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March 18, 2019, 1:00 PM

Know God! Know Scripture!

      How many of you are enjoying these testimonies? I know I am! Don’s was special today. He’s already given his personal testimony, but this jail outreach is so important he asked if he could talk about it today. It’s changing hearts and lives of young men who otherwise might find themselves getting sucked deeper and deeper into a world of darkness and consumed by a life that was never meant for them or anyone else. Don’s living out God’s plan for his life, intentionally serving God’s mission with these men. I’ve seen firsthand the difference this ministry is making. We’re so incredibly blessed to have a member of our body so committed to this work. Thanks Don.


I want you all to know how much I appreciate your willingness to step up and do this. It’s all part of our personal growth process and God’s call on our lives. It’s important to know your story; when you met God and the impact He’s had on your life. That’s the story you can share with others that will make a difference to them. And even if you don’t have what you think is a dramatic point when God hit you with a 2x4, there was still a moment where you woke up and you knew that God is real in your life.


Even if you’ve known Him your entire life like I have, there comes a point, maybe more than one, when you realize that you have to go all in for Him, your life, everything, because of all He has given for you. And it’s at that very moment you are staring straight at the Cross and you understand the depth of His sacrifice and suddenly you’re a new creation in Him. We all have that moment of conviction, every one of us who are truly followers, that moment when we fall in love with Jesus.


Now remember last week we started a subseries on the four action words of our mantra – love, know, live, grow. I remember as a kid one of my coaches had the philosophy ‘repetition is our friend.’ Well if you haven’t picked up on the repetition of these words in my messages, then I’d say you’ve been dozing. The biggest takeaway I hope you get from this subseries is this. If somebody asks you what your church is all about; what defines you as a church; what’s your church like? I want these words to just roll off your lips. No hesitation. No stuttering. No lack of clarity. Love. Know. Live. Grow. Even if you can’t think of anything else. Remember those four words and maybe this summary.


We love God first, above everything else and through eyes focused on Christ we love others in God’s image. We’re committed to knowing God better every day through Scripture and we’re accountable to Him in all things.  We live lives that are transparent in Christ; always seeking those opportunities to serve and to share the Gospel. We are intentional in our efforts to grow God’s kingdom through His plan of discipleship. That’s who we are. It’s what we do. It’s how we live. And I believe that’s the way every church that’s alive in Christ should respond to those questions. 


So today we’re going to focus on the second word of our mantra – know. Know God. Know Scripture. It would be so simple to say to know God better, we need to give ourselves over to Scripture. And we do, for sure, to understand the nature of our God, who He is and how we fit into His universe, we need to study Scripture.


Key word there though is study. Not just read through it get to the end. I mean that serves a purpose to see the big story unfold, but dig into the heart of it, the context, the history, the relationships, God’s interaction with His people and the world around them. But we can’t stop there. How does all that apply to us today? How does it apply to you personally? How does it impact your life? That’s exactly why the Word of God is as alive and active today in our lives as it was when God’s Word spoke the universe into existence.


Our passage today is Psalm 46 – the entire chapter. One of THE most profound verses telling us how we can know God better is hi-lighted in this chapter. It’s simple. Easy to grasp. Even easier to memorize and repeat. But OH. SO. POWERFUL.


Verse 10. Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted. Now we’ll get into that verse in some depth later, but I just like saying it. Be still and know that I am God. Doesn’t it just have the presence of a bass drum in a parade, pounding out the rhythm of the march. Makes your heart skip a beat. Like the rumble of thunder at night. These are God’s words coming to us through His messenger. Be still. Listen to me. Know that I am you God. I will be exalted. Love it.


The desire to deepen our relationship with our Creator through prayer and Scripture should be a natural part of every Christian’s life. It’s not some off the wall concept or something we should force ourselves to do. It’s one of the disciplines we’ve talked about, yes, but it should be the single greatest desire of every believer to come closer in our relationship with our Lord and know Him better. We can do that best through Scripture and prayer.


The great evangelist and theologian J. I. Packer said it so perfectly in his book, Knowing God. “Disregard the study of God and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what’s around you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.” Pretty convicting words huh.  Let’s get to our Scripture, Psalm 46, a hymn of David celebrating Zion as THE city to which God has pledged himself and through which He will bless the world.

