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So God Showed Up
OK God, why not me?
Some time back I wrote a rather cheeky title: I Want God to Show Up with Miracles and Other Fun Things. Keying off the dramatic miracles reported in the Bible and also those I've learned about recently among God's people in China, I wondered aloud, "OK God, why not me?" The hub concluded as follows: "While Aikman reports many miracles in China there are just as many, if not more, instances of extreme endurance under severe suffering. Our brothers and sisters in China see the power of God; but the presence of God is more precious to them. Would that the same could be said of me. Working on that." David Aikman wrote the book Jesus in Beijing.
The Presence of God
What does that look like? God did appear to his people in the Old Testament in many ways: a burning bush comes to mind; or a cloud. Then there was that fourth man spotted in the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar. Theologians call these appearances theophanies. They are temporary and visible appearances of God whose essence is spirit not material.
God's presence is not limited to such dramatic encounters. Fact is that God is present everywhere and at all times and in every circumstance. This feature of God's character is called his omnipresence. But I'm writing about our experience of his presence. Oxygen is around everywhere I go. I'll die if it absent, but I'm not usually conscious of its presence.
There are times when the presence of God is like that for me. He's there making the world go around, which includes delivering oxygen to my lungs. If something bad happens, I "gasp," assuming He's no longer there. But this is not the way it's supposed to be. God would be present in this sense whether or not He'd sent his Son into our world... whether or not that Son had died on the cross to redeem me. This also would be true whether or not I believed him. Atheists and agnostics experience God's presence in this sense, though they are loath to admit it.
Constant Conscious Communion
Dr.Robert G.Rayburn, founding president of Covenant College and Seminary, taught me to recognize God's presence as experiencing his constant conscious communion. That was fifty years ago. Since then, his description of knowing God's presence has proven true over and over again.
Track with me here. Yes, God's personal presence is constant. But most are unaware of him because of the heart hardening and mind darkening effects of sin. The Bible calls that being dead in sin. (Ephesians 2:1) There comes a time when, by the power of God's Spirit, a person is made alive in Christ. He or she discovers an awareness of God's presence that may ebb and flow, but generally grows throughout the rest of this life. One is made so conscious of God's presence that interaction becomes possible. That's what Rayburn meant by communion.
Most associate communion with God with going to worship Him and, in particular, with taking Communion or the Lord's Supper, as it's called in some circles. While formal corporate worship is important, it goes hand in hand with spontaneous and constant individual contact with God. Actually the two forms of communion with God enrich each other. Without one, the other fails.
Walking with God
When your contact with God consists of constant conscious communion it can be said that you are walking with God. It's hard to describe in the abstract what that is like, so I'll go personal and risk getting hurt.
I go to bed thanking God for the day, and sometimes, that the day is over. I ask for a good night's sleep in prep for whatever He has in mind for tomorrow. Now that's no flowery prayer. The best I can do at the end of the day is a breathed sentiment. Wonder if that was what Paul meant by "groanings too deep for words." Romans 8:26) My night prayers are groans and wordless, but probably not very deep.
Morning comes. I ask God's blessing for the day. Of course I want things to go as planned, free of hassle and successful in all that I attempt. I guess God could pull a switch and make that happen. But then I'd come to think that I'd pulled it off without God. He loves me too much to let me think that for long. So yes, I expect blessing but I know that the day's blessing sometimes feels more like a curse. But that's not the point.
My confidence is that whatever takes place, the Almighty is at my side. So I consult Him on all sorts of things as the day progresses. These could be huge issues of world importance, major personal challenges or what restaurant to frequent. I think that's what Paul meant by praying "without ceasing" in II Thessalonians 5:17. (Note to cynics: God doesn't pass down a note saying, "Try the steak and blue cheese salad at Panera." He doesn't have to.} See, when you walk with God, you assume that what desires he gives you are his will. The 4th century churchman, Augustine summed it up this way: "Love God, and do as you please." It's analogous to when I'm in good loving contact with my wife, she doesn't have to tell me what she wants.
Lost keys and broken glasses
Here's how God showed up over the last twenty-four hours. Spent yesterday, a Saturday, preparing our small condo to receive our daughter and her family for a visit. That would be mom and dad, two little girls, 6 and 3 and twin boys, six months old. We'd been anxious over how it would all work out, but figured we'd move some furniture, clean out some accumulated clutter and stock up on food. It was just an ordinary day of housework spiced up by the Olympics on TV. Then I lost my keys. The last I remember having them was when Dolly (our dog) and I walked up to the mail boxes. On the way back, Dolly stopped to do what dogs do. I laid the mail and my keys on the ground to pick up what dogs leave when dogs do. I then retrieved the mail but not the keys. At least that's what occurred to me around 3:00 a.m
Now let's backtrack to early afternoon on said Saturday. The keys are already lost. After looking all over the house, I slouched on the couch to take in a swim meet I think. Wouldn't know 'cause I fell asleep with my eye-glasses in my hand. I woke and stood up to the sound of "crunch" beneath my feet. I'd stepped on my own glasses that had fallen to the floor. I cussed.
Both these incidents have a happy ending, but that's not the point. (Note to cynics: Yes God has better things to do than find my keys and fix my glasses. He also has better things to do than count hairs and sparrows. Luke 12:4-7.) The question is not, where is God when bad things happen (from annoying personal incidents to movie massacres); but where is my faith at these times. If I loose my cool over keys and glasses how will I manage greater challenges. Jeremiah had something to say about that. "If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses?" (12:5) When God shows up for keys and glasses I am helped to believe that He is in Aurora, CO.
How did God show up?
He showed up long before the keys were found and the glasses fixed. His Spirit wasted no time in letting me know the cussing was out of line. I was ashamed and driven to a new appreciation of God's forgiveness and of my wife's patience and resourcefulness. She found a couple of shops open on Sunday afternoon. A quick trip to one not more than three miles away had me back in business. The keys? My good wife (that's the same one I refer to above) suggested I check at the bulletin board near the mailboxes to see if anyone had found my keys and had pinned them there. Well, that's where I found them. There's a huge thank-you note up there now.
It's not that the keys were found and the glasses fixed that showed God's presence. It was what He was doing in my heart. He convicted me of wrong doing, raised awareness of my own foibles, increased my appreciation for my wife and others who came to my rescue and then motivated me to do the same for others.
I don't usually pay much attention to people walking along the side of the road. A little while ago I exited our neighborhood grocery store behind an older man I'd noticed over the years walking along the road near our home. He's an older man who collects carts, sweeps walks and does most anything at the store. I called out, "How far do you have to walk?" He turned to say that it was only a ten minute walk. "It's hot and I'm going your way. Want to ride?" A few minutes later I'd made a friend, found a brother and learned that he'd just had major heart surgery.
God showed up. He got there over lost keys and broken glasses.