimacy with God involves listening and knowing His voice.

The Bible says God speaks. There are some who teach He doesn’t and that does not align with scripture. God speaks to His children. If you had children and wrote an instruction manual for them, would you then say, “I refuse to speak to you. Go read the book I gave you.” That would seem insane. Yet some teach God only speaks to us through the Bible. God spoke to people in the Bible through dreams, visions, directly, through prophets, even through a donkey. Before you get too excited, let’s lay down some ground rules.

1. When God speaks He will not tell you to sin or violate His already written word.

I had someone tell me once the Holy Spirit told her not to read the Bible ever and only to listen to the voice she was hearing. That’s wrong and violates scripture.

I heard someone say God told them to leave their spouse for someone else. That’s wrong. It violates many scriptures.

Our culture says do whatever feels good for you and if it’s “love” or feels good, God must approve of it. That’s wrong. If there’s no place in scripture where God is condoning a behavior, you can’t condone it either and claim it’s God. There are some verses that seem to contradict each other which is why God gave His Holy Spirit to teach us.

We can’t toss out the Bible and rely on feelings, human wisdom, angelic visitations, or voices we believe are God.

2. All prophecy (speaking God’s word) is to be tested. Meaning the following:

Does it align with God’s word? Example, there are many false prophecies about when the world will end. Well, the Bible states the following:

“No one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows,”~Matthew 24:36.

Does the prophecy fit the character of God?

I’ve had destructive words spoken over me. There was no life in them. God does give warnings. He also provides redemption. Those who repent can find hope and life in Him. Jesus came to save, not destroy. If people are destroyed, it will be because they refused the gift He offered and refused repentance.

Finally intimacy with God involves following Him.

We are called to obey God. It’s not a popular teaching, yet Jesus taught it often. Christianity is not simply praying a prayer, it’s following a person. That person is Jesus. We cannot claim to love God and live a life where we refuse to do what He says. He gives us grace and His Spirit to enable us to do His will. If we cease to obey, we will eventually cease to hear from Him. If He continues to speak, we are held accountable for what we know. So if you feel super disconnected from God, one thing to ask is , “Has He told me to do something I have not done?”

I will continue this series because I truly believe we perish for lack of knowledge of who God is. We are called to know Him, to be loved by Him, to love Him, and enjoy Him. God is not boring, cold, stern, a kill joy, or mean spirited. He is good, holy, exciting, adventurous, overflowing with love and joy. He’s beyond amazing. He’s generous, faithful, merciful, and forgiving. The evil one doesn’t want the world to know who God is and how good He is. Once you know Him, it’s almost impossible to resist Him.

Will you join me on this relentless pursuit of God’s heart? I hope so.

You’re continually in my thoughts, prayers, and you are deeply loved (John 3:16).

Love,

Erin

Finding JOY in Suffering

Hebrews 12:1-3 New International Version (NIV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Joy and suffering don’t seem to fit together. They evoke different reactions. If you ask people if they’d like to sign up for a lifetime of joy, most would say yes. If you offered suffering, many would run in the other direction.

I will be forthright with you. I hate suffering. I endure, I don’t delight in suffering. Jesus for the joy set before Him, endured the cross. I’m guessing, but I don’t believe He was laughing, singing, and having a party on the cross. The Bible tells us He was in pain.

Our sin was a heavy burden, a tremendous weight. His body was tired, worn out, beaten, bruised, and His flesh torn off His body. He heard the mockers. He saw those He came for and loved yelling, “Crucify Him!” People He walked with, taught, and served, abandoned Him in His hour of need.

The movies don’t do the crucifixion justice, we couldn’t stomach the true image of what sin cost Jesus. It cost Him not only physically, but relationally.

The only disciple present when He took His last breath was John. Where were the others?

Jesus suffered greatly.

If that were the end of the story, it’d just be sad.

That’s not the end of the story!

Jesus rose with all power in His hands. One mans sin cost the world greatly. The Son of God paid greatly to set things right. The gain far surpassed the suffering.

I’m in no way stating sickness, death, loss, tradgedy, and horrific events are to be celebrated. No way. None of the experiences I’ve had with sickness, loss, betrayal, burying loved ones, traumas, accidents….evoked celebration.

Here’s what I have learned.

1. God never abandons us during seasons of suffering. Never does He leave or forsake. He’s close to the broken hearted!

2. God’s comfort surpasses understanding.

The day we buried my mum, I felt a peace I can’t explain. I held my dad’s hand and felt concern for his heart. He’d loved the same woman for most of his life. He knew her longer than I had been alive. God gave me grace and peace. Losing a parent is awful. I lost my best friend. Yet, Jesus stepped right in to fill voids on my heart and life. I’m not a big crier, yet this season produced so many tears. Tears I know God bottled. During many days and nights of sorrow, God was there.

