Thoughts on guest sermon, 2/19/12
Our speaker was great! He pointed out that Jesus was relaxed and unhurried, near the end of the sermon reminding me that Jesus, when He was baptized, was led into the wilderness and there tempted. He fasted for 40 days, after which He was tempted to turn the stones into bread. I find it fascinating that no one in the story, or in telling the story, doubts Jesus’ ability to change the stones into bread, and I think it wonderful to be reminded the power of my Creator God.
God is never in a hurry, reminded our speaker, quoting Oswald Chambers. John Wesley says he is too busy to be in a hurry. My reading of Scripture needs to be thoughtful and deep, and I might be better off reflecting on one verse a day rather than reading a book a day. I think the “hurry” the speaker was using is probably to be distinguished from business, for, especially in John, I find the Lord very busy, yet taking time after that business to find a quiet time alone with His Father. Says McGee in a devotional reading on John: “There are a great many of us today who read the Bible but still do not know certain scriptures. I believe there are two reasons for this. One is that we may read a passage many times and each time see things in the passage that we have never seen before.” I do need to pause and taste the fruit of the Spirit, and I can be so busy in getting things done that I forget, as did Martha, the really important things.
Why is it that the Word seems to contain so much meaning? I think it is because the Word shows us the eternal nature of God, and that eternal picture has so many nuances of meaning.
I spoke on the immanence of God this week, and I do think it is a doctrine much related to what our speaker was trying to communicate. People tend to forget that it is only in the “now” that I can meet God and change myself as I said here: “The chains of the past encircle our plans for an uncertain future, but it is only in the present, flitting and fluttering by each instant, that we have the power to forge links to either the future or the past” (http://poetrymrd.blogspot.com/2006/05/present.html).
Upon reflecting further, I think there is an additional reason we do not walk with God as we ought: we simply do not know ourselves as we ought. McGee says that God has put the white hair on old men as a signal that their life is about to run out, and that they need to have it in order. But most of the people that I know do not heed the warning and live each day as if there is always going to be another. When I was 17, and as yet, did not know the Lord, I was paralyzed on the right side. Doctors tested me for ten days with renowned specialists being called in, and yet remained mystified as to causes. But as I regained my physical abilities, an ever-present joy began to infect my persona, and remains to this day. Coming to the Lord with such a perspective I found immensely helpful, for I wanted to make precious use of the moment, knowing that each morsel of time that we have been given is so precious.
There is a country song with the refrain that goes something like I wish this for you, that you could live like you are dying. And that is precisely the problem! People live like they have all the time in the world left, and of course that is not true. We have only been given the now, a perspective that sharply focuses for those of us who have strayed too close to death. Would not the world be a better place if we all would live as if we were dying?
But beyond that, man also needs to be aware of the immanence of God. Says Tozer: “God dwells in His creation and is everywhere indivisibly present in all His works. This is boldly taught by prophet and apostle and is accepted by Christian theology generally. That is, it appears in the books, but for some reason it has not sunk into the average Christian's heart so as to become a part of his believing self.” God is here. Can you go anywhere where you cannot say, God is here? Nothing will bring spirituality to the believer more than reflection on His immanence. I cannot hide from God anywhere, as Adam unsuccessfully tried to do when he sinned. There is no where that I can go to flee his presence as Jonah found out.
But I judge the giants of the faith are not as Jonah or Adam—they recognized the God whose precious promises of abundant life permeate the Bible—that God is everywhere present with them. I believe that is what gave Paul and Peter the strength to face their martyrdom, full of faith, and nothing wavering, for they knew that even at the awful death they faced, even there, God was with them. Such giants would never say “I am far away from God” for they would realize the inaneness of such a statement. Tozer analyzes some of the spiritual giants, and finds they have this in common: “I venture to suggest that the one vital quality which they had in common was spiritual receptivity.”
To understand that God is everywhere present with you, is to understand that you can access that God at any point, at any place, and at any situation. You become like Nehemiah, who prayed in an instant before coming and petitioning the king for the rebuilding of the temple. Like our speaker this morning, Tozer reminds us, “We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar.”
My daughter and son-in-law received great praise from me recently, as I commented on how much I appreciated the wonderful way they were living and walking with God. To my surprise, my daughter momentarily confused my praise, thinking I was praising them for what they were doing, as both of them are wonderful teachers in a Christian school. She commented that the economy and salary they had might well force them to find something more substantial in salary. She then asked me if I would still approve of them.
I was not praising them for what they were doing, but rather for who they are. I understand the confusion, for it is easy to think that what we are doing (especially for men!) is who we are. I spent many years chasing, as many men do, after the act of doing, and it took me growing older to realize that I missed much living that way. (See: “I Never Took Time”, http://poetrymrd.blogspot.com/2006/01/i-never-took-time_18.html) God is not concerned as much with what we accomplish before Him in our life. We might build a spectacular skyscraper to present to Him, but what is that to the Creator of the world? Rather, God is concerned with who we are, and how we walk day to day before Him. All works that we do, Philippians 2:3 teaches us that our good works is indeed “God who works in you to will and act according to his good purpose.” A wise man is not concerned with the building of the skyscraper, rather he is concerned with his walking close to the Creator of the universe. Realizing that God is always with you, and that you should live accordingly, will lead to your life of faith being lived like one of the great Christians, for we do not design our deeds, but rather walk with Him to find His fulfillment in what we do. “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”