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.


            What word comes to your mind from this Scripture? Well, I’ve had a little more time to think about and the word that comes to me is faithful. God is faithful. We hear it. We say it. But what does that really mean? God is faithful. The opening words of the Psalm set the tone for His faithfulness. He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. In other words He’s always there. The one thing constant in our lives that we can always turn to; our oasis, our rock, our fortress, our cornerstone, our anchor, our strength.

            Remember the song from when you were a kid. The foolish man built his house upon the sand. The wise man built his house upon a rock. And the rains came tumbling down. We were learning then that that rock is God. And then when we were older; On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. There’s no sand anywhere in God’s story is there? How firm a foundation!


            Then the psalmist follows up in the next verses – paints a picture that the entire earth is shaking on its axis – the earth is giving way, mountains thrown into the sea and the waters are turbulent. Even though everything below us and around us feels like a crumbling mass or the walls are closing in or darkness surrounds us, God remains solid ground and in Him there is no fear!  


            We’re called to a radical trust in our God. Nothing squeamish. No sticking our toe in the water. It’s all in. Live our life in Him with no fear. Remember the brand of sports clothes in the 90’s No Fear – meant to bring a sense of overwhelming confidence and invincibility in the wearer. The logo and all the cool sports phrases even made me feel invincible somehow.


            I bought a wardrobe of those shirts for my kids. Because somehow I thought that feeling of invincibility would rub off on them. Looking back I must’ve been that vicarious parent that coaches wished would just stay home or go watch another game on another field in another state! But those words, No Fear, they’re just ink on cloth. Words like that are just words without real substance. Scripture is substance. Trust God. Know Him. Because – He – is – faithful. There IS -- NO fear ---- in God.

            To know God is to trust Him. Kinda like the song, to know me is to love me. I used to try to get away with that tune. Didn’t work so well. But the closer we draw to our Father, the more we know we can trust Him and we begin to learn what real trust is. We draw that confidence from God’s promises. The Bible is filled with His promises!   Just a handful here.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. (Isa 40:29)


Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isa 43:2)


Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” (Isa 54:10)


God promises salvation to all who believe in His Son (Romans 1:16–17).

He promises to work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His will. (Rom 8:28).

God is good and He promises that His love will endure forever; His faithfulness will continue through all generations. (Psalm 100:5)


He promises comfort in our trials (2 Cor 1:3–4).

He promises us new life in Christ through His great mercy and grace. (Eph 2:4-5)


We know God’s promises through Scripture. We know His character. We know His faithfulness. How can we not love and trust a God fully who promises us all those things and so much more! How can we not go all in for Him! How can we let fear hold us back when we know the God of the universe is on our side?! And in His promises we find truth.  I want to talk a little bit about that truth right now.

We’ve mentioned that Don and I were at Man Up last Friday & Saturday at Webster Conference Center. Lots of great takeaways from the weekend and I’m not going to go into all of them here, but there are a couple of things I want to share. The best stuff isn’t always what’s on stage or what we hear. Sometimes it’s about what goes on behind the scenes. Don got to meet a few of my friends from Topeka, but one specifically was Phil Stone and I have his permission to share. Now Phil’s got a couple of years on me. Got to know him about 4 years ago I think, something like that. Didn’t take long for us to become good friends.


I invited him to join our WH men’s bible study. He came and he’s been part of every one since. Phil’s a good man who has a deep passion to know God better. He tried leading a group with me one time, but really wasn’t his thing. That’s ok. Hadn’t really thought about it that much, but as I look back on it now, we talk about discipling; that’s honestly been a piece of our relationship.


But at the conference something happened to Phil. Remember that moment of truth I talked about at the beginning? That moment we open our eyes and all we see in front of us is the Cross and we realize how badly we’ve messed up? How broken our life has been. Phil had that moment, right there in one of the breakout sessions. It was incredible. But I’ll get to that in just a second.  


Friday night after a small group time, unpacking the day, I was headed to the men’s room. Didn’t realize it, but Phil was right behind me. Unfortunately Don and I got separated earlier. On the way I saw a guy sitting alone in a chair, his head in his hands and I stopped and said, hey brother, are you ok? Can I pray with you. He stood up and I was like wow, it was a dad I’d gotten to know through Upward Soccer, coached his son. I saw him in the small group time but he was sitting behind me so I didn’t recognize him. Said his family had started going to Western Hills back in October. Then He just started talking and unloading and we just listened.


