Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Knowing God: Enoch

My son Benjamin turned 1 in October. One thing we're trying to teach Benjamin is how to walk. He has demonstrated that he knows how to take a few steps, but he doesn't want to walk. He would rather crawl. It isn't that he can't walk, but he doesn't want to walk yet. He can get all the food, clothes, toys, and drink he wants without walking at all. He doesn't even need to inconvenience himself to go to the bathroom; he just sits there and goes in his diaper. We expect that one day he will walk sometime in the next couple years.
Some of us are like that too--maybe you. It isn't that we can't walk with God, it's that we have decided not to because it's more comfortable the way things are. Crawling and making messes are not a problem. We don't need to learn to walk more with God because we like things the way they are. It would require change.
Many Christians go through their whole Christian life crawling, when God wants us to walk. They miss so many opportunities!
In a similar vein, when I was a boy, my parents would send us to my grandpa's house (who we called Papa). We would help him with work that he couldn't do anymore. He would usually pay us a little money or take us out to eat. Sometimes he would take us with him on these trips to his farm, and we'd walk the farm with him to check it out. He would talk to us about life and even current issues, and how to do what was right. I remember once while we were walking down the dried up creek bed he told my brother Mark, "Mark, when you were younger, I didn't think you'd amount to a dime. But look at you now." That was how Papa gave a compliment.
We learned more than just how to work from walking with Papa. I learned about serving and ministry. He was a Gideon, and my first impression of that organization. He would go to nursing homes and distribute Bibles and speak, and encourage people.
There are advantages to walking with God too. Today we're looking at Genesis 5 and how Enoch walked.
We know that God is working and on the move with a purpose. The question is not will God walk with you, but will you walk with God. Will you? Will you do what is necessary to walk with Him? Sometimes, like my Papa, there is work involved before you gain a benefit.
The Bible says in Genesis 5:21 and following, "When Enoch had lived 65 years he became the father of Methuselah. And after Enoch became the father of Methuselah, he walked with God 300 years, and had other sons and daughters. Altogether Enoch lived 365 years." It says again, "Enoch walked with God. Then he was no more, because God took him away."

What does it mean to walk, as the Bible says walk here? This is the Hebrew word halach. I share Greek and Hebrew words in sermons because if I were in the pew I'd want to know that. This word means literally to walk, and is used metaphorically to have a relationship with someone. It didn't just mean physical walking when it was used of someone walking with God. It means a relationship existed between Enoch and God.
In Genesis 6, it is used of Noah, to say he walked with God. In Genesis 17, God tells Abram (before his name was changed) "I am God Almighty. Walk before Me and be blameless." Wow! I still think God commands that of His people. He's saying for us to walk before Him and be blameless. In Genesis 48:15, Jacob is blessing his son Joseph before Jacob dies, and says this about his relationship with God, "the God before Whom my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, walked, the God Who has been my Shepherd, all my life, to this day." What a statement of a relationship!
In other words, I know Him too! I've walked with Him, and am walking with Him today!
In Isaiah 38:3, the good king Hezekiah said this about his relationship with God, "Remember now, oh Lord, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth, and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in Your sight." Hezekiah wept bitterly. What happened to him? I'll write that later.

Can you say what Jacob and Hezekiah said? The Oxford American Dictionary describes walk as this, "to move at a regular and fairly slow pace by lifting and setting down each foot in turn, never having both feet off the ground at once."[1]
Doesn't that describe walking? Physically? Spiritually? It means I have an ongoing journey with God, and walking is a means to an end, in order to get somewhere spiritually.
I believe God wants to do something in every person's life, even if they say they don't believe in Him!
It is our responsibility to find out how God wants to use us, and what can happen if we walk with God. He wants as close of a relationship as Enoch had.
Something interesting that happens as we walk with God; that is knowing God personally, not just knowing about Him. If we were to ask God, "Who is that person reading this blog?" Would God say, "I know him." "I know her." Or would God say, "I don't know."
Don't you want God to say, "I know them intimately."

