Encountering God Part 9 – Meeting God
Review of previous weeks
We have looked at how and why we encounter God in worship and the importance of making that our priority when we gather together for corporate worship. Our top priority must be “to encounter God.” If you meet Him here then you will be satisfied in your spirit and your soul. That is our primary objective for gathering corporately.
Just a word about gathering. We have bible study for kids and adults on Sunday mornings at 9:45am. It is in this setting that you get to learn how to live in community with other believers, how to pray for others, how to understand God’s word and how to care for one another. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to grow!
We are still looking at “Encountering God” as our sermon topic, but we are going to take a different approach for the next few weeks. Instead of looking at how we encounter God in worship, we are going to look at some biblical accounts of how an encounter with God changed people’s lives.
I believe that their encounters will illuminate our own.
Hopefully you will get an idea of how your life can be changed by an encounter with God, and perhaps even how to better encounter God in everyday life.
Genesis 12:1-8 Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; 2 And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." 4 So Abram went forth as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.
We have a strange story, that many of us have heard before, of a man in ancient Mesopotamia, the town of Haran, who hears from God one day. We don’t get any details about how God spoke to him, only that God told him to do something.
His encounter with God was a life-changing, family uprooting, plan disrupting, world changing event.
At this time in human history, or at least biblical history, God is not speaking to very many people. Mankind, then as now, was doing his own thing…going his own way. In many cases, people were just trying to survive another day in a subsistence nomadic culture.
I have to wonder, did Abram hear God’s voice audibly or did he just have a strong impression in his heart and head.
I can’t answer that for sure, but I do know that for Abram, this is his very FIRST encounter with God.
Some of you who are here in this room had your first definitive encounter with God not too long ago, when God invited you to receive Christ as your Savior. I also know for certain that this encounter was a life changing, plan disrupting event for you. I believe that for everyone who encounters God, the event is powerful and catalytic in nature.
We will learn later about Abraham’s subsequent encounters with God…the first simply leads to another and another just as we obey His voice, that’s when our lives get exciting!
V1 Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you"
God begins by telling Abram (who we will later be named Abraham) to leave his home country, to leave his relatives and to leave his fathers house, and go to a place, yet unnamed and undesignated that God will at some point in his journey, show to him.
Family for many of us today is very important, but in those times, family and clan relationships were essential to survival. You needed your extended family for protection, there was power in numbers. Geographically speaking, you lived in close proximity, so you could rely upon your family for help when help was needed. And God tells him to leave all of this security.
Just the act of God speaking to Abram is pretty powerful. A voice comes into his head (or ears) that tells him to do something that is counterintuitive, counter logic and counter to everything that is about self-preservation. In a sense, the unseen God behind the voice is saying, “trust me completely and follow me.”
God may be saying that to you today.
He may be calling you to give up your self-led, self-run life, to abandon the mess you have made of it, and to call upon Him, and to follow Him.
Will you do that today? Will you do that now? Will you call upon Him? There are many here who have done so, you can too. Don’t leave without calling upon Him to change your life!
In Verse 2 of this encounter with God, Abram hears about some blessings that God will give him if he will respond to God’s invitation. .
And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great;
Before I go on, I want to define what a blessing is.
A blessing is something promoting or contributing to the happiness, well being, or prosperity of another. To ’bless’ means to bestow favor, to prosper, to give a gift.
So when I say, "The Lord bless you," I am speaking a prayer that He will show favor, prosper you, and grant good gifts of peace, grace, and goodness
Abram received incredible blessings from God as a direct result of his ENCOUNTER with God.
These blessings were contingent upon only one thing: Leaving all he knew and following God.
The fundamental question for Abram is, can he leave all (let go) and go along with God?
I want you to notice something really interesting about God’s blessing of Abram.
God’s command to Abram are summed up in two words, "leave" and "go."
Leave (go forth): "Leave your country. Leave your people. Leave your father’s household. Leave your comfort. Leave everything that is familiar to you. Leave your desires. Leave your preferences. Leave your daily routine. Leave your buddies. Leave your soft king size bed. Leave your three square meals a day. Leave your golf outings with your friends on Friday afternoon. Leave your dinner dates with Sarai at The Olive Garden and McDonalds. Leave your cable tv and Blockbuster video store. Leave your nest egg home. Leave everything that you have come to love and enjoy over the past seventy-five years of your life and go."