Well he told us the spot he was sitting in was the exact spot where he accepted Christ when he was 17 years old, there at Webster during Super Summer. He had been pastoring a church – which I had no idea– until the middle of last year, when he was asked to resign by the elder board. You could just feel the pain in his voice. He just started pouring out. Tears flowed. He struggled for words, but he wanted to talk. Phil and I just stood there and listened.  


Afterwards, I asked if we could pray for him. I grabbed his arm and put my hand on his shoulder and Phil put his hand on his other shoulder. And we prayed. Powerful, powerful moment for all of us. So then Phil and I moseyed on to the bathroom and unpacked that a little. Realized that the dad had gone back to where HE had faced the Cross the first time in his life to ask God to help him find himself again.


Now back to the breakout session the next morning and Phil. The three of us were sitting in the session together. It was Don, me, then Phil. Another good friend was in the room too, Aaron, but he came in late so he wasn’t sitting with us. Well I’m not certain if something triggered it in the breakout or if it was just a combination of everything Phil’d witnessed and been part of up to that point. Pretty sure it was the latter. But during the session Phil kept putting his head in his hands and just acting really weird. I asked him like 3 times if he was ok. I thought he was having a stroke, but he said was fine.


So right as the session ended, we stood up and Phil just broke down; crying and saying Dave I’m a mess. I don’t know what to do. I have to change. I’ve messed up so bad. I’ve got to change. Then Aaron walked by and he said the same thing to Aaron. I mean Phil’s is a really good guy, but he was feeling so convicted right at that very moment. We talked for a minute, then I asked Aaron to talk to him, because I knew he would be able to walk closer with him when they got home, since they are in the same church. I followed up with Phil  a couple minutes later and he was better, but still very convicted.  


We all three rode together, Phil, Don and I, and as it turned out we had to fly outta there because Phil’s wife had been rushed to the ER for abdominal pain at pretty much the same time Phil was having his moment. And Don and I had the opportunity to unpack all of it with him on the way back to Abilene and then we all prayed for him and his wife Cindy when we dropped Don off at the church. Now there’s a couple of truths I want to pull out of this.


The first truth, and I hope I told the story well enough, did you see all those God moments. I’m not gonna go back and point out everything, but God ordained all of that to occur just that way, so we all had the opportunity to see Him at work and “know” (there’s our verb) Him better. All of that. But let’s think about our adjectives. Did you see transparent anywhere in that story? How about Phil, laying himself bare at the cross. And the dad, tearfully opening up, being vulnerable in his pain; going back to where he first knew God well enough to desire Him as Lord of his life –to renew that relationship; to start over again.


Accountable? Doesn’t it show how we’re all accountable to each other and ultimately to God? How about intentional? Phil and I could’ve walked on by that fellow sitting with his head in his hands. And even when I stopped, Phil could have kept on walking. But we didn’t. We saw a brother in need and felt God’s hand at work. We make choices. God calls us to be intentional in His kingdom. We can take it or leave it. In the moment, what would you do?


Back to one of God’s promises, “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28).” Did you see God at work? When you know God, you see Him in those moments and you respond in ways that are way out of your comfort zone. But remember the message a couple of weeks ago; the only boundaries; the only comfort zone we should have is In Christ. Now can you look at life maybe just a little differently and seek out those God moments?


The second point; it’s tough to describe or recreate the emotions that are in those moments. But trust me, the impact was enormous. Phil faced the Cross in that session, in that room, in that chair, at that moment and realized he came up woefully short. We all do. But the question is, have you had your own moment, personally, when you’ve humbly and shamefully faced the Cross; looked up and saw Christ bleeding, dying for your salvation. Where you threw yourself at His feet and begged for mercy – God forgive me. I’ve messed up so badly and I want to change. I have to change. When we stop our lives long enough to consider what we have… because of – what – Christ – gave …  


Be still and know that I am God.


            Sure these words speak to us about the need for a quiet time to know God, to hear His still small voice speaking to us. And we need that time alone with God in our lives, every day and not just a quickie. Spend real time with Him – quality time. And the more time you spend with Him and know Him better, you’ll begin to sense the Spirit filling you up, leaving no room in your life for the desire for the earthly.


