For the JOY of Serving

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness!”
(Psalm 100:1–2)

I marvel daily at the the fact that God actually invites me into a relationship with Him and then allows me to serve Him. Me? A servant of God? Me? Making a difference in the lives of others?  It is sometimes more that I can believe, that the God of the universe uses people like me to serve Him and others, and the fact that He really does not need us at all.

The Scripture reminds us in Acts 17:25 that the Lord does not need us for anything.

He does not need our service, our volunteering, or financial giving or any of our help. He is, after all, the Lord above all.

“Human hands can’t serve his needs – for He has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and satisfies every need.” – Acts 17:25

Because He is fully sufficient, He does not need us. This is really good news. If God needed us then He would not be God. And if He was so needy that He could not rule Heaven and Earth without our assistance, well, then He could not meet all our needs.

  • He does not need you to serve at LFC
  • He does not need you to be a greeter at LFC or be on our cleaning or maintenance team.
  • He does not need you to serve in our kid’s ministry or our student ministry.
  • He does not need you to facilitate a small group or even attend one.
  • He does not need you to volunteer at all.

If He does not need our service, then why are there passages in the Scripture commanding us to serve? For example, the apostle Peter wrote, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” (I Peter 4:10)

This is a glorious paradox. God does not need us to serve Him yet He invites us to serve Him. The command to serve Him is a glorious invitation to experience the joy of God working through you. It is a glorious invitation to join God in what He is doing in His church and in His world.  God knows the result of human serving – how it changes our hearts and our worldview. God knows that when we move for Him, find needs and fill them for Him that He can then fill us and use us again.

God may not need us to serve – but we need to serve!  It builds a joy in us that we can find no other way. Serving and giving become the conduits of generosity flowing through our lives and become the great tool of impact for those far away from God. The old quote is true today as it ever was:

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

If you are serving at LFC and giving financially to LFC, THANK YOU! If you are sharing your faith with others, praying for others, THANK YOU!  If you are impacting the next generation, caring for the elderly, helping people heal from brokenness or dealing with addictions, THANK YOU!

If you have not yet connected to serving, we are going to keep inviting you! We will keep asking you…..not because we need your help and not because God needs us, but because we want you to experience the joy of using the gifts God has given to serve others. And besides, we do not want you to miss out on all the fun too!

Serving with you,

Bernie

 

 

serving

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Planning (allow me to ramble)

planning

 

Recently I was at a leadership meeting with some amazingly brilliant and experienced people in the room. As we began to discuss vision and direction for areas which we lead, a word emerged to describe the process we all felt we needed. The word was collaboration or CO:LAB for short.  Our future planning would be more synergistic than catalytic (not one person directing but all of us coming together to speak into the process and planning).  Now I personally like this, since I lead this way. I want to hear from people in the room.

None of us is smarter than all of us.

None of us is wiser than all of us.

Or maybe you have heard it said: It is best to be the guide on the side than the sage on the stage.

I like collaboration but not everyone does. I like to find people who have walked where I am walking, who are gifted in areas that I may not be, and those who can see things that I may just be missing.

Rather than simply ramble here: (and I have lots to say on this subject as there is lots going on in my leadership at various levels) I want to share a few important lessons for anyone that might stumble upon them.

1/ Plan early and include as many as necessary.

I love being a group with a white board and dreaming out loud. I also enjoy working on a goal (a win) with others who have expertise in various areas (collaboration).  When we get a jump on things (planning early) there is less tension, more gifting, more time to research, contact vendors, ask for volunteers and what have you.  Who knows where we can get lights, or ice, or promotional materials? Who knows the what, when, why and how of this event or meeting or goal?  Who needs to be at this table discussion that we may have forgotten.

When planning is done last minute, it is almost like failing to plan. Awhile ago I received an email inviting me to an important meeting. I could see by the large amount of people included in this email that the sender was scrambling for attendance. The email went something like this: Dear……………..We are really excited to invite you to an important meeting. We hope you will be there as your input is valuable to us. We will be meeting at ___________on the 10th at 6:30 PM. NO need to RSVP, but please be there. Thanks………….

Well there you have it. An email invitation for a meeting on the 10th at 6:30 PM. So what was wrong? It was sent out on the 8th at 10:45 PM. In our fast-paced culture, less than 48 hours notice is guaranteed failure. Of the over 50 people invited there were 8 of us in attendance and the person leading the meeting was late.  This kind of planning and promotion makes people NOT want to be engaged with your group or church or club or activity.

2/ What is really needed? Who will know what is needed and who will know how to get it?

