Sunday, August 26, 2007

Getting To Know God: Listening
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Getting To Know God: Listening

Intro.: Over the past few weeks we have been looking at a set of tools that have been gathered together under the term Spiritual Disciplines.

  1. As a group they provide us with a great number of ways that we can meet God.

  2. In an earlier generation, they were termed “means of grace” - that term was known to John and Charles Wesley.

  3. The list of tools is long – we are not exploring all of them, but trying to give you a broad picture of the tools that are available to us as believers to draw close to God.

Read: Psalm 81:8-16


Trans: Worship, our theme last week, allows us to turn toward God. There are times that focusing on ourselves can also let us better understand God.

  1. Rest prepares us to know God

    1. It may seem like a strange way to get to know God – but it really makes sense.

    2. We all will agree that building a relationship takes work. It was about 12 years ago that a friend of Sandra's noted that she had never seen a couple work so hard on their marriage. We have told you the story before. Our marriage was close to falling apart. And it was the hardest thing we ever did in our lives. Building a relationship is hard work.

    3. And it is as true when building a relationship with God as it is when building a relationship with a friend or spouse.

    4. And hard work in the spiritual life means not only being fit spiritually, but also being fit physically. And rest is a part of staying physically fit.

    5. Now, lest you think I am just full of hot air, it would be helpful to remember that Jesus calls us to rest: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.1

    6. Or maybe you remember the storm – the story is found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. If you want to read about it, turn to Matthew 8:23-27. It comes shortly after the sermon on the mount. Jesus and the disciples have gotten into a boat. They begin to cross the sea of Galilee, but without warning, a furious storm came up. The waves were sweeping over the boat – the disciples were afraid they might be washed overboard. But do you remember what Jesus was doing in the midst of that storm – He was resting. Not just resting, He was sleeping. Rest, was part of His caring for Himself. The disciples woke Him up. Do you remember His words - “Peace be still.” He was rested, and he was ready to approach God.

    7. Rest will be part of a committed Christian life.

  2. Basking in the presence of God allows us to know God

    1. Paul writes in II Corinthians 4, “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

    2. When we focus on the world, we will miss God. But when we live life in such a way that we see God at work wherever we may be, we will find ourselves living in God's presence whatever our lives may bring.

(Ill.) There is an island off the Southern coast of England known as the Isle of Wight. Over the years, it has been the summer home of a great many writers historical persons – Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Lewis Carroll, Longfellow, and Alfred Lord Tennyson. In fact, it was not just a summer home of Lord Tennyson, the author of The Charge of the Light Brigade:

Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward,

All in the valley of Death. Rode the six hundred.

"Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!" he said:

Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.

The Isle of Wight is sort of diamond shaped – laying on its side. To the west, at one of the corners, lies an area known as Freshwater – It was Tennyson's home. Tennyson, walking with his niece over the breezy downs at Freshwater, began talking of God’s presence, and told her that he was as sure of it as were the disciples when they had the Christ with them on the road to Emmaus. His niece replied that she thought the presence of God would be awful to most people, but he replied, “I should be surely afraid to live my life without God’s presence.” The truly awful thing is to be without God, to be in the deepest sanctuary of our being terribly alone. And yet how many seem to battle in order to banish God—He is not, in all their thoughts.2

    1. Living in the presence of God is a wonderful goal. I remember my mother introducing me to a Brother Lawrence a dishwasher in Catholic Abby. He was called a “Contemplative” - a person who saw God in the ordinary things of life. His book The Practice of The Presence of God has become a classic of the Christian Church.

    2. Adele Calhoun3 suggests a method to help us to begin to experience God's Presense

      • Sit confortable with you feet on the floor and your hands in your lap. Relax

      • Turn your palms down and begin to drop your cares, worries, and expectations. Pray.

      • Turn your palms up, open your hands to experience God's presence, word, and love.

    1. An exercise that you can practice at home, at work, or on the go.

    2. We can learn to live in God's presence.

  1. Take time to listen to God

    1. Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God

    2. Zephaniah 1:7 “Be silent before the Sovereign Lord, for the day of the Lord is near.

    3. Psalm 23:2-3 “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

    4. Sometimes the way we come get to know God is to take time to sit back and listen. Take a retreat.

    5. A retreat is not about a place – but about slowing down and listening to God

    6. It can take place in a quiet corner of your yard or house, it might be the zoo (one of my favorites), or on a hike.

    7. Its not about Bible Study, its not about worship, its not about doing it right.

    8. Its about setting aside a time in which you can meet Jesus

Conclusion: I don't know how you need to slow down and meet Jesus. But I do know we need to slow down and listen to God.


