The Encounters series we do each year is one of my favourite. When I read these encounters with God in scripture, what we are reading are these transformative moments in the lives of people who desperately needed Jesus.
Do you ever feel like that? Some of the encounters we see in scripture were from people whose view of who God is was ‘blown up’ after they met Him. Sometimes we encounter these incredible people who, often despite the reality of their situation, have faith in the all powerful God. This is really evident in the Gospels when these people and their faith break the mould from what others tell them is possible.
In his book The Knowledge of the Holy, famous pastor and theologian A W Tozer wrote: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
I wonder if someone had of said that statement to the people living in the middle east around 30AD what they would have thought. By the time of Jesus’ ministry, the God of Israel, in the minds of the Israelites, had become nothing more than a petty and legalistic deity who carefully counted the good deeds of the people, but not as carefully as the bad deeds were recorded and punished. They had created an image of a God who seemed to have no care for the suffering of His people. To the average man or woman living in this time, their God had come to share the same traits as those in authority over them.
And so when Jesus stated his ministry, and started to break their rules – for many people their picture of God grew! We find an example of a rule breaking encounter in Luke 5:12.
Jesus Heals a Man with Leprosy
12 In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”
13 Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. 14 Then Jesus instructed him not to tell anyone what had happened. He said, “Go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy.[c] This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”
15 But despite Jesus’ instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.
Listen along as we explore the passage above – and see how the truths it teaches us should shape our lives!
This week we continued to look at Moses’ encounters with God. We see as Moses spent time with God he changed. He became consumed with God’s glory and developed a heart of compassion for the people he was leading.
In Exodus 32, the Israelites sinned greatly, rejecting the one true God by building a golden calf and worshipping it. God was angry with them and threatened to destroy them. Moses stood for the people before God, declaring that they were still God’s people and reminding God of His promises. He also declared to God that God’s name and glory would be diminished in the sight of other nations if God destroyed the people. Moses asked God to forgive the Israelites’ sin. We saw in this passage how much God detests sin. In Exodus 33, Moses pleaded with God for His presence to be with the Israelites as they travelled . Moses knew how much he needed God. He asked God to show him His glory. As we spend time in God’s presence we should also desire to see God’s glory and to see Him revealed to the world as the mighty, loving and faithful God that He is.
Finally, we see an encounter where Moses lost sight of all that he had learned through being with God. In Numbers 20, Moses disobeys God by striking the rock instead of speaking to it. It didn’t seem like a big deal but to God it was. Moses had dishonoured God in the sight of the people. Moses was also angry with the Israelites, he had lost the heart of compassion toward them that had come from God. Although Moses had come to God he hadn’t opened his heart and let God work in him.
No matter what we are going through in life we need to make sure when we come to God we open ourselves to Him, we allow Him to work in our hearts and minds. It doesn’t matter if we have done this in the past, we need to continually be doing it, to be filled with His Spirit, over and over. Encounters with God change us as we allow God to work in us. We need to be people who seek to encounter God with all that we are.
This week as part of our series ‘Encounters’, we looked at Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush in Exodus chapters 3 & 4. On an ordinary day when Moses was going about his regular work as a shepherd God did something extraordinary to draw Moses to Him. God will use whatever means He thinks is necessary to get our attention.
The first thing Moses experienced when he met God at the burning bush was God’s holiness. We must never forget that God is completely holy and that only through Jesus making a way can we approach Him.
When Moses encountered God at the burning bush God told him to do a task that seemed beyond him. Moses was told to go back to Egypt where he had fled from forty years before, to approach Pharaoh and rescue the Israelites. Moses puts up excuses, just like we often do when God tells us to do things that we think are beyond us. But God created us and knows us completely so He knows what we can do and as with Moses, God promises He will be with us.
An encounter with God will change us. It reveals our sinfulness, our fear, our lack of faith, our false security. But it also reveals the power and magnificence of God. It brings reassurance to us, that God is the I AM, the One who will be with us. If we have truly encountered God we are changed. We are changed so that we are ready to do His will. We are changed so that we can bring change. This happens to Moses. The Moses who left the burning bush was different, he was ready to obey. He returns to Egypt ready to do everything God tells him to do.
This week as part of our series on Encounters we looked at Genesis 18.
Genesis 18:1-2 The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
When we look at the interaction between Abraham and the Lord we see that you cannot be visited by God and meet with Him without being changed. If we wish to grow and develop as believers, we have to be willing to meet with God and be in relationship with Him.
