The Games People Play – Clue Recognizing God
Last week we started a different type of series for me, meaning it’s a bit more abstract, but I believe we can make this work. If you were here I hope you remember that as I introduced this series I told you that I was going to try to use some board games as our jumping off place to explore a bigger game that we all play. Last week we looked at our problem with anger, by talking about the game Aggravation. This morning we are going to look at a deeper struggle by looking at the game Clue.
In 1949 the Hasbro toy company introduced us to the board game Clue, and billed it as a game of intrigue, and suspense. The object of the game is to go from room to room collecting information and taking notes until you can solve the murder and then reveal him or her to the rest of the group.
Revelation is a wonderful thing. That moment in time when we finally see everything clearly and all our questions get their rightful answers. Think for a moment what are some things in your life that you would like a little revelation or a clue about. What about your future? Or how about the reasoning that God is allowing something to happen at this moment or in time past? What about how your children will turn out? One of the most exciting things in life is that we don’t always know what is going to happen next.
But, I believe there are more things we would like a clue about than just the future. Remember when you were little and someone would say a word and you had to say that first things that came to your mind? Well what if we were to play that game today and I looked at you and said God. What is the first word in your mind?
Some of us here this morning see God as a Sheriff. We believe that His whole purpose is to catch you sinning so He can put you in jail, or hell. We believe that God’s greatest joy is our misery.
Some of us think about God as a Mechanic. We think that He’s so busy fixing the broken things and generally running the universe that He has no time for us.
Then there are some of us here that picture God as a Butler whose only purpose is to get us what we desire? After all we are told to ask and it will be given, so where’s that pony?
Then I know that there are some of us that think since God created the world 6,000 years ago and hasn’t performed a miracle in the last 2000 years that He has gotten so old and out of touch that he will never begin to understand our problems. Some of us here this morning see God as an old grandfather that falls asleep on the couch.
Then there are some of us who see and treat God like a Jehovah in the box. We pull Him out on Sundays and Wednesdays and sing songs like How Great Thou Art and O Worship The King but come Monday we put Him right back in his box and forget about him?
I will admit that there are times that I have struggled with God, I have seen Him as a sheriff, or butler, or old man. Thankfully that’s a far cry from what we see in the Bible. This morning I want us to play a little game of clue; let’s look at what God has to say about Himself and see if we can clear up any misconceptions that we might have.
My fear this morning is that too many of us have been in the church for a long time, but still identify with Moses. And before you take that as a complement, let me explain. Moses had done some great things for Jehovah; and you might think that he had a close and personal relationship with God but that’s not the picture I get from the text that was read this morning.
By the time we get to the 33 chapter of Exodus Moses has walked with the Lord for quite some time and done some pretty awesome things. He delivered the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage and helped them pass through the Red Sea. He led the Israelites to Mount Sinai where God gave them the Ten Commandments. They started for the Promised Land and won some pretty impressive battles. Moses had obeyed God’s instructions, but from this text we see that he still did not know God in an intimate way. These are some pretty sobering words, “I know you by name”
My fear this morning is that there are those of us here today that have witnessed God do some pretty remarkable things, we have carried His name for years but we only know Him by name. Now even though there are some of us who would never admit that, it’s still true. It shows in your life and it shows in mine as well.
When I became a Christian, my sole responsibility was to find out what God did not want me to do so I wouldn’t do it. I lived in fear of God because I believed that if I sinned, God would zap me and strike me dead. I was scarred of God. My Christian life was void of joy, excitement, and peace. So the first few years of my walk with God was a relationship of obedience and fear instead of love and intimacy.
But the more I looked through scripture the more I realized that’s not the description we find of God. God wants His children to know Him, not as a God of wrath, fury, or anger, but as a God of love. I want you to look with me at a passage that is repeated several times in the pages of your Bible; it’s a thought that gives us a clue about the God who created us for a joyful and intimate relationship with Him. Look with me at Exodus 34:5-7. (Read Text)
What an awesome passage, here we see God describing His character to Moses and to us as well. I want you to notice three characteristics of our God and see if we can get a clue on how to have a more intimate relationship with Him.
The first characteristic that God shared with Moses is that He is a compassionate and gracious God.
God’s compassion is talked about so very often in the pages of our Bibles, but probably one of the most beautiful accounts is found in Psalm 145:7-9, They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.
Compassion is such a wonderful word but I think that it’s one of those church words that we have heard but we have a bit of trouble defining. Has anyone ever been compassionate to you? Would you even know what to look for, to decide if someone has been compassionate?
Rabbi Harold Kushner tells a story about a little boy who is met at the driveway by a very anxious mother. He was 15 minutes late and she was at her wits end. She immediately started questioning him about why he was late, and where he was. The boy told his mother that he was late because he met a boy who was crying because his bicycle broke and he was helping him.
His mom snapped "But you don't know how to fix a bicycle, how could you have helped him?"
"I didn't know how to fix his bicycle," the little boy agreed, "so I did the only thing that I could. I sat down on the curb and cried with him." That’s compassion!