1The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Mt 11:28). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

2AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

3Calhoun, Adele Ahlberg (2005). Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books. Page 50.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Getting To Know God: Worship
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Getting To Know God: Worship

Intro.: It has been too long – but I remember seeing these strangely dressed people on our college campus.

  1. They would be quoting their mantra -

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna

Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama

Rama Rama Hare Hare1

  1. It was their form of worship – not something that I found exciting, but found on some college campuses.

  2. Something was missing.

  3. Listen to the Psalmist worship -

Read: Psalm 100



  1. The Greek word for worship is derived from two words – one meaning “to” or “toward” and another meaning “to kiss”.2

  2. One dictionary says that to worship is idolize: to love unquestioningly and uncritically or to excess; or to venerate as an idol;3

  3. It can be used as a noun - “Worship is ...” or a verb - “We worship God.”

  4. And when it comes to getting to know God, worship is the place to begin.

  1. God-Centered Worship4

    1. Adele Calhoun points out that we usually associate worship with religion. But worship can be found in the lives of even the average person, the agnostic, or even athiests.”

    2. What is the secret to determining what you worship? It is what gives your life value. What do you love? Where do you focus your attention? These are the things we worship.

(Ill.) G. K. Chesterson was a well-known author of the early 20th century. Like his friend Agatha Christie, he wrote wrote a series of mysteries books based on the character Father Brown. C. S. Lewis credited his writing with being a key influence as he came to a point of faith. Philip Yancy, a modern Christian author has said, that beside his Bible, the one other book he would want on a desert island is Chesterson's Orthodoxy. Chesterson once wrote, “The crux and crisis is that man found it natural to worship; even natural to worship unnatural things.... If man cannot pray he is gagged; if he cannot kneel be is in irons.5

    1. When we begin to think about worship – we are talking about a two directional relationship. We stand on one side – that goes without saying. But when we speak of Godly worship, the person on the other side is God.

    2. There is an incident in Jesus' life in which He teaches us a great deal about worship. Jesus is walking through Samaria and He send His disciples into town to get food. Jesus begins a conversation with a woman who is drawing water at the village well. During His conversation with the woman, Jesus remarks

Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.6

    1. Godly worship is not something we do, it something that happens – it takes our hearts and directs them toward God.

    2. God meets us when we worship Him; are you ready to meet Him.

  1. Corporate Worship

    1. Godly worship will turn our attention toward God – but having said that, we must realize that it can take many forms.

    2. I want to start by examining what is commonly called “corporate worship”

    3. A W Tozer writes, “Jesus was born of a virgin, suffered under Pontius Pilate, died on the cross, and rose from the grave to make worshipers out of rebels!”

    4. Whether it is here in a Sunday morning service, gathering together around the communion table, or around a campfire – God will meet us there.

    5. I think sometimes when we quote a verse too often, it begins to lose its significance. For example, how often have you heard someone quote Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Repeating it may reduce its impact on us, but it does not, in any sense, reduce its truth.

    6. Whether two, three, twenty, or 2000 of us meet together, Christ promise is that HE IS HERE.

  2. Personal Worship

    1. But worship is not only a corporate experience – it is also personal experience.

    2. In a very real sense, worship is personal even when we gather together. My experience with God will be different than you experience with God.

    3. But there are also times that we find ourselves worshiping alone – it is an experience that is repeated throughout scripture – David, the prophets, Jesus, Paul all found times alone with God.

(Ill.) One of the best modern examples I have found was that of Jim Elliot. Jim Elliot was one of five missionaries that were martyred in Ecuador. Before making that fateful trip that would see him giving his life, Jim contracted malaria – and that left him somewhat isolated from his family and friends. On August 16, 1953, he wrote in his diary:

The tent was too hot to rest in this afternoon. Bathed leisurely and alone in the Talac river. First time I’ve felt I could walk that far while in public.

This came to me as I was sitting on the cliff after a light supper of manoic, raw carrots, and tea:

Because, O God, from Thee comes all, because from Thine own mouth has entered us the power to breathe, from Thee the sea of air in which we swim and the unknown nothingness that stays it over us with unseen bands; because Thou gavest us from heart of love so tender, mind so wise and hand so strong, Salvation; because Thou are Beginning, God, I worship Thee.7

  1. Do you need to find time for personal worship? When you remember David, the prophets, Jesus, Paul all need to do so - is it surprising the we do too.

Conclusion: When we think about getting to know God better, worship is one place to start.



2Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The complete word study dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.) (G4352). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.


4Calhoun, Adele Ahlberg (2005). Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books.