Scripture describes Abraham as a friend of God. Throughout his life he showed great reverence and respect wanting to minister to God. As we see in the passages that follow, in meeting with God, Abraham and Sarah were given a blessing and had their faith tested and stretched. God taught them that nothing is too hard for God. A lesson we all need!
We also see how Abraham walked with God and heard about God’s plans. Like Abraham, and Adam before him, we need to seek God and walk with Him. It is in relating to God and being with Him that He reveals Himself and we learn of His love.
If we spend our time spiritually inactive and unresponsive we will not grow and receive the blessing that God has for us. To grow, to become strong we have to walk with God and be actively seeking Him and all that He has for us.
Listen along to be encouraged!
This week we launch our new series called “Encounters”. Over the coming weeks we will be exploring what it means to encounter God and why we need to seek encounters to grow as believers.
As we begin this series we look at the life of King David, described in scripture as a man after God’s own heart, who sort to live in the very presence of God. Like David this may be the desire of your heart, but as we see in David’s life sadly sin can often interrupt this desire. We must strive to keep encountering God because this is where we find peace, love, direction, hope and so much more! As we read in Psalm 27:4: “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”
When we look at encounters in scripture we see that:
1. Encountering God is the Start of Being Alive
You cannot ask Jesus into your life and have the Spirit dwell within you without encountering Jesus.
2. Encounters with God Grow Us
3. Encounters with God Are Necessary and Ongoing
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you.”
Listen along to the message this morning for some insight into how to seek God!
Over the next few weeks we will be looking at Encounters in the Word and will see how when we meet with God we come away changed, empowered and inspired to do mighty things!
Last week we looked at the importance of connect with our Christian beyond just a Sunday morning service. As we continue to examine this idea, we need to see the importance of investing more into the kingdom of God than one morning a week. To grow in our faith we need to invest our lives!
Imagine this - you are driving along a road into which winds down into a deep valley. The way into the valley is very narrow, steep and is a single lane road with no centre marking or verges. You cross a narrow timber paved bridge, which creaks and groans as you drive over. As you reach the bottom of the valley road, and the road starts to rise and changes. As you crossed the bridge, you crossed into a different council area. The road is now a smooth wide road with proper clear markings, run off areas and safety barriers on the corners.
Both sides to this valley are a steep journey through difficult country. While those responsible for each side of the road made an initial investment, one council has continued to invest, one has not. One has made the road a priority, the other has spent elsewhere.
The Bible tells us of the importance of investing in the things that matter. Matthew 6:19-21 says: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The question is have you continued to invest in your journey to eternity or are you just trying to do the minimum?
We are launching something new!
Over the last number of months the church leadership has been praying about how we could put our focus theme of Grow into action this year. One of the ways that we believe God is calling us into this as a church is to begin a number of 'Grow Groups' (or small groups if you prefer that title).
We believe this is a really important step for us as a church - but also for us as individuals as we seek to deepen our understanding of God and our connection with one another. For many of us our connection with the body of Christ is built around attending church on Sunday. This corporate time of worship is really important to us in our Christian growth and development and we mustn’t neglect making it a priority. Our time in worship together each Sunday, and the message during the service, on top of the time of fellowship, are really important. Some of us also regularly meet together, or by chance meet with other Christian for social engagement over the course of the week – and these things are good too. But I’d put to you that you can’t read the New Testament view of church and come away believing that a Sunday only involvement with church is the way it is supposed to be.
When we view church as a Sunday only activity, it is really easy for us to become spiritual spectators. To engage with church only to the point that we come and tick the box, with a complete reliance on those up the front to provide exactly what we need for our spiritual growth. When we take this approach the tendency to take a passive approach to our spiritual development is strong. When we connect only on Sunday’s - it is easy for us to hear but not to apply scripture to our lives. It is also easy to avoid accountability to our brothers and sisters in Christ. In missing the full value of the way that church looks – we actually prevent ourselves from the full richness of the body of Christ.
Instead when we delve into scripture it gives us insight into a number of things we are called to do! We are called to be connected, we are called to minister, we are called to protect one another, we are called to encourage one another and we are called to seek unity as a body of Christ!
Listen along to the message as we explore how we can connect and grow together! At the end of the message there is also some information on the way the groups will work.