Don’t marginalize people you know can get things done. Don’t overlook those who can help you figure out what is needed and or may know who can get what is needed.  I am often called upon to be a resource or to provide something myself or my church may own, usually at the last minute. What I have learned from others is, ‘don’t include me when the deadline is looming or when you want me to bail you out of your mess.’  If you really want me involved, and you value my time, bring me in early. If I cannot do what needs to be done, I may know someone who can. But don’t call the day of, the day before or even 48 hours ahead of time. Don’t expect everyone to bail your out of your poor planning. Always include some 35,000 foot people. These are ones who can see the whole event before it is even on paper. If you grab too many myopic people, you will be caught in the minutia of the event and not see beyond the hot dogs and mustard. No joke, I attended an event where all the planners could speak about was the great pies that the organizers were going to make (these ladies were really into pies). They set up some amazing table decorations and table clothes where the pies would be displayed and judged. Recipes for the pies would be handed out to all the guests. They spent so much time and energy on what they were passionate about – pies, that they forgot to get a BBQ or a way to cook those hot-dogs. Oh, and no one brought ice for the lemonade or cups. The event was more than pie eating but not to the organizers.

3/ Promote early and often. 

We have found that well done promotion is essential to a successful event.  As a rule, I like to make sure we are well on our way in our detailed planning of something big at least 90 to 120 days out. We have set the date and the time and pinpointed who needs to be involved in the planning and who needs to be notified. (this is like a save the date postcard or email of Facebook post) Yet, who specifically needs to know way in advance of the 90 and 120 days? Who needs to know? Who can help us plan? Who can help us promote?  Are we going to use local media (besides social media) are we going to print postcards and flyer, posters and more. Then set a timeline for promotion and what goes out when.  Get key players talking about it (this is what I call the buzz) and personally invited and raising up excitement about the event.

Well, just some rambling and I am sure there is more to say, but needed to share this.

Recently I was asked why I was not in attendance at an important meeting. Truth is, I was not asked to attend. Near the end of the meeting, I got a lengthy text asking me a ton of questions. Some of the organizers knew that I would know and might prove to be helpful, but forgot to invite me or simply felt, they could handle it on their own (and they can) but chose to ask a myriad of questions at the last minute. Because I care, and want to help, I gave them some good ideas and direction and there were some speed bumps they had to and will have to navigate. All of this could have been alleviated by better planning and collaboration, promotion determining who needed to be at the table early on.

So next time, plan ahead, invite the best and brightest you can find, do your research, promote well and you will succeed.

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

All the best,

Bernie

Back To School Prayer

school

I had the honor of leading a prayer for educators during all three of our services. Over 50 members of our congregation (in attendance today – we have more for sure) are involved in the education of the next generation. Principals, mentor teachers, all levels of education, custodians, bus drivers, school administration and more. These wonderful servants deserve our support and prayers and encouragement.

I challenge you to give them your best and to pray for the school nearest your house every single day this year!

As educators came to our platform, they were applauded and I had the honor of sharing the following scripture with them:

1 Corinthians 15:58
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.  CSB 
The work our educators do is the Lord’s work and they are not laboring in vain – they are impacting lives more than they know.
Here is the prayer I prayed today:

Father God, thank you for godly teachers, administrators, custodians, district workers, bus drivers, coaches and more, who serve in our schools and school system. As well as those who serve in private schools or teach their children at home. Bless them Lord, as they have given their lives to serve our children. Fill them with strength to lead, grace to guide and hope to thrive in their classrooms, campuses and in all various roles they carry and the myriad of challenges they face. Help them to be encouraged today, just knowing that they are making a difference in the lives of the next generations and their families.

As this new school year begins, Lord, we ask that you will wrap your loving arms around them and give them grace, patience, love and wisdom for their best school year yet. Give them favor with parents, guardians, students and other educators. And for our students, we pray that you will protect them, fill their hearts with your power and presence, keep them from evil and harm and help them grow in grace and knowledge of you and the subjects that they will study. May respect, perseverance and joy be a part of this new school year.

In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.

As a pastor, I stand ready to support our educators in any way that I can. As a grandparent with grand-kids in our schools, I will do all I can personally to support their respective schools. As a leader of our church, we will find ways to support, serve and financially make a difference as well.

God bless our educators and our students,

Bernie

Prayer for Wisdom

Get wisdom. Whatever you do!

Proverbs 1:5-6
A wise man will hear and increase in learning. And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.

Another passage says,

Proverbs 9: 10-12
Skilled living gets its start in the Fear-of God, insight into life from knowing a Holy God.  It’s through me, wisdom, that our life deepens, and the years of your life ripen.  Live wisely and wisdom will permeate your life; mock life and life will mock you. 

 

This passage is saying that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  Knowing God and allowing Him to be in His rightful place in your life is the beginning of and the deeper growth in wisdom.