Go (go to): God says to Abram, "Go to the land that I will show you. Go to the unknown. Go to the unfamiliar. Go to the place where you will have to trust Me like you have never trusted Me in your whole life. Go to where I will have to provide for you. Go and watch Me be your road map, your atlas. Go and watch Me be your provision. Go and watch Me be your Bread of life and your Living Water. Go Abram and watch Me be your all in all, through it all. Go and I will bless you."
Could Abram stay where he was and receive the blessings of God? What if, he decided, “I like my home, house, neighbors and I really don’t want to go”. He would not have received the blessings God had for him. He would have missed out. He would have been ordinary and never remembered. Instead, because he obeyed, he is one of the most well known people in the entire bible.
Abram’s greatness would not be because of his abilities, his own goodness, his brains, or his giftedness. His greatness would be the direct result of God’s blessings, God’s work and God’s gifts.
Blessings aren’t just for us.
There is another element to the blessings God gives. It happens every time we encounter God, especially for the first time. We get blessed and then we tend to focus upon what God is going to do for us.
Wow, He loves me! Cool!
Wow, He’s forgiven me! Awesome.
Wow, He’s cleaned up the mess I made of my life! Praise the Lord!
Wow, He got me a new job, helped me get out of debt, made me new friends, restored and healed my marriage. Praise the Lord for his blessings. Send me some more!
Our focus tends to be upon the blessings we get.
But that only goes so far. Look at verse three to see what else God says to Abraham.
And so you shall be a blessing; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.
Did you see it? “YOU shall be a blessing”…to others! “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
We are all pretty selfish aren’t we?
Gimme, gimme, gimme.
But getting blessed wasn’t the whole promise!
The promise was more than God saying, “I’m going to meet your wants and needs.”
In fact, God says “I am going to make your life fulfilling and important.”
God says to Abram, “I am going to make your life count for something!”
God is telling Abram (and us) that “I will use you to change the world for the better!”
Abram hears God go from the “I will” to “you will” in the terms of blessing.
For Abram and us, the call is the same. God blesses you so that you can bless others.
Can you imagine being a blessing to someone else?
Can you imagine God promising you that you would make a difference in someone’s life?
I hope you can.
God wants your life to count, God wants your life to matter. God wants you to make a difference! That is the best part of Encountering Him!
I have decided that I have a new definition of success! For me, it now means to make an eternal difference in this world before I leave it.
It is what I want.
It is what I want for my kids. I don’t want them to be just happy, wealthy and have good jobs. I want them to be used by God to make an eternal difference in someone’s life and in this world!
You know what? That is the promise given to every person who places their faith in Christ.
God’s intent in saving you from your self-directed, self-led, self-willed life is to make you a blessing in someone else’s life. God not only wants to use you to make a difference in someone’s life. God will make you to be a blessing.
I know this is not the popular teaching of the Church today. Make no mistake about it, I am well aware that today most people are looking for what will make them happy and that is how they choose their church.
They don’t ask, "Lord, where can You best use me? Where do You want me to be a blessing to those who are hurting, alone, and need to know the love that only You can give?"
We are conducting our Discovering Hope class after service today. Perhaps you are trying to hear God about whether or not this is the church He wants you to be a part of. Hear this! Ask if God wants to use you to make a difference in someone’s life at Here’s Hope! If so, come to this class, have lunch with us, and find out some ways you can make a difference by becoming a part of this congregation of followers of Jesus.
I occasionally have conversations with Christians who say, “I don’t feel like God is using me.”
Up until this week, I really didn’t have an answer for that. Now I do.
My answer is, “Did you ask God to use you today to touch someone’s life?”
You know what? That is a prayer that God WANTS to answer!
When you get up in the morning, do you think about what you can do for others, or do you think about what they can do for you?
Are you looking for others to make you happy or do you live to make others happy?
Before you get out of bed, ask God to show you who you can be a blessing to, who you can be used to make a difference in their life.
When most of us get up in the morning, don’t we normally pray about our needs, our concerns?
Instead, I challenge you to pray that God will make you a blessing.
At night, reflect and give thanks for what God did that day in blessing others through you.
When we take care of others, God will take care of us!
Hasn’t God blessed you? I have been. Abram was too!
You will be happier when you are a blessing to others.