            You know your spouse, your kids – you spend lots of time with them, should anyway. Your very best friends – you spend time with them. Your job, your hobbies, TV, you spend time with all those. But none – not one – is more important and needs your time more than God if you’re going to know Him.


            But God’s words in our Scripture evoke far more than that. They call us to know God well enough to see Him in the moment and to step into those moments He presents, not to walk away from them. But to see Him, we have to know Him. If we aren’t working on that relationship we won’t be able to identify those moments He puts us in.


God wants us to take a step or 2 or 3 back, whatever it takes, in our lives  - maybe all the way back like the soccer dad - and process what’s going on around us. He wants us to view life with eyes wide open; knowing that He’s always at work; and then step into the arena. We are His instruments; His vessels and He places us where He wants us, when He wants there and it’s up to us to respond. We are called to His work and that work exalts Him and in that work we find unspeakable joy.


            Last Sunday night the character in our study was Gideon. It was Don’s night to lead and he did a great job. Gideon’s story is found in Judges 6-7. I’m just going to pull a theme out here to make a point. Gideon was called by God to do a work. Now sticking with the flow of our message today, instead of responding to God’s call Gideon asked God to prove himself, not once, but 3 times. Seems pretty incredible doesn’t it? Prove to me that you’re God.


            First an angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and incinerated his offering right in front of him. Then Gideon put fleece on the ground and told God to prove himself by putting dew on the fleece and not on the grass. God did that. Then Gideon really tried to trip God up and he flipped those instructions and asked God to put dew on the grass and not the fleece.

God did that too. Third time’s a charm. So, even with all this and God’s assurance that He would be with him, Gideon, still with some degree of fear,  did what God called him to do.


Well, we know God’s will is going to be done with or without us, right. We think about how Gideon tested God and we ask why God felt like Gideon was the right guy for the job. Not only was he flaky about God, but I mean he was an excuse maker, “My clan is the smallest. I am the least.” Well, listen to what he’s saying. Doubt and excuses.

But think about it. Are we so different from Gideon? God calls us, but we say, “God is that really you? Why would you be talking to me?” Looking for a way out. Don’t we want Him to prove that it’s really Him, before we respond? We don’t want follow the wrong voice, do we? Or don’t we look for excuses to avoid following His call. I don’t have time. I’m not good enough. I’m not worthy. I don’t know what to say or what to do? Show me something God. Prove it!                              

Don’t test God. Trust Him!


Let’s make it simple. If it’s Scriptural, then it’s God talking. If it’s not, then turn your dial to another station. And if it’s God, then it’s about Him, not you and He is bigger than any work He puts in your way. Remember, you’re just God’s tool. This isn’t about you. It’s all about God and His kingdom. But the only way we’ll know that it’s God talking… is to know Scripture. Immerse yourself in it. Let Scripture drive your life.


God tells us, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates…


Know God. Know Scripture.


When we seek to know our Lord better, we begin to see the world through His eyes rather than our own eyes flawed by our humanity. Our thoughts process differently, through a biblical filter, rather than just a cultural filter. That’s the paradigm shift. I’d like to say we can think like God, but we know from Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thought than your thoughts.” But we will begin to think ‘MORE’-- LIKE -- God.


As we move steadily toward a life that abides in God, our thoughts, our decisions and our actions become more balanced; more Christ-like rather than being dictated solely by the material gains or pleasures we receive. I like that idea of a paradigm shift. We move from a life solely bent on pleasing ourselves to one that rejoices in serving and pleasing God; a life that exists to exalt and glorify Him, knowing He promises that He will provide for us. God will give us everything we need to serve Him. 


Where is God in your life? How well do you know Him? Is He your priority? Or is He more of an afterthought? Ask yourself, do I see Him in the moment? Am I looking FOR Him or do I look PAST Him? “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you (Matt6:33).” Be still and come to know your God. Come to know the joy in seeing Him at work in His kingdom. Step into the arena and serve His purpose for your life. If you want to know God in a way that can only be found in a real relationship with Him and you’re just not quite sure how to get there, then let’s spend some time together in prayer.


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