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Practical Ways to Pursue Knowing God

The theme of my summer Sunday morning messages at Calvary is Pursue Knowing God. Hosea the prophet called on the people of Israel to “pursue the knowledge of the Lord” (Hosea 6:3). The book of Hosea is the focus of our study. 

Last Sunday morning near the end of my message I shared some practical ways to pursue knowing God. I thought it would be helpful to provide them here. 

  • Accept what He has promised and provided through His Son, Jesus Christ. (John 17:2-3)
    Jesus gives eternal life to those who believe in Him, and eternal life is knowing God.
  • Intentionally (re)focus your heart on knowing God. (Philippians 3:10)
    The downward pull of our flesh and the busyness of life distract us from knowing God. We need to regularly choose to make knowing God the passionate pursuit of our lives. 
  • Pray specifically for a growing knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10)
    Paul prayed for the Christians in Colossae to increase in their knowledge of God. This is a scriptural prayer, one that God will surely answer. Pray the words of this verse for yourself.
  • Read the Bible with purpose, looking for attributes and acts of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5)
    Good places to start doing this are the Psalms, the Gospels, and Genesis through Exodus.  Relate these to the circumstances of your life, thinking, “What do I know about my God?”  Journal these. Write them down – “God is ______” or “God is my ______”. Then pray them back to God. Write down how these encourage and help you in your daily life.
  • Anticipate knowing Him fully forever.  (1 Corinthians 13:12)
    Our understanding of God is so very limited. There are many hindrances. But don’t be discouraged. Look forward to seeing Him face to face.  
 
 

Questions about Patriotism in Church

Around the time of national days of remembrance such as Memorial Day and Independence Day, I hear two questions about patriotism in church. Here are the questions in their basic form:

  • Why don’t we do more to show our patriotism in church?
  • Why do we celebrate patriotism in church?

These questions represent two mentalities about recognizing national holidays and what they represent. Some people wish we would devote more attention to it while others wonder why we devote any attention at all.

I have considered speaking to this issue, and a recent article prompted me to go ahead. You can read the article, titled Why Younger Evangelicals May Feel Uneasy in a Patriotic Church Service, here.

Here’s a less recent article, this one by Kevin DeYoung, making some of the same observations and expressing his opinion on the issue.

My thoughts are similar to some, not all, of these guys’. If any of what I say sounds the same, it is not copied. I thought these things before I read what anyone else said about them. Here goes, not in any clearly logical order.

  • We should express gratitude to God for all of our blessings, including the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans. There is plenty of Scripture that directs us to be thankful, and it is certainly appropriate to publicly thank God for our freedom, just as we thank Him for other material and circumstantial blessings in our lives. We should be grateful for the people who founded the USA and for those who have defended it and do so today. We can express thanks in prayer for them in the local church setting.
  • Christianity is not national. America does not equal Israel. America is not a manifestation of the kingdom of God. Christianity is personal. It is experienced individually, and it is embodied and expressed in the setting of the local church, not in the culture and political leadership of a nation. I am uncomfortable with preaching and praying for “America to turn back to God.” I do not think it is helpful to urge people to “Return to the faith of our founding fathers.” What Scripture guides us to pray for “God’s blessing on America?” We need to preach and pray for people to turn in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ. God does not have to give a particular nation prosperity, freedom, and security in order to show that He is alive and well and at work in the world.
  • Our fellowship in Christ does not eliminate national identity, but it does supersede any and all distinctions, including nationality (Acts 2:5ff; Galatians 3:26-29; Revelation 5:8-14). My local church is not an American institution. The church was founded by Jesus Christ, and He is its head. Having too much patriotic and nationalistic expression in church gatherings sends the wrong message. I did not say any expression, just too much. Finding that balance is each church’s prerogative. In many local churches, including ours, there are members, attenders, and guests present from countries other than the USA. I do not want to convey to them that our church is American. The worship, focus, message, and attitude of our gatherings should transcend nationality. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ . . . “ (Philippians 3:20).
  • Church gatherings should include times of specific prayer for national leaders, especially for those who are not friendly to Christianity (1 Timothy 2:1-7). This should not be limited to national holidays and election season.
  • Christians’ lives should be characterized by submission to, cooperation with, and respect for government leaders (Matthew 22:21; Romans 13:1-7). Read that sentence again. Read the Bible verses. Christians who get upset about not having a patriotic service in church and then disrespect, mock, and defy national, state, and local governmental authorities are hypocritical.
  • In summary, I see Scriptural basis for giving thanks for blessings we enjoy as Americans, praying for governmental leaders, and learning and practicing what the Word of God says about living as Christians in whatever national setting we have been providentially placed.