When I make someone else happy, God makes me happy.
Stop trying to get others to make you happy.
No one else can make you happy. Why are you wasting your time! Work and being a blessing to someone else.
It is God’s plan for you to be a blessing to others.
When you seek to meet your own needs, God won’t use you…but the Devil will!
Life will be “about me.”
You know what? That’s the devil’s focus!
And you will reap misery. You will reap depression. You will find only dissatisfaction, loneliness, & despair. The more you seek to meet your own needs or to hold onto the blessings of God, the less happy you will be.
Gal 6:10 “So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good to all people not only being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage. Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith. (Amplified Bible)
As occasion and opportunity open us to us…
Let us do good to all people for their own spiritual good and advantage.
Be mindful to be a blessing means to fill your mind with ways to bless others!
Creatively look for ways to help others.
This can change your life. To be mindful means to “Do it on purpose.”
Don’t wait till you feel like it.
Jesus said the commandments are summed up in one word, Love.
The Law of love means we are liberated from self, and self care and concern.
It is to live to give.
There are 2 seas that the Jordan River flows into in Palestine. One is alive, there are trees lining the banks, plentiful fish, farms and greenery surround the sea. The other sea there are no trees, no grass, no fish, and no farms. In fact, nothing lives in the sea or around it. Water flows into both of them but the difference between the two seas is that is only one has water flowing out of it. The Sea of Galilee is the one where water flows in and out of and is full of life. The other is the Dead Sea. It hoards its water, nothing flows out and the salts and pollutants never find a way to escape. It is dead.
Life comes when we give away God’s love and blessings. When we are a channel of His blessings. When we bless others. .
When we don’t we are described by 1 Tim 5:6 “Whereas she who lives in pleasure and self-gratification giving herself up to luxury and self-indulgence is dead even while she still lives..”
Folks, that is what happens to us when we spend God’s blessings on ourselves. We become like walking dead.
Your purpose in life is to worship (encounter God in awe) and to be a blessing to others.
This week I asked God starting on Tuesday, to use me to make a difference in someone’s life that day.
On Tuesday, I got a call from a person who had over a year ago, visited our church and now was in a place of seeking marital counseling. After conversing with one of them on the phone and setting up the appointment I was made aware that neither of them had ever made a decision to follow Christ. Wow God! Another divine appointment!
On Wednesday – I didn’t see any results. (doesn’t mean God wasn’t at work).
Now here is a question. Each day I asked God to use me to make a difference in someone’s life.
How could you be more of a blessing to others?
Make Me Like Joe
Joe was a drunk, miraculously converted in a street outreach mission. Before his conversion he’d gained a reputation as a derelict and dirty wino for whom there was no hope. But following his conversion to Christ, everything changed. Joe became the most caring person at the mission. He spent his days there, doing whatever needed to be done. There was never anything he was asked to do that he considered beneath him. Whether it was cleaning up vomit left by some sick alcoholic, or scrubbing toilets after men had left them filthy. Joe did it all with a heart of gratitude. He could be counted on to feed any man who wandered in off the streets, undress and tuck him into bed, when he was too out-of-it to take care of himself.
One evening, after the mission director delivered his evangelistic message to the usual crowd of sullen men with dropped heads, one of them looked up, came down to the altar and kneeled to pray, crying out for God to help him change. The repentant drunk kept shouting, “Oh God, make me like Joe! Make me like Joe! Make me like Joe!”
he director leaned over and said, “Son, wouldn’t it better if you prayed “make me like Jesus?”
After thinking about it for a few moments, the man looked up with an inquisitive expression and asked, “Is he like Joe?”
Have you encountered God only to remain behind, figuring the encounter was enough and you didn’t need to obey? Do you wonder where the blessings are? Or have you been blessed only to use them on yourself and never made an effort to bless others?
Last week doesn’t count, by the way, only today does. Are you living this moment, this hour, to bless others?
These words are pretty much Christ’s invitation to you as well. Leave your old life, leave your past, leave your comfort, and COME follow Me.
Jesus made this invitation to each of His disciples. Each of them left the life they had known…Peter and Andrew left their fishing boats and their father’s business, James and John did the same. Matthew left his prosperous tax collection business.
In fact, Jesus made it clear that if you aren’t willing to part with your past, that you aren’t worthy of being His disciple.