All posts by Ron Sandefur

How Would You Answer The Question – “Who Is God?”

How Would You Answer The Question –
“Who Is God?

The Story is told of Boxing champion Mu Hammed Ali, he was on a flight when the flight encountered “moderate turbulence”. The Captain came on the intercom system and instructed everyone to immediately fasten their seat belt. All complied except Ali & when the attendant came over … he responded “Superman don’t need no seat belt”. Without missing a beat “Superman don’t need no airplane either.”

We take great comfort in thinking we have Everything under control

There are some today who would not ask the question “Who Is God?” – They do not want to submit to a Higher Power & would rather depend upon their own “wisdom”.
I believe there are many more that will quickly give up trying to answer this question because the question is so challenging. BUT not only do we need to know, our friends & neighbors need to be able to answer this question.
THE 2 Most Ask Questions Are:                                         God, Why?   &   God, Where are you?
Most likely you have ask one or both of those questions at some point in your life.
BUT Those Questions Can Not Be Answered Unless We Know Who God Is.
Your Morality
Your Language – How You Speak
How You Treat Other Human Beings
Your Private Values
How You Handle Money
How You Handle Sexuality
ALL Depend On Who You Believe God To Be

WHO IS GOD?

THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST CHALLENGING QUESTIONS WE MUST ANSWER.
There are BASIC questions of life that have to be answered if you are going to make sense out of daily living.
ORIGIN – Where Did I Come From?
MEANING – Why am I here? Purpose?
MORALITY – What Is Right & Wrong?
DESTINY – What Happens To Me When I Die?
WHO GOD IS & WHO YOU BELIEVE HIM TO BE Must also be answered …
MANKIND OFFERS MANY IDEAS
John Paul Sartre, the French philosopher who is still quoted today, did not believe in God & defined man as “a useless passion, an empty bubble floating on the sea of nothingness”.
Popular today is Naturalism which teaches the only thing in the world that is real is the physical –
YET Even a child understands that we are more than nothing floating in a sea of nothingness & despite what some teach:  ALL Of Us Have Experienced
BEAUTY, MORALITY, CONTENTMENT, LOVE, HOPE
Each of these things are not material in nature yet they do exist – AND Are Amazingly Powerful.
The answer to the questions of who you are & who I am (Origin, Meaning, Morality & Destiny) are based on – “Who Is God”
How You Answer That Question Will Influence Your Life & The Lives Of Those You Love More Than Any Other Issue
More consequences for your life flow from that one answer . . .
Your Morality
How You Treat Other Human Beings
The Influence Of Your Life
Results Of Your Life
How You Are Remembered …
EVEN Your Speech
ALL This And More Depend On Who You Believe God To Be
We Need To Find The Truth
To Find The TRUTH Let’s turn to scripture . . .
2 Chronicles 20:1-3 (ESV) (1) After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites, came against Jehoshaphat for battle. (2) Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom . . .                                             (3) Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD . . .
Often it is Fear, NOT fair weather & fun times, that causes most to “seek the LORD”
But notice that Jehoshaphat does not ask God “Where Are You?”  Or  ” Why Are You Allowing This To Happen To Me?”    Instead: He raises three completely different ideas . . .
2 Chronicles 20:6 (ESV) “O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven?
2 Chronicles 20:7 (ESV) “O LORD, God … Did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel”
2 Chronicles 20:12 (ESV) “O LORD, God will you not execute judgment on them?”
We Ask Who Is God?
Jehoshaphat Ask
Are you not … God in heaven
Did you not … deliver us in the past
Will you not … take care of us in the future
It Is In This Way – GOD Makes Himself Known POWERFULLY To ALL who seek Him
Jehoshaphat had a correct understanding of God (So Can We)– BECAUSE He Truthfully Considered The Present, Past & Future
I also believe that Paul came to understand WHO GOD IS – Look at what he tells Timothy as he sits in a Roman prison – sentenced to death.
2 Timothy 1:1-3 (ESV) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.
Paul says he is who he is & where he is “by the will of God” and that according to the resurrected Christ Jesus. He names Jesus as Lord whom he will continue to serve with a clear conscience & to whom he will continue to pray.
That is not what I would expect Paul to say – Paul walked on “mountain tops”. At one time Paul spoke to thousands. He influenced whole cities, Showed them miracles, He freely went where God led him and effectively taught Jesus Christ & Him Crucified. And Now – Paul is imprisoned! Sentenced to Death! – I can not imagine what it was like for Paul … Remember The Two Most Often Ask Questions …
             God, Why?          God, Where Are You?
I would expect Paul to ask those questions … Instead he encourages Timothy who he cares for deeply, to the HOPE & MERCY & PEACE that is in Christ! And he says “I Thank God whom I serve” (in a Roman prison) …
It Does Not Seem To Matter The Situation He Faces Daily.   Paul, remember was a Pharisee among Pharisees MEANING he knew the Old Testament Scriptures. He knew of God’s grace & mercy, protection & provision shown to the Israelites  BUT Paul also knew of the Death, Burial & Resurrection of Jesus – The same Jesus he calls “Lord”
Jehoshaphat ask:
Are you not … God in heaven
Did you not … deliver us in the past
Will you not … take care of us in the future
It seems to me that Paul not only believes but that He Knows –
He Knows God Reins In Heaven –
He Knows God Delivered, Not Just Him In The Past –
Paul Knows God Will Take Care Of Him In The Future
What Do You Know?
Remember Satan wants you to believe his LIE –
We Are Nothing Floating On A Sea Of Nothingness
The Present Is Hopeless – (because there is no God)
The Past Does Not Matter – (because there is no God)
And The Future Will Be Worse – (because there is no God)
What Do You Know? I Hope That You Know That –
IN THE PAST – There was LOVE, A PLAN & A PURPOSE for the Israelites, Jehoshaphat, Paul, YOU (& a host of others)
IN THE PRESENT – There IS LOVE, A PLAN & A PURPOSE for YOU
FOR THE FUTURE –
GOD NEVER FAILS in KNOWING, GIVING & DOING WHAT IS BEST FOR HIS CHILDREN

