Monday, September 23, 2019

“He’s got the whole wide world in His hands”

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Walk with God, Micah 6
Sermon by Jan Fluit
 
 
All around us we can see the beauty of nature, and I often wonder: Do people actually see all these beautiful things, or do they just take it all for granted? Do all these colourful aspects of nature register in their mind, or are they oblivious to them?
 
It does us good to be aware of all the good things around us. To take notice all the colourful things in life, and to be able to see how beautiful it all is. The sheep on the hills, the flowers in the meadow. Even where you can’t yet see it.  Little buds, for example, or bulbs still half under the ground.  Later to become beautiful flowers for all to see. It is good to be able to appreciate all this and get so much pleasure from it.
 
So, tell me, does your own nature give you just as much pleasure?
Can you see all the wonderful things there? There is a lot of colour there too, you know. And even if the colour is not yet visible, are you aware of the fact that it’sthere, underneath the surface, and that God has faith that he can bring out all the wonderful things in you, so that they will blossom and be seen in your life.
God loves us and surprises us time and again by telling us, in our fellowship with Him, how beautiful we are.
That’s why it is good to get to know Him better. As a Father who makes known the mysteries of life to you personally. Far too often God is seen as a ruthless and stern ruler, for whom you can never be good enough, however hard you try. I want to talk to you this morning about the real nature of our Father.
 
We are going to read a passage from Micah, chapter 6 verses three to eight.
 
“Oh my people, what have I done to you?
In what have I wearied you? Answer me!
For I brought you up from the land of Egypt,
and redeemed you from the house of bondage;
And I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised,
And what Balaam the son of Beor answered him,
And what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,
That you may know the saving acts of the Lord.
 
With what shall I come before the Lord
And bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
With calves a year old?
 
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
With ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my first-born for my transgression,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has showed you, O man, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
 
This passage is about people who have mistaken ideas about what God is like.  Their image of God is of a god that exhausts you while you try to live up to his expectations, and all the things you think he expects you to do, OR, as the case may be, all the things you are not allowed to do.  But God says: “I am the One who brought you out of the house of bondage, and saved you from your enemies.”
 
Many of us may still think along these lines too.  We too may think that it is very difficult to follow Him, and that He expects lots of sacrifices from us.
But God offers us ‘life in abundance’, and it’s such a shame that this is stolen from us so often by satan. He is the one who fills our minds with thoughts and ideas about sacrifices and hard work.
 
 
But if this is how you feel, that you have to make sacrifices all the time, and become weary from all the things that you have to do, then you are denying the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. He has already given everything. You render that worthless.
 
And, if you still have the feeling that you HAVE to do things, and are worried about the punishment you will get of you don’t do them, then you are still in the role of a slave. A slave can be punished, and has no self esteem. He only does the things he HAS to do, that he is told to do. And, you know, that God punishes,  cannot be found anywhere in the original text of the Bible.
 
So what we see here in this passage is a promise, a wonderful promise: God makes known to us what He considers to begood, and what He expects of you: firstly, he wants you to act justly, which also means you may expect others to treat you the same. Secondly: to show kindness, or mercy. In other words be trustworthy. There is such a great need in the world for people like this, people who will treat you with warmth and compassion and who are completely trustworthy. That’s how our Lord is. We sing about it a lot.
 
And then lastly, to walk humbly with your God. I’m glad it doesn’t say ‘run with your God’.  No, walk quietly, hand in hand, enjoying everything, the big things, but also the small things of life.
When you walk you see so much more. This is true when looking at everything God created in the visible world, but it is also true in thespiritual world. There too you walk with God through a world of ideas and thoughts, and during this fellowship with Him you discover the real truth about God, truths which make you whole and give you peace and rest in your heart. And so we learn to understand better and better what God is like and what God’s spirit says to us. His words get their original meaning and value back.
 
For example: Jesus says in John chapter 13 verse 34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another”. If you misunderstand what Jesus says here, then you could find it extremely irritating, because then it sounds like an order. You HAVE to, whether you want to or not. This commandmentthen becomes an order. But if you look at the original meaning of the word command, or commandment, then you see that it is more in the line of advice that is being offered. Just as you could say, My advice to you would be to enjoy all the lovely colours in nature, in the same way Jesus says to us, My advice to you is to start loving one another again.
 
When this word commandment was first used, it was in the sense of: wake up, come round and come to your senses, become aware of feelings. Wake up your ideas we often say these days.
 
Well, start to experience love again, is God’s advice.
Begin to experience once again how it feels to love and be loved. Become aware of other people’s feelings and needs, and you will see how that brings out the best in everyone.
 
