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How Real Is God to You?

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How real is God to you? Today? Right this minute?

Our lives are busy with work and school and recreational activities. What part does God play in our lives?

Take a few minutes to pause and answer this question: One thing God has done for me is... and fill in the blank. Can you name at least one specific thing God has done for you?

There are two things God did for me as a teenager in the Church of God that I'd like to share with you because they impressed my mind with God's power and ability to intervene—not in someone else's life—but in my life. These are things the great God who made the universe did for me.

Flight Gets Off the Ground

Deuteronomy 14:22-26 Deuteronomy 14:22-26 [22] You shall truly tithe all the increase of your seed, that the field brings forth year by year. [23] And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of your corn, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herds and of your flocks; that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. [24] And if the way be too long for you, so that you are not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from you, which the LORD your God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD your God has blessed you: [25] Then shall you turn it into money, and bind up the money in your hand, and shall go to the place which the LORD your God shall choose: [26] And you shall bestow that money for whatever your soul lusts after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatever your soul desires: and you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you, and your household,
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talks about saving second tithe and spending it on "whatever your heart desires" at the Feast of Tabernacles.

When I was a senior in high school, I had worked for about a year at my first job in an ice cream parlor and had a sizable amount of second tithe—for a 17-year-old. What did my heart desire to spend it on?

When I was 8 and 9 years old, my dad worked for Braniff International Airways, and our family flew from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Washington, D.C., and Dallas, Texas, and Denver, Colorado. I fell in love with flying. But then we came into the Church. Dad left his job with the airline (in order to keep the Sabbath), and I was grounded. For years I longed to get back into the air.

When I was 17 I finally had the money to fly again. With my second tithe I could buy one-way airline tickets for my brother, a friend and myself to fly home after the Feast in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. The flight from Madison, Wisconsin, to Minneapolis was only about 45 minutes. But it was my dream. It was the only thing my heart really desired.

But there was one catch. Dad no longer attended church at that time, and Mom did not want to drive the five hours home from Wisconsin Dells by herself. She had planned to take an elderly couple from our church to the Feast and back. But then the couple decided, for health reasons or whatever, not to go to the Feast. Mom said if they did not ride with her, then my brother and I could not fly home from the Feast.

My plans were ruined. My hopes were dashed. The one thing I really wanted to do was taken away from me.

So I turned to God and prayed. I begged God to help that couple change their mind and go with Mom. I told God how I really wanted to fly.

While I was still on my knees, I heard the phone ring. Through the bedroom door I could hear Mom talking to that older couple—and they had changed their minds. They would go to the Feast with Mom after all!

I could not believe how fast God had answered my prayer. The words were barely out of my mouth when the answer had come.

Accident That Didn't Happen

The second incident happened a little earlier in my life. It was the middle of a Minnesota winter and a thick layer of snow blanketed the countryside.

The church sponsored a '50s sock hop for its teenagers one Saturday night after the Sabbath, and a group of us slicked back our hair, donned sunglasses and T-shirts and enjoyed the dance.

When the dance was over at 10 or 11 p.m., four or five of us put on our winter coats and climbed into the car to go home. I climbed into the back seat behind the driver, David, who had borrowed his parents' car.

After traveling about 10 minutes through the dark, snowy countryside, we came to the top of a long hill. We started down and noticed a pair of headlights staring up at us from the other lane. Suddenly we hit an icy patch on the highway. David lost control of our car. We started sliding over into the path of that oncoming car.

Panicking, David jerked the steering wheel to the left. The car veered off into the shallow snowbank on the left side of the highway. We were out of the path of the oncoming car. But we were not safe! Still moving downhill through the snow, we were headed straight for a road sign.

David yanked the wheel to the right. We slid uncontrollably across both lanes of highway and ended up in a snowbank on the right side of the road. We slid sideways down the hill. As I looked out my window, I could see another highway sign on a collision course with my door. If we didn't stop, it was coming right through my window and it would be all over for me. I didn't have time to pray a full prayer. All I had time for was "Oh, God!"

God heard. I believe it was He who stopped the car a few feet short of the sign. Our engine had died. We were stuck in deep snow. After a few moments of silence, David said, "Well, we're alive." The car and its passengers were miraculously unhurt.

