We say something is personal when it involves a relationship, the presence of, and interaction with another. God is not unapproachable or unreachable, but personal. He is involved daily in our lives out of his love for us, close in times of need, with a plan and purpose for us.
- I believe God has a purpose for my life.
- I believe pain and suffering can often bring me closer to God.
- I believe God is actively involved in my life.
- I believe God enables me to do things I could not or would otherwise do.
Wow! It’s so good to see you! It feels like I haven’t seen you for at least a year! If we haven’t met yet, my name’s Lisa Herrington. I’m one of the pastors here at Blue Oaks. This morning I have the privilege of teaching about the truth that God is a personal God and he wants to be in relationship with us.
When Pastor Matt called to ask if I’d be willing to teach in this new series, I thought I misunderstood him! I was surprised, excited, and a little bit nervous that I wouldn’t be capable.
I didn’t realize at that time is just how personal God would become to me as I prepared for this message. I was challenged and stretched throughout the whole process. I didn’t know where to start and got stuck so many times. At every turn I turned to the Lord. “God I need your help. I can’t do this without you.” Now, he didn’t usually answer as quickly as I would’ve liked, but that only caused me to lean into him more.
I was still making changes and edits all the way up to the day I recorded. As I neared the end of the message that day, I was overwhelmed by a peace unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I could feel it wash over me from my head to my toes. In the same instant I was humbled in the presence of God in the most profound way. It was like the only way I could respond was to kneel in awe, head and heart bowed in worship. Words can’t even adequately describe the experience. But I knew in that moment the message was done. In that moment I knew it was no longer mine but rather it belonged to the Lord.
God revealed himself to me throughout this process in a more personal way than I ever expected. It totally surprised me.
God is a personal God and he desires to be in relationship with us.
May the words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
There was a popular television show when I was a teenager called “Eight is Enough”. You may be old enough to remember it. And if you’re like me you don’t want to be reminded about how old you are, so I won’t tell you when it aired, but it was sometime between 1976 and 1978. You figure it out. The show included an actor named Willie Aames. Eight is Enough made him into a teenage heartthrob. He was cute, wealthy, famous- he had it all.
During the height of his success, he started developing problems with alcoholism that would plague him for many years and take a devastating toll on his personal, professional, and financial life. He went from being a millionaire to being homeless. From teen idol to a career in ruins.
To the tens of thousands of teenage girls clamoring for his attention, Willie was seen, but not known, but to God he WAS seen, AND he was known.
I heard part of his story at a Christian Music Festival. He was there to speak and do a kid show. He was the lead role in a live action production called Bibleman. It was the Christian version of superheroes. An opportunity for grown men to run around in capes and spandex. He played the part of a successful man who was frustrated with his life. Once he was introduced to God, he realized there was more to life and he worked to share God’s truth with people, and of course to fight evil. It was actually pretty good! It was very entertaining. At least the live version. I don’t know about the straight to video episodes, so no promises there!
I went to listen to him share his story before the show, and it brought me to tears.
He talked about how his life had unraveled more quickly than his rise to fame. He had no job, no bank account, and ultimately no marriage. His wife was given custody of their daughter. He lost everything that mattered to him, and it was hard for him to find the will to live. He slept in parking garages, underneath bushes, and occasionally on the couches of friends. It was just one thing after another. He tried to find work but no one would hire him. He wondered if this was really how his life was going to turn out.
And then one day after spending hours looking for a way to earn some money, he got a message from his wife. Something was going on with their daughter and she told him to meet her at the hospital. So here he is, his life’s falling apart, he’s exhausted, hungry, and broke. All he had left to his name was $10.
So, here’s the question: What do you do when your life has been turned upside down, you’re hungry, and all you have is $10? What do you do? Where do you go? Alright, some of you said pray, or go to God, didn’t you? That’s the right church answer! So, I’ll give you points for that! NO!! If you’re hungry and all you’ve got is $10 you go to Taco Bell!
That’s what he did. He went to Taco Bell. He was distraught, and beaten down. As he gets up to the window to pay for his order, the employee tells him the car in front of him paid for his food. He said he lost it. Bawled like a baby. I wonder what the employee was thinking! “Hey, c’mon now, pull yourself together dude! It was only $9.95!
Now, this might not seem like a big deal, but to someone who’d fallen so far and become so broken- this was just the encouragement he needed from God. It was like God was speaking to him, letting him know he was there, empathizing with him in his struggle. It was as if God was talking directly to him through something as simple as a random act of kindness from a stranger. God was letting him know that he was there to meet his needs. He wasn’t abandoned. God was with him. God saw him.
While it’s awe-inspiring when God intervenes in big, grandiose, miraculous ways—when God sees us and reveals Himself in times of despair, and then literally blindsides us with God sized outcomes that are completely unexpected, it’s incredible for sure.
But, one could argue that when God shows up in the seemingly insignificant details of our lives, like at a Taco Bell drive thru, it doesn’t just speak, it practically shouts of a more intimate relationship with our Creator than we ever expected or imagined possible.
Many of us get our image of God from our earthly father. My own father died in an accident when I was three and my mom never remarried. To me it felt like my father left and that God had abandoned me.