Here’s what we did last Sunday, July 6, at our church. During our Sunday morning gathering, we made comments acknowledging the significance of the weekend, expressing gratitude for freedom, and a reminder that true freedom is found in Jesus Christ (John 8:36). Our prayer included thanks for national freedom as well as prayer for our brothers and sisters in the world who are oppressed and persecuted for being Christians. After that there was really no further mention of anything that would be considered patriotic. The musical worship and the message were focused on God and our relationship to Him. Then those who wanted to stay enjoyed a fellowship lunch in our wooded picnic area. At 1:30 a few children and families shared songs, and we sang a few fun Americana type songs and one or two that you’d find in the Patriotism section of the hymnbook. One of our pastors shared a message from 1 Timothy 2:1-7.

Our observation of Independence Day at Calvary may have been too little for some, too much for others. I think it was appropriate in that the main gathering of worshiping, learning, and growing was not focused on our nation, but on God and His Word, and that we spent time as a church family later in the day expressing our thanks to God, being reminded of what it means to live as Christians in our nation, and just enjoying being together.

Let the fireworks begin. =)

 
 

I love it.

I love natural beauty.  What I mean is the beauty found in nature.

Where I grew up in rural southeastern Ohio, our home was surrounded by woods with a creek (“crick”) running through it.  I spent endless hours in those woods, at that creek, my days filled with the sights, sounds, feel, and smell of nature.  And taste.  Yep, I liked to eat stuff I found in the woods – blackberries, wild anise, honeysuckle nectar, pawpaws (look it up!).    Another place we lived was a little house, literally in the middle of woods, surrounded by a large creek and three ponds.  I could walk 50 yards to a creek full of bass and panfish.  I regularly watched out our living room window as a great blue heron fished in the shallows of the ponds.  I went to sleep to the LOUD chorus of bullfrogs that lived right outside my bedroom window.

I suppose being exposed to the beauty of nature in my formative years developed an appreciation for it that has never gone away.  I still love it, and love every chance I get to be outdoors.

I love the creatures.  My mother, who lives with us, helps the Lord take care of the birds :). Her feeders draw them close, and they are so fun to watch.  Bugs fascinate me. The little boy in me has to stop and look at an interesting bug.  Here, check this out. Saw it while fishing a couple weeks ago. What in the world??? It’s as big as my thumb. So cool.  Right?

Image

Did somebody say fishing?  Of course I love the feel of a fish on the end of my line, and I sure love to eat freshly caught trout.  But honestly a lot of it is about the setting. I just love to be near, on, or in water.  I especially love the mountain streams and freestone rivers that trace through the northwest corner of South Carolina. The clear water, warm sun, slight breeze (or impending thunderstorm!), rock formations, wildlife, and of course the pink-striped rainbow trout, are almost intoxicating to me.  My mom (AKA Grandma Taylor) tells me there are ions in the air around oceans and rivers that are “good for you.”  I looked it up. Pretty sure she’s right.  That’s why I am refreshed and recharged there.

A stunning sunset will stop me in my tracks.  So will a cool-looking bug.  Or a lush bed of ferns, or a tiny  flower.

And in every case, my heart lifts heavenward.  I delight in the beauty, and I think of the Creator.  I worship Him.  And I often think of how good He is to not only make beauty, but make us with the capacity to appreciate it, to visually drink in the vista, to inhale the fragrance, to feel the sun, the breeze, the pelting rain.

A while back I heard a song that expresses this so well.  It has become a favorite.  May it become your heart’s cry as you enjoy and grow to love the beauty, outside, around us.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2014 in Current Issues and Events

 
 
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