3. You develop empathy for others who are suffering or struggling.

4. You learn to lean on God in deeper ways.

5. God promises to bring good things out of bad situations. It’s not always immediate. Some things take years to heal (trust me I know). Yet the healing power of Jesus far exceeds our pain.

6. God gives us grace to get through and soar above the storms.

I’ve annoyed many people in life by maintaining joy in some pretty horrific situations. I’ve been called Pollyanna, fake, phony…I’ve learned that God works things for good. So, I don’t have to remain depressed or oppressed. I know from experience what it’s like to wallow in sorrow. I prefer the opposite, continual seeking of God’s face. I can draw from the well of His joy.

Jesus rose! I too can rise. So can you!

7. God will keep in perfect peace those who’s minds are stayed on Him.

It’s one of my favorite verses. I know when I feel overwhelmed, if I can get to a place of focusing on Jesus there’s a peace that comes. He gives beauty for ashes and joy for mourning.

Father, in seasons of intense suffering or pain, help us to see You. You are our comfort, peace, joy, hope, and love. You don’t delight in our suffering; I pray we see You want the best for us. I ask for abounding blessings, in Jesus mighty name.

God is JOY!

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Photo Credit: Pinterest (text added with Over app)

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God,~Hebrews 12:1-2.

Joy is the serious business of heaven,~C.S Lewis.

God is joy. The fruit of His Spirit is given in Galatians 5:22-23…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

We who are in Christ have the ability to live joy filled lives because God is joy. If Christ is in you, you have the unlimited source of joy.

Joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness is delight based on what’s happening. Joy is a part of God’s character. It is the ability to maintain hope even in desperate situations because of the truth of God’s unfailing love, His unyielding faithfulness, and glorious provision. Joy is rooted in God and will yield fruit in any season.

You may be saying, “Yeah right Erin, you don’t know what I’m going through.” I may not know the details of your story. I do know the details of my own, the story of Jesus (who endured the worst suffering), and the stories of many other people who have lived hellish experiences on earth.

My dad for example was abandoned by his father and left to help raise his siblings. He endured great ridicule for his disability, lack of formal education, for his skin color, and gave up many of his dreams to help his mother. He joined the Army and monthly sent home the majority of his pay for his 12 siblings. His first born son was murdered by a man who never served any jail time and continued to live in the community. My dad chose to love the man who killed his son. He lost both his parents, many siblings, survived cancer, and lost his wife to cancer. Yet, in all my years, I’ve never heard him complain. My dad wakes up singing (loudly) to God. He spends his retirement visiting nursing homes, preaching the Gospel, praying for the sick, and caring for orphans. He devoted his life to full time ministry and has overseen his church for over 40 years without requiring a salary. Any money given him is invested in helping the poor and to spread the Gospel. He told me last night, “I’ve had some hard times, yet I’d live them again to know what I know now. God takes care of everything!” He knows what it’s like to be poor, unloved, abandoned, hurting, unseen, and lonely. He understands suffering, yet devotes his life to comforting others in their suffering.

I too, have endured things I never thought I could or would live through. Unlike my dad, there have been seasons of complaining, fear, and doubt. I’ve found though, the more I trust God…the more joy I have! He will and does take care of everything. I know what it’s like to be abandoned, rejected, betrayed, persecuted, lied on, abused, and left to suffer with God alone. What I can tell you is this: God will not fail you! No matter what it looks like, no matter the pain or sorrow, no matter who’s abandoned you in your hour of need, no matter the circumstances or sickness you face…God is able. He will never leave you. He will never forsake you! He will come through for you!

As someone who’s cheated death many times, I can say with full confidence that nothing is ever impossible with God. He heals. He restores. He makes a way where there is no way! He’s the Friend who sticks closer than a brother. God is JOY.

If you need joy today, connect with God. Set aside time to be with just Him. Soak in His Presence. Rest in His embrace. Find life in Him! He’s the only Source that never runs dry. He’s not put off by or intimidated by weakness. God loves and cares for you. He comforts like no other. He’s amazing!

Abba, I ask for anyone reading this who lacks joy to find it in You. Provide heavenly perspective. Help us to see life from Your point of view. We have hope in You. You promised to supply ALL our needs according to Your riches in glory. We are trusting in You. You never fail. Thank you for all You are, all You’ve done, and for the blessings to come. We wait expectantly for You! In Jesus powerful name, Amen.

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