Get Near God
Four Challenges - #1: Get Near God
Happy New Year! I’m so happy about this new year. I’m also hopeful. What would make 2021 an exceptional year? One word comes to my mind. Habits! A habit is defined as “a usual manner of behavior.” She has this habit of taking a morning walk. He has this habit of staying up late. Is there one particular habit that could transform not just 2021 but your life? Consider the following three examples. #1: Exercise.
I started running six years ago. I love how I feel after I run. Eight months ago I started High Intensity Interval Training otherwise known as HIIT workouts all on You Tube. HIIT workouts require no equipment and last between 5 and 10 minutes long. I follow two workout programs on You Tube. The first is through Bowflex led by Tom Holland. Here is the five-minute Holiday Season Survival Workout. It’s tremendous. In five-minutes you’ll do skaters, pushups, planks, mountain climbers and lunges. I can’t recommend Bowflex enough. The second HIIT workout I love is through this guy – 51-year-old Funk Roberts. He has specific workouts tailored for men over 40. Just go to You Tube and search Funk Roberts Fitness. My physical goal for this year is to dunk a basketball with two hands. Ladies, if you want to change your life by developing healthy habits contact our very own Meredith Lineberry. Last November Meredith became a Certified Personal Trainer. Her program will help you become the healthiest, happiest version of yourself. You can reach Meredith at email@example.com. Let’s take this a step further. Listen as Meredith tells you why she developed healthy habits.
(Meredith Lineberry 2-minute testimony)
Meredith takes no medication. That’s incredible. One habit that could transform your life is to exercise. A second habit is to Read. Several years ago I was introduced to a man named Brian Jones. Brian is a minister and an author. He has created some habits in his life. One is to get up early. He starts his day around 5AM. A second habit is to eat healthy foods like eggs, fruit, and vegetables. A third habit is to read a book a week. Do the math. That’s 52 books a year. I used to think that was completely insane until I started noticing what I do with my spare time. Here’s another confession from your Pastor. I watch a lot of the Big Bang Theory. The only thing I’ve gained from watching that show is several belly laughs, listening to Sheldon and his Mom banter back & forth about faith in God and I’ve memorized the lyrics to the song Soft Kitty.[i] Soft Kitty, Warm kitty, Little ball of fur, Happy kitty, Sleepy kitty, purr, purr, purr. There’s nothing wrong with sitting back and watching a little TV. Remember, anything can become legalistic and the last thing I want to do is encourage legalism, but would you please take inventory and think about how much time you put into watching TV including sports, or binge watching something on Netflix, Amazon Prime, You Tube or Tik Tok. Most people say they can’t read because they have no time. That’s not accurate. They have all the time they need. What they really mean is they haven’t made reading a priority.
My goal for 2021 is to read a book a week. I’ve never done that before. The most I’ve read in one year is 20 books. Here are my next two books. I’m almost finished with Tim Elmore’s Book The Pandemic Population. Eight Strategies to Help Generation Z (People born between 2001 and 2020) rediscover hope after the Coronavirus. I want to better understand this generation of young people. Reading will help me. The second book is J. Oswald Sanders classic, Spiritual Leadership. We have a major leadership void in our world. We need better leaders in the church, at work, in the family and especially in the political arena. What book do you have at home or work or maybe at the library that you could start reading today or tomorrow?
A third habit that could transform your life is to Get Near God. It’s to intentionally gather with God, to get alone with God. Our discipleship process is to Gather, Grow, Give & Go. The habit of gathering alone with God has changed my life. Today I am beginning a new four-week series called Four Challenges. The challenges are Get near God, Be bold for God, Trust God and Help people see God in your life. Change won’t happen unless you are challenged. Change occurs when you get out of your comfort zone.
What does it mean to get near God? If you don’t know God it all it means to try. If you do know him it means you have admitted that you are a sinner. You trust what Jesus did on the cross. When Jesus died the temple veil was torn in two. This means that we who were far away from God can become near God. You have decided to follow Jesus! Once that decision is made, we must stay near God.
Pretend God is here and we are right next to him. Over the years we tend to drift away. It’s like that in marriage too. For both relationships to be close we must be intentional. You must create a habit.
Here’s what I’ve chosen to do to get continually near God. You don’t have to do this exactly as I do, but I am a morning person. Maybe you are not. Maybe you’re thought is “There’s not enough coffee in Columbia to make me a morning person.” OK. Do this in the afternoon or evening. But remember, no one can do everything. To start one habit, you must let go of another habit.