 

Prayer:
Lord, you said if we lack wisdom you’ll give it to us and all we have to do is ask you and you give it generously. I admit to you that I am facing some struggles, questions, and wondering which way to go. I am at a crossroads. I have attempted things that the world offers and it hasn’t worked for me. And so right now, I want to surrender my life and place you first – above me. I want to give you your rightful place and I ask that you would give me your wisdom from above. I pray, not only for myself, but every person who is in some way questioning which way to go. May they look to you and have you walk with them and show them your way, your wisdom, your path. And we pray this for your sake and in Jesus’ name. Amen

Share Your Faith

Share-your-faith-story-love-light-1024x768

I start this post with a question: In the end analysis, what is your life supposed to be all about? What is the first purpose of the church?

I will take a shot at answering that:  It’s about people. From cover to cover, the Bible teaches the ultimate treasure in this whole universe, God’s ultimate priority in this world, is to invite as many people as we possibly can into God’s family through Christ, His son. That is life……Nothing more exciting then people coming to KNOW GOD through JESUS. Nothing more exciting than to see them transformed and realize their identity as the sons and daughters of God. It is a book from cover to cover, expressing the Love that God has for us. It is our assignment to share our faith with others and in our message the truth of how deeply all people are loved by God.

Whenever Jesus was asked why he had come to Earth, he could distill it down to one truth, even though he said it in different ways.

  • Luke 19:10
    And I, the Son of Man, have come to seek and save those like him who are lost.” (NLT)

Remember in his final commission, the Great Commission, just before he ascended to the Father, he said,

  • Mark 16:15
    He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”  (NIV) Share your Faith! 

“Now you go for broke. Get out of your holy huddles and take the message of the cross and get it out there. Go” –where? — “into the whole world. Your world first and all of your world, your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Then do all you can to see that the message is shared everywhere. This is our personal and corporate support of global missions. Try to lead people to faith. And when you do, teach them to observe everything I’ve commanded you.

We share our faith through our prayers, our acts of love and service and kindness and be speaking to others of what God has done for us. It is leading a contagious Christian lifestyle.

What if I go for broke with sharing my faith, and what if we all did as a church?

Well, the Bible says if we go for broke in the power of the Holy Spirit, there’s a high likelihood that our friends and family members, our neighbors and colleagues are going to be redeemed. There is a high opportunity for us in this region to go and catch some fish for God. Souls.

Can you imagine if all of us just led ONE PERSON TO JESUS this NEXT YEAR….and suppose that ½ of them live in this area. Take the attendance of our church or any church for that matter. Seeing 50, 100, 200, or 700 new baby Christians showing up over the course of 12 months. This would revolutionize any church.

The heavenly rejoicing would be intense.

  • Luke 15:10
    In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (NIV)

The upside potential for the people we reach and for us as a church would be nothing short of amazing.

What about the downside risk? It is playing it safe.

The worst thing that could happen to me is someone would decline my gentle suggestion that they take a deeper look at their spiritual dimension.  If I spoke to others about their spiritual dimension and they did not want to listen or go further….A polite “thanks, but no thanks.”

Don’t become so paralyzed by the possibility of a little social or emotional rejection that you fall into a pattern of never even trying, never risking, certainly not going for broke.

Jesus shed his blood for me and I cannot hang back and do nothing about it… I must in a loving and caring and kind way share my faith.

Remember a parable that Jesus told one time. It was a parable that has become famous now. It’s the parable of the sower and the seed. It is an encouraging parable, not a discouraging one. Jesus said, “There was once a sower. He had that bag of seed, and he knew what his job was. His job was to scatter seed and to scatter it and scatter it and scatter it.”

The Bible says he scattered it, and some of it fell on hard-packed soil. He would come back a week or a month later and realize all that effort, all that walking, all that scattering, it was a bust because the seed doesn’t grow on hard-packed soil. But he kept scattering anyways.

Then he would come back, and he would see that some of it fell on rocky soil, and it looked like the seed was going to come up, but then there wasn’t enough soil for the rootedness so the plant would die. It would be kind of discouraging to the sower, but he would keep sowing.

Then the Bible says that some fell on thorny soil and the seed would germinate and start to come up, but then the weeds would strangle it — another bust. A bust on the hard-packed soil, a bust on the rocky soil, a bust on the thorny soil. But what does Jesus say about the sower? He just kept on sowing. He did what sowers should do. He did not allow the lack of results to keep him from doing what he was called to do – sow.

He had character. He had perseverance. So he kept scattering seed, and then Jesus said, “Guess what? Some of it fell on fertile soil. And when it fell on fertile soil, it took root, and the roots went down deep, and the plant grew up. It became a big bush and birds nested in it. It was a beautiful thing.”

You know why Jesus told that story? Because you are the only Sowers Jesus has. There is no plan ‘B’ for Lompoc and Santa Barbara County and Vandenberg Air Force Base. It is us – Jesus entrusted the gospel to people like you and me. If you stop sowing there is no other plan.

