At the beginning of this series I shared with you a video clip of a news piece that NBC aired a few years ago that talked about the different views of God that American’s have. So if you believe in God, these researchers found that there were typically four ways that you might see God. The first ways is…
So according to these researchers, those are the four views of God that most North Americans would hold to. But none of those four views are really accurate. The God described in the Bible doesn’t fit well in any of those categories, so that’s kinda shaped the direction I’ve taken with this series. I’ve tried to point out where the descriptions of the God in the Bible disagree with those four views.
So for example – to counter the idea that God is the angry, judgemental God – we looked at how the very character of God is Joy and Generosity! In fact, we read how God is the source of all joy and how He deeply desires every one of us to delight in Him and enjoy the eternal, abundant life He has prepared for us.
And lest we take that to the extreme and say that God is never harsh, would never punish anyone – we also looked at how God is just. It is his nature to right the wrongs in this world and to oppose the sin that is so destructive to us. His justice and his love actually go hand-in-hand. Of course, that’s why God’s Son, Jesus, came to earth to die on that cross for our sins – He was being just and loving at the same time.
We also countered the idea that God is some far-away, uninvolved God. He saw how God is so intimately involved in our lives that he has even numbered the hairs on head. If God knows when hair #943 falls out, we can be confident that He knows and cares about the much bigger issues in our life too.
So that’s what we’ve talked about so far, and finally today, to wrap it all up, I want to counter this last idea that God is some impersonal force like what we might see in Star Wars – that He’s like gravity or electricity – some force to be harnessed for good or for evil. Because that’s certainly not the case. As we see in the Bible, God is a personal being. And it is our personal relationship with Him that makes all the difference in our lives.
I don’t think I need to spend a lot of time arguing the case that God is a personal being. I think everything that we’ve talked about over the past few weeks confirms that already. Impersonal forces don’t have characteristics like joy or generosity or being just or caring about the details of your life. Electricity doesn’t care how many hairs are on your head and gravity can’t be joyful.
So instead of showing you that God is a personal being – I’m going to assume you believe that already – and instead, I want to focus this morning on reminding you why your personal relationship with this personal being is the one thing that will made all the difference in your life.
And I think this is particularly important for our church right now.
We’ve been holding services here in Penhold for just about a year now – we celebrate our one year anniversary in just over two weeks. We’re starting up our kids club and our teen building program. We’ve got ladies Bible study starting again soon too. Justified has been running for several months. We’ve had several chances to get involved with the community – the community Christmas event, helping with at ice-cream shack, running the kids corner at the fall festival. These are all fantastic things – but it’s important to remember that these activities and all this involvement – that’s not the purpose of this church. Those are all means to an end – but they are not the end in themselves. There is a reason why we do all that.
You might remember when we first started up, we wrote up a list of some of our commitments as a church. And there is one in particular that I want to remind you of this morning. This is what we said…
We are committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ. We are not satisfied with gaining “church attenders” or even “church members”. We want to see people changed by the Holy Spirit who increasingly know, love, and obey Jesus Christ and are passionate about helping others do likewise.
That’s what we are trying to do. All those activities and all that involvement is a means to this end. To help people come to know and love and to obey Jesus Christ.
In other words, we want them to have a personal relationship with a personal being – with God.
Because it’s not our kids clubs that will change people’s lives. It’s not our Bible studies that will change people’s lives. It’s not even my sermons that change people’s lives. It’s God who will change people’s lives. He might work through all those different things – but it is Him who makes the difference.
I think the life of Paul is a great example of this. If anyone was involved in religious activities – Paul was certainly that guy. Just to give you a bit of his background, we read in Acts 22:3….
Then Paul said, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, and I was brought up and educated here in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. As his student, I was carefully trained in our Jewish laws and customs. I became very zealous to honor God in everything I did, just like all of you today. Acts 22:3
If Paul was in our modern context, we would probably read that Paul grew up going to Sunday school and kids club and Bible camp. In fact, he was a camp counsellor for many years and eventually went to Bible College & Seminary. He got his masters in Theology and then went on to get his doctorate (twice). He taught Bible studies and often preached in his local church. If anyone lived a life of religious activities – Paul certain did!
But for all of his learning and for all of his religious activities, Paul did not have a personal relationship with God at this point. In fact, he zealously persecuted those who did. verse 4…
And I persecuted the followers of the Way, hounding some to death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prison. 5 The high priest and the whole council of elders can testify that this is so. For I received letters from them to our Jewish brothers in Damascus, authorizing me to bring the followers of the Way from there to Jerusalem, in chains, to be punished.
