Seven Realities for Experiencing God
Seven Realities for Experiencing God God Pursues a Continuing Love Relationship that is Real and Personal. Exodus 3:1-6 October 20, 2019 Introduction We are using for the sermon series a book entitled, Seven Realities for Experiencing God by Dr. Henry and Richard Blackaby. I hope this series provides helpful reminders and clarifiers for what we believe about God and how we experience God in our lives. On one-hand, it might seem unnecessary to have a series like this in a congregation of well experienced Christians. However, I caught another article over the weekend, talking about the shrinking numbers of Christians attending worship and the growing numbers of non-believers and believers who aren’t attending churches. So, I hope this sermon series can also help us be prepared to share our faith well with those who either don’t believe or believe, but lack clarity about what and why they believe. Last week we looked at the first principal which is “God is always at work around you/us.” The second reality we are going to consider today is God pursues a continuing love relationship that is real and personal. The skeptic about God might say the thought of an infinite being connected to millions and billions of people at one time is laughable. However, science has developed the technology for billions of people to use the internet and cell phones at one time. I looked at my cell phone one morning this week and saw a headline. Actress, Jennifer Anniston launched her first tweet on Twitter and over 9 million people signed up to follower her. So many people signed up at once, the demand to follow Jen crashed the Twitter website for a while. If human intellect can develop the means for millions to connect to one source at the same time, then how much more possible is it for our infinite God, the creator of all creation to desire and help us connect to Him? From the Old Testament to the New Testament we see God’s desire is that we can personally experience Him. Before I became a Christian and when I was a young in my Christianmaturity, I would envy people who could describe the times and the ways they had encountered God. Now that I have had experiences and encounters of my own, including some of those encounters during challenging seasons of life, I have something real about God that can never be taken away, even when life disappoints. I have something to share with others. Those moments of special experiences of God still feed my soul today as I am sure yours’ feeds you. So today let’s continue in the story of Moses and consider how this portion of the Moses story teaches us about God’s desire to love us in a personal and real relationship. See whether this story helps explain your experiences. We pick up at the point of the story of Moses after he fled from Egypt. EXODUS 3:1 “Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. (1)” Apparently, Moses went beyond the usual boundaries to shepherd the sheep and where the sheep could graze. Moses encountered God. Someone said about Moses, “The incubation of a great soul takes place in solitude and quietness.” (Interpreters Commentary on Exodus, p. 871) But the opening scene of Moses going even beyond the wilderness to Mt. Horeb is a reminder, God is often found beyond the typical, and the normal. God is sometimes missed because we look for God in what we expect. God is experienced sometimes beyond the typical or normal people, places and ministries. One pastor said, The last place Moses expected to meet God was Horeb. The last place we'd expect to meet God is that dry, barren, lonely place in our lives. Yet that is where God shows up. He meets us in our desolate places. Exodus 3:2-3 “There the angel of the Lord appeared to him (Moses) in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight and see why the bush is not burned up.” The burning bush is considered by Bible scholars as a theophany. Theophanies are a very special, exceptional revealing of God’s power and presence. Probably the other most famous example from the Bible of a theophany is found in the New Testament story of the transfiguration of Jesus. The transfiguration of Jesus happened when Jesus and three of his disciples were up on a mountain, saw clouds appear over the top of them and two dead heroes from Israel’s history appeared before them. Moses and the prophet, Elijah appeared. And a voice spoke from those clouds. It’s an extraordinary display of God’s presence. But here is one thing even a theophany contains that our experiences of God can contain and that is an experience of something more than just what we could manufacture. Something takes place, something is experienced, someone shows up when really needed and it is beyond human ability or our controlling. • Like when you suddenly have someone come to the attention of your mind and you check in with that person and discover some important event for the good or bad has happen to them. • Perhaps an opportunity or resource comes along at such a strategic time you know it is no way of just deciding it was luck or coincidence to happen that way. • Insight, strength comes at time, the right time, the exact moment when it was crucial. Legendary scientist Albert Einstein once said, “Coincidence was God’s way of remaining anonymous.” (Brainyquote.com) God’s desire to bring Moses into a trusting relationship with him was through an experience that Moses had no power to create or control. Two questions. Have you had such a moment? How did you respond? Exodus 3:4 - Drawn to God/ curiosity Here is how Moses responded. “When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, Moses, Moses! And he said. Here am I” (v.4) Quick basic reminder on the teaching of grace. God initiated the contact with Moses. This story is an example of Prevenient Grace in