6The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Jn 4:21-24). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

7Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (811). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Starting Out Right
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Starting Out Right

Intro.: One author tells the story: When my son was a small boy playing with his buddies in the back yard, I overheard them talking one day. One of them remarked, “My Dad knows the mayor of the town!” I overheard another say, “That is nothing—my Dad knows the governor of our state!” When I wondered what was coming next in the “program of bragging” I heard my own little son of four years of age say, “That is nothing—my Dad knows God!” I hurriedly left my place of eavesdropping with tears running down my cheeks, I looked up to God and prayed, “Oh God, I pray that my boy will always be able to say, ‘My Dad knows God.’ “1

  1. Last week we began with the premise that one of the reasons we come to church is because we have a longing to know God better.

  2. I suppose I could make life real easy by handing out a list of twenty things you could do to

  3. But then this would be missing the point.

Read: John 3:16-21


Trans: In the next few minutes I want to look at three myths that often deter our building strong relationship with God..

  1. Myth 1 – Getting close to God is not about doing, it is about listening

    1. Last week we suggested that we sometimes get so busy that there seems little time for God.

    2. But if we focus on what we are doing, we will will be missing the point. We can never do enough to get right with God – Paul makes it clear, “And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.2

    3. Normally the command is reversed – if people come to faith by hearing the word of God, then we need to be telling them the truth.

    4. But there is another application – it means that we are called to listen.

    5. But listening is not just an activity of the ears – it is a part of all of our senses.

(Ill.) I experienced something like that this week. Sandra and I took a couple of days away before school starts up full time for her in a couple of weeks. We would normally stay at the Red Roof Inn just this side of the Buffalo airport – but it seems like there were two back-to-back concerts at Darian Lake and all the nearby hotels had upped their prices – outside our budgets. So we drove a bit further and went to the Microtel in Tonawanda.

On the way, Sandra looked out the side window and saw a groundhog or some similarly sized animal waddling up the bank running parallel to the road side. I never saw it.

Too often that is what our Christian life is like – God is doing something special in our lives, but because we are too busy – driving, working, living – and we forget to see what He is doing. We forget to listen to Him.

    1. If we want to grow close to God, we need to listen. And that is my prayer for you this week. That you will listen for God's voice.

  1. Myth 2 – Getting close to God is not about place, it is about obeying

    1. For some people faith is about what happens on Sunday – when I am in church, my faith is important, but beyond these doors,

    2. I doubt that this is a big problem here – but it is important to remember.

    3. Church is not the place where we meet God, rather it is the place that prepares us to meet God wherever we may find ourselves.

    4. In the same passage that Jesus tells us to “Go into all the world ...”, he also reminds us that “Lo, I am with you until the end of the age.”

    5. Getting close to God is not just about coming to church, but it is living close to him wherever you may find yourself.

    6. It may seem strange that I would say in the same sermon, “It isn't about doing” and just a few minutes later to say, “it is about obeying.” If we focus on being a Christian, doing everything right, we will have missed the point about what it means to be a believer. It is not about doing.

    7. But we are expected to obey – as we get to know God and as our relationship grows, we will want to obey God. No – not do it all – but do those things that God calls us to do.

(Ill.) John Bunyan once wrote, “Christians are like the many flowers in a garden that have each of them the dews of heaven, which, being shaken with the wind, they let fall at each other’s roots, whereby they are jointly nourished and become nourishers of each other.” Christians should remember that our spiritual growth and strength not only comes from regular bible study and prayer, but also from using the talents and spiritual gifts that God gives us to encourage and equip others.”3

    1. Getting close to God is not about a place, but about being where God wants you to be.

  1. Myth 3 – Getting close to God is not about time, it is about heart

    1. Getting close to God is not about doing, getting close to God is not about a place, and getting close to God is not about time – in the end, it is about the heart.

    2. Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

    3. The Christian life begins with the heart – John tells, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”4

    4. Or as Paul has written, “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”5

Conclusion: Do you want to get closer to God?

  1. It begins with a heart transformation.

  2. If you want a living, vital, relationship, then start by looking at your heart.

  3. Does it belong to God?

  4. If you have never placed your faith in Jesus' work on the cross, or wonder if you have, today is a good time


1AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

2The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ro 10:14-17). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

3AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

4The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Jn 1:12-13). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

5The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Col 3:9-11). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Preparing To Grow
Due to Technical Difficulites,
there is no video this week

Preparing To Grow

Intro.: I suspect I am much like you.

  1. I suspect that there are a variety of reasons you come to church.

  2. Maybe it's because you feel you have to be here.

  3. Or maybe its because you want to make sure that you maintain your reputation.

  4. And none of these are really bad reasons. And there are times when they fit me.

  5. But I suspect for most of us, at some point the reason we come here is because of deep, unspoken, desire to know God better.

