Chasing After God

This morning on my walk, I saw a man riding his bicycle with a small dog running after him. I’ve seen them before, getting their morning exercise together. The man rides all over the Manoa Park and Rec area, and his doggy friend chases him. It’s great fun to watch.

About ten minutes later, I saw them coming toward me on a walking path–the man on his bicycle and his dog about a hundred feet behind, still running. As Doggy passed me, he made eye contact and slowed a bit; but I wasn’t the one he was after, and he sped up to catch his friend.

I got to thinking, why does this dog run all over the park chasing his owner? There are plenty of other things to chase–birds, other bicycles, people, best of all, other dogs (lots of them; even lady dogs). But he runs as if on an invisible leash, attached to the man on the bicycle.

Clearly, the reason he chases this bicycle is because his friend is riding it. No doubt he has bonded with the man since puppyhood. Now, he has a heart and eyes for no other. Maybe at first, there were treats for following. Now, he just follows for the joy of following. At the end of the chase, I’m sure there are joyful embraces, puppy kisses, and loving words.

You might guess where I am going with this. God longs for us to chase after Him, to long for Him, to have eyes for no other, to follow him on an invisible leash of love.

Speaking to His people in Bible times, God said, “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert. . .” Jeremiah 2:2.

What would it take to become a God-follower, a God-chaser, as it were?

First, simply seeing what is so good about Him, what is worth chasing. That is why He has revealed Himself in the Bible, and also so often in our lives–so we can get to know Him. To know Him is to love Him. It is as simple as that. Reading the Scriptures regularly can help us form that invisible attachment.

Truth is, the chase is not just ours to make. God has been chasing us. He chased His people (and others) all through the pages of the Old Testament, calling them, longing for them:  “All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations. . .” Isaiah 65:2

Then in the greatest chase of all time, He sent Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to seek and save us. H

So the reality is, we who chase God are those who have seen how passionately He has chased after us. His pursuit has won our hearts.

As a famous God-chaser once wrote: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14. The prize is spending forever with our Friend, Jesus.

If we are not chasing after God, it might be because we are distracted by other things in the park. We are tempted to chase all kinds of things: our profession or trade can be very satisfying; and rightly so. Relationships; God made us for relationships. Amusement and recreation. Nothing wrong with having fun and enjoying beauty. God made us for that too. But are we chasing these things to the exclusion of chasing Him?

Francis Thompson wrote about it in his famous poem, The Hound of Heaven:  “I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind; and in the midst of tears I hid from Him, and under running laughter. Up vistaed hopes I sped; and shot, precipitated, adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears, from those strong Feet that followed, followed after. But with unhurrying chase, and unperturbèd pace, deliberate speed, majestic instancy, they beat—and a Voice beat more instant than the Feet. . .”

God never gives up.

Have you let Him catch you? I have. His love is better than life. It is the ultimate love because He is so amazing, so wonderful. But I still chase after him. I am not perfect. There is still so much I want to see and know about Him. So much to learn.

But the Man on the Bike, longs for us to chase ultimately after Him, above all, in all, and through all we do.

Will you become a God-chaser with me?

Pastor Michael Brownfield

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God’s Powerful Words in Your Life

Why is it important to read the Bible? Have devotions? Internalize Jesus’ words? Live by them?

Because God’s word is powerful. It is life changing and sustaining. The same power that created the world is in the Bible and goes to work in us as we read, believe, and follow God’s word. He (the Spirit) works in us and grows us. He draws us to Jesus and God’s heart. He changes us, makes us more like Jesus. Miraculously, silently, He works in us.

Remember? Jesus was called “the Word.” He was God’s heart and thoughts made flesh. We know God by knowing Jesus and reading His words.

Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life.” John 6:35. We cannot live without God’s word any more than we can live without eating.

Jesus said, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.  Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” John 6:63-64. Jesus words are life for us through the Holy Spirit. We must believe and follow them. That’s when His life moves in us.

Have you been too busy to spend time with God reading His word, lately? (Life is really busy). I would like to suggest something: Ask God to give you time. If you have that desire–even if you just know you should, and you ask Him, He will work something out for you.