Jesus knew: we were going to sow seed that falls on hard-packed soil and people aren’t going to respond. But Don’t quit! Sometimes rocky soil or the thorny soil and you’re going to get your hopes up and then your hopes are going to be dashed, but don’t quit!

Keep scattering seed, if only 25 percent will really take hold, the pessimist can say. Why do it? The optimist can say: Let’s just through more. I like that. Let’s just throw more seed. If 25% actually takes hold, then instead of through 100 seeds so 25 take root, how about we throw 200 seeds so 50 take root, or 300, or 400 or….well you get the point.

Because the return on investment is smaller (25%), just throw more seed. Tell more people, share more faith.

Faithful people share their faith.

A story in Matthew 9 tells about the friends of a man who was sick and paralyzed. They wanted him to be healed, so they brought him to Jesus by lowering him on his mat through an opening in the roof.  The compassion, the willingness to work, be creative and get their friend to Jesus.

“When Jesus saw their faith ….” It was not the paralyzed man’s faith that led to the healing; it was that of his friends. When Jesus saw these four friends cared enough to bring their paralyzed friend, he said, “Those guys have great faith. They expect me to heal their friend,” and he did.

You have friends who are paralyzed and can’t get to Jesus. They are paralyzed by fear, guilt, doubt, pain, or maybe even resentment over being hurt in some church in the past. They are paralyzed, and they can’t get to Jesus on their own.

God is watching to see if you are going to be faithful enough to bring them. And if you are, God will honor your faith. He’ll not only heal your friend; He will find ways to bless you too.

As long as Christians — as long as the church — keeps reaching out to more unbelievers, God will keep blessing it. The moment a church family says that their church doesn’t need to grow anymore, they’re saying they don’t care about the lostness of humanity.

But as long as we keep saying we’re going to continue bringing paralyzed people to Jesus, God will bless not only our churches, but also our families, our businesses, and our lives.

Here is a promise: Someday you’re going to be sowing that seed out of heart and perseverance, and some of that seed is going to fall on fertile soil.

“When it does and someone gets saved, and you see life change and the beauty of the kingdom of God advancing one life at a time and you had something to do with it, oh man, you’re going to be so glad you didn’t quit!”

  • There is joy in being a faithful sower of seed and partnering with God in the Harvest.

 

  • Acts 1:8

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (NIV)

  • Colossians 4:2-6Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (NIV).

The five habits of highly missional people are:

BLESS is a great acronym for sharing your faith.

B is for Bless: I will bless three people this week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church.

E is for Eat: I will eat with three people this week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church.

L is for Listen: I will spend at least one period of the week listening for the Spirit’s voice and asking Him who needs my life, my sharing of faith and hope.

L is for Learn: I will I will spend at least one period of the week learning more about Jesus Christ and how he related to and served people.

S is for Sent: Where is God wanting to send me and how can I help and support those who have already been sent, locally, globally, even within the context of our church ministry.

  • Romans 1:16
    “I am not ashamed about the gospel of Christ…” (NIV)

I’m not going to shut up about it. I’m not going to let something like discouragement or lack of results silence my witness.

Studies estimate that an unbeliever has to hear the gospel about seven times before, on average, before they respond to it. So, keep going and sharing.  Practice the B.E.L.L.S. points. 

How many of you were lead to Christ by someone else?

Did you give your life over to Jesus the first time you heard? See, you are living proof that we must keep sharing the Gospel and never give up.

Share your faith, your life, your story, your love. Be generous with all you have been given and all that God has done for you.

Sharing with you and sharing with others,

Bernie

Time to Resurrect?

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What Has Died in your life and Needs to Resurrect?

We often hear about things that need to be let go of or challenges to drop the baggage of the past.

Recently I sat with a young leader with great promise and potential. He shared that he has a tendency to become comfortable in his life. His comfort gives him a sense of stability and allows him to know what is coming and how he should prepare. As I listened I heard some deeper things in his heart. You have probably heard them in your heart too.  You see, we can all grow comfortable in various areas of our lives. We all have our comfort zones – in home, work, office, education, relationships, you have them even now. Some have the seat in the sanctuary, the same one each week for many years, some have a certain restaurant, some songs you listen to over and over or the same treadmill at the gym. It is routine and if not careful it could be damaging to your growth. With Easter just around the corner I think the question at the top of this blog is worth asking. It may even be various relationships that you gravitate to simply because they no longer stretch you or cause you to move out of your comfort zone and establish some new relationships.

What dreams did you once hold dear that have now become ‘entombed’ and dormant? In the Movie: I can only Imagine, the story of Bart Millard of Mercy Me is told. In it, his father tells him repeatedly, “Don’t hold onto your dreams – don’t pursue them, they will never help you deal with reality.” Bart is the writer of the song: “I can only Imagine.”