  6. We live in a busy world. We live in a world that easily distracts us from focusing on our a spiritual life. The list goes on. Our reading, television, movies, friends, our lives – all seem to leave little time to build a relationship with God.

  7. Yet that is exactly what God wants – a relationship.

Read: Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.


Trans: When I first read those words, my heart was moved.

  1. I wanted what Jesus was talking about – real rest, unforced rhythms of grace, living freely and living lightly.

  2. Jesus is offering what I need, Jesus is offering what I want

  3. I can't help but wonder if Jesus is not also offering what you want and need.

  4. During the next few weeks I want to spend some time looking at how we can build a relationship with God.

  5. But before we do, I want to spend today looking at some principles that will guide our discussion.

T.S. I would like to explore three principles that will serve as a foundation to building a relationship with Jesus.

  1. Building a relationship has been the goal of Christians for years

    1. We may live in the 21st century, but the goal of having a vital, growing relationship with God is not a 21st century idea.

    2. When scripture teaches us about prayer or serving, it is teaching us how to build a relationship with God.

    3. The middle ages had great Christians who, as mystics, taught us the value of meditation and the need to spend personal with God.

    4. It was the practice of the spiritual disciplines that defined John Wesley's ministry – even before he had his Aldersgate conversion experience.

(Ill.) The “Holy Club” at Oxford were known as “Methodists” as they has set times for prayer, worship, and service. At the time it was a derogatory term – but it followed Wesley for the rest of his life. And we continue to share the name today.

    1. In the 20th century the church has relearned the value of small groups in supporting each other.

(Ill.) Having said that, Donald Bloech, a reformed theologian, makes the observation, “If anything characterizes modern Protestantism, it is the absence of spiritual disciplines or spiritual exercises. Yet such disciplines form the core of the life of devotion. It is not an exaggeration to state that this is the lost dimension in modern Protestantism.”1

    1. Just as we need physical exercise to keep ourselves physically fit; we need to practice the spiritual disciplines, in order to keep ourselves spiritually fit.

  1. Each relationship is different

    1. I sometimes get carried away in my preaching. Though I make it sound like everything I say applies to everyone, I also remember that not everything I say applies to everyone.

    2. When we relate to people, we all have different relationships. As I relate to Bob, it is a different relationship than that of my wife to Bob, or that of Rick, or Val.

    3. Just as relationships between people differ, so does the relationship God has with each us will differ.

    4. There are constants – When we are told to love our neighbor, it applies to everyone. But that does not mean we all love our neighbor in exactly in the same way.

(Ill.) Carl Jung was one of my favorite psychologist when I went through my counseling program. His focus was on the power of dreams and myth in the lives of the individual. In the year 1939, just before the Second World War broke upon the world, a woman visited Dr. Jung of Switzerland and began to tell him of her personal difficulties and problems; then she paused and said, “Dr. Jung, I can’t understand how a man like you has time to listen to our petty problems. An individual seems so insignificant with the whole world sliding toward an abyss.” Dr. Jung paused a moment thoughtfully and then said, “But you see, the world’s problems begin with the individual.”2

    1. God also understands that. He will take each us as we are and use the gifts, the talents, and the flaws – and as we seek to live near him, the relationship he wants we me, the relationship he wants with you, will grow.

    2. My relationship will not define your relationship, your relationship will not define my relationship. But, though God relates to us as individuals, we can celebrate the relationships he does have with us.

  1. Building a relationship is going to change us

    1. But the story does not end there.

    2. I suspect we have all heard of the teen girl who had the opportunity to shake the hand of her favorite rock singer or movie star. Do you remember her reaction - “I'm never going to wash that hand again!” Of course she does – the change she felt when shook the hand of her idol that first time, was not permanent.

    3. Now, for a minute, imagine that you come face to face, not with a teenager's idol, but with God. Not just some mamby, bamby God. But with the God of creation, the God of salvation, the Holy, Perfect God, who knows you better than you know yourself.

    4. When you meet that God, you will be like that teenager who has met her idol – and you will never want to go back to being what you were.

    5. During the next few weeks we will tools that the church has gathered together under the rubic of “Spiritual Disciplines”.

    6. Not all of these disciplines are for you – but it is my hope, that, in your quest to draw nearer to God, you will find some of these tools helpful to your own spiritual growth.

Conclusion: This week, I want you to begin to pray.

  1. Begin by asking God to renew or refresh His relationship with you.

  2. Ask God to prepare your heart to know which of the tools, the spiritual disciplines, that we look at are going to look at God wants you to pursue. Ask God what tools He wants to use to build His relationship with you.


1Water, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations (283). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.

2Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.