If I have to come round, then that means that I have been unconscious, or at the very least unaware of what’s been going on around me, which means that things have been happening without me knowing about them, things that the Lord wanted to tell us about and share with us.
 
The reason why love fades away and disappears is very often because of disappointments, abuse of trust, negative thinking and unkind gossip. If you really think that God is ordering you to love others, then there will come a time when you won’t be able to keep it up, because you’re just playing a role. Trying to love others because you have to. Because you think God expects it of you. But when someone comes along and wakes you up with their warmth and kindness, and shows you a new way of thinking, the way God thinks, then it won’t be just a role, it will become real, from within. You will feel love for them, just as God does, and then you can really start to live and love as God meant you to.
 
 
Maybe you are now wondering: how can I learn to do that, to love? Well, you learn that best, by letting yourselfbe loved. By allowing yourself to be loved. By choosing to open your eyes to the multi coloured wisdom of God, to His multi coloured love, to what He says to you. By saying, ‘I am going to accept His advice’  and do what He says, and so you become aware of His loving kindness. You start to see and feel things differently, through His eyes, through His love.
 
Unfortunately there are also a lot of people who think that God expects them to beperfect before He will accept them.
But if that were true, then that would have nothing to do with love. These people try to do what they think God wants them to do, in order to please Him. Or they pray a lot, to try and change His mind about something. But that can never work, because our Father only hasgood thoughts. So you don’t need to persuade Him otherwise.
He thinks only good of you, and even ifyou consider yourself boring and grey,  He thinks about you in bright colours, and will bring them out in you so that they can be seen.
 
Now and then my wife and I go out for a walk, and my wife always takes small leaves home to dry. Then she makes pretty cards with them. Shesees the beauty of these small things. So does our Father.
Youmay think you are small, but that doesn’t mean you are not important. Small is not a synonym for inferior. It is a synonym for tender, pure and still growing.
 
Let us please leave these mistaken ideas behind us. These negative thoughts which hinder our growth, and give us the wrong idea of what God is like. Wake up, wake up your ideas, and start to see all the good things God’s spirit has put in you. Then you will not only have the right image of a good and wonderful God, but you willalso see what a good and wonderful creature you are too.
 
And God will help you. He will help you to develop and grow so that you will start to see things in a completely different light. And THEN, if you think that someone else doesn’t function as he should, then instead of accusing them of something, you turn the situation into an opportunity. An opportunity to learn, and to grow because your motive is love. In this way you do something good with whatyou see, and what the other person unfortunately doesn’t  yet see. You can turn it into something positive and be a help to them.
 
Paul says in Philippians chapter three verse fifteen: “and if in anything you are otherwise minded, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have already attained”.
So it’s not a question of: you HAVE to do something, or you force your opinion on someone else (because you think it is the right one), no, God will reveal it to you if it is necessary.
 
If you understand the way God thinks, and listen to what He says, then that will become your way of thinking too. Then you will discover what God is really like, and because you start to think like God does, you will be able to show others, through the way you think anddo things, what God is really like.
 
Something else I discovered, in Matthew chapter 24 verses 40 and 41. “Then two men will be in the field; one shall be taken, and the other left.”
That sounds like a very cruel god who would do that. But in the original text it says: one will be able to remain standing, and the other will be swept along with the tide. So it’s a question of your foundation. Will it hold or not. If your house, your life,  is built on the rock Jesus, then you will not be swept away.
 
And then in Exodus chapter four verse five it says that God will “visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”
 
Now these verses have always caused so much trouble, because people think that they refer to punishment, punishment that will continue even as far as the third and fourth generation if you hate God.
But that is not what it means at all!
 
It says “visit the iniquity”, but this word ‘visit’ originally had three meanings. To put right, to go and visit, and to purge sins.
So, what does it actually say? It says that if things go wrong within a family, then God will sort it out, put it right and purge the sins as far as the third or fourth generation. So, whatever went wrong, mistaken ideas maybe, which made them hate God, whatever it was God and Jesus will put it right. God says: I am helping you, I am busy cleansing all that is not right within that family. And I will continue to do that as far as the third or fourth generation if necessary, in order to put things right. And that’s what our Father is like. We don’t have a God who is waiting to dish out punishment. Our Father loves us and wants to help us to put things right in our lives.
 