In the story, he comes around to holding his dreams and realizing them. How about you?”

Hold fast to dreams. For it dreams die, life is like a broken-winged bird that cannot fly. Hold fast to your dreams, for when dreams go, life is a barren field frozen in snow.” – Langston Hughes

Whatever our dreams have been it will take risk to see God help resurrect them. It takes work and risk to step out of our comfort zones. These steps can be incredibly big life decisions, but many times it may just be small decisions, or a small change in our usual routine, that can provide the momentum we need to consistently step out of our comfort zones. Truth is, like the young leader, most of us enjoy routine and the luxury of the known, the safety of the convenient and predictable. It takes extra effort to step out, but if we’re not risking and pushing ourselves out of the normal and routine, we develop a lack of necessity of trust in God and our influence to lead others is diminished. Few people are inspired by those who live mundane and safe lives.

  • Take some time to make a list of things you would do if you knew you could not fail. Where have you grown risk-averse and dropped your faith in the faithfulness of God?
  • Take some time to make a list of dreams you used to hold close and have allowed to die?
  • Take some time to list the top three fears you face and see how they connect to the hold the comfort zone has upon you.
  • Think about where you might begin to serve and give yourself away.
  • Think about a relationship that needs to be rekindled.
  • Think about a talent or gift that God has given to you that you have allowed to go dormant?

It is easy to walk away from things God has called us to and dreams He has placed inside of us. Disappointments and shattered hopes can cause us to become fatalistic – believing nothing will ever change.

Think of the following statements:

  • To change and to change for the better are two different things.
  • The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.
  • God will not look you over for medals, degrees, and diplomas but for scars.

There is a price to pay for obeying God and for living out your dreams for Him but it is always worth it.

“So long as breath remains in our lungs, untapped potential lies inside us, waiting to be released. The reason we are still alive is that we are carrying something inside us that this generation needs.” -Wayne Cordeiro

“Your big dream always lies outside your comfort zone. You have to choose between your dream and comfort.” -Bruce Wilkenson

We must not forget that we are not alone in this transformational calling. God is with us and His grace is literally amazing in every aspect. “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9) We cannot resort to our own will power and strength. Remember that will power does not change man. Time will not change man. Christ does. Therefore “Let that mind be in you which is also in Jesus Christ.” Allow His resurrection power to become yours. “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” Romans 8:11 (NLT)

It’s never too late to dream again and never underestimate the power of a dream in transforming a life! and Never underestimate the compelling power of a dream. Maybe in this lifetime, we may not achieve what we wanted to achieve, but at least every day we attempt to move a step closer to it. It is important that we never underestimate the power of a dream in transforming our lives.

What do you need to step into this week?  What dream has God placed in your heart? Ask Him to reveal it. Review the questions that I wrote for you above and then be prepared to move. Let Easter be a season of resurrection for you and all God has for you.

Let’s pray for each other,

Bernie

 

 

 

God Is Holy

god is holyAt our church we have been in a series called: The God I Wish You Knew.

This past week we focused on: God is Holy.

God is utterly unique: He is perfectly righteous and good.

 

God is not just holy or holy, holy, holy—He is wholly and holy unlike us. Pain does not plague him. The economy does not phase Him. Headlines and the acts of men and women do not define him. Diseases do not infect him and death cannot claim him.

The acts of humanity cannot change how we view Him. If we allow the things that people do to define our theology we are sunk.  Some time ago a person in our community did some horrible things and was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, actually 45 years which would make them 112, but they were sentences without possibility of parole. While I never mentioned their name, the Sunday following their arrest, as I spoke to my congregation, I shared these poignant thoughts: Humanity cannot define divinity.  The acts of men and women do not dictate our theology. When bad things happen, that does not subtract from God’s goodness and holiness.

 

  • Ephesians 3:20
    Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.. (NIV)

He is amazing and magnificent. Holy and Sovereign – He exercises His Holy and perfect will.  When we make our lives all about us, we miss out on the power and grace of God. We need to make our lives all about God.

Creation is all about God; history is all about God, life is all about God; you are all about God. If it’s all about God, then it’s supremely important that we know God and think about God correctly. Life is all about God.

Everyone matters to God whether God matters to them or not. – Andy Stanley 

If we think incorrectly about God, all of life gets messed up because it’s all about God.

A.W. Tozer put it this way:

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us… Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason, the gravest question before the church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.” – A.W. Tozer The Knowledge of the Holy, pg. 1.

The gravest question is always God Himself, and what we conceive God to be like. What is God like?

Here is the problem: how can we know God? How can we know what God is like? The answer: God must reveal Himself to us. We can only know what God is like if God lets us know Him, if God tells us what He is like. This is known as revelation.