So Paul is very zealous in his religion – but He has no personal relationship with God. But then one day, all that changed. Verse 6.
6 “As I was on the road, approaching Damascus about noon, a very bright light from heaven suddenly shone down around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
8 “‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.
“And the voice replied, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, the one you are persecuting.’ 9 The people with me saw the light but didn’t understand the voice speaking to me.
10 “I asked, ‘What should I do, Lord?’
“And the Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything you are to do.’
And from then on after that encounter with Christ – everything changed for Paul. Even his name. He went from Saul to Paul. He went from persecuting Jesus to preaching about Jesus. He went from hunting down Christians to building up the church. He was radically and completely changed all because He personally met the personal being – Jesus Christ.
Paul’s life was not radically changed because of all the teachings he received. Paul’s life was not radically changed by all the religious activities that he was involved in. Paul’s life was radically changed by meeting God.
Paul would later write in Philippians 3:
We put no confidence in human effort, 4 though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!
5 I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. 6 I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.
7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
Paul makes it pretty clear that it wasn’t his religion that changed him. It wasn’t all the good things he was doing. He was changed by the person – Jesus Christ. That’s why he says in verse 8:
Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Philippians 3:8
And again in verse 10:
I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. Philippians 3:10
So my question for you is, do you know Him? Knowing Christ – having a personal relationship with Him – is the most important thing you can do in this life. Everything else is worthless in comparison.
You might be a smashing success in business, you might have a fine home with all the bells and whistles. You might have a great reputation in the community – you might be known as wonderful parent, a great friend, a pillar of the community. But if you miss out on having a personal relationship with the God of the universe – you’ve missed on everything!
And on the flip side of that – maybe your life doesn’t look that rosey. Maybe you’ve had a failed business or you’ve lost your job and you’re the brink of bankruptcy. Maybe you’ve had some lousy relationships and you’ve made some poor choices in life. Don’t despair! Even then you can be a smashing success at the most important thing in this life – and that is knowing Jesus Christ.
There’s a little clip of a sermon that’s been floating around the internet for several years now. It was preached by an african-american baptist pastor in Detroit in 1976 – Dr. Lockridge his name and as I was working through this topic of knowing Christ – this clip came to my mind and I thought it might be good to share it with you.
Well, I would echo Dr. Lockridge’s question to you this morning: Do you know Him? Do you know my king? And the question isn’t – Do you know OF Him? But do you know Him? Personally?
I know that many of you do. For many of us, we began to get to know Christ years ago when we first put our faith and trust in Him as our Saviour. And hopefully, over the years, we’ve come to know Him even more and more.
And by the way, how are you doing with that recently? How has your relationship with God been in recent days? And to be clear, I’m not asking you what religious activities you’ve doing… Sometimes we get those mixed up.
Sometimes we equate our relationship with God with our ‘religious activities’ like reading our Bible or going to church or praying. Often in Christian circles we might ask one another – How’s your relationship with God recently? And we might answer, “Not too good. I haven’t been to church recently or I haven’t been reading my Bible.” Well, that certainly indicates that perhaps you haven’t been doing much to pursue your relationship with God – but don’t confuse the activities for the relationship.
Jesus talks a bit about this in Matthew 7:21… He said…
21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ Matthew 7:21-23
Doing those religious things isn’t what makes the difference. It’s knowing God. Having a relationship with Him. Listening to what He says and responding in obedience.
In a book on discipleship that I’ve been reading just recently, there was a quote that said that being a disciple of Jesus means constantly asking two questions:
#1. What is Jesus saying to me? #2. What am I doing in response?
Answering those questions requires relationship. It’s listening and then responding.
That’s exactly what we see Paul doing on the road to Damascus. God made his voice very clear for Paul and Paul responded: verse 10 in that passage says…
“I asked, ‘What should I do, Lord?’
“And the Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything you are to do.’
And so that’s exactly what Paul did. He heard what Jesus was saying to him and then he responded in obedience.
Of course God doesn’t often speak to us in such a dramatic fashion, so we need to actually take the time and make the effort to find out what God is saying to us. That might include listening to sermons. That might include praying. That might include reading your Bible. That might include journaling. That might even include fasting. That might include being part of kids club or teen building or Bible studies. But the purpose of all of those activities is to help you hear what God is saying to you and then to work out what you’re going to do in response.
That’s the relationship part of the equation. Don’t mistake the activities for the relationship. Because it’s very possible that we can listen to 1000 sermons. We can read all the way through our Bible twice. We can even recite a prayer every night and still have no relationship with God if we’re not trying to hear what He says or respond in obedience.