In Ezekiel chapter 18 God says:  “The word of the Lord came to me again: ‘What do you man by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?
As I live says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. ‘
He says here: You have to pay for your own sins, and that has nothing to do with who your grandparents are, or your parents. And He adds, Put your faith in God so that you can live the wonderful life that God meant you to.  Don’t burden yourselves with the problems and sins of your ancestors. God visits, he comes looking for you in your life, in which you have so much trouble and oppression because of all the mistaken ideas that you have. And He comes to bring you theright ideas and good thoughts, so that you become full of His thoughts, and He will continue to help until the last remainder of evil vanishes.
 
That is the commandment of God, to love, like that. That’s His advice. Then you are no longer a victim of the past, but you build a new future together with the Lord. Through Gods spirit you learn to see God as He really is, and adopt His way of life.
 
In the same way there are also mistaken ideas about the church of God  who will be taken up to meet Jesus in the clouds leaving others behind who haven’t accepted yet Jesus. But the gospel of Jesus says exactly the opposite. Jesus won’t abandon you. The whole reason for him coming is to save those who are lost. He says in John chapter 10 verse 16: I have other sheep too, who are not of this fold; I have to bring them too and they will hear my voice and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
 
God says that with the help of Jesus and his church he is busy doing good, restoring relationships and making things right. The church represents the Lord who does not abandon those who are lost. On the contrary He goes looking for them.
 
Another misconception. People often think that God will pour out his wrath over those who have done wrong. But the meaning of the word ‘wrath’ in the original Hebrew language is  ‘To restore relationships”. So God is restoring things so that they will once again become as they were meant to be, God and mankind together, that’s why Jesus is also a mediator. He brings mankind back home to the Father. He deals with the enemy, satan, the father of lies, who had taken the people away from their God.
 
That’s why it’s so wonderful to read here in this passage from the Bible in Micah : he makes known to you what God asks of you, to do justice, just as God does. And to love, because you can do that if you have a clean heart. That’s why Jesus calls this a new commandment, a new advice, that you love one another.
 
When you hear all this then you may think: that’s alright for some, but I’ve got lots of reasons to be angry. I have been badly hurt. I can never forgive the people who did this to me.
Or do you think the other person should take the first step to reconciliation?
Well, I don’t mind waiting until the other person changes, but doing that  would make me a slave to the actions of the other person. I would be dependent on what they do.
If they do the right thing, then that gives me the right to do that too.
That’s not how Jesus worked. Jesus did that differently. He always did good, even while people all around him misinterpreted what He said, wouldn’t listen to Him, and sought Him out to kill Him. He still kept on doing good. And He says: The Father shines his Light over all people, the good and the bad.
 
Jesus says in Matthew chapter five verse forty-six: If you love those who love you, what is special about that? It’s not wrong, but even the tax collectors do that. Jesus loved us while we were still sinners, and wants to teach us to do the same.
 
The problem is that when we talk about loving our enemy, more often that not we are referring to the things other people do, or have done, the wrong things. But you don’t have to love that, we must never try to make wrong things look right. Loving means hating evil and wrong doing.
But loving also means looking further than outward appearances. It means looking into the heart of people, to their true nature and trying to bring that to the surface. And if there is denial, if that person doesn’t function as they should, then you may become a fellow-worker of the Lord by doing good and loving your enemy.  By showing compassion and mercy and a warm and caring heart. In order to help him.
Why? Because that’s exactly how the Lord behaves towards you. He wants so very much to be close to you.
 
People often accuse God of being so far away. But the source of life did not go away from the people, the people left the source.
And this was often because of the false information they were given about a God who frightens you, who punishes and destroys.
But if you have correct and honest information about Him, from Himself, then you can learn to love.
 
Love has the characteristic, we read in one Corinthians chapter thirteen verse five, that it does not insist on it’s own way.  Doesn’t it feel good if first you can just learn to accept that God loves you. God loves you. Some people have great difficulty accepting words of love. Why? Because they have been badly hurt in that area.
There is a lot said and sung about love, but there are a lot of things which people call love but which aren’t.
Then it’s not aboutgiving, but something is demanded from you. But Jesus has shown us that love does not harm you, love wants to help.
 
You can also long for the Lord to help you, but always be unsure about what He wants from you. Then there are a lot of uncertain questions: Lord will you……….  But he says here, I have made known to you what I want you to do. Now go and busy yourself with what I want togive you. God is not someone who rewards you according to the things you have done. He gives you his gifts for free. I want to learn that from Him too. To show the same attitude to people around me.
 
