Monday, June 25, 2018
Hebrews 11:5-6, “By an act of faith, Enoch skipped death completely. “They looked all over and couldn’t find him because God had taken him.” We know on the basis of reliable testimony that before he was taken “he pleased God.” It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because ANYONE WHO WANTS TO APPROACH GOD must first believe both that He exists and that He cares enough to respond to those who seek him.” (MSG)
This story is told of a bulldog and a poodle who were arguing one day (don’t laugh). The bulldog was making fun of the poodle, calling him a weak little runt who couldn’t do anything. The bulldog said, “I challenge you to a contest. Let’s see who can open the back door of their house the fastest and get inside.” The bulldog was thinking he would turn the doorknob with his powerful jaws, while the poodle was too small to even reach the knob of his back door. But to the bulldog’s surprise, the poodle said, “I can get inside my house faster than you can. I accept the challenge.” So with the poodle watching, the bulldog ran to the back door of his house and jumped up to the doorknob. He got his teeth and paws around it and tried with tremendous effort, force and strength, to turn it, but he couldn’t get enough grip on the knob to do it, so he finally quit in exhaustion. Now it was the poodle’s turn. But his approach to the challenge was a little different. You see, he just did what he’d been doing every day consistently for the last several years. He went up to the door and scratched a few of times, then waited patiently. Within a few seconds his master not only opened the door, but picked him up in his arms, patted him on the head affectionately, carried him inside and gave him a treat!
Moral of the Story: The Difference in Approach is Based on Relationship!
Truth is, some of us are ‘Bulldog Christians’. It’s all grunting and growling in our attempts to access God. We want to prove we’re more anointed, gifted, blessed, strong and powerful. We want to show our titles, positions, rings, robes, and crosses. We want to be elaborate in worship; loud in prayer; creative in praise; complicated in teaching; and theatrical in preaching. But the problem is that you can’t access God through such futile methods. In fact, getting to God has nothing to do with methods at all, just the right approach. And the right approach is laid out Clear, Plain and Simple in James: “… Come close to God and He will come close to you…” (James 4:8 NLV). Not all that complicated and dramatic now is it?
In fact, as comical as it sounds, this approach is much like our poodle friend’s approach to his master. All he did was approach the door where he knew the access to his master could be found. He scratched a few times (as he had done every day, consistently over the years, which made it easy for his master to know who was at the door). After he did what he’s always done (that clearly worked for his master), he sat back and patiently waited knowing that his part of the relationship had been accomplished. And what happens next? His master (in a few seconds), not only opens the door to give the poodle access, but he also picks him up in his arms, pats him approvingly and affectionately on the head, carries him inside AND gives him a treat! This poodle knew how to access his master with the right approach that works, but do we?
Listen; when you take the time to develop your relationship with the Lord you’ll be amazed at how easily it is to have access to Him. You see, contrary to what we now see in many churches, God never requires favors, tricks, productions or performances. In fact, His Word says, “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.” (Matthew 6:1 MSG). God seeks for you to Embrace Him, not Entertain Him!
Which means we can finally put a stop to turning the Church into a Circus! We don’t have to have clowns dressed in silly get-ups, theatrics, high-flying-acrobats, tricks, folks setting themselves on fire (and not with the Holy Ghost!) Neither do we need to have eloquence of speech, lofty words, long prayers, impressive resumes, unlimited initials, and extensive credentials. God’s presence is for believers, not Broadway performers. We do not need to put on a show trying to get God’s attention. Getting His attention is nowhere near this entertaining. We need only to humble ourselves and “…Come close to God and He will come close to you…” No fireworks, no confetti, no horns, bells and whistles! God simply requires faith walkers in His church, not tight-rope walkers to entertain a Circus!
Approach Him Correctly to Access Him Thoroughly!
I love the above story because the poodle also reminds me a lot of Isaiah’s description of the Messiah: “The servant grew up before God – a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum…” (Isaiah 53:2-6 MSG). Isn’t it amazing that the very ones we suspect have little or nothing to give, are usually the very ones God deliberately chooses to use to do great things!? Think about it: Just looking at the above description of Jesus, who would be excited to see Him? Who would look forward to anything He had to share, say, give or do? Who would be impressed by such a person? And yet, without Him, we’d have and would be absolutely nothing! My Father is glorified and honored by this when you bear much fruit, and prove yourselves to be My [true] disciples.” (AMP) And how do we benefit from this blessing? Simply by remaining in covenant, remaining near, remaining vitally united, remaining attached, remaining connected, remaining in Relationship!
However, if we only went by Jesus’ appearance described in Isaiah, many of us would’ve run away from Him, instead of remaining attached to Him. And what a loss that would’ve been! You see, in a relationship with Him, there’s nothing we can’t do, without a relationship with Him, there is nothing we can do!
