Do you want to be a friend to God?

Recently I have been pondering what it means to be a friend to Jesus. Many of us might remember the song we sang in church “What a friend we have in Jesus”. Jesus tells us in the book of John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”. Well, He did exactly that when He died on the cross for your sins and mine. So if I accept that He is my friend, then that makes me question whether or not He considers me to be His friend. Having a friend is not the same as being a friend! Facebook has unfortunately taken the word friend and dumbed it down to mean anyone I happen to be acquainted with or play games with, regardless of whether or not I’ve even met the person.

So in my quest to understand what it means to be His friend, I believe He has shown me that there are two parts to this mystery. And I really do believe it is a mystery. The first part involves our relationship with Him and the second involves our relationship with others. He kinda summed it up for us when He said in Luke 10:27 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself”.

Scripture tells us that both Abraham and Moses were considered friends of God. My question then becomes “Why?” I believe that the Lord showed me several reasons why He considered them to be His friends.

Our Relationship with Him

First, they believed God. They had faith in what He told them. Genesis 15:6 says “Abraham believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness”.  In Numbers 12:4:8 the Lord tells Aaron and Miriam the following about Moses: “He is faithful in all My house.” That word faithful means to believe. It is actually the same word that is used in Genesis 15:6 where it says that Abraham believed God. The meaning behind this word is so powerful that God rebukes Aaron and Miriam in verse 8 when He tells them the following: “I speak with him (Moses) face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings; and he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” The Lord makes it very clear here that He takes His relationship with Moses very seriously and the reason is because Moses believed Him. Moses is faithful in all His house! Oh that I would be faithful in all His house and would believe Him!

Second, they obeyed God’s commands. In Genesis 22:1-19 we are told the story of Abraham being tested by God and obeying God’s voice in offering his son Isaac up as a sacrifice. It’s a brutal story, if you think about it. I cannot imagine being told such a thing by God and having the courage to obey. Yet we are told that Abraham did as God asked. He got up early in the morning, took his son and went to the land of Moriah to sacrifice his son. I discovered an interesting little tidbit while researching this story. Moriah is the exact location on the eastern edge of Jerusalem, where many centuries later, Solomon built the first temple. Coincidence? I think not. Something took place that day that laid the spiritual foundation for that temple to be built. We may not always understand what God is doing, or what He is requiring, but we must learn to trust that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.

In Exodus, we are told the story of how God delivered the Israelites out of the land of Egypt through great signs and wonders. He did those miracles through Moses and Aaron. Again, it is so easy to just read the story of the Exodus and think, wow, that’s cool. But put yourself into Moses’ shoes, just for a minute. God speaks to you from a burning bush. He tells you to go to the land of North Korea and confront Kim Jong-un, Supreme leader of the country. He tells you to tell the man “Let my Christian people go!” This dictator is known world wide for his labor camps. He is a cruel, uncaring leader, much like Pharaoh was during his time. The Israelites were also in bitter bondage, doing hard, cruel labor for Pharaoh. Would you do it? Moses did. Yes, he argued about it, and we talk about his so called speech issues, but in the end he did it, didn’t he? Would you? Would I? Yet Jesus tells us quite plainly in  John 15:14 “You are My friends if you do what I command”. 

Third, they spent time alone with God. Exodus 33:11 says “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” If we make time to be alone with Him, He will speak to us. He desires to share the secrets of His heart with us. He told the disciples in John 15:15 “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you”.  He is willing to share his secrets with us but it requires our time. We must spend time alone in His presence, to get those secrets. Are you willing? Are you curious to hear some of those secrets?