Jesus is so pure and sincere in giving. He says in John chapter fourteen verse twenty one; “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me”. So it is really important that I have his commandments and keep them. That they become part of me. The Lord says: “I have made known to you what I want, and now you may make known to others  what I want. I have complete faith in you, because I know you, I know your real nature. Go and apply my commandment of love. Go and invest in life and righteousness. I think that’s wonderful to learn to apply that. To yourself and also to others.
Then you come completely out of the sphere of having to bring sacrifices. God doesn’t ask for sacrifices. In Hebrew chapter ten verse five it says: “Sacrifices and offerings thou has not desired”.
That’s quite something, to say that. Especially as there were so many sacrifices being offered at that time.  All those bulls and rams. With all the rituals that accompanied the sacrifices.
 
Thank goodness, we say, we don’t have to do that any more. Don’t we? Look around you at all the sacrifices that are asked for, demanded, even commanded. Religious sacrifices too, where faith is concerned only with obligations, threats and fear of making mistakes.
But the writer of the Hebrews says: all those sacrifices could never take away sin. That’s why it’s good that this tradition of bringing sacrifices has been stopped. How? Through Jesus, who says: Behold, here I am – just as it is written of me in the book roll - to do your will O God. And thus Jesus brings an end to the first type of sacrifice, a sacrifice without effect, so that the second single sacrifice, which Jesus made by giving His life on the cross to atone for our sins, could be established.
 
When you feel free, then you become more and more yourself. There’s a lot of talk about that these days. About being your own person. Also about talking about your innermost feelings.
That CAN be very good for you, but only if it is done in a safe and trusted place. When I was about 20 I swore I would never tell anybody anything about myself again. Because it is so painful if you pour your heart out to someone in confidence and tell them all your private thoughts and problems, and they go and betray your confidence and tell others what you said. And it becomes even worse when they start laughing about it as well.
 
But now, if I talk about myself, it is completely different. Why? Because since then I have met the Lord. His love and acceptance of me have helped me so much, and have completely changed the way I think, and how I see myself. When things go wrong in your life then that can give you a completely wrong image of yourself. What you go through is not always because you are you, it can also be because of circumstances, of things that happen to you, and you become a victim of these circumstances. Maybe because of your upbringing, your family, or the area you grew up in.
 
So it is good that the Lord places you in His light of love and truth, and gives you His spirit, so that you are freed from the idea that you are worthless and will never achieve anything.
 
 
These days when talking about something that has happened in your life people often ask: How does that make you feel, and what effect does it have on you? Make sure that you stay yourself. Don’t let the things that have happened in your life determine the way your life goes, but what the Father says. He is ready and waiting to listen to you, to give good advice and make you feel safe.
 
If you are at your wit’s end, tired from all that running, and from struggling to do the right thing, then it is so good to come home to the Father who says: Do you know how much I love you? I have complete faith in you. And all the things that keep going wrong? I am going to change them, through my love and through the truth that I tell about you. As Jesus says in John chapter 15 verse 3: “You are made clean by the word which I have spoken to you”.
Because WHO said that you have to be strong all the time? That you have to heal and restore yourself?
The Lord says, May I do that, with my warmth, my compassion and my love”.  May I do that, with MY kind of commandment of love, and my  kind of visiting, to destroy everything that doesn’t belong in your life? All the things that satan has tried to force into your life.
If you let God do this, then you will become a genuine person again, true to yourself, liberated and with perspective. And NOT dependent on what other people say.
 
This gospel makes me feel safe, knowing that my Father loves and accepts me, as I am. That makes such a difference.
I can be my own person, maybe a little wounded, but I am now within the safe arms of someone who will heal me. Maybe I have missed out on a lot in my life, but now I am within the safe arms of someone who will share everything with me.
 
Have I not been loved much? I am now in a place that has a name: safe haven, love, trust, the house of the Lord, His church, because that’s why he gives people to each other. That is really wonderful. I want to close with one thing, with a commandment, MY commandment: Love one another.
 
Amen.
 
 
 
Shall we pray together?
 
Lord, we thank and praise you for your love, for being trustworthy and always nearby. You are a Father with whom we feel safe and warm.
You give new opportunities to those who were without perspective, hope to those who seemed to be without hope.
Thank you for the things you say, for being who you are.
Thank you for your commandment to love one another. What a tremendous opportunity to become as you wanted us to be.
In our dealings with others, in our relationships, in loving one another and loving you.
You give us life in abundance, and it is wonderful that we may share in that. Thank you for being nearby, for understanding, for your comfort and care.
Thank you Father for the walk that we have with you, and for the fellowship we have together, where we share new truths and discover how precious they are.
Thank you for speaking to us personally, about ourselves, about life and warmth, about a place where we can become whole.
 
Amen.