Remember you are so significant in His eyes that
FOR You, God Sent His Son & Raised Him On The 3rd Day

DOES PRAYER REALLY HELP?


If we come to fully understand Prayer then we will grow in our relationship with God. We will see change – We will see something happen. GROWTH that can not happen any other way.

DOES PRAYER REALLY HELP?

Let us go to the Bible & answer these 2 questions:

What Is Meant By Prayer?

&

What Is Meant By Help?

DOES PRAYER REALLY HELP?

Prayer is not about stuff & God is not the cosmic ATM where you walk up, pull out your I Am A Follower Of Christ Card & say “Give me stuff”.

God wants to give you things … scripture teaches that God gives awesome gifts, but the FUNDAMENTAL Element of Prayer is Communion – It is about Learning –

Its About Learning:

  • Who God Is

  • Who You Are

  • What God Wants For You &

  • What God Wants From You In Order To Benefit Others

We should not hesitate to ask God – If we are sick, We Should ask – If someone has needs, We Should ask – If we need a job, We Should ask …

Jesus says Ask For These Things – Ask for them in my name & if it is according to God’s will it will be given to you. Mt. 7:11

There is an important key – God’s Will

If you mean by PRAYER … An arrogant attempt to change God’s will & plan to conform to MY schedule, MY desires & MY wants.  That is not True PrayerThe Bible teaches Prayer is something totally different.

WE SEE AN ACTUAL PRAYER IN HOLY SCRIPTURE, IN JOHN 17

Jesus begins with himself, or does he? Vs. 1 “Glorify your Son”  but Vs. 3 tells us why, “that they know you the only true God, and (know) Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

Vs. 5 John 17:5 (ESV) “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” Again, He is talking about Himself but notice He is praying about God’s will. God, these are the things I understand you want & I am expressing my submission to your will.

He then begins to pray about the disciples,

John 17:8-19 (ESV) 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you …

Vs. 11 “… but they are in the world” & Jesus prays, keep them safe (vs. 11b , 12) …

Vs. 14 “the world has hated them …” vs. 15 Keep them safe.

Vs. 17 Sanctify them in the TRUTH – Your word is TRUTH

Vs. 19 “I consecrate myself that they also may be sanctified in TRUTH.”

(Truth Is A Very Big Word & Very Important Word)

Then He then begins to pray for (vs. 20) You & Me “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,

  • that they all be one (in the same way Jesus & the Father are one)

  • that they may be in us (so that the world may believe)

  • that they may become perfectly one (so that the world may know …)

  • that they may be with me where I am to see … Glory

  • that the love with which you have loved me may be in them & I in them

THE POINT OF PRAYER IS TO KNOW STUFF . . .

What Does The Bible Mean By PRAYER?

It Is Communication,

It Is The Way By Which We Know Things

Not Get Things But Know Things

It is easy to understand why people get confused about this –

In the process of knowing things We actually Get Things along the way.

Matthew 6:33 (ESV) But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

IN PRAYER YOU ARE LIVING OUT  THAT VERSE

COMMUNICATION WITH GOD IS TO GET SOMETHING FROM GOD

THAT SOMETHING IS KNOWLEDGE

THAT KNOWLEDGE IS ABOUT GOD And Along The Way Other Things Happen.

