Wednesday, November 26, 2008

God's presence (part 4)

A big happy Thanksgiving Day to you all! After the meal tomorrow, I’ll be settling in to watch some Lions football. Who knows, we may even get to see the Detroit Lions keep their perfect season (ha!). I hope you enjoy the time with family and friends. We conclude this series on how we can experience God’s presence with the last step, a conversational relationship.

4. A Conversational Relationship
Before Jesus was crucified He told them (15:15 NIV),

I no longer call you servants,
because a servant does not know his master’s business.
Instead, I have called you friends,
for everything that I learned from my Father
I have made known to you.

What does it mean to be a friend of God? What does that involve? The answer leads us to the last way we can experience God’s presence. This is through a conversational relationship. Friends talk to one another; this is how Jesus revealed everything from the Father to His disciples in John 15. Since God is a Person, the question becomes, why wouldn’t He talk with us? Maybe we should ask ourselves if we even believe such a relationship with God is possible? Is it possible to come to a point where we are in a conversation with God and actually hear Him speaking on a regular basis? I think scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, presents an overwhelmingly convincing case that we can.

Example of a Conversation Relationship
One of the best examples of this is Abraham. His life can be read about in Genesis chapters 11 –25. He was called by God to leave his country and go to the land God would show him (12:1-3). God spoke to Abraham and told him he would be a great nation and a blessing to all the other nations (12:2-3). If you glance at Abraham’s life you see a pretty common occurrence, God speaking to him and Abraham speaking back. In fact, it is interesting that the New Testament holds Abraham up as the greatest example of what real faith in God is to look like. It is not Moses, or David, or any of the prophets (major and minor), it is Abraham. Why? Abraham didn’t have the Law, the written Word, or the Temple. So, what did he have? He had a conversational relationship with God. Abraham spoke to God and God spoke to Abraham. They communed on a regular basis with each other.

So, how do we get to the place of having a conversational relationship with God? I think there are a couple of things we can do.
1. We need to learn how to talk with (not at) Him meaningfully. Maybe we start in our prayer life by learning how to pray conversationally. Maybe we pause after requests and listen for Him to answer.
2. We need to learn how to listen to Him and discern His voice. This will come with practice and patience. The longer we walk with Him the better we should be at getting to hear and discern His voice.

The greatest thing about all of this is that the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, the Comforter, is willing to help us. The great chink in the Enemy’s armor is that we were made to live like this. We were made to live in a conversational relationship with God. When I sold auto parts, the parts that were made for the vehicle fit it best. It may have taken some work to get them to fit, but they were made for that.

May you enjoy God and may He enjoy you!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

God's presence (part 3)

We continue looking at the different ways in which a person can experience God's presence. This series started, in case I failed to mention it, from examining Psalm 139:7-12. The psalmist asks the questions,

"Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?"
(Psalm 139:7 NIV)

The third way is the God who acts. Here is a diagram I created to help you see where this fits in with everything.

3. The God Who Acts
This is when God does something, when God intervenes in such a way that is just unexplainable. This is God transforming and changing our reality in ways we could never do. This is seeing His power at work in our world around us.

Example of The God Who Acts
You can get plenty of examples of this if you read through the book of Acts. To narrow things down a little, and be a bit more specific, Acts 16:25-28 is an excellent illustration of what the God who acts experience looks like. You have Paul and Silas, who were thrown into the most secure part of a Roman prison, singing and praying to God (maybe they were singing Psalm 139?). God shows up, an earthquake happens and we have a jailbreak. All the prisoners’ chains become loose enough for escape and all the prison doors fly open. This is God doing something Paul and Silas could never do in their own power. This is just one of the many instances of the God who acts experiences recorded in Acts.

I believe there is another way we can experience God’s presence that is more complete and rich for our spiritual growth (this will be next week's). These three ways that we have just discussed (e.g., blind faith, sensing it, the God who acts) miss the message of Jesus’ farewell discourse in John 15. Here we have Jesus in His last hours talking intimately with His disciples. Before Jesus was crucified He told them (15:15),

I no longer call you servants,
because a servant does not know his master’s business.
Instead, I have called you friends,
for everything that I learned from my Father
I have made known to you.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

God's presence (part 2)

We continue with the discussion about the different ways we can experience God's presence in our lives. The second way Dallas Willard mentions in his book Hearing God is sensing God's presence.

2. Sensing God’s Presence
Sensing God’s presence is about feeling God is present in a special way. This is the strong impression an individual or groups of people get when they believe God wants them to do something or say something to someone. We had an example of this a few weeks ago in our morning worship service. People felt led, right in the middle of service, to stand and testify about God and they were obedient to that feeling. As a result, the rest of us felt God’s presence in a special way during that service.

Examples of Sensing God’s Presence
Luke gives two beautiful examples of this when he shares the story of Jesus, the young boy, being presented at the Temple. A devout follower, who was patiently awaiting the Messiah, by the name of Simeon was able to sense God’s presence in a special way and recognized Jesus the little boy as the Savior of humankind. Verse 27 in Luke 2 says the Spirit moved Simeon. If Simeon weren’t able to sense God’s presence in his life he would have missed the Son of God.

In the following verses (36-38), we have the prophetess Anna, who lived and worshiped night and day at the Temple. She experienced God’s presence in a special way that allowed her to have an encounter with the Christ-child.

I bet you have stories you have lived or heard of special encounters with God’s presence. I would love to hear them if you care to share!