Finally, they interceded and prayed on behalf of others. When Abraham prayed for deliverance and God’s mercy on Sodom and Gomorrah, God listened to Him and rescued Lot and his family before destruction came. As a matter of fact, it was God who initiated this intercession. In Genesis 18:17 it says And the Lord said, “shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing”. Abraham had just spent the entire day with the Lord. It was at the end of this incredible time with the Lord, that He told Abraham what His plans were so Abraham could intercede for the situation. First came fellowship, then came the secret, then came intercession. If you want to pray accurately for people, spend time with Him in the secret place and fellowship with Him, because only then will He tell you the secrets of His heart.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that there are two parts to being His friend. The second one of course involves other people. Jesus is very clear in scripture about how we are to relate to others.

Our Relationship with Others

First and foremost we are to lay down our lives for them. Just as He laid down His life for us, so we are to lay down our lives for Him by serving others. He tells Peter in John 21:15-17 “Feed My lambs; Feed My sheep”. He tells him three times, thereby reinforcing the importance of feeding or nourishing others. How do we do this? By spending time with Him and hearing His voice. In John 5:19 Jesus is talking to the Jews and He tells them this: “Truly, truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself, unless He sees the Father doing it. For whatever the Father does, the Son does also.” What makes us think that we can do things for others without spending time with Him, if He Himself could do nothing by Himself without first spending time with the Father? Perhaps laying down our lives involves spending time with Jesus?

Second, we are to love others. In John 15:16 He says “This is My command: Love each other.” Love is not a feeling, as much as the world would like us to believe it.  It is an action word. Remember, in Matthew 25:40 Jesus tells us “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me.”

Finally, we are to preach the good news, the Gospel. He told the disciples in Mark 16:15 “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” 

When you look at the lives of  both Moses and Abraham, they did these things. They believed, they obeyed, they loved others and they spent time with Him. I think so often we think that being a friend of God is optional or even worse, automatic. But it’s not. Why else would Jesus tell us in Matthew 7:21-23 “I never knew you. Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” That is a frightening thought, and it should put the fear of God into our hearts. I don’t want to stand before Him one day and hear Him say those words. Do you?

 

 

Are we the victims of Psychological warfare?

Recently I started teaching a Bible study with a friend, about learning to hear God’s voice. Unfortunately this is a much neglected topic in the church and many people seldom if ever hear His voice. I have often been asked how I hear Him speak to me so clearly and with that in mind my friend and I decided perhaps it was time we lead a study on this exact subject. We are using a book called 4 Keys to Hearing God’s Voice by Mark Virkler .

I’ve added the link if you are interested in purchasing the book. Anyway, as I was reading through the first few chapters and doing the homework that Mark was suggesting in the book, namely sitting down and journalling what I felt God was saying to me, I realized that since I like to understand the why before I do, I needed a deeper understanding of why we need to hear God’s voice and why so many people don’t hear it.  That set me on a journey that I think only scratches the surface of this infinite topic and I thought I would share my findings here on this blog.

I realized that in order for me to understand the why, I needed to go back to the very beginning in Genesis 3:1-13 which gives us the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and how they were led astray by the serpent. If you read these verses you will see two time periods, the first which has full communion with God and the second, fear and separation from God. I won’t include the whole story due to length, but I will share some key verses particularly describing what happened after they ate the forbidden fruit:

Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” So he said, “I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

Now I have to ask myself, why on earth were they afraid? The only relationship that they had experienced with God was a good one. We can assume that when it says God was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, that this was not a new event, but had been going on for some time. The Bible doesn’t tell us how much time has passed since creation and the fall, but whether it was a week or a year, is not important. The bottom line is that they had spent time each and every day walking and talking with God, and yet this day was different. They had disobeyed a direct order not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and suddenly they were ashamed of their nakedness, covered themselves up with leaves and hid from Him.

I would like to suggest that this response is exactly what God knew would happen and Satan, the serpent, wanted to happen, when they ate that fruit.  Division! Separation from a loving God and Father. Fear and shame had entered into their hearts and minds and they no longer trusted God or wanted to spend time with Him.  Their worldview had changed. God hadn’t changed, the serpent hadn’t changed, their bodies hadn’t changed but their minds had been changed. In an instant, they went from communion with a loving Father who they trusted, to a God who they feared and hid themselves from. Their disobedience is of course called Original Sin but I don’t want to dwell on that aspect. I want to look at what happened from a slightly different perspective.