Almost immediately there was a rapping at the window. Another motorist had stopped and offered to help us push the car out of the snow back onto the highway. He made no comment about our '50s look. He appeared so suddenly and offered help so quickly that later we wondered if he were an angel.

These two incidents in my life showed me that God was very real. Since then I have had many prayers answered—but not always so dramatically.

I know God is real because of what He has done for me! There is a scriptural basis for this: "The goodness of God leads you to repentance" (Romans 2:4 Romans 2:4Or despise you the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
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).

Again, I ask, what good thing has God done for you? Something as simple as changing someone's mind—or as dramatic as saving your life?

Unanswered Prayer

There are times when we pray to God and He doesn't seem to answer. Does that mean God is not real? Not at all. It means sometimes, just like our physical parents, God answers with a "No."

Do our physical parents give us everything we ask for? I know my oldest daughter didn't get everything she asked for. When she was 8 years old, she asked for an allowance—of $10,000!

James gives us a clue as to why God doesn't always give us what we think we need: "Yet you do not have because you do not ask" (James 4:2 James 4:2You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war, yet you have not, because you ask not.
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).

God expects us to ask Him for what we need! It is no excuse to say, "Well, He already knows what I need." We need to ask.

Even when we ask, we don't always get what we ask for. Why? James explains, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:3 James 4:3You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it on your lusts.
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). Sometimes we ask for the wrong thing.

We also need to be close to God. James writes, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded... Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up" (James 4:6-8 James 4:6-8 [6] But he gives more grace. Why he said, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. [7] Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. [8] Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded.
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, 10).

Here are two keys to making God more real in your life:

Ask God to Be More Real

The first key to making God more real is to ask God. Pray for His intervention in your life. What you pray for should be a real need, not just to satisfy your desire for pleasures. (However, not all pleasures are bad. God answered my prayer about flying home from the Feast—this was based on a desire to fulfill Deuteronomy 16.)

We need to draw near to God in prayer. How?

When we pray to God, how do we picture Him in our mind? Is He some old, bearded, distant, unreachable being?

Jesus taught us to pray, "Our Father in heaven" (Matthew 6:9 Matthew 6:9After this manner therefore pray you: Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name.
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). God is our Father, even if we don't have one. If we are orphaned or if our father has died, God is still there for us!

I was almost 10 years old when my whole family first came into the Church. Six years later, Dad quit coming. I was left a spiritual orphan! I could expect no more spiritual guidance from him.

One scripture gave me hope: "A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation" (Psalms 68:5 Psalms 68:5A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.
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). I went to God and reminded Him of this promise, and He has helped me through many trials in my life.

God is everything good that our physical fathers are—and more! He is our protector and provider and helper. Notice how God is described in this same psalm:

"Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; let those also who hate Him flee before Him... As wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God... Blessed be the L ord , who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation! Selah Our God is the God of salvation; and to God the L ord belong escapes from death... O God, You are more awesome than Your holy places. The God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to His people" (verses 1-2, 19-20, 35). Don't you find these verses thrilling?

Study the Bible

The second key to making God more real is to study the Bible and Church literature. Read about God—what He's like, what He can, and will, do for you.

Paul told the Romans, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17 Romans 10:17So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
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). We build our faith by reading the examples of God's intervention in the Word of God. If God intervened for people in the Bible, He can intervene for us today.

God does not treat people differently. The apostle Peter said, "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality" (Acts 10:34 Acts 10:34Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
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). James tells us God answered Elijah's prayers, and he was human just like us (James 5:17-18 James 5:17-18 [17] Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. [18] And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
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). We can be inspired by reading the accounts of God's intervention in the Bible.

God Saves Three Young Men

One dramatic biblical account where God intervened in the lives of three young men is the true story of Daniel's friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They trusted God and He saved them from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3).

These were not old, learned men who had obeyed God for decades. These were young men, probably in their late teens or early 20s. They humbled themselves before God. They probably prayed quick, silent prayers. God was very real to them!

God can be real to us too.

Conclusion

God can be very real if we remember these two keys:

1. Pray to Him. We don't need some type of preprinted prayer. Just talk to Him. He likes to hear from us. Praying is simply talking to God.

2. Study. When we read God's Word, that is God talking to us.

By building this two-way conversation, God will become real to us. And He will be there to help us, no matter what fiery trial we may face. UN