 

People guess all the time about God; they describe a God they don’t know, a God that they have ignored. Their description of God is what they want God to be like. “I think God is…” But apart from God’s self-revelation, your opinion is of no value. It would be like you telling me what you think about about a person you never met. Think of a famous person! Because they have a public persona and we have video, social media, celebrity reports and the like, we can assume what they are really like, we can even argue that they are a certain way because of what someone said about them or how they have been portrayed. I once heard two people debating about a celebrity, arguing that they knew what they were like. Truth was, I had met this particular celebrity and even had dinner with them, so I knew what they were saying was not truth. As I attempted to interject what I knew, these people were not having it. They had tweets and posts to prove otherwise.

We can do that same thing with God – thinking He is mad, anger, a taker and not a giver, a judge and not a Father, a mean tyrant.

“What is God like?” And the only way to answer that correctly is to know what God has revealed about Himself. To discover that, we turn to Jesus and to the Scripture. God’s self-revelation is supremely in Christ, and in the Scripture.

  • God is holy: unique and different; righteous and good.

What do you think of when you hear the word “holy”? We usually think of something sacred, religious, spiritual, consecrated, special.

The words “holy,” “sanctified,” “consecrated,” and “saint” all come from the same root words in Hebrew and Greek. And they mean two basic things.

  • Holy means “different, unique, special, set apart.” 

To say that God is holy is to say that He is utterly unique; He is different from everything and everyone else. There is none like Him.

1 Samuel 2:2
There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. (NIV)

2 Samuel 7:22
How great you are, O Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. (NIV)

Isaiah 40:25
“To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. (NIV)

Jeremiah 10:6–7
No one is like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Who should not revere you, O King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you. (NIV)

But aren’t we made in God’s image? Aren’t we like God? Yes, we are. We are like God; and we are unlike God. We are created in God’s image, but that doesn’t mean that God is just a bigger version of me. This is the danger for us. We tend to think that God is just a bigger, better, buffed up version of ourselves.

The best we can come up with, is a caricature of God. That is why He was real clear about not having any images of Himself. This is why God commanded us not to make and worship images of Him—because the image is far less than the God it represents.

  • People attempt to reduce God to someone of something they can manage, control and comprehend.

When we say God is holy, we mean that He is different from everyone and everything else. He is in a category by Himself. There is no one like Him.

We try to describe Him by using comparisons and analogies, but they all fall short; they are pitiful next to the reality of God.

Some people conclude that they do not need God: People that conclude they do not need God have never come to the reality of their humanity.

If you truthfully look at yourself, you will discover your brokenness, your limitations, your sinfulness, and surrender to the evaluation that you cannot do all you planned on your own, and most certainly that your life falls short of greatness. I have been with people that are so arrogant, and wise in their own eyes, that they believe they do not need God at all. They have created themselves as supreme. If you believe you are perfect then, what do you need God for?

I challenge people to look at the reality of their existence and their fears, and hurts and pain. I even challenge them to consider their future and eternities. Some have said, that when life is over it is over. We stop breathing and stop feeling and never feel again. We have emotions, but they are simply chemical reactions – there is no soul, no spirit other than the beating heart and the bleeding skin.  I happen to believe we are more than that. I ask people all the time, why would be be created if only for 75, 85 or 90 years on a planet. There has to be more.

If people then get around to telling you about God, it is always a drastic reduction: we reduce God to a smart phone size, handy deity made in our own image, able to serve us and do what we want. It is all about us, again!

  • God’s character is the standard for righteousness and goodness.

Caution: Do not take one aspect of God’s character and focus on it alone. Well, you can do that with Holiness, but not with provision, power, protection or anything else. For example, if you conclude that God will provide you with all you need (or all your greed) at anytime that you ask, then you will create a Heavenly waiter out of God. One who responds to every one of your beckon calls.  If, for example then, God does not do what you want Him to do when you want Him to do it, you need to create a new theology for how He did not reply. In the 80’s it was a theology of ‘name it and claim it.’ And if God did not do it, then it was due to your lack of faith, or not saying enough prayers, or sin in your life or a curse on your family.  In other words, anytime you take one aspect of God and make that the totality of God, you grab a hold of poor theology.  We need to realize who were are, our need for God, then the enormity of God and the fact He can do things we fully do not understand.  If  God is limited to your understanding, He is a very small God and I do not want to embrace your way of thinking.

God is holy, perfectly righteous and good, compared with humans who are not. sinful.

  • Isaiah 5:16
    But the Lord Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the holy God will show himself holy by his righteousness.

So when we say that God is holy, we mean that he is unique and different; righteous and good. Listen to this:

Isaiah 6:1–8
I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”… “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (NIV)

This is Isaiah’s awesome vision of God.

Notice the angelic creatures with six wings. Why six wings? They used two to fly; and two to cover their faces in the presence of a holy God, so they wouldn’t look at Him and die; and two to cover their feet, covering their uncleanness in the presence of a holy God. These amazing creatures were very aware that God was different, He was holy! And so they cried, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty!”