I believe that what happened that day is the beginning of something that the military calls PSYOP or Psychological warfare. The serpent, also called the Devil, the Accuser of the Brethren, a Liar, Great Deceiver, Angel of Light, etc. twisted their thoughts and changed how they viewed God. That psychological warfare is still happening to this day and is the reason why so many people are afraid of God, don’t trust Him, hide from Him and don’t hear His voice.

So why do we need to hear God’s voice? Why do we need to be able to understand what our Heavenly Father is saying to us? Because without His voice we begin to lean on our own understanding. We sees things through the eyes of logic and fear. We put our faith in things seen and not things unseen. We lose our hope. We lose touch with the supernatural and view our world through the natural. We lose our faith because we don’t know the One who wants us to trust Him.

You might object here and say, but we have the Bible. And yes, you would be correct. We do have the Bible. But read through the eyes of the natural, through the eyes of logic, the Bible doesn’t make a lot of sense. It is only when the Holy Spirit gives us revelation and understanding that we begin to see who God is and what His plan is for our lives. I’ve heard people say, people who were not Christians, that the Old Testament God and the New Testament God are not the same God. One is an angry God and the other is a loving God. Viewed through the eyes of the natural it would be easy to understand this mistake. But through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, it becomes clear that there is only one God in the Bible and He is a loving, faithful Father.

Notice that I bring up the Holy Spirit here. Why? Because when the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts, as we are told in Scripture that He will if we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, then He will also speak to us because He dwells inside of us. In John 10:27 Jesus tells His disciples “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me“. This statement is about as clear as it can be. My sheep hear my voice. He didn’t say “My sheep might hear my voice, or my sheep occasionally hear my voice”, he said “My sheep hear my voice“. So why don’t we?

In Romans 12:2 Paul tells us the following: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God”. The word transformed is the word that we get metamorphosis from. Think caterpillar, to cocoon, to butterfly. That picture is quite a transformation or transfiguration, isn’t it? The caterpillar looks absolutely nothing like a butterfly. And if you take it further, the word renewed, means renovation, complete renovation. Think kitchen renovation, down to the studs, new cabinets, beautiful new quartz countertops, gorgeous floors, the whole room, totally transformed. Beautiful, breathtaking, new! Are you beginning to see what Paul is talking about here. He’s talking about your mind. Total metamorphosis, total renovation, total renewal. Your new mind looking nothing like your old mind. New thoughts, new revelation, new understanding. The mind of Christ. Complete paradigm shift. Nothing like the old, nothing even remotely like it used to be. That is the mind that God wants to give you. But you have to ask Him for it and receive it.

So what does having a new, transformed, renovated mind have to do with hearing His voice? Everything! You have to realize that God is not silent. He speaks to you all the time. You are not hearing it because you don’t recognize His voice. You think those great ideas, those amazing thoughts, are your own. Or perhaps the devil’s. It always amuses me that people are so quick to attribute thoughts to the devil, and give him credit, but cannot imagine that God would speak to them. It takes faith to believe that those thoughts could be from God. Try it sometime. Sit down, calm your spirit and your mind and listen. Then write down what you are hearing. You might be surprised at how much God is actually talking to you.

 

 

 

You will find Me when you seek Me with all your heart

This morning as I was writing in my journal I thought about how much I would like to know the Lord. It seems incredible that knowing Him is even possible and yet, in Jeremiah 29:13-14 He tells us to seek Him. He tells us that if we seek Him or search for Him or inquire of Him with all of our heart, He will be found by us. When I read such a scripture, I feel like it is an invitation, that He is in fact, encouraging me to find Him. I will warn you however, be careful what you ask for, you might just get it.