I am pushing a personal pursuit of God so much, that someone may object, saying, "What about focusing on fellowship? What about unity?" Wouldn't 100 guitars all tuned to the same tuning device all sound better together than if 25 were tuned by device A, 25 tuned by device B, 25 tuned by device C, and 25 who tuned themselves, each differently? Wouldn't 100 soldiers all trained by the best commander be better equipped to accomplish the mission than if 100 people came together and someone threw them some guns and said, "Accomplish the mission!" Each Christian being trained, studied, and intimately walking with God will result in greater worship, teaching, discipleship, stewardship, service, and fellowship for our mission.
Consider Enoch as an example of our walk.
Something else happens when we walk with God. Jude tells us something fascinating about Enoch and his walk with God. We're told in Jude 14-15 that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about people who weren't walking the talk, saying, "See the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of His holy ones, to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly, of all the ungodly acts they have done, and the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against Him."
This is what Enoch prophesied, living in fellowship with God. God told Enoch a message for his time, which was before the great flood. If you remember, the reason for the flood was the violence and sin of mankind in the world, and God intended to wipe out humanity from the earth, except for Noah. During this time where the evil was building up, Enoch had a prophecy and a message to share.
If you and I are walking with God, we understand the times that we're living in. A Christian in the 21st Century is different than a Christian in the 20th Century. In the Postmodern world there are differences in the way we communicate. When I pray and read the Word God will reveal ways to communicate with people. If you ask, "God why aren't you doing anything in my life? I haven't been able to witness to anyone, I haven't seen anyone come to faith in Christ, and I haven't felt any spiritual blessing, or I don't know my spiritual gifts."
It starts with that time alone with God. If you just pray 5 minutes a day, that's a starting point. If you pray during your lunch break, that's a start. If you confess any sin you have to God, and just meditate on one Bible verse--do that five days in a row and you will notice a difference.
You could even watch your favorite TV shows, and mute the commercials and pray. If you add all the commercial time, that would be a lot of prayer time. I'm not saying throw out the TV (again, understand the times), but park time aside for God, to walk with Him.
This is the beginning of walking with God, and God working, and giving us a message for our times.
As Christians, knowing our times and culture is so important. We should not be shut-ins, hiding out. We are not of the world, but we are in it. Hold the Bible in one hand, and hold the newspaper in the other.
When the earthquake happened in Haiti, we began praying and collecting resources to know how to best work to help them, with a spiritual goal of salvation and discipleship.
Knowing our culture means knowing this: Our culture is liberal, postmodern, there are many Christians in name but not action, we live in a post-Christian area, and the younger you go the more there is an ignorance of Scripture. When I was a Youth Pastor, I would quiz the kids sometimes with Bible stories. The three people in the fiery furnace were? The person in the Lion's den was? The person on the ark during the flood was? Which prophet was used to part the Red Sea?
(answers: Shadrach, Meshech, Abednego; Daniel; Noah; Moses)

We could go on and on. I used to test the kids every year when I was a youth pastor, and less and less they were familiar with the Bible. There is a transcending ignorance, and not always intentionally. Some would say "Great, our culture is going to pot!"
Actually, we have a great opportunity. We don't have as many hurdles to climb theologically with presuppositions and assumptions, or false doctrine handed down. We have an opportunity to talk about the Bible in a fresh way! What an opportunity! And anyone can do it!
Another thing about Postmodern world is that people like stories. People want to hear your story. If you say, "I don't know how to witness," and the good news is that all you have to say is, "Can I tell you a great story?" "Do you want to hear my God story from this week?" "Can I tell you something great that happened?"
If we were in fellowship time and I said, "Did you see the Saints game last night?" And someone else said, "No, I missed it. Tell me about it." You'd be excited until I finished telling you about how the Saints won, blew out the Cardinals, and Kurt Warner got jacked on one of the plays (I love Kurt Warner, and I wish you the best, Kurt! Hope it didn't hurt too much). You'd be listening to me.
How much more should we share about what God is doing in our lives!

Something else we see in Enoch, is that he walked with God, God gave him a prophetic word for his times, and finally God took him. This was the first instance of transporter technology. We aren't told if it was in a whirlwind with chariots of fire like Elijah; we aren't told if it was like Jesus when He ascended and He was in the clouds, but we know that somehow God took him, and he was gone! No more! Couldn't be found! He has never been found on earth!
The way the writer writes this in Genesis it points to Enoch as an exception to the rule that we all die because of Adam's curse. The great news is that if you walk with God, which means knowing Jesus Christ (as we said last blog) as your Savior, then we have the hope that God will give us life and we won't have to experience death one day.
Remember, because Adam and Eve sinned, everyone since then has to die, because we have inherited the genetic disease, the terminal illness, and the original plague. Genesis 5 tells us this, that Adam dies, his son dies, his son dies, his son dies, his son dies, his son dies, but not Enoch. With Enoch, God breaks the rules! God shows up with mercy, telling Enoch he can have life!
Today, you can experience that same mercy if you are in Christ. You don't have to experience the death that sin created in all of us. Jesus already died that death on the cross, and He did it so we could freely receive God's mercy and life. God Himself died on the cross, and that one death paid for all the deaths that have to be paid, as a result of sin. If I decide I will take Jesus' sacrifice, I don't need to pay for my own sin with my own death. Does this make sense?