To the Jews, repeating something three times indicated its perfection; so the seraphs were saying that God is perfectly holy, that there is no one like Him.

Notice Isaiah’s response: “Uh oh!” He knew he was in trouble. He was a sinner in the presence of a holy God! “Uh oh! Woe is me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.” God gave Isaiah a glimpse of Himself, of His holiness, and Isaiah was undone! This happened all through the Bible when God gave people a glimpse of Himself. When John saw his vision of Jesus in Revelation, John “fell at His feet as though dead.”

When you see God as He really is, it is an “uh oh moment”. You will be overwhelmed with awe. You will realize how different He is from you, that He is holy and you are a sinner. “Uh oh—woe is me!” Even in His Holiness and Perfection – He wants to be with us.

NOTICE the response from Heaven. The angel comes to cleanse Isaiah. He takes a coal  off the altar. This was an altar of sacrifice to the Lord. It was where the animals were laid for forgiveness of sins. This is grace and mercy at work. Isaiah realized his humanity and need for God and God realized Isaiah could not cleanse himself.

This is sinner meeting Savior. This is humanity meeting Divinity. This is the heart of God. Isaiah was not being casual about God – but respectful and humble.

“Most people are casual about God because they don’t
have an accurate picture of him.” ~ Francis Chan

  • A holy God is to be feared and worshiped.

In the Bible the universal response to seeing God was an “uh-oh moment.” People fell on their faces in fear and awe and reverence and worship. When Angels came from God to encounter humanity, people were afraid.

I’m guessing that some of you are uncomfortable with that word “fear”—with the idea that a holy God is to be feared and worshiped.

Worship, yes; but fear? “Isn’t God our Father? Isn’t He loving and merciful?” Yes. And isn’t He to be feared? Yes.  Fear is not simply

A mature theology, a mature understanding of God is able to embrace both.

The Bible is filled with paradox:

Man is free and God is sovereign; God has chosen us and we have to believe;

God is love and God is judge; we are saints and we are sinners. We get in trouble when we hold to one and reject the other; the Bible teaches both, so we have to embrace the paradox and live in the tension. I believe that the best way to understand what it means to fear God is to understand His holiness.  Remember Isaiah: He was fearful of God in the sense that He realized who He was – unclean man with unclean lips.  It created an ‘UH OH” moment for him.

Isaiah 8:13
The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear…(NIV)

We fear God because He is holy. When we see God as holy, it’s always an “uh oh moment.” God is so great, so huge, so awesome, so different than me, that I should always feel a healthy fear in His presence.

In today’s culture, we do not revere or fear the name of God enough. In the Old Testament they wouldn’t even say the word God. They would never causally call him God but Hashem, which means the Name. His name is so sacred they didn’t even want to say it.  Our lips aren’t even worthy of saying his name.

He is not some little old man sitting in a chair. Do you understand how the Bible describes him?  We can’t be casual about this.

I love God…and I fear God. I don’t fear God because He is cruel, or unreliable, or unjust, or evil—He is none of those.  (you can see more on fear below)

We underestimate God’s goodness, justice and moral perfection. God is good—perfect goodness. He hates sin. We are so accustomed to sin that we can’t imagine how deeply God hates it. I am guilty of this. I think, “Oh, I’ve got a little problem with pride.” God hates pride; but I tolerate it. Or I think, “I’m a pretty good person.” Of course to think that, I ignore all my sin, large and small. But if I were to stand in the light of God’s perfect and holy presence for even one moment, I would, like Isaiah, cry out, “Uh oh! Woe is me!” In the light of His purity, all my sin would be unmistakable…and ugly.

 

The problem is: People don’t recognize the holiness of God and realize the reality of their humanity and therefore think they do not need God.

Or some day they will just walk into heaven because they were good.

Big Lie on the Earth: The God that some people know: People are good people.  He is good, they are good, so all good people go to a better place when they die.  -Francis Chan

 

Romans 3: 9 – 12 & 23 & 24
Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin. As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away… For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. (NLT)

 

God is pure, The idea is that God is far greater and better than anything we can imagine, and if we only caught a glimpse of Him, we would be undone.

We can easily approach God time and again with a careless indifference to our own sin as if it does not matter. This should tell us that we are not seeing God as He is: a holy God!

  • Psalm 96:9
    Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth. (NIV)

Worship and tremble! We are to do both because of the splendor of His holiness.

  • Psalm 99:5
    Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy. (NIV)

You can only worship at His footstool (a low place) if you are humble and realize you need God.

  • Psalm 103:1
    Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. (NIV)

In Revelation 4, John describes a vision he had of God on His throne in heaven.