You might find yourself waking up early (unexplainably), or finding a few minutes somewhere in your day to pray and read for a few minutes. It’s a prayer He loves to answer. You will find new life, refreshing, peace-giving, reassuring–and a growing sense of God’s presence and reality.

Pastor Michael

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How to Hear God’s Word

In my last blog, I said that God was speaking to us by sending Jesus to our world. Jesus was the “Word” of God and He became human so He could speak God’s words, with human heart and lips, to us. But as the writer of Hebrews points out, Jesus wasn’t the first person God spoke through.

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son. . .” Heb. 1:1-2 NIV

The point is, God wants to talk to us. He loves us so much, no matter how messed up or far from Him we are, that He wants to speak to us. All down through the history of earth, He has been speaking, drawing people to His heart. Often we haven’t been listening.

So the first step in understanding God’s word is the right mental set: God loves you and wants to speak to you. He is actually drawing you to Himself, trying to make an appointment to visit you through His word.

Pray before you read. Thank God He loves you and wants to speak with you. Ask Him to help you understand and to be receptive to what He wants to say.

Then start reading. The Bible was written to be read by a reader to an audience. In ancient times, a prophet, or priest, or reader would simply read the Bible, and people would listen. God had a message and He sent it to be read.

Listen with your heart to hear God’s heart to you. Don’t try to read a certain amount. Just read until you feel fed by the Bread of Life for that time.

God’s word was created to feed us. In its stories and teachings, it has all the nutrients we need for life.  Read it regularly, and you will be well nourished. Neglect it, and you will a little bit starved. That empty place you feel in your soul needs to be filled with God’s word.

Blaise Pascal, a seventeenth century scientist/philosopher wrote: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.” He was right.

If you just start reading the Bible, God will speak to you through His word. His Spirit will speak silently to your heart. If you haven’t been reading lately, give it time. It takes time to tune our hearts to God’s frequency. Ask Him to help you. He will–because He loves you. Just start reading. . .and listening.

Pastor Michael Brownfield

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Build Your Life on Jesus’ Words

Thanks for joining me! I plan to write here often about life and faith from a Christian perspective. Today I begin with something very basic, but oh so critical for life.

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 NIV

Jesus is called the “Word” because He was God’s heart and thoughts made audible. He became human so he could form into words the love and grace that was in God’s heart for us and describe the truths that life is really built on.

Every word Jesus spoke, every truth He taught was crafted for us from the Father.  These words are designed to prepare us for life and eternity. When we take them into our hearts and minds, we are built up into God’s likeness.

When tempted by Satan to turn stones to bread, Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 NIV.

“Every word.” Jesus is saying that every word in Scripture is necessary for our spiritual nourishment, for building us up–every promise, every teaching, every story, every command, every word of grace; each in its proper context, of course.

Some diseases come to us because of a missing nutritional ingredient. Scurvy from a deficiency of vitamin C. Fatigue, bone loss, recurring infections from too little vitamin D. When Jesus said, “I am the bread of life,” (John 6:35) He meant, among other things, that His words are designed to give balanced spiritual nutrition and good health. Neglect them at our peril.

In our busy lives, we often try to live without eating in a spiritual sense. And we struggle with all kinds of spiritual deficiencies as a result: lack of patience and love, anger, lust, etc. Thinking about Jesus’ words and applying them, creates calmer, truer qualities of heart.

Using another metaphor, Jesus said that people who don’t listen to His words and put them into practice are like people trying to build a house on sand. When the waves come, the house collapses. But those who dig deep and build their house on a rock stand strong when the pounding swells hit. (Luke 6:46-49).

So, what are you doing to listen to God’s words and take them in? This month I started a yearly Bible reading plan. Ten chapters a day; some from the Old Testament, some of the New. But you might choose something different like reading through the Gospels or Psalms or subscribing to a verse a day on your mobile device. The important thing is to hear God’s heart by listening to His word, spend time meditating on them, and applying them to your life.

When I was a campus minister, I met a former submarine officer who was doing a graduate degree in engineering. He told me life in the confined quarters of a sub was hard. But one day the thought came to him, “You call yourself a Christian, but you’ve never read His book.” He decided to start, and he told me that practice had made a big difference in his life. His life was really changed. The same has been true for me.

In coming days, I’ll share a few practices that have helped me and others be blessed by reading and meditating on Scripture.

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