Just as Enoch walked with God, and God took him, I can walk with God and God will take me! I may die in my body, but my spirit will live on! Jesus talked about this in John 14, saying don't you know I've prepared a place for you? I go there to prepare a place for you, that where I am you may be also."
1 Thessalonians 4 tells us also that the Lord Himself will descend with a shout, the cry of the Archangel, and the dead in Christ will rise first, and we who are alive and remain will be caught up with him in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." At any time that could happen.
One way or the other, God is going to take those who are in Christ, walking with Him, just like Enoch.
Again, it isn't a question of if God wants to walk with you. He's ready. It's a question of if you want to walk with God. God wants to do more with you than you could ever imagine, if you will just surrender yourself to Him. Will you walk with Him. If you had to answer right now, what would you do?
Hezekiah's story ends, by Isaiah coming to him. There is a knock on the door, and it's the prophet. He tells Hezekiah, "God has extended your life 15 years." If you want to walk with God, there are two choices. You could say, "That's okay. If I want food I'll cry, if I make a mess I'll sit in it. I'll pray for you while you walk, but I'm comfortable right here." You will miss everything God has for you if you don't walk. God wants people like Enoch, who will defy culture and the curse, and not fearing what people think, and will walk with Him.
I challenge you to walk with Him. Make a few minutes of prayer time each day. Make a few more minutes to read at least one verse each day. Put one foot in front of the other, and walk with God. If you're introducing yourself to God, it starts with accepting Jesus Christ and His payment for sin, and committing to make your walk with God in His pattern. Walk with Him.
Give Him your cares. Talk to Him. Share with Him. Understand His principles in Scripture.
Please email me at if you want to talk more about this.

[1] Oxford American Dictionary, s.v. “walk.”

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Knowing God: Adam

Some time ago I was at the store, checking out with my goods, and as I left I said, "Goodbye," to the attendant. She said, "Have a good day, pastor." I stopped. Shocked. I didn't know her, but she knew about me, even though we didn't know each other.

On a similar note, I wrote a letter to President Obama a couple of months ago. I know a lot about President Obama, but if you were to ask the President, "How's Nate Whiteside doing?" He would say, "Who?"
In Spanish there are two words for "to know" something: saber, meaning "to know about or have knowledge about someone or something," and conocer, meaning, "to know someone personally." The second word means to know someone more than just being able to recite facts about them.
What I want to challenge you to do is not just to know about God, but to conocer Him. Is that how you know Him today?
I want to challenge you all year in 2010 to know God. We will be looking at different characters in the Bible and how they knew God, and things we can take away from their relationship with God.

John 17:3 is the only time Jesus defines eternal life, a subject He talks about a lot. John 3:16, for example, is one of the most well-known Scripture verses recited, saying, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." That's how to have eternal life. But what is it?
Jesus says in John 17:3, "This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent."
So when we are saved, we are not just saved to be stored somewhere until heaven, but we are saved to know God more and Jesus Christ more--that we would develop a fresh, deep pursuit of God this year.
In Adam, we will see how Adam knew God as Provider, as Judge, and how Adam's knowledge of God was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
The first thing we see in Genesis 2 is that Adam knew God as Provider. One might make the case that no one except Jesus Himself knew God more intimately than Adam in those early days. Take your Bible and read Genesis 1:28-30, and 2:5-9. God provided for Adam and Eve, even making a garden and moving them there. God provided food for Adam, work for Adam, companionship for Adam in Himself and intimate companionship in Eve. Genesis 2:25 says, "the man and his wife were both naked and felt no shame." When was the last time you did not have a secret or something to be ashamed about? When was the last time you were able to be yourself and feel no shame? God wants to provide that for each of us.
Their relationship was as natural as a child and parent. My son came up to me the other day and said, "Daddy, I need some milk." There was no hesitation about whether or not I would provide for him, but he knew that since I had always provided for him, I would always provide and he could ask. We too need what God can provide: food, clothes, work, transportation, but also emotional well-being, companionship, freedom from loneliness.
Do you have a close relationship with God? Do you know Him?
A couple of months ago I received a call from my mother while driving back from Madison, and had to pull off the side of the road. My mother told me about some bad news, that they had found a cancerous spot on her back, and I had to tell God my bad feelings about this. I was angry, and not doubting God's powers to heal her, but frustrated and over the edge!
Do you know God? What do you need Him to provide?
I challenge you to look at God as the great Provider. God may say "Yes," "No," or "Wait!" If you're looking for a god who provides, this God is the One!

Second, when you get to know God, something else happens. We get to a certain point in our relationship with God, we will be like Adam, where we are tempted to cross the line. We don't think rules and commands are a blessing, but like Moses wrote in Psalm 103, part of God's blessings are His statutes and judgments. He gives us the 10 Commandments so we can have a better life, a better marriage, a better relationship with our family, a better relationship with our friends. God is an accountable God who makes us give an account of our actions.
Who loves their children more, the parent who says, "Here's $20, get out of my face," or the parent who rolls up her sleeves and spends time cleaning up the messes, correcting the bad behavior, and confronting her child.