It’s not about going through the motions. It’s about knowing God. It’s interacting with Him – Responding to what He says and what He does.
So if I were to ask you this morning – What has God been saying to you in these past two weeks? And then what are you doing in response to that….? Would you have an answer?
If you have a hard time answering those questions, maybe you need to evaluate your relationship with God. And I’ll be honest with you – there are times when I have a hard time answering those questions and I have to question my relationship with God.
As a pastor, my week is full of religious activities. I read my Bible and pray every day. I know you’re all going to be expecting a message from me on Sunday morning, so I spend a lot of time in God’s Word, studying and trying to understand and looking for ways to apply what we’ve learned.
But that doesn’t always mean I personally listen to and respond to what Jesus is saying to me. It’s very easy for me to just go through the motions and leave my personal relationship with God out of it.
But what a difference it makes in my life when I actually take the time and make the effort to know God! To listen to what He is saying to me and then responding to that.
When I do that, that’s when my life changes – that’s when I become more like Him. When I take the time to actually interact with God – That’s when I see more of the fruit of the Spirit in my life – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Listening to and obey God just brings that stuff out! And I love that! My family loves that too! They like it when I act more like Christ.
But those changes in my life only come when I interact with Jesus personally. When I listen to what He is saying to me and then I act in obedience in response. That’s the kind of relationship that Jesus is talking about when he compares our relationship with Him to a branch’s relationship with a vine.
4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5
We need to have that close, continuously relationship with God. Otherwise, we do nothing.
So many Christians live such empty, fruitless lives. So many live in defeat. Some even conclude that Christianity doesn’t work for them! But based on these verses here, I wonder if they feel that way because they don’t maintain that relationship with God. Certainly they know of Him, but they don’t know Him in a personal way. Perhaps they go through the motions of reading their Bibles or praying or attending church. But if they never really interact with God, if they never listen to what He says or respond in obedience to how he leads, of course their Christianity “isn’t going to work” – of course they are going to feel empty and fruitless. It’s because they have no relationship with God. They’ve been severed from the vine.
So here’s what I would propose. Maybe you’ve already got a real healthy relationship with God – you’re constantly interacting with Him personally. You’re hearing what He’s says and acting in obedience. And if so, that’s awesome! Keep doing what you’re doing!
But if this is an area of struggle for you – if you find that it is hard to stay really connected with God. If you find you’re just going through the motions of going to church or reading you Bible but nothing is happening and God just seems silent or distant. Here’s what I suggest you should try.
Before any of your ‘religious activities’ – before you go to church, before you read your Bible, before you go Bible study or whatever you’re going to do, I want you to stop and just ask God to speak to you through that activity. Ask Him to show you through His Word or through the speaker, through whatever… what it is that He wants you to do?
And then, pay attention. I believe God will answer that prayer. He tells us in Matthew 7:7…
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8
If you ask God to speak to you, He will. But then it’s up to you to listen and respond in obedience – even if you don’t particularly like what He says.
So at the end of your activity – be it the Sunday morning message or your morning devotions or your ladies study or whatever it is – ask these two question.
What is God saying to me? What do I need to do in response?
Every time – after every activity – What is God saying to me? What do I need to do in response?
And through that, as you get to know God, as you interact with him, hearing his voice and following his leading, God’s going to change your life. With his help, you’re going to bear much fruit. You might find that over time, you’re quicker to forgive or that you’re less stressed about life. You’ve got more joy or you’re more generous. You sin less. You love others more. You have more peace. You’re going to notice a change!
And other people are going to see the change in you too as you become more and more like Christ. Your spouse is going to notice. Your kids are going to notice. Your neighbours and boss are going to notice.
And what’s super cool about all this is that it tends to start a chain reaction. As people see how different you’ve become, they’re going to want that too. Everybody wants to have more joy, more peace, to be more loving, right? So when they see that you’ve got that, they’re going to want to know why. And that’s when you’ll have the opportunity to help them know and love and obey God like you do.
And that’s why I said at the beginning, all of our church activities are design to help people come to know and love and obey God. That’s why we have our kids club. That’s why we have our teen building program. That why we have justified. Thats why we have ladies Bible study. That’s why we get involved in our community – to help people come to know and love and obey God – like we have.
But that means we have to lead the way. We have to do it first. We need to be the ones to know and love and obey God first. Otherwise, we’re just going through the motions and have no fruit to offer to anyone.