Appearance is Never as Important as Approach!
For instance, I’ve preached in churches where there was no more than 20 people, and the offering was $20 plus a sandwich! Yet, those were the churches that I felt God’s glory weigh in the heaviest! On the other-hand, I’ve also preached at larger churches, with a greater offering, even an elaborate lunch afterwards, and yet the house felt like Ichabod…1 Samuel 4:21-22, “The Chest of God gone, father-in-law dead, husband dead, she named the boy Ichabod (Glory’s-Gone), saying, “Glory is exiled from Israel since the Chest of God was taken.” (MSG) Sounds comical, and maybe even a little harsh, but sadly it’s the truth! Which is why I'd rather have 20 people with the glory of God than 2,000 with just a form of godliness, with no power! I reiterate,
Appearance is Never as Important as Approach!
I don’t know about you, but I’m so grateful that God doesn’t look at my outer appearance and pass judgment on me either: “But GOD told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. GOD judges people differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; GOD looks into the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 MSG).
Sidebar: Before you judge that little store-front church, be careful, it may very well be the dwelling place of God’s glory, a people with a heart of pure and true worship who know how to approach God and access heaven’s bounty!
Now, this is going to hurt some ego’s, but truth is, our looks and appearances don’t move God. Our haughtiness does not attract His attention. Humility is what gets to the heart of God: “Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, BE HUMBLE. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless – that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing. Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, Here’s what you do: Say nothing evil or hurtful; Snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you’re worth. GOD LOOKS ON ALL THIS WITH APPROVAL, LISTENING AND RESPONDING WELL TO WHAT HE’S ASKED; But he turns his back on those who do evil things.” (1 Peter 3:8-12 MSG). That’s how you get God’s attention, access and approval! By being agreeable, sympathetic, loving, compassionate, and humble. Is this your approach to God? Are you the poodle who receives His bounty or the bulldog He turns His back on?
In a nutshell, you can’t force your way as a bulldog, you must instead humble your way as a poodle. Remember this: Your conduct says a lot about you, so make sure yours is saying something you would want everyone, including God, to hear.
Back to the above story, even though the poodle didn’t look like much of a competitor, in the end, he still won! And he didn’t do it by force, but by relationship. His consistency got the attention of his master. You see, just seconds after scratching on the door, his master responded. With that said, maybe it’s a good time to re-exam our prayer life too while we’re at it. Are we going to God with a long to-do-list for Him to accomplish immediately? Or have we learned to enter into prayer with praise, worship, thanksgiving, and gratitude because of the continual kindness of our Master? Have we learned to lay at His feet just to hear His voice? Have we learned to enter into prayer without speech, just open ears, a softened heart and a ready spirit to receive? Do we spend so much time coming Boldly before the throne of Grace, that we don’t take the time to Listen to Grace speak?
Truth is, you can’t bully your way into heaven, or into the presence of the Lord. It’s a humble journey. Just look at the poodle, all he did was get his master’s attention and his master did the rest! He scratched and patiently waited. His master opened the door, picked him up, rubbed him affectionately as he carried him inside and gave him a treat! And when you look at the challenge, the poodle received more than the initial challenge! All he was to do was get inside the fastest. But when you take time to know your master, and your master learns you, through your consistent approach, you will always get more than you bargained for! Not only did the poodle get in the house first, but the master opened the door for him, picked him up, and embraced him affectionately with treats.
Look at it like this: No one in a relationship forces romance or intimacy. It’s a smooth, slow process. Little step, by little step, small sentiments of affection are shown. And the more consistent it’s done, the closer you become. All God is looking for is for you to care for Him in a like manner. Come close to Him in prayer, and not only speak to Him, but be quiet and listen to Him. Come close to Him in praise, show Him that you love Him enough to celebrate Him. Come close to Him in worship, after all, nothing shows the value of His Worth to you like acts of worship. Come close to Him by reading and believing His Word.
Like anybody in a relationship you want to be trusted, and the other person likewise wants to be trusted. And when we come to God like this do you know what it does to His heart to know His children come near to Him, not for stuff and things, but because they want to, they need to, they desire to. They want to be in His presence because they trust Him with everything that’s going on in their lives. And truthfully, there are many relationships that have love, but not trust! How wonderful it must make God to feel in knowing that His children don't just love Him, but they also trust Him?!