And as heart warming as that story is, it pales in comparison to the compassion that God has for us. Our God looks down upon our plight and treats us with care, and concern. While we are very quick to acknowledge when things don’t go our way, we too often forget the times that He has done extraordinary things to help us. We get so focused on what’s going on here and now that we forget that God has created a better home that we get to spend eternity in.
Our God is a compassionate and merciful God! He is so compassionate that when we sin and ask for forgiveness, He forgives us, even if we have begged Him a thousand times before.
He is so compassionate that He heals our illnesses, both spiritual and physical.
He is so compassionate that He blesses us with food, shelter, and jobs.
And sometimes He is compassionate enough to let us go home.
James 5:11 says "The Lord is full of compassion and mercy."
Understanding the compassion of God means we believe that there is no pit you can fall into that is so deep, that the love of God for you is not deeper still. Where sin abounds, there grace super-abounded. You have felt unlovable. Jesus still loves you. You have felt disposable. Jesus rejoices over you. You have felt untouchable. Jesus is reaching out a hand to you.
If we are to really know the Lord we must focused on His compassion. If we are to understand the depth of His love for us we must count our blessings, naming them one by one. It’s only when we see His compassion that we will spend time on our knees thanking Him for being so wonderful to you.
The next characteristic that God shared with Moses and with us, He is slow to anger.
You don’t have to be taught to be angry. Go to the nursery and find the sweetest baby girl in that nursery. Take away the bottle from that sweet little girl, or don’t change her diaper on cue, and you will see anger such as you seldom see elsewhere. You will see a red face contorted with rage, and you will hear sounds that penetrate the walls.
Last week we talked about the struggle that we have with anger, and from the comments I got last Sunday and during the week, I realized that I am not alone in that struggle. Anyone can be angry. The old can become angry as well as the young. The rich and the poor, everyone has the capability of becoming angry.
Our problem is that sometimes we tend to think that God is like us. If we can get angry and lash out then we think God will as well. I mean anyone who went to Sunday School heard the stories of Lot’s wife getting turned into a pillar of Salt or God striking Nadab and Abihu dead for using strange fire that we live in fear. If God could zap those people then what’s going to happen if I do something to make God mad at me?
We begin to question, is cancer a result of God’s anger? What about when I lost my job, is that a result of God’s anger? How about when my marriage fell apart is that because God is angry with me? The truth is that when we make a mistake, God is patient with us and slow to anger.
Once again I want us to notice what the psalmist says. We read in Psalm 103:8-11 "The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear him."
God is slow to anger. And it’s not just something the Psalmist says about God, when God came to this earth in human form, we got to see a truer picture of His nature. Have you ever noticed how He proved He was slow to anger? There were many opportunities for Him to become angry; times when He was hurt, but He didn’t become angry.
In the upper room that last night Peter said, "Lord, I will follow you wherever you go, even if I have to die with you." Yet, within a few hours Peter denied with oaths and curses that he even knew Jesus. Jesus could have been angry and zapped Peter right there. But His anger was slow while His love was great. Later Jesus would come to Peter and express His love telling Peter to feed His sheep.
When He was hanging on the cross, people were shouting at Him, "If you really are the Son of God come down from the cross." Many of them may have been people He had touched in a very direct way during His ministry. I am sure that He was hurt by that, but He didn’t become angry. In fact, He prayed for their forgiveness.
Our God is a loving God who is slow to anger who does not treat us as our sins deserve. Instead He treats us with love, grace, mercy, and compassion.
Finally, if we are going to be intimate with God we must understand that He is abounding in love.
Mankind has done many different things to show their love. Our range of expressions has stretch from songs and poetry that have been written, to Van Gough cutting off his ear, to the war waged at Troy. And no matter how your heart goes, pitter patter when that love is expressed it all pales in comparison to God’s expression of love for you. The greatest act of love that God has shown us is when He sent His son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.
John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”
No greater act of love has ever been demonstrated than when Jesus gave His life in order to save ours. It is through His blood that we have forgiveness of our sins. If you want to know about love, then look to the cross and see God's final words to us. They are blood red, and they scream to be heard. They say, "I love you." Paul writes in Romans 5:8, "That God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. And then John writes in 1 John 4:8 “God is love.” The very nature of God is the embodiment of love.
If there is no joy in your life then you cannot have an intimate relationship with God. If there is no peace in your life then you cannot have an intimate relationship with God. If there is no compassion in your life no forgiveness, no love then you cannot have an intimate relationship with God.
And if you don’t have an intimate relationship with God you cannot know Him very well. God has introduced Himself to us. He has made His goodness known to us, we have experienced it. He personally proclaimed Himself to us. I hope that we will get to know Him better so that we will have a more intimate relationship with Him.
Questions To Consider
Jeremy mentioned that sometimes we see God as a sheriff out to get you, a mechanic to busy for you, a butler at your beck and call, an old man to weak to do much, or a god in the box. Do any of these look like your picture of God?
What is your image of God?
What is the image that our community seems to have of God?
How is your picture of God’s different from the way that God describes Himself?
Which of the three attributes that Jeremy mentioned today is the most appealing to you? (Compassionate, slow to anger, or abounding in love)
If you could talk with God, what you say to Him? Is there anything you would like Him to say to you?