 Revelation 4:8–11

  • Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

It is a vision of unceasing worship of a holy God. Day and night, the four living creatures (who look a lot like the seraphs in Isaiah’s vision) never stop saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.” And whenever they do this—which is all the time—the 24 elders fall down before God and worship him. “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power.” In John’s vision, this worship goes on forever!

Imagine a person so awesome that you never stopped feeling awestruck around them. You never took them granted.

We live near the the amazing Pacific Ocean.  Wow!  But if you commute to Goleta or Santa Barbara or need to drive South often you can easily take it for granted. You cease to see it’s beauty. But someone seeing it for the first time on a clear day. It is amazing to them. I have seen people from a dessert place or the Midwest, stop and stare at the vast Pacific, they are in awe. Some are amazed by its beauty while even fearing its depth, and the creatures within it, the riptides and more. Beauty and fear can reside in the same person about the same body of water.

We do the same thing to God. We get used to Him and take Him for granted; we lose our sense of awe and wonder. We do the same thing to God. We lose our sense of wonder.

But that doesn’t happen in heaven where people see God as He really is, in the splendor of His holiness. There, face-to-face, we never lose our sense of awe; there, we worship all the time; not because we have to, but because we want to; we are moved by His holiness.

Have you lost the wonder? Let’s ask God to give us a fresh vision of Him, to see Him as He really is. God is holy.

  • God has called us to be holy too. God has made you holy in Christ.

This is amazing: The only way you can become holy, is to be inside and covered by the Holy One.

1 Peter 1:15–16
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (NIV)

Be holy in all you do, because God is holy. What does that mean? It means we live a holy life, a different life, for God and not for ourselves.

Holiness is not just avoiding the obvious sins. It is avoiding all sin! But you cannot earn your way to Holiness.

  • Holiness is the result of being close to a Holy God and placing your faith fully in the Holy act of Salvation by Jesus Christ.

God told Moses at the burning bush, “Take off your shoes, Moses; you are on holy ground.” What made the ground holy? God was there, meeting Moses. It was an ordinary bush surrounded by ordinary dirt that became holy when God showed up.

  • God takes ordinary things and makes them holy.

You are a holy person. Why? Because of your relation to God. He made you holy. You aren’t holy because of your efforts or goodness; you are holy because God took an ordinary person and made you His own; He made you holy, set apart for Himself, different.

1 Corinthians 1:2
To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)

God has sanctified you in Christ—that means He made you holy in Christ. He called you to be holy, to be different, to live your life for Him and not for yourself. It’s all about God—a holy God who calls you to be holy because you are His.

God has made you holy…so be holy, because He is holy. Live your life like a person who has seen the holy God and can never be the same again!

Keep learning and studying and getting to know who God is,

Bernie

 

Additional Notes on the Fear of God:

The main Hebrew and Greek words translated fear in the Bible can have several shades of meaning, but in the context of the fear of the Lord, they convey a positive reverence.

The Hebrew verb yare can mean “to fear, to respect, to reverence” and the Hebrew noun yirah “usually refers to the fear of God and is viewed as a positive quality. This fear acknowledges God’s good intentions (Ex. 20:20). … This fear is produced by God’s Word (Ps. 119:38Prov. 2:5) and makes a person receptive to wisdom and knowledge (Prov. 1:79:10)” (Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament, 2003, pp. 470-471).

The Greek noun phobos can mean “reverential fear” of God, “not a mere ‘fear’ of His power and righteous retribution, but a wholesome dread of displeasing Him” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, “Fear, Fearful, Fearfulness”). This is the type of positive, productive fear Luke describes in the early New Testament Church:

“Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied” (Acts 9:31, emphasis added).

One resource includes this helpful summary: “The fear of God is an attitude of respect, a response of reverence and wonder. It is the only appropriate response to our Creator and Redeemer” (Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible, 1997, note on Psalm 128:1).

King Solomon put it this way in explaining his reason for writing the book of Proverbs: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7).

Why? Consider these words of the psalmist: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever” (Psalm 111:10).  This proper fear, puts God’s words and ways above our own.  His power as the power we lean in on and not our own.

In Psalm 34 King David also tells us about learning the fear of the Lord: “Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. … Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (verses 11, 13-14).

A healthy fear of God includes the fear of the consequences of disobedience. There may be times of temptation or trial when we may forget some of the better reasons for obeying God, and that is when we had better think of the consequences (Exodus 20:20).

Reverence of God helps us to take Him and His beneficial laws seriously. Being in harmony with the spiritual laws that govern the universe has astounding benefits.This is what Hebrews 10:26-31 tells us: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.

“Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The LORD will judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Reverence of God helps us to take Him and His beneficial laws seriously. Being in harmony with the spiritual laws that govern the universe has astounding benefits. Many of these come in this life, but the greatest benefits will be experienced in the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8Psalm 16:11).