You see, to get the attention of the Master, and to enter His presence does not take force, just humility. A humility that says, I have nothing to worry about, because my Master’s got me covered! Wherever I need to get into, He’ll open the door; when I’ve fallen, He’ll pick me up; when I’ve been put out, He’ll bring me back in; when I feel abandoned and rejected, He’ll embrace me in His arms; and no matter what I could possibly ask Him for, He’s always going to supersede my request! How do you not love on a God like that? Today, love on God by approaching Him in a loving manner. And when you’ve gotten His attention by coming near to Him, wait patiently. He’ll come the rest of the way to you. He’ll pick you up. He’ll embrace you affectionately and He will fulfill His own Word: “…Come close to God AND HE WILL COME CLOSE TO YOU…”
Remember: God does not require fireworks, pushing, shoving, or displays of grandeur. He’s not deaf and does not require you screaming, shouting, yelling and hollering! He doesn’t need tricks and treats. He doesn’t need to be entertained or performed for. He doesn’t need theatrics from the drama ministry. He doesn’t need flattery. He doesn’t need to be impressed. He doesn’t need a show. He doesn’t need you to approach Him as noisily as possible trying to garner His attention. No, in fact, we can come to Him, just as He comes to us: “Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before GOD. GOD will pass by.” A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before GOD, but GOD wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but GOD wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but GOD wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.” (1 Kings 19:11-12 MSG). You do not need to bulldoze or bulldog your way into the presence of God. Simply humble yourself and quietly enter His presence. He’ll hear you and you’ll most certainly hear Him.
“Be quiet and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10 NLV). Saints, there’s no need to be loud and shout; there’s no need for dramatics; there’s no need for lights, camera, action! God does not require a performance. So, no more bulldog mentality. Just be consistent in your relationship with the Lord. And as you continually come close to Him, He will continually come close to you. You don’t have to do back flips, scream, yell, perform or entertain. Just quietly come before the Lord, and He’ll meet you there. Think about it: If He’s speaking in a “…quiet whisper…” how are you supposed to hear Him if you’re yelling, screaming, and hollering? His quiet whisper is low, so it serves you no purpose to be loud, especially if the whole point is to get His attention, His access, and His approval.
So, now what are some ways we can ‘poodle-approach’ God? Clearly, one way is by faith! If we want to please God, we have to do so, by faith! “…It’s impossible to please God apart from faith…” That’s how you approach God, knowing that He’s in full control and that there is absolutely nothing He cannot handle! Therefore Saints, approach God by faith; but also approach Him in praise! Psalm 22:3-4, “for You are holy. The praises of our fathers surrounded your throne; they trusted you and you delivered them.” (TLB) As big as God is, can you imagine a people offering Him praise so big that they could only describe it by “THE PRAISES OF OUR FATHERS SURROUNDED YOUR THRONE…” That’s how big our praise for God should be! God, we want our praises to You to be so big, that it’s described as surrounding Your throne!
Talk about getting God’s attention! Remember: He inhabits (dwells in, lives in, abides in, resides in, occupies) the praises of His people! So, come near to God in praise so that He can fully occupy the space you’ve set aside just for Him in your life! Approach God using His Word! Jeremiah 1:12, “I am alert and active, watching over My word to perform it.” (AMPC) Another translation reads, “…I’ll make every word I give you come true.” (MSG) God grants us permission to bring back to Him every word He has spoken to us, for He alone promised to full it; perform it; and make sure every word comes true! That’s why we can approach God with His Word, no matter what we’re going through. For instance, Father, this is what the doctor said, but YOU said, by Jesus’ stripes I am healed! Father, my bank account is empty, but YOU said you would supply my every need! Father, our marriage is in trouble, but YOU said You hate divorce. Father, our children aren’t living right, but YOU said train them up in the way they should go and they will not depart from it. Father, this situation has me fearful, but YOU said you did not give me the spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. Father, sometimes I feel so unloved, but YOU said You loved me first and Your perfect love casts out all fear. Are you getting this folks? This is how we are to approach God using His Word! Also, approach God in worship! John 4:23, “But a time is coming, and it is already here! Even now the true worshipers are being led by the Spirit to worship the Father according to the truth. These are the ones the Father is seeking to worship him.” (CEV) How amazing! When we seek God in spirit and in truth, in return, HE SEEKS FOR US! Sounds a lot like His, “come near to God, and He will come near you.” Now, we’ve talked about us approaching God, but when we worship, God approaches us! Yes, that’s the way to live before God! In addition, Approach God in prayer according to His will! 1 John 5:14-15, “This is the [remarkable degree of] confidence which we [as believers are entitled to] have before Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, [that is, consistent with His plan and purpose] He hears us. And if we know [for a fact, as indeed we do] that He hears and listens to us in whatever we ask, we [also] know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted to us] the requests which we have asked from Him.” (AMP)
People of God, Appearance Will Never Be as Important as Approach!
Therefore, determine not to worry about how you look or sound, just approach God with Humility! And do so with consistency. You can have all the access to God you desire, but you have to get your approach right! No more bulldog, you don’t force a relationship with anyone and expect it to work! Poodle approach instead, a few scratches of faith, praise, worship, word, His Will and prayer, then wait patiently for your Master! He’s not only going to give you Access but He’s going to give you Abundance!