action, meaning God always makes the first move toward us. No one decides it is time to get right with God totally on their own. The goodness of God first primes the pump of our hearts. God called Moses by name which indicates to us God knows us personally and God is not detached from what happens to us. Moses decided he needed to investigate further the burning bush. He made the choice to respond to the initial invitation of God at work around him. Moses was curious. The burning bush got his attention. Are we checking-out our burning bushes - God’s attention-getters? • The invitation from a person to support or help you. • The affirmation of experiences about your abilities or character. • The repeated word of encouragement about God’s love for you. • A passage of scripture that keeps coming to your attention. • Others. All of those could be God’s presence trying to get you curious enough to take the next step toward God. One reason why some people experience God and others may not is whether we are willing to “turn aside” or make the intentional decision to investigate what we have experienced and consider God more closely or thoroughly. And I want to assure, this isn’t always easy. Especially when ever we sense God is speaking and reaching out to us, keep the focus on God not the experience. Let me give you a sobering example. I just read an article on Andrew Brunson. Andrew Brunson was a missionary freed from spending two years in prison in Turkey. Brunson was released last October. Here is what he said about his experience in prison and finally experiencing God. Brunson described his “expectations of what prison would be like as “naive and unrealistic.” From reading biographies of Christians who had been imprisoned, he assumed he would have supernatural experiences of God’s comfort. Instead, he felt as though God had abandoned him. “I had expected that I was just going to have a really strong sense of God’s presence and a sense of grace, and I didn’t. And that really surprised me.” In response to God’s silence, he became angry at God and had a crisis of faith. Brunson said, “I had periods where I was suicidal, where I lost all hope. I was in despair and had frequent panic attacks.” Out of his two years in prison, he spent 50 days in solitary confinement and was at one point facing a sentence of solitary confinement for the rest of his life. “What made a huge difference for me,” said Brunson, “was the prayer of many people, knowing that they were praying for me. And I began to focus myself on God and fight for my faith. I became aware that I could do very little to fight for my freedom, but I thought, I’m losing my relationship with God in this terrible environment and I need to focus because if I lose this, then I’ve lost everything in my life.” In the end, he said, “I had to come to the point where I said, ‘Whatever my circumstances, whatever I see or don’t see, I need to declare God’s character.’” This was a deliberate act of the will. “I took steps with my will and forced myself, not with my emotions, but making a choice, I’m going to look to God. Then he began to rebuild me.” Did you know in the Bible “looking to God” in the Old Testament is synonymous with trusting in God in the New Testament. Keep your focus on God; Look to him; not just what you experience or even lack experiencing. Exodus 3:5-6 “Come No Closer” - Reverence and Wrinkles “Then he (God) said come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet for the place on which you stand is holy ground. He said further, I am the God of your father Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. I just have two words for that passage – reverence and wrinkles. By reverence I mean as we encounter God, we never meet God because were good enough. Just think, you can be lifer as far as attending church and Sunday school, and God is still saying, take your shoes off as he draws us near because our relationship is never because were righteousness enough, it’s because his grace is enough. You have degrees and accomplishments, a resume of all the positions you held in the church, but God telling Moses “come no closer, take your shoes off” is a reminder he pursues us out of love not because were good enough. God drawls us close not because of who we are; but who God is. We approach God with reverence we keep a grasp of his love that is given to us undeservingly. As we appreciate his love, it brings awareness to us of the wrinkles in our lives that always need to be worked out, ironed out by responding to God’s truth and love. Remember just a couple of weeks ago we talked about how true the words of James are about how we can never” tame the tongue.” All of us say things that moments later we wish we could take those words back. Why do we do it? We do it because there are still wrinkles of self-centeredness deep within our souls that comes out in what we say and do. “And Moses hid his face for he was afraid to look at God.” (vs.6) A genuine encounter with God will shake us up. Consider the scene. Moses had been in the house of Pharaoh, king of all Egypt. Moses had been first-hand witness to the ways of royalty. He was exposed to the money, military power, and artistic pleasures. What Moses saw living under Pharaoh’s roof would make the Kardashians look like folks from the suburbs. Then Moses experience the burning bush that called him by name. He experienced a power or force that no human genius or general in Egypt could conjure up. Maybe the reaction of Moses was his way of expressing the words from the Apostle Paul, found in his letter to the Philippians, 3:8 “I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Philippians 3:8 God pursues a personal and real relationship that is life changing or as Pastor Brunson said, rebuilds us no matter where we are and what we face.