If you want to find a church or group of people who believe God is only goodness and never disciplines you can find them out there. Today we have taken God and recreated Him to fit our wants, not our needs. We're like the scientist and the flea. The scientist put a flea in his petri dish and took off one of the flea's legs, and told him to jump (but don't worry, no fleas were hurt in the experiment). The flea could not jump. The scientist took off another leg, and repeated the command with the same results. Again the scientist repeated the process until the flea had only one leg remaining. The scientist took off that leg too and yelled, "Jump!" Then louder, "Jump!" Then at the top of his lungs he shouted, "Jump!" Nothing. The flea did not move. So the scientist went to his notebook and made the following observation, "When you remove all of the flea's legs, it loses its sense of hearing."
But that's how we treat God so many times! We put God in a box and expect Him to conform to our logic and principles, and if God doesn't, we make the wrong conclusion about God. We say, "Because you let my loved one die, you are no longer good!" But God is and was good long before any of us were born. We say, "Since you allowed me to experience pain you do not exist!" But God uses suffering for His good many, many times, and always will.
The closer we get to God, the more He will correct what is wrong with us, and the more He will want to make us better. As we get to know Him more, we must admit our faults and correct them.
But that is the reason some of you do not attend church, listen to teaching or preaching (such as this blog), or want to read the Bible. You figure that if you don't spend time with God in prayer you won't be confronted with sin and won't have to change. We have a decision to make. Either stay where you are and don't grow, or get to know God more and grow, even if it means sometimes dealing with your sin.
Part of knowing God more is dealing with my sin.
Several nights this past week I was at the church until later, and it was dark. I came to the back door of our home and pulled out my keys, but could not tell which key it was until I got closer to the porch light. I brought my unidentifiable wad to the light, and was able to see the right key to open the door. Not only was I able to see the right key, but I was able to see some unpleasant things about myself in the light, that I couldn't see in the dark. I saw scuff marks from where my elbow had brushed the dirty car, and dirt on my shoes.
The same is true with God, as 1 John tells us, "if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ covers our sin." We start to see our sin and need to deal with it.
So do you want to have the blessings of knowing God more? Do you want to take the challenge, even if it means changing something?
Maybe there's a conflict between you and someone else, and because of your pride you've decided you're right and you're holding onto it. Maybe there has been a significant loss and you have never dealt with it.
Not too long ago I visited a man in an uncomfortable situation who lost his best friend, mostly due to his mistake. He has lived with the death of his friend and never dealt with it properly yet. do you think that affects him? Come to God, know God, and deal with what needs fixing, and find greater blessing.

Not only can we know God the Provider, and need to examine ourselves more as we know God, but we can know God as the solution to Adam's problem.
What was Adam's legacy? Job 31, "have I covered my transgression like Adam?" Hosea 6:7 also "but like Adam, they have sinned." Adam: the one who introduced sin. What a legacy.
My Whiteside theology, though, says that if Adam wouldn't have blown it, someone else would have. Romans 5:12 tells us, "Therefore just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all have sinned. For before the Law was given, sin was in the world." v. 14, "Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses even over those who did not sin by breaking a command as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. But the gift is not like the trespass, for if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace, and the gift that came by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ overflow to the many."
1 Corinthians 15 tells us that if sin came by one living soul, then life also came through the life giving Spirit Jesus Christ. God decided to redeem what the first Adam messed up through the last Adam Jesus! 1 Corinthians 15 tells us Jesus Christ is that Last Adam! To know God as Adam did, is not complete unless you know Jesus Christ.

Adam's problem isn't solved until we know Christ. Each of us is born into this sin that Adam created. If you've never known Jesus Christ, you've never dealt with that sin. Come face to face with who you are, and that legacy of wanting to do wrong, and take Jesus Christ, the solution to the unsatisfying life.
The good news is that Jesus Christ came to this world, died, rose again, so that we may know Him, and know God.
Remember John 17:3, "This is eternal life: to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent."
Knowing God happens when we are in a jam, or when things are going great. You may be suffering, needing a job, praying for a sick relative, looking for help with your marriage, and maybe really looking for help with your marriage. The solution starts with knowing God, and knowing God starts with knowing Jesus, believing He died on the cross for your sin, rose again, and only He can get you out of this pit and give you this eternal life.

Why not bow now and pray this to God? "God, I know I am a sinner and that Jesus Christ died for me and rose again from the dead. I believe He paid what I should pay for my sin, and commit now to follow Him."

Do you know God in Christ already? Pray today, "Lord, forgive me for staying comfortable and accepting less than my best for God. I want to know You more. Please help me to read my Bible each day and pray, and hear from You. Please bless me. Amen."

If you have prayed either of these prayers, I hope you consider emailing me at to let me know.