I get up in the morning because that’s when I’m most alive, most alert. I’m ready to go. I leave my house and drive to Hoff Woods, or a big parking lot. You could do this at your house. I park my SUV and get out my smartphone so I can read the Bible. If you want to get near God, read & apply his word. May I suggest for 2021 that you follow the year long Bible Project Reading App called “Read Scripture” or any number of reading plans on You Version. Once you download the “Read Scripture” app you go into settings and set the start date for today. If you start today you would finish on December 26, 2021. You would read the entire Bible in one year. Today’s reading is Genesis chapters 1-3 and Psalm 1.
When I read the Bible I imagine I’m walking with God like people did long ago. We see this in the book of Genesis. This is Genesis 3:8 (NIV2011) 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day… This happened to Enoch in Genesis 5:24. It happened to Noah in Genesis 6:9. To walk means to live. It can happen to you. I picture myself walking with God or I imagine myself sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to him teach. I can hear Jesus say to me and to you John 16:33 (NIV2011) 33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” What Jesus just said, overcoming the world, receiving peace brings me confidence. Does it for you? The Word of God will bring you hope. The Word of Gd will comfort, challenge, correct, rebuke, teach, train and warn anyone who believes it and applies it to their lives.
If you want to get near God, read & apply his word. If you want to get near God talk to him as you would talk to a friend. We call this prayer. David Mathis is right. The heart of prayer is not getting things from God but getting God. Here’s another true confession from your Pastor. I found prayer to be completely boring until I made it personal.
This is Psalm 1. This is part of Today’s Bible reading plan. Psalm 1 is six total verses. (Read 1-6) I think these six verses are helpful. But watch what happens when you pray them back to God. When I pray, I use this acrostic. P-R-A-Y! P=Praise & Thanks. R=Repent. A=Ask. Y=Yield to what the Holy Spirit just said from the Word of God. Using Psalm 1 let me pray this personal prayer. You can eavesdrop as I pray to God.
Oh LORD God, I praise you as God. Thank you for watching over me. You notice me. That brings me great comfort and confidence. Oh God, because of you, I am deeply blessed. God, please help me to delight in your Word. To meditate, to think over, to chew on your word again and again because you want me to see you. You want me to know you. You want me to know how to live. Oh God help my life to become like a healthy tree. To bear fruit for you. Jesus, you said to go and bear fruit for you. Oh God, am I doing anything wicked in my life? Have I become selfish? Am I ignoring deliberate sin? God, I’m sorry for being continually impatient. For being greedy. Lustful. Always wanting more. God, please forgive me of my sin. In Jesus’ name. Amen
That short prayer involved both praise and repentance. Repentance is turning back to God. I repent every day because I sin every day. If your habit is to get a cup of coffee, turn on some worship music and then read a few verses and then walk away. You won’t get near God. You might know of God but you won’t know God. God uses humble people. God uses people who see their sin. Who do the hard work of repentance! Who not only read his word but do what it says! For all habits to be effective you must know your “why.” Why do I exercise? So I feel better. Why do I read. So I can learn. Why do we need to get near God? Because being near God gives you the power to overcome. Overcome what? Two examples. #1: Overcome Temptation. Look at this picture. Do you see the painted eyes? Ranchers in Botswana are adopting a new technique for protecting their livestock against lions and leopards. Cattle with eyes painted on their hindquarters are less likely to be attacked because the big cats think they’re being watched.[ii] I could use another set of eyes. Maybe on the back of my head. Satan is stalking YOU every day. He’s looking for your weak spots. But if you get near God you’ll have this massive set of eyes to help you see your weak spots, to see your sin, so you can turn to God. Example #2: Overcome Spiritual Apathy. I feel this in my bones. COVID-19 has made many people spiritually apathetic. I don’t care about God, Jesus, the church, or people. I don’t care about anything. Could you have written this? “Dear 2020”(2:30)[iii]
2020 taught us that this world changes all the time. But not God. Don’t you want to be near a supreme being who never changes and always keeps His promises? I do! Here’s one of God’s promises found in James 4. James 4:8-10 (NIV2011) 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. That’s God’s promise. He’ll forgive you but you must admit that you need Him. What would make 2021 an exceptional year? The habit of exercise would be great. So walk with God. [iv] The habit of reading would make a difference, but there’s one book that rivals all books. Walking with God and talking with God would enable anyone to get near God and if you accept this challenge, to be near God, it will change your life forever. Let’s start right now. Come accept him. Tell him you want to be near him. Come pray to him. (Close in prayer)
[iv] Logos Bible Software, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, Genesis 5:22, Walk