I’ve experienced a encouraging and challenging time of teaching this week.Actually, for about 3 months the Lord has been truly nailing me about growing as a listener, speaking less, praying a great deal more than talking and in general, He has been moving in my life in very good ways. Not always easy to change but very good! So much of this is indeed in answer to my own prayers, specifically asking Him for He and I to move closer -which I know is His desire more than it even is mine. But it has been very good indeed.Have you noticed the ton of verses, and recognized the zillion times in your life when God “stepped out of the shadows” and showed up in such a way that for anyone to say “That’s just coincidence” brought laughter out of you?Over my walk with Jesus He has shown Himself present with me so often and in so many deep and (certainly to me) convincing ways that it almost goes beyond faith to a rock-solid realization that “in Him we live and move and have our being” as Paul quoted a non-Christian poet to a people he was sharing with (Book of Acts).Omnipresence. Immediate presence. Manifest or not, by the way! Sometimes felt, sometimes not, but always “I am WITH you even to the end of the age” and “I will NEVER leave you or forsake you” and “where can I flee from Your presence? If I make my bed in hell behold You are there, if I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea” and on and on and on God speaks of the reality of His presence with us.Brother Lawrence (they wrote a book about him after he’d died called “The Practice of the Presence of God”) had it right.And then I think of the many nights I’ve prayed the Celtic prayers of the daily office (see Northumbrian Community online, especially the last prayers of the day- “Compline”) which are rich with words relating to His immediate and constant, yes, continual presence.While I cannot (nor should anyone) live merely out of their emotions, there is something of that yet deeper than emotion and endorphins regarding the immediate presence of God. God the Holy Spirit meshed with my spirit.He really, truly, IS. “I Am”. And “I Am” is “Emmanuel, which being interpreted means ‘God WITH us”.A good part of this week and even the past 3 months for me has been laced with reminders, all on His part, intentional while at times so was I… and sometimes not :)Today I had a bit of “homework reading” and very much enjoyed the reminder that one can and should seek and sense God through music, quiet places, walks in the woods and etc., not because He somehow “specially meets us” in these, but because when we are out of our normal element, the day-to-day spaces and situations, it can at times be a bit easier to get into a mode of discovery. Perhaps I should say “sensory focus as opposed to sensory overload.”Discovering God (a book, concept and various teachings have focused on this) is of course a large part of receiving His love and loving Him back. A journey rather than destination, at least in this life.The process of relationship, deeper, closer, love rather than “duty” or “works”-based relationship is certainly His desire for each of His children.Nice. Sweet. True. Very good indeed. Very God of Very God. Present. HALLELULIA, Present!!And that’s what He seems to be “up to” in me at the moment 🙂
-a wider view-One of my ongoing burdens for others is the exact same as I have for myself -namely, “forward progress” as a disciple of Jesus.Not literal perfection, not fully sinless behavior, but forward progress in right and deepening relationship to both Jesus and others.There are a number of great roads that lead to such progress. I want to unpack this a bit more rather than simply suggest more regular prayer, study of the Word of God, person-to-personal accountability and various spiritual disciplines. These are certainly essential pathways but there is more to consider.As an older dude who has walked alongside some very godly, gifted leaders for many years- in fact living in intentional community with them- I realize I’ve been blessed far beyond most believers with balanced and practical spiritual input. But that in itself does not guarantee genuine maturity.”Knowing” is not “doing”, and neither knowing or doing are “being”. Note also, the “ing” in these. Forward progress involves motion, not mere memorization of information alone.In terms of the Christian life it’s not about rote or habit but authentic, intentional loving relationship and sharing as well as serving via those gifts God has endowed us with.But there’s so much more to consider.Neither those who pastor me nor I, expect or believe we’re somehow “better than” or “above” ANY other Christ-follower. Gifts, leadership or not, nobody but Jesus is Jesus!! We’re all flawed, only see part of the picture.In fact, one of the reasons we have always linked with so many different Christian churches and eventually joined the Evangelical Covenant denomination was for more input, not less.One thing that drew us to the Ev. Covenant was a very common tendency of our preachers and teachers to quote an increasingly wide variety of voices from a very broad spectrum of the larger Church, past and present. JPUSA leadership has done likewise from our origin.It is important to recognize how needy we all are and continue to be. As one understands how blessed the larger church is, how most any fellowship has been really gifted and positively used by the Lord in areas we’re still infants in, we learn from them.Of course there isn’t an individual or group of them who are literally perfect and mature in every area.The point is that both the Lord and any serious Christian recognizes my/our/everyone’s need for maturity, for at least occasional marks and evidence of forward progress.It’s also important to consider individuals, groups within a local congregation, an entire congregation or larger association of churches often have very different areas in which this or that specific growth is needed.The question must be “WHAT areas is the Holy Spirit calling me or us to progress in during this season?”Which area or areas is God Himself accenting for growth?Another aspect bears thought:more and more believers are traveling the world whether in ministry, business, tourism or for other reasons. The more one travels, reads, interacts on the internet and etc., the more one begins to gain insights into a world far larger than their own personal life, family, town/city, nation, local or larger association of churches.I believe this is not only good but extremely important IF one learns that there are strengths and weaknesses in everyone’s life, congregation, ministry center and so on.The beauty of moving outside our “norm” of the familiar is that about the time we have built and entrenched ourselves in whatever spiritual “box”, we meet some incredible people and see biblical, fruitful servanthood in a new way, from another angle. Often, God is calling us to apply elements of someone else’s fresh approach (fresh to us anyway) locally. Not always, but certainly at times.There are lots of days I pray the daily office, and/or read an online Tozer, Oswald Chambers or Our Daily Bread or Hazelden’s 12-step devotional and just have to laugh at the wisdom and timing of God speaking to me through such varied sources.He speaks as I pray and listen, as I read His Word, as I hear Him via my brothers and sisters (younger, older, pastors, my wife, various accountability partners), and via a wide range of devotional writers.As I travel I hear a new song, hear a sermon or teaching, get into a conversation, simply overhear one and the Spirit often says “O.K., Glenn… take this in and pray and consider… I’m nudging you on this point.”Sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks in that “still, small voice” and thankfully, not as often HAS to come as “a rushing mighty wind” ha… but in either case, paying attention and seeking Him in order to make some sort of spiritual progress is a good thing.We must remember forward progress often takes much longer than we expect it to. How often we think “I GOT it Lord!” when all we did was hear it?! Certainly He takes us all another lap around the mountain at times, for we are all a bit thick.Oh the patience and grace of God! But praise Him, He knows how to speak to us, when and about what.May the Father help us each make progress… beginning with careful, Bible-based “ears to hear” Him speak.