So as I contemplated this idea, I found myself needing a starting point. I find it always helps my mind if I have some starting point that my mind can understand when trying to understand a God who is un understandable. Is that even a word? At any rate, I decided to start with a list of the names of God in the Old Testament. I wrote them down after some research on the web, and I stopped at 13. I won’t go into them in this post, but if you search for the names of God in the Bible, you will be amazed at the list. Anyway, I chose the very first one for today, Yahweh. Yahweh means LORD with capitals, the God who has always existed, the Unchangeable One, the God of Covenant, the Great I AM. Those are daunting titles to say the least. But I forged ahead anyway and I asked Him to reveal Himself to me as Yahweh.

In case you are getting uncomfortable with my question let me direct you to this passage in Jeremiah 9:23-24 where it says the following:

Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” says the LORD.

Yeah. So you see, I’m allowed to boast about this. As a matter of fact He wants me to boast about who He is and that I know Him. So I will share with you the conversation that I had with Him this morning, as I wrote it down in my journal. In order for the conversation to not be confusing I will leave my words in black and change what I believe to be His words in blue. Please do not assume that I am saying His words are Scripture. They are not.

My child, it is My greatest desire for you to know Me, and you will spend eternity doing so because the more you seek Me, the more you will discover about Me. I will show you the secret places of My heart, I will teach you to search out My innermost thoughts in the chambers of My heart. I will guide you on this journey, because I long to make Myself known to you. The hidden riches of My thoughts towards you will bring you the most delight, they will amaze you. 

Oh, Lord. Show me one of your thoughts. Just one. I’m not sure I can deal with more than that. I am thrilled that you think I am worthy of such delights. The word pleasure comes to mind. It is a pleasure getting to know you. That phrase will never mean the same thing again. I feel as though I am being swallowed up by your love and joy. Like I am going into the heavens and discovering the stars. I see the universe before me, and yet You know me! That’s like me getting to personally know one of the ants in my yard. I know his name, his thoughts, his feelings, his heart. There are so many ants and you know all of us. All the ants are known by you. And somehow you think I am special. You love me!

I know every single thing, every creature, every person on this earth. Because every one of them was created by Me.

Eternal One.

Yes, I am the Eternal One. And My desire is towards you. My love for you is beyond words. My desire to protect you is overwhelming. My desire to be with you is overpowering. I can hardly contain myself when I know you are about to wake up and be with Me. I long to be in your presence. I long to talk to you. I love to share My heart with you. I long to make Myself known to you.

Lord, it brings me to tears to know such love exists for me. I always thought that “I long to be in your presence” was my line. And yet, here I am and You are saying it to me. What do you want to reveal to me this morning Lord? I too long to be in Your presence. I love you Lord. In my feeble, finite way, I love You.

Do not ever belittle your love for Me, My child. Love is not a performance. I do not measure your love and see if it’s enough, or compare it to your neighbor’s love. We love each other and as you embrace My love, your love will expand because your heart will grow and expand and soften. You know the expression “My heart will burst with love”? I want your heart to burst with love. Because My heart bursts with love for you. I could spend eternity showing you My love for you and it would not be long enough.

Lord, I feel like my heart is so small that I can only begin to comprehend Your love for me. I give You my whole heart. Take it Lord. Now I understand why You want me to seek You with my whole heart. Anything less is cheating myself. I cannot feel Your love, comprehend Your love with only a section of my heart. It will require all of my heart and even then it will need to grow bigger. What we find when we seek you with all of our hearts is love. Pure, unfiltered, unadulterated love. Amazing, holy, spectacular, incredible love. No words to describe it, kind of love. Overwhelming love. And my heart cannot contain it.

Grow my heart LORD. Invade my heart and take over. Drive out the money changers and  all the idols. Take over and consume my heart. I want to know you Lord.

I find that whenever I come into His presence like this all I can do is worship Him and that is what I did after I was done writing. I hope that I have been able to express even a little bit of what was taking place in my heart and mind this morning as I listened to His voice and heard Him speak to me. Let me encourage you with this. He longs to share His heart with you because He loves you. Take the time to seek Him.