How do you see God? You probably have some picture or thought that comes to mind when I ask that question, yeah?
How you see God has been impacted by so many things over the course of your life. Is he unapproachable, or judgmental? Is there some rule book you’re supposed to follow, or a certain level you’re supposed to attain to, but it’s impossible to reach?
God’s not any of that! He’s not unapproachable or unreachable. In fact, He’s involved in our daily lives, close, near, especially in times of need. He has a plan and purpose for our lives.
In Genesis 16 there’s a story of a woman by the name of Hagar.
God promised Abraham that he would have a child, but it wasn’t happening and time seemed like it was running out. He and Sarah were old. So, Sarah decided she would try to solve the problem on her own. Which isn’t usually a good idea. But she told Abraham, Since the Lord has prevented me from bearing children, go to my servant; perhaps through her I can build a family. When Hagar became pregnant, she began to treat Sarah with disrespect. Sarah didn’t like that and she complained to Abraham. Abraham said, do whatever you want with her. Sarah began to mistreat Hagar until Hagar ran away. Hagar was in the wilderness when an Angel of the Lord found her near a spring of water. And he said, Hagar, servant of Sarah, where have you come from and where are you going? She said, I’m running away from my mistress Sarah.
The Angel of the Lord told Hagar that she needed to return to Abraham and Sarah and do whatever Sarah said to do. The angel gave Hagar a promise: I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count. The angel of the LORD also said to her: You are now pregnant (which she already knew, but God was communicating that he knew too. It was a detail about her that she didn’t tell him) You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery.
The name Ishmael means God Will Hear.
And then Hagar gave this name to the LORD: You’re the God who sees me, I have now seen the One who sees me.
Hagar was from Egypt, and would’ve been disadvantaged among the Hebrew women because she was a foreigner and a slave. But, in God’s interaction with her, he clearly showed Hagar that he cared about her. Abrahams God went looking for her after she fled. That’s significant. God sees and loves all people. His care’s not limited to any one specific group of people. “For God so loved the world”…..not just the people who believe in him.
To say she felt scared, lonely, and unloved is an understatement. I’m sure she wondered if anyone cared about her or the baby she was carrying.
Now, you might not be able to relate to the story or the specific circumstances of this story, but I imagine you can relate to the emotions– fear, abandonment, loneliness, betrayal. Everyone knows what if feels like to be unloved or to feel unwanted.
Like Hagar maybe you’ve wondered at times, “Does anyone care about me?” And maybe you’ve even wondered at times, if God cares about me, I mean, if he really cares about ME, if He really sees me and what’s going on in my life, then where is He? Where is He?
With almost 8 billion people on this planet, is it possible that God can really see me or you in any sort of personal way?
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Does God love you? He knit you together in your mother’s womb. He prepared good works for you to do in advance of your arrival on planet earth. Does he love you? It’s not a trick question! YES, he loves you!
The writers of Scripture say he knows the number of hairs on our head. I bet he knows the exact number of gray hairs on my head too! A lot! I’m sure it takes a while to count!
It’s unbelievable how well, how intimately, God knows you and me.
When God found her at the spring, He called her by name. “Hagar, servant of Sarah, where have you come from and where are you going?”
God cared about her. It’s the same for you and me. The Creator of the Universe knows us by name. Think about that for a minute. He knows YOUR name! AND he knows your circumstances, and he knows where to find you!
The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
If you’ve received salvation, if you’ve become a follower of Jesus, if you’ve been adopted into his family, he calls you by name, and he calls you his own. He sees you and knows you.
Hagar gave God the name El Roi—the God who sees me
“Hagar, servant of Sarah, where have you come from and where are you going?”
God already knew. But he asks her to share her story anyway. Hagar, where have you come from? I’m running away. Where are you going? I don’t have any idea. But God sure seemed to know.
He saw her, and listened to her, then told her to turn around. He cared about the details of her life. Hagar, he knew her name. It was personal. There’s so much value in just knowing someone’s name.
One of our ministries at Blue Oaks is to visit senior centers and hold chapel services. On one of my weekly visits a woman by the name of Margaret came early because she wanted to talk to me before everyone got there. I put everything down because it was unusual and seemed important, and I wanted to give her my full attention. She said, I wanted to tell you in person that Merritt died. (Merritt was her husband) She said, and I quote, “You’ve been so good to us. You know our names.” I was stunned, and stood there thinking, but I don’t know much else. How could that make such a difference? I don’t why, I just know that it does.
Some years back I worked for a startup company. The founders sold the business to an international company and the mom-and-pop business quickly became part of the corporate world. By that time, I was in charge of a department. Of course, I KNEW the name of the new CEO, but hadn’t been formerly introduced to him. One day he came walking down the aisle in my department, so I went up to him, extended my hand, and said, “Hi John, my name is Lisa Herrington.” He laughed and said, “Yeah, Lisa. I know who you are.” Now, I don’t know if that was good or bad, but he knew me. And I don’t know about you but when someone knows or remembers my name, especially someone I really like, or who is significant, it feels good. It just feels good.