So let’s taste and see that the Lord is good. Let’s get to know our God personally and let’s experience the joy that comes from taking refuge in Him.
Taste & see that the Lord is good. Oh the joys of those who take refuge in Him. Psalm 34:8
We’ve spent the last several weeks learning and being reminded of who God really is and what He is really like and what we’ve tasted and seen so far is that God is really good!
For example, we’ve seen that God is a God of joy! In contrast to what many people believe about God, He’s not a grumpy wet blanket here to make life boring and miserable for us – No! He loves it when we experience delight and joy because His very character is joy. In fact, He has created us to experience immeasurable joy with Him forever! Pretty awesome stuff!
And that goes hand-in-hand with God’s generosity. He loves to give! He’s not a stingy, reluctant God that we have to bargain with or try to coerce into giving us what we need and want – No! God loves to provide for us and give us abundantly more than we could ask or even imagine!
And God is intimately involved in every area of our life. We saw last week that God is not some far-away, distant God, but He is so near to us that He even keeps a tally of the hairs on our head. And if God is aware when one little hair falls from your head, then He certainly knows about all the other more pressing issues in your life. And not only does He know, but He cares too!
It’s been pretty awesome to taste and see that the Lord is good – and this morning we’re going to be reminded of yet another aspect of God’s character.
So far, all the attributes of God that we’ve looked at to this point are usually pretty enthusiastically embraced. Everybody’s happy to know that God is generous, for example. No one complains about that. When we read that God will generously provide all we need – we’re good with that! Way to go, God!
Likewise when we read that God is the source of all joy – we’re like “Bring it on!” Bring on the joy!
And when we read that God is near, that God even numbers the hairs our head – that’s pretty cool. We’re pretty glad to have a God like that.
But then there are some aspects of God’s character that not everyone is eager to experience. Some of the things we read about God in Bible can sometimes make us feel a little uncomfortable. Read the rest of this entry »
Well, this little clip is probably one of the most famous sesame street scenes in all of sesame Street History. Even this week, I saw a advertisement for a Grover shirt that had a big picture of Grover on the front and it said “This is Near” – then on the back there was a little picture of grover and it said “This is far” – I was kinda tempted to get one….
But what does Grover explaining near and far have to do with our message this morning? Well, I’ll get there in a minute, but first, I need to remind you of what we’ve been talking about in the previous weeks.
About a month ago, we started looking Psalm 34:8 which says:
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Psalm 34:8
And basically, for the past few weeks, we’ve been tasting and seeing that God is indeed good. For example, we looked at how the very character of God is joy. He is the source of all happiness, pleasure, enjoyment, and fun. He invented all that. And we experience hints of God’s joy every day – in beauty of a sunset or in the taste of a juicy, ripe peach or in the laughter of a little child. God has filled our world with joy – because He Himself is Joy. And what’s super cool, is that even when everything in our world is falling apart, we can still find true joy in Jesus Christ because He has beaten death and has promised us abundant, eternal life with Him.
We also looked at how God is generous. He’s not stingy as some would think – reluctant to answer our prayers and provide good things us, but He loves to give – that’s actually part of who he is – He loves to be generous. And since Creation, God has been giving and giving and giving to us. Not only does He bless us with friends, family, material stuff – but He gives us grace, forgiveness, second chances, hope, and eternal life! Of course, that’s all made possible because He gave his one and only Son, Jesus – who then gave his life for us. If that’s not a generous, giving God, then I don’t know what is. Read the rest of this entry »
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Psalm 34:8
Over the past couple of weeks we have been focusing our Sunday mornings around this verse. We’ve discovered that knowing the truth about God – tasting and seeing for ourselves that God is good – that changes everything about how we live our lives.
Because what we believe determines our decisions. Just like how if we have an incorrect belief about gravity – we’re bound to make some foolish decisions that can lead us to having a real wreck. Likewise, believing false ideas about God can lead us to making foolish decisions that will cause us a lot of pain and hurt in our life.
So we want to know the truth about who God is and what He’s like. We want to taste and see for ourselves that God is good. As we do that, we’re gonna find that our day-by-day decisions change – which in turn, affects the entire course of our life!
And I know that many of us are already well into that process of tasting and seeing that God is good. We’ve experienced it for ourselves – and now it’s our turn to help the people around us taste and see for themselves.
Our friends and our neighbours have been fed a lot of mis-information about God. They’ve been told a lot of stuff about God that simply isn’t true. So our job, as disciples of Jesus – as imitators of Jesus – is to help them taste and see (through our lives) that God is good.