This is the 4th message in our series on faith! I’d encourage you to scroll down and listen to some of our other messages in this series as they contain some encouraging teaching on the topic.
Our key verse for this series is from Hebrews 11:1:
Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.
If you haven’t already, try to commit this passage to memory!
Last week we looked at two examples of women in 2 Kings who showed courageous faith despite difficult circumstances. In ‘Faith to Follow’ we are winding back the clock a bit, back to the call of Elisha.
This passage is towards the end of Elijah’s ministry as a prophet. In the passages before this takes place – Elijah had reached the end of his capacity. He was exhausted. He cried out to God – and God answered his cry, providing him with a renewed purpose – his job now was to raise up a younger man to take over the role – and scripture tells us that in return Elisha ministered to him.
Remember that even in your fatigue, your fear or perhaps your later years that God always has a purpose for you. Just as when Elijah felt like he had nothing more to give, God gave him the renewed purpose of mentoring Elisha.
Let’s look at the passage in 1 Kings 19:19
19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. 20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”
“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”
21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the ploughing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.
It has been suggested here that Elisha was from a reasonably wealthy family. The fact that he was ploughing a field with a dozen oxen suggests that his family was not poor. So not only did Elisha literally burn his plough and kill the oxen, he did it in another sense. You see when Elisha stepped into the calling of God on his life, he stepped away from the safety of everything he’d even known. He stepped away from the safety and security of home and family. He also swapped his inheritance for a life that contained no promises of wealth and fame.
Yet he had the faith to follow God’s plan for his life.
God has a plan for your life too! He has an incredible purpose! Do you have the faith to step into it?
Listen to the message to hear insight on knowing God’s will for your life – and encouragement to have the faith to follow Him!
Over the last few weeks we have been looking at growing our faith. Our key verse from Hebrews 11:1 says: “faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”
If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the last few messages, I’d encourage you to scroll down and listen to them - they contain some encouraging teaching on faith.
This week our focus is on a couple of examples from the Old Testament book of 2 Kings of people who showed courageous faith. The reading comes from 2 Kings 4:1-37.
In this passage we meet two women who both come to the prophet Elisha. Both of these women have met incredible obstacles. The first woman we encounter is a widow who needs a breakthrough in the area of provision. We see that her husband, a man who loved the Lord and was part of a group of prophets has died and left the family in debt. It was custom at the time that when someone was in debt their children could be taken as slaves in payment for the debt. We see she has no way of paying the debt herself – she is destitute with nothing but a small amount of oil. Her act of coming to the Elisha is one of complete desperation.
The circumstances of the second woman we meet in 2 Kings 4:8 are quite different in many ways – but she too has met a challenge that seems completely insurmountable. She is not in poverty like the widow, rather she is wealthy enough to build an extra room on their home for Elisha when he passes through. Yet she has a problem – her husband is old and they have no child to inherit their land and look after them when they are old. Because of her generosity and faithfulness to the things of God, she is blessed a child. We read that one day when he is older, the boy suddenly is struck ill while working in the field and dies. Her only child, a miracle in his birth, is now dead and her plight is seemingly hopeless.
Yet the response of these two women, and Elisha shows us the importance of having courageous faith!
I’d encourage you to listen along as we explore the miracles that these two women receive.
As we continue to focus on our theme for 2018 – Grow – it is important that we strive to grow our faith!
Scripture defines ‘faith’ for us. Hebrews 11:1 says,
Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.
Faith is about perspective – it challenges us that there are two perspectives from which we can view our day to day life.
Faith provides us a different perspective to what we normally see. It shifts our eyes from the temporal – the things that fade to things eternal. It shifts our eyes from our circumstance to know that we are called of God – we have the promise of eternity.
2 Corinthians 4:8 says,
So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
What a challenge this can be! We see this different ‘gaze’ displayed in a practical sense in a number of places in scripture.
Often though, as we face new things or unexpected challenges, we adopt a perspective of fear. The Israelites faced this same issue as they stood on the cusp of entering the promised land – and stepping into the promises of God.
Fear makes us forget that the God we serve is not confined by the challenges that we face or the circumstances we find ourselves in. When we seek God – praying that he will show us the spiritual realm, we take confidence in Him, and our faith that He will bring his promises to pass.
If you or someone in your family is struggling at the moment with a lack of faith – I’d encourage you to listen along to be encouraged and challenged – and cry out to God align your vision with His. You can be confident that He hears your prayer!