But, that pales in comparison to how well God knows you. If He knows your name and everything else about you, down to the tiniest detail, down to the number of hairs on your head; Then the God who created the world and everything in it, shows Himself as a Heavenly Father who is personally and intimately interested in you and all that’s going on in your life.
And no matter what’s going on in your life, God sees you. He knows everything, the good, the bad, and everything in between. There’s not a single thing, not one thing, that escapes his attention.
In her moment of great need, El Roi, the God who sees, saw Hagar in her distress. He saw her, loved her, and cared about her broken heart.
God promises that He will never leave or forsake us.
El Roi- the God who sees, sees you. He sees me.
Intimacy with God can bring peace to our innermost being. The weight from our heavy burdens is eased like only it can be in the presence of God. It’s not that our circumstances change, it’s that we can find comfort and strength in Him.
El Roi, this God who sees you and values you. He knows what’s in your heart, the absolute truth about everything. Scary huh!? Nothing is hidden from him. And guess what? He loves you anyway! He even loves me!
Maybe you can remember a time when you felt invisible and unknown, or maybe you’re feeling invisible and unknown right now. Hear me clearly–You have not escaped God’s notice. He sees you, and will meet you right where you are.
I don’t know where that is. I don’t know where you are with God, how close or far away he feels. But I do know this, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done, or even what you haven’t done. There isn’t anything you can do to make God love you more, and there isn’t anything you can do to make him love you any less.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber; Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
God isn’t some distant help. He’s near and wants to be involved in your daily life. Nothing surprises Him, and He doesn’t miss a single detail ever, not ever. You know how when 5 people witness the same car accident, the police get each of their statements, and all 5 are a little different, sometimes even a lot different. God’s account of the accident would include every detail, from multiple angles, with 100% accuracy. He doesn’t miss anything. Not a single thing escapes his notice.
You might say, well this is all fine and good but God sure doesn’t see me and I don’t feel close to him at all. You don’t get it. You just don’t understand, Lisa. Maybe you feel abandoned and forgotten. I bet the Israelites felt abandoned and forgotten too. They were held captive for more than 400 years. They were crying out to God for more than 400 years.
In Exodus Chapter 3 God talks to Moses in the burning bush. In verse 7 He says,
“I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.
And in verse 10 God says to Moses—
“ ”So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
In these verses God tells Moses that he hears and sees, it’s an amazing intimacy that the Israelites didn’t immediately see as they slogged through the mud and clay serving Pharaoh, AND YET God was there. He heard and saw them! God’s personal even in our darkness, and while it may be hard to accept that, and I get it. I do. I understand. I’ve lived in this space before to. And I hope a reminder of it brings you hope.
I had a retired pastor friend years ago. He taught me a method of praying that remains with me to this day, although I’m not sure I’ll ever be as faithful or good at it as he was!
Anytime he drove past someone’s house that he knew, he would pray for them. I had the privilege of being on his driving path for years, because he lived near me. Every once in a while, he would call me before he left home or as he passed by and say, “Lisa, this is Bill Copham. I’m getting ready to go to the King of kings and Lord of lords on your behalf. Is there anything specific you’d like for me to pray”?
That still makes me feel special. I always felt so loved. Bill saw me. He knew who I was, and he loved me anyway.
At the time I was struggling. I’d been in and out of church for years. I was inconsistent about everything. I believed in God but just couldn’t get all the pieces to connect. I still saw God through the filter I’d developed as a child.
It took a lot of years for my heart to change and for my relationship with Jesus to become personal. It took a long time for me to accept that God saw me. He knew everything about me, and he still loved me.
I remember giving my life to Christ in the early hours of a Sunday morning. I couldn’t wait to get to church so I could tell Bill.
As soon as I spotted him, I made a bee line toward him. “Bill, I gave my life to Jesus this morning!”
Tears filled his eyes and he said “I feel like Simeon seeing the baby Jesus. I always knew this day would come; I just didn’t know if I’d be around to see it.”
Don’t give up!! Sometimes we have to wait, sometimes we have to wait for a long time. But God sees you! He hears you. He knows you better than anyone, and He loves you. I don’t want you to give up, and God doesn’t want you to give up even MORE than I don’t want you to give up.
Alright, what do you do when your life has been turned upside down, you’re hungry, and all you have is $10? What do you do? Where do you go? Taco Bell? Were you even listening to my message?! No!!
Where do you go when you’re distraught, everything is falling apart, you’re hungry and all you’ve got is $10? You go to the God who sees you in your hopeless despair, and hears you when you call on Him. You take your broken and messed up life and fall before the Lord and Savior, who showed His love for you and for me, by dying for us. So, WE, you and me, so that we could see, God the Father, who SEES US!! So that we could see God the Father who sees us.
He knows your name, where you’ve been, where you are, where you’re going. He knows your past, present and future. He sees you right where you are, and he hears the cry of your heart.
“Hagar, servant of Sarah, where have you come from and where are you going?”
Insert your own name. Lisa, where have you come from and where are you going?
“You are the God who sees me. I have now seen the One who sees me.”
He hears you. He sees you. It’s personal.
Blue Oaks Church