Am I Teaching the TRUTH?

How Do We Know This Is The Case?

Not just from Jesus’ prayer – He is the Son of God – so maybe His prayer is not the kind of prayer we should pray –

The disciples ask Him . . .

Luke 11:1 (ESV) Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

We find this both in Luke 11 & Mathew 6. This is often called “The Lord’s Prayer” but this is a prayer to be prayed by His followers. The disciples said “Teach US to pray” & Jesus said “When YOU pray say …

Matthew 6:7-13 (ESV) 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Read this SLOWLY and it becomes easy to see what prayer actually is in this model.

  1. Our Father in heaven …” Prayer is actually worship. Who God is & Who you are. He is your Father, a family relationship built upon LOVE & Authority. You are an adopted CHILD of the King. That is a WONDERFUL thing.

  2. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Jesus adds to that thought, “hallowed”, the idea of being HOLY – The very name of God is Holy. So in proper prayer we recognize His place. Him being the Father, you are the child – He is Holy – you & I … not so much.

  3. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Recognizing He is the Ruler – He is the King. Everything that we ask for, everything we do, everything we ask, we ask as His servant to His will. He is King every hour of every day. Through PRAYER we recognize His Place & our place.

  4. Now – What are we to ask for? “Give us this day our daily bread”. Jesus never taught to ask for tons of stuff. Give us fancy cars & a boat & A lot of money, Give me a promotion at work … “Give us this day our daily bread” Give Us Our Daily Needs – Provide For Us Our Needs. That is the idea the “daily bread” represents. It Is Your Father’s Will That You Have Your Needs Fulfilled.  And our experience often is that we find we have more than we need, we have enough to share. I have come to believe that the FUNDAMENTAL Will of the Father is to give you what you need. Jesus actually told the disciples, told us, that our Heavenly Father knows what we need even before we ask Him. A Holy Prayer, A Non-Selfish Prayer Simply Ask For What You Need.

Think with me for just a moment – What is it that YOU need? Do you need more channels, Do you need your phone? I think I do. I am looking at a computer screen right now. We are using electronics & PowerPoint projectors and lighting & a sound system. Do I need all that to preach from God’s word this morning.  Even this building. The 1st century church grew & flourished & exploded by meeting in small mud brick homes. Think about what it is that you need & how much more you have than you will ever need. We are to pray for our needs to be met.

THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL NEED WE HAVE . . .

  1. The very next verse in this prayer, vs. 12 “Forgive us our debts” That is God’s will, that our sins will be forgiven. It is His will that you be forgiven – That you obtain salvation. How do I know that it is His will you be forgiven, He sent His Son who lived the example, who had no Sin of His own yet went to the Cross, paid the debt for your sin on the Cross so that you & I could obtain forgiveness & then rose from the dead on the 3rd day to PROVE that He did what He said He came to do. When we pray “Forgive us of our debts” we should be reminded that the most fundamental need we have is for forgiveness & That He Provided The Way

  2. This model prayer not only serves to remind & teach us who God is & who we are & that we are to be in submission to the Lord & King – It not only reminds us that we have a fundamental need of forgiveness but it also teaches us we are to mold our character into being a people of forgiveness. “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” The debts we owe are many & varied & serious & we are to be ready & willing to forgive those who have done the same to us. This is a petition, God make me like your Son, make me like You. Make me a person of forgiveness, mold my character.

The pattern we see throughout this prayer:

We see Who God Is – HOLY

We see God’s Will is the important part. We Are To Pray “Your Will Be Done . . .”

God’s Will for me is that:

  • My Needs are met –

  • My sins are forgiven –

  • My character is shaped in such a way that I can forgive others.

Does Prayer Really Help – Depends Upon What You Mean By PRAYER

If You Mean By Prayer … An Arrogant Attempt To Change God’s Will & Plan To Conform To MY Schedule, MY Desires & MY Wants.                   Then No.

BUT If you mean by PRAYER … That we are to conform our will to His & not His will to ours, then YES, PRAYER does Help – IT ALWAYS HELPS – 

What I mean by HELP is that you become more like God, Not you getting more stuff.

Paul Says Something Amazing About Prayer In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (ESV) 7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

I wonder how welcoming that was to Paul. I also wonder, would that be a welcome thing for you to hear? If you had Terminal Cancer, MS, chronic illness, something you considered to be “a messenger of Satan” – something you pleaded with the Lord about & God says to you . . . “My Power Is Made Perfect In Your Weakness And My Grace Is Sufficient For You.”

Is That OK With You???

Is That OK With You???

Paul, after hearing that from his LORD, is able to continue to grow in his life in Christ … “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Did Paul’s prayer Fail or did it HELP?

