Hearing the Music

God's Presence

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Most of us are familiar with this scenario: a child is fed, washed up, teeth brushed, prayed over, and tucked in. Everyone says goodnight. You know what happens next...

“Mom!”  

And thus begins a series of appeals. Another drink of water, a trip to the bathroom, a stuffed animal (who you thought had been forgotten, but who is apparently very important), and the list goes on. 

As a parent, I remember going through the motions – getting the water, finding the beloved stuffed animal – only to realize that what my little one really wanted was just for me to sit down and stay for a few minutes. 

My child just wanted my presence. 

And so it is with me and I suppose with most of us. I have this notion that if I could just get this or that thing, or if I could just sort out a certain problem, then I could breathe easier. My life would be better. But what I really need is presence.

The whole summer has been filled with this theme. At Arts and Rec camp we saw over and over again that the Lord was present with his people, and that God promises us a heavenly city called The Lord is There. In our Exodus series we have learned that although God does not promise to take away our troubles, he promises something better. He promises to be with us, to be present. 

And he is. He is present with us by his word, by his Spirit, and in the fellowship of his people.

I am thankful that these are the actual things that can make us breathe easier. These are the things that make life better. And I am thankful that God offers his presence to me through you, the church. May God help us all to draw near, to consider one another, and to gather together (Heb.10:22-25) so that in this way, as the body of Christ, we are the hands and feet of Christ. In this way we see his face tangibly.

So, just like that little kid, someday I might need a drink of water or a long-lost teddy bear. I might someday come up with something else. But what I truly need, every day, is the presence of God.

Thank you for being Jesus to me. 

 

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

in Rest

Nameless

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One of the effects of our internet age is the chance to be noticed. We can post pictures and articles, thoughts and reflections that interact with hundreds of “friends” and are literally accessible to the world! On the one hand it is an incredible opportunity for the message of the Gospel to go forth and reach to places that might otherwise be neglected or unreachable. On the other hand we struggle with the notion of obscurity. I love the following question from my friend Matt Redman (not the singer) in his book, God of the Mundane:

So many pastors today, famous ones and otherwise, are asking young people and everyone else if they are willing to give it all and go overseas as a missionary. It’s not a bad question to ask. There is no question in my mind that this question needs to be out there. But they -- or someone -- also needs to ask, “Are you willing to be numbered among the nameless believers in history who lived in obscurity? Do you have the courage to be forgotten by everyone but God and the Heavenly Host? Are you willing to be found only by God as faithful right where you are? Are you willing to have no one write a book about you and what you did in the name of Christ? Are you willing to live and believe that -- in stark contrast to the world around you -- there is a God of the mundane?”

This is a call to the ordinary, everyday faithfulness of living present. This is a call to bringing cookies next door, working together to shovel snow, being faithful in our cubicle, in all things operating with honesty and integrity, weeping with those we love, and offering a word of grace when needed. It is almost always unnoticed (except by the recipient). It comes with little fanfare. And did you notice how Matt put it? — it takes courage.

So here’s to the mundane. Here is to being the hands and feet of Christ in the places he has put us. Where will we find the courage to live anonymously? Immanuel. God with us. Just as the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night accompanied the Israelites -- the manifestation of God’s presence during their wilderness days -- so we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who gives us the courage to be unnoticed by all, because we know He always sees us. 

 

Photo by zhgn_ on Unsplash

God told me to tell you

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From time to time folks will approach me with questions on how to take advice from others who begin with, “God laid this on my heart to share with you.”  Of course, this can create a conundrum for the receiver of the advice if the receiver doesn’t agree with the advice given.  This can be especially true if it is from a friend or respected figure in their life. What if the issue in question is a matter of opinion? If I go against this advice, am I going against God? Or, what if you are the one making the suggestions? Is prefacing our comments like this a good route to take? Perhaps the following can help us navigate these situations:

1) If you are the receiver, as un-defensively as you can, try to listen and hear what your friend is saying and then weigh it with what you know to be true in God’s Word. We need to humbly hold out the notion that we have something to be gained. If you gain insight, thank them for sharing with you.

2) That being said, we need to be circumspect in the way we approach these conversations. Unless an issue is plainly laid out in scripture we must be careful of making our words the words of God and thus unduly containing the conscience of a brother or sister. While God does nudge our hearts and consciences immediately, he speaks most clearly to us through his Word. If you find yourself on the receiving end of this kind of advice, you may have to respectfully encourage your friend to make their case through Scripture. If you are the one offering the suggestion, please do your best to make clear that what you are offering is not "Gospel truth", and affirm that you respect them whether they follow your suggestion or not.

3) There are always folks who will disagree with our choices (parenting, how we use our resources, etc…).   As long as these are not moral issues you can politely agree to disagree. And then preach the gospel to yourselves. You are deeply loved by your heavenly Father and there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Satan (who is, after all, the accuser of the brothers - see Rev. 12:10) uses these disagreements as leverage points to discourage us and to put our eyes on ourselves rather than on Christ, who is our righteousness. Remember, you are IN CHRIST, which means that your heavenly Father sees no distinction between you and Jesus!

Living in community can be messy, but it is a mess worth making. Let us strive hard to be good receivers and good givers of counsel.

 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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