Thursday, November 3, 2016

Loving God

As a wise man once said, "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."  Ecclesiastes 12:13.

If it is true that nothing we do in life matters except loving God and loving people, then how foolish we would be if we did not seriously contemplate what it really means to love the Lord God with all of our heart, all of our mind, all of our soul and all of our strength.  How sad it would be to live a life of spiritual blindness -- unable to see and understand the very reason for our existence.

I will be the first to admit that this is a question that I cannot really answer for myself -- much less for anyone else.  I am still learning, still discovering, still being taught.  It is a journey we are on together.  And, it is a journey in which God alone can lead the way.

I do think, though, that there is something to the idea that "to know God is to love God."  Maybe our finite minds cannot know Him fully.  But I do think that learning to love God requires that we continually seek to know Him or seek to know him better, as the case might be.  And, this is where God took us this week.    

I believe that this Wednesday night God revealed Himself to us in a palpable, intimate way.  It started, as it must have, in our worship and even more so in His Word.  We saw in the Bible time and time again that when men come face-to-face with the manifest presence of God their reaction is universally the same.  From the core of our being we know that we do not belong in His presence.

And so, when Moses encountered the burning bush he "hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God."  Exodus 3:6.  When Isaiah saw the Lord seated on the throne he cried out "woe to me! I am ruined!  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."  Isaiah 6:5.  When Peter first encountered Jesus he fell at the knees of Jesus and pleaded with Him "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"  Luke 5:8.

No, the reality of the God who died on the cross for us cannot be captured in a painting of Jesus that hangs on a church wall.  The God who died on the cross for us is so majestic, so powerful and so overwhelming that even the angels cover their faces in his presence.  Isaiah 6:2.  He is a God deserving of all praise and glory.

And yet, while we have no business being in the presence of a holy God, He wants us to be there with him.  Indeed, He wants us to be there with Him so much -- He loves us so much -- that he came to earth in human form and died for us that we might live with him forever.  And so, while everything in our being compels us to fall on our face before Him, everything in His being compels him to say "stand up, be with me and serve me." 

In the Book of Revelation, it says this:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:

Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God
    and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
    will shelter them with his presence.
‘Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
    nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

Revelation 7:9-17.

If we are to learn to love God with all of our heart, all of our mind, all of our soul and all of our strength, I think this is the God we need to have in mind.  This is the One True God -- the God who sits on the throne.  The God who is our salvation.

In the business of life, and even in the business of church, I am afraid that we have a tendency to lose sight of who God really is.  And, as a consequence we have a tendency to lose sight of what loving him really means.  We attend all of our services, programs, groups and studies.  We serve on teams and participate in outreaches and campaigns.  We pat ourselves on the back and congratulate ourselves on all we do for his kingdom. 

In the end, we often expect little from our faith, and little is what we get.  We think it amazing when someone experiences emotional or physical healing -- forgetting that such miracles are nothing for the God who spoke the universe into existence. 

I wonder sometimes what would happen if we would do less, and contemplate him more.  I wonder what would happen if we really did try to get out of His way and let Him be God.

Just consider this scene from Second Chronicles:

Then Solomon summoned to Jerusalem the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israelite families, to bring up the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Zion, the City of David. And all the Israelites came together to the king at the time of the festival in the seventh month.

When all the elders of Israel had arrived, the Levites took up the ark, and they brought up the ark and the tent of meeting and all the sacred furnishings in it. The Levitical priests carried them up; and King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel that had gathered about him were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted.

The priests then brought the ark of the Lord’s covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim.  The cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark and covered the ark and its carrying poles.  These poles were so long that their ends, extending from the ark, could be seen from in front of the inner sanctuary, but not from outside the Holy Place; and they are still there today.  There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt.

The priests then withdrew from the Holy Place. All the priests who were there had consecrated themselves, regardless of their divisions.  All the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives—stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets.  The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang:

“He is good;
    his love endures forever.”

Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.

I am sure all of the priest and the singers and the musicians thought they were doing a wonderful job worshiping God -- and no doubt they were.  But no matter how wonderful the prayers or the music, nothing that man could do could compare to the glory of God!  When God's glory filled the temple, all they could do was be still, and know that he is God. 

I See The Lord

Post Script:  I wish I could duplicate in this blog what we experienced Wednesday night -- but I can't.  This is, admittedly, a feeble attempt to describe what I can neither describe nor teach.  At the end of the day, knowing God -- loving God -- is something that can only happen when your heart reaches out for and connects with His Spirit.


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