For example, we spent time last week looking at how God is joy. He is the source of all joy. He invented laughter and happiness and even pleasure. That was all his idea. The very character of God is joy. And the more we taste and see and experience God’s joy, the more we will find that our life begins to overflow with joy. And its then that our neighbours and friends and co-workers can taste and see that joy through us.
So that’s what we talked about last week and today I want us to look at another truth about God.
I read a very interesting article this week. It was entitled “The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Giving”. I’d love to read you the whole thing, but for the sake of time, let me just read the first couple of paragraphs of the story… Read the rest of this entry »
Last week I began with a question – and the question was “Does it matter what you believe?” And the answer we came up with was “Absolutely. Yes it does matter what you believe because what you believe determines the choices you make, and the choices you make set the course of your life.”
If we have incorrect beliefs, then we’re going to make incorrect choices, and thus the course of our life will end up going in directions that we don’t want to go.
For example, if you believe that bears are cute and cuddly, the next time you’re out camping and you meet a bear in the forrest, your incorrect beliefs may lead you to make poor choices, and the results may not be what you were hoping for.
So yes, it really does matter what you believe – and this isn’t just limited to your belief about bears. As we saw last week, what you believe about God is even more important because what you believe about God will impact nearly every decision you make in life.
The trouble is, the world around us does not offer us much truth to believe about God. Our universities, our newspapers, facebook, tv, movies – western culture in general has very little truth about God to offer us. And so most people live their life with a lot of incorrect beliefs about God.
Perhaps they believe that God is judgemental and angry – or maybe that he’s aloof and distant. Or perhaps they believe that God doesn’t exist at all.
Last week we talked about one recent movie where the actor for God was a “Hank the angry, drunken dwarf.” That’s who played God in this particular movie. So if we or the people around us take our cues from hollywood – we’re going to have some messed up ideas of who God is and what He’s like.
And that’s exactly the reason why so many people today reject God. It’s actually not God they are rejecting, it’s their false idea of who God is that they are rejecting.
If my picture of God was painted by Hank the angry drunken dwarf, I think I’d reject that God too!
So our conclusion last week was that the key then is for us to know the truth about God and to convey that truth to the people around us.
We looked at Psalm 34:8 which says…
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Psalm 34:8
Over the past several months as I’ve been thinking about our church and our community and what kind of purpose God has for us here, this verse has just been coming back to me time and time again. Our friends and neighbours around us have been fed a lot of distasteful, incorrect information about God. More and more every day I am convinced that it is our mission to help them taste and see that the Lord is indeed good.
Not only do we need to taste and see for ourselves the truth about the goodness of God – but we want the people around us to do the same as they interact with us. We want to be living examples of God’s goodness. Read the rest of this entry »
Does it matter what you believe? Does what you believe actually impact your life?
If you find an unmarked bottle of liquid in your cupboard – there are many possibilities of what it could be. It could be water. It could be bleach. It could be vinegar. They all look pretty much the same. You could believe that it could be any of those.
But does it matter what you believe? Will your belief about the contents of that container effect how you choose to use it? And will those choices, based on those beliefs, impact the course of your life? It certainly could!
“If you drink bleach, it oxidizes or burns tissues in your mouth, esophagus, and stomach. According to the National Institutes of Health, it can cause nausea, chest pain, lowered blood pressure, delirium, coma, and potentially death.” ~ somewhere on the internet…
Does it matter what you believe?
Of course it does! And all day every day, we make choices based on our beliefs.
If we believe that it’s going to be -40º outside today, you’re going to wear a warm coat and mitts and boots and all that stuff. If you believe that it’s going to be +40º today, you’re going to wear shorts and a t-shirt.
We are continually making choices based on our beliefs – and those choices, based on our beliefs are setting the course for our lives.
So what happens if your beliefs are wrong? What happens if you believe that you have a bottle of water – and it turns out that it’s a bottle of bleach? What happens if you believe that it’s going to be +40º but it turns out to be -40º?
It’s a serious problem to have incorrect beliefs. The course of your life can take a serious turn for the worse in a quick hurry!
I think it’s pretty obvious how important it is to have true beliefs.
And if it’s that important to know the truth about the weather or the truth about the contents of this container – how much more important is it that we have true beliefs about God? Read the rest of this entry »
Hi. In case you were wondering, my name is Dave Trenholm. I'm just a [mostly] normal guy who wants please God with my life and help people see how awesome He is. One way that I can do that is to post some of my thoughts and tell some of my stories on this website. Most of my recent content is made up of the sermons that I've preached over that past several years.