Archive for April 2012

Heaven on Earth: Living in a New Eden

April 21, 2012

On the heels of my last post, here are some more thoughts stimulated by a Wednesday Bible Study.  The discussion turned for a few moments to the question of why we don’t always feel God’s presence with such certainty as in times of stress or as when we first began our walk.  This question had come up for me in other discussions recently, so I’ve been thinking about it more in the last week.  I don’t think I’ve gotten to the bottom of this yet, but here’s my sense on the subject.  Of course, I’m going to go back before I go forward.  I have to start you back at the beginning, with my picture of fellowship, which may help illustrate my take on our sense of God’s presence.

I’m fascinated with the concept of Heaven being available to us now.  Think about it.  As saints, as children of God, we have direct access to the Father, we can have fellowship with Him, and we can hear from His mouth, whether through the Word, through His servants, or through His Spirit within us.  We no longer have to speak to God through a priest, for the veil has been torn.

Is Heaven itself going to be that much better?  Of course!  There we will have full and unbounded fellowship while here we are restrained by the bounds of our humanity, our weakness.  There we will have put off corruption and with it many of our hindrances is fully enjoying our Lord and Savior.

But He doesn’t just promise fellowship when we reach His side in Glory land.  He says in Ephesians 2:6-7 that He has

“raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”

Not that He will.  That He intends to at some later date.  No, He already did it.  Spiritually we are already capable of fellowship as if we were sitting with Him.  So why aren’t we able to converse as readily here as we will be then?  Well, I’ve already kind of answered that one.  Our corrupt body obstructs fellowship in its fullest expression.  Still, I think that the longer we walk in Christ, the more we die to the “old man,” the fuller our fellowship will be.

And someday, this side of Glory, we may be able to experience something close to Eden.

I don’t expect to reach that anytime soon myself, and yet I’m convinced it has nothing to do with age or length of your walk with God.  It has to do with the depth to which you are willing to go with and in Him.  It has to do with your complete surrender to His will.  And I think it will look very much like the Garden did.

From the Genesis account, we know that God walked in the Garden, and it’s easy to picture Adam walking with Him.  Picture two friends, or perhaps a mentor with his protegé.  Better yet, a father and son.  And here is where I begin to answer the question about why we do not always feel God’s presence.

God is omnipresent, meaning that He is everywhere at all times, but in Genesis, Adam and Eve seem to have been hiding from a greater manifestation than just the omnipresence.  Only God knows what Adam saw in the Garden, but whether Adam and Eve saw a physical, pre-incarnate Christ, or whether they sensed the Holy Spirit in some form, or whether it was something completely different, I think that Adam and Eve felt a stronger sense of His presence at some times than others.

I don’t think this has changed for us today.  Picture us as walking through life’s garden with God.  Sometimes He walks beside us and holds our hand so we won’t get lost among the many paths.  At other times, I think He lets us sit and rest in a shady spot while He tends to some other areas of the garden.  He’s still there, and He’s watching us just as closely, but like the Father that He is, He knows that we need some time to sit and absorb all that we know about Him before we can walk in the new knowledge.  I cannot help but wonder if we are short circuiting this process when we grow anxious and try to hunt for Him when He would rather that we stay where He left us and learn the lessons He has for us there.

I can picture me stopping every few steps to admire some new variety of flower or bush, and asking for the name.  I also picture myself feeling very alone when God steps back to give me space to grow.  Actually, this isn’t so much a picture as a memory.  God has so much to show us, and we are not able to bear it all at once.  I think this may explain why He gives us space sometimes.  He will never truly leave us alone, but He may not “feel” as close all the time.

I think that the longer we walk with Him, the deeper we go with Him, the more we will cease to lean on feelings and at the same time the more often we will feel Him.  Rather ironic, isn’t it?  Our spiritual senses will grow more attuned to His presence as we stop relying on feeling and focus our faith eyes instead.  If we look, we will see God all around us, working in others, working through others, and even working through us.

I have had my ups and downs in my Christian walk myself.  I spent several years in my early teens without growing in the Lord.  I knew God was there, but I didn’t have fellowship.  I don’t always feel like He’s holding my hand now, either.  He did for some time last year when I was job searching.  And He was close again while I adjusted to the new schedule of working full-time.  But at other times, I do not “feel” Him as strongly.

Throughout, however, I now have an underlying constant.  I carry a sense of joy in my heart because I know He counts me as His child.  God has also given me His peace ; an assurance that He knows where the path ahead leads, and that He will lead me along it in His time.  I used to be anxious to know what was ahead.  I wanted to know how to prepare myself.  But when I was eighteen, God gave me His assurance that He knew what was ahead and was already preparing me for it.  With that settled, I have been better able to enjoy knowing Him ever more and more each day.  And that, I think, was His whole point.

I’ve probably raised more questions in this post than I’ve answered, but hopefully they are good questions.  Don’t feel afraid to ask them.  God has proven that He cares about us, and He wants fellowship with us.  We’re good at asking for things when we pray, but I think sometimes we forget that He’s not limited to answering “yes, “”no,” or “wait.”  But we don’t always slow down our busy lives enough to give Him the chance to give us a longer answer.

I challenge you to stop a moment to smell the roses, and while you’re at it, have a chat with the gardener about where He is leading you.

Lay Down Your Vengeance

April 13, 2012

At Bible Study last Wednesday, we read this passage in reference to a topic brought up in the course of our discussion, and I just wanted to share some of my thoughts on it with you.

 
“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
 
Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
 
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
-Romans 12:19-21 KJV

 

Un-forgiveness is a burden.  When I carry anger, bitterness, or hatred in my heart, it weighs me down, darkens everything I do, and kills the joy I have in life and its Author.  But when I forgive those who’ve hurt me, I can give them the burden instead.

What do I mean by forgiving them?  According to the passage above, forgiving is about overcoming evil with good by doing good things for the person.  Showing them love.  Yeah, I don’t always feel very loving at the start, but when I begin by going through the motions, I can’t help but start to feel forgiving toward them.  To see them through God’s eyes instead of mine.

And after all, loving someone isn’t about a feeling; it’s about the things we do for them.  How do people show that they love someone?  By spending time with them, by helping them with a project or task, by giving them time, energy, and thought.  Sometimes I think we’re programed in reverse as well, so that when we spend time, energy, or thought on someone, we end by feeling more like loving them.

So don’t carry that burden around.  Vengeance isn’t yours to take, and the Lord’s accounts always balance in the end even if we grow weary with His patience.  So let Him take care of that part of the business while you get on with forgiving them.

And actually, forgiving them is not only good for you, it is probably the most effective way to get their attention.  The way I read it, forgiveness burns in their minds and hearts like coals of fire!

Christ is Risen!

April 8, 2012

Have you seen Him yet?


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