2 Cor. 2:7b Paul prays, he pleads with the Lord & the answer is NO (If Paul prayed & the answer was NO then you & I are going to get some No(s) from God). Our question is, “Does It Help?”

The answer to Paul’s prayer was NO – I am not taking this away from you.

I want you to be able to see that NO from God is not a failure & more that that – NO actually helps Paul. His thorn in the flesh remained with Paul but it showed Paul – It taught something to Paul that was far greater.

Paul gains an insight that lasts . . .

Physical healing is great but temporary. Those of us that have infirmities, can be rescued, – but only temporarily. Jesus “rescued” Lazarus in an amazing way John 11:43 & we may desire that, but at some point Lazarus was carried back to the grave. TEMPORARY!

By God’s plan, Through God’s Love, Paul learns something that lasts beyond his own lifetime.

My Grace Is Sufficient For You”

That is an incredible TRUTH that transcends, outlast, goes far beyond physical healing of ANY kind.

It is tremendous! I wonder – could Paul have learned this any other way?

Could Paul have come to understand the Power of God’s Grace Being Sufficient For Him, Had That Thorn In The Flesh Not Been Given To Him? His suffering produced something great in Paul. The denial of his request to God – the NO – produced something even greater. 

Deliverance From Pain – Deliverance From Difficulty – Deliverance From Hardship

All Of It Is Temporary – GRACE IS FOREVER!

PAUL LEARNED THAT, BELIEVED IT, AND DID HIS BEST TO TEACH IT TO YOU!

SO, did Prayer help? Absolutely Prayer Helped. I believe Paul would not have learned about this Powerful Grace – This Amazing Grace had it not been for the Power Of Prayer.

Make No Mistake – Prayer Is Powerful

1 John 5:14, 15 (ESV) And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

CONFIDENCE that if we ask “according to His will . . .”

CONFIDENCE – Not Just Hope – Confidence & Knowledge, those are the words John uses to tell us that God helps us through prayer.

So Does Prayer Really Help?

If by Prayer you mean communication with God to find out His will & If by Help you mean conforming our will to His will so that we can serve the Kingdom of God then:

YES Prayer Helps – It Helps In A Very REAL Way b/c prayer is not about getting Stuff.

If your FAITH is such that you know God’s will for you is simply what is BEST for you.

GOD’S WILL FOR ME IS THAT:

MY NEEDS ARE MET – MY SINS ARE FORGIVEN –

MY CHARACTER IS SHAPED IN SUCH A WAY THAT I CAN FORGIVE OTHERS

HE NEVER FAILS in KNOWING, GIVING & DOING what is BEST – If you are seeking is to be conformed into God’s will then Prayer Never Fails

Let’s Pray – Father, we are so thankful for this gift of prayer. Remind us to pray often, Teach us to seek, listen & learn your will. Strengthen our faith in You so that we can trust you for our needs & seek you so that we may grow & become more like you, more like Jesus. Grant us the wisdom to understand what we need is Forgiveness – Not More Stuff. In Christ’s name & through Him we pray.

 

The Birth Of Jesus Meets The Real World

When the Birth of Jesus Meets the Real World

Jesus’ Birth: Then

The birth day of Jesus was not one of peace and tranquility. Everything about the birth of Jesus was difficult.

Read Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-20

Mary: Ordinary Peasant Girl; Young teenager, engaged to Joseph; Her thoughts were on the upcoming wedding; But God chose her to carry His Son; Did she appreciate the news?; Did she feel that some of her dreams were no longer possible?

Joseph: He thought about working hard and making a life for his wife; He knew that he wanted children; But what does he think when he finds his beloved is pregnant?; And what would others think, after all they could count to 9 just as well as we do; Can you imagine Mary telling him, “I’m pregnant, but it’s alright, it’s God’s baby, His Spirit covered me and His angel told me the good news!

Joseph too is visited and told of their situation

Jesus’ Birth: Today

For many, the birth of Jesus is summed up by the announcement of the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” Luke 2:14

Christ was born into a world of hardship and pain and suffering in order to bring us to eternal hope. The point of His story is not that everything is going to be alright, but that God is in Christ, and that everything will eventually turn out right.

Image Magazine “God did not come into a perfect world to institute carol-singing, gift-buying and chestnut roasting. He entered a world blighted with suffering and cursed by sin in order to bring hope, salvation and healing…We would miss the point of Christmas altogether if we turned away its anguish.”

2 Corinthians 8:9 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

¨Is it possible we expect too much of the holiday and not enough of Jesus? The Holiday itself cannot take away our problems, but Jesus can!

¨The story of Jesus is ultimately not about a cute and cuddly baby in a manger; it is about an old rugged cross and a forever empty tomb.