7 Aug 2008

Practicing the Presence of God

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Christian hope, Faith, Hermeneutics, Kingdom, Ministry, Preaching

Practicing the Presence … of God

There are times when we reduce Christian faith to the subtleties of doctrine or practice. It is interesting that one’s eternal fate is often judged on the basis of the most esoteric point … even when Scripture itself says very little (and sometimes nothing) about this or that. But the “big” things that are present in every section of Scripture are ironically devalued. Theology is important. But it is not important because having it correct saves us or looses us. Having good theology helps us experience the richness of life lived out before the Father and King of the Universe. One of the truly blessed things of the current upheaval in our culture and our churches is the recognition {or rediscovery} of the relationality of God, his Christ and our faith. We are not called to be monks. We are not called to be islands. We are called to be part of a group. We are part of a community. We are part of a family. If what I have said has any basis in the Story of God revealed in Scripture then let me suggest four brief ways in which we can practice being the presence of God in the world we live in … These are things we can do everyday …

1) Today I will will not have the answers. Yes I will even embrace the truth that I am borderline (if not outright) incompetent. Since December 16th I have read through the entire biblical text from Genesis to Revelation three times. I did the NIV, TEV and NRSV (with Apocrypha) and one thing that comes out all over the place is that living by faith often means accepting that I do NOT have the answers I want and even demand! Abraham wondered for years about the promise of God. I wonder why God had anything to do with Samson. The Psalmists are constantly complaining about the lack of answers and their own inadequacy. Qoheleth takes the cake … seeming wise by claiming to have learned it all and then says he has learned nothing at all basically because God has not revealed it to humans. Habakkuk rebukes God. John the Baptist thinks he made a mistake. Jesus shouts into the darkness “WHY!!” Paul says I have not arrived but I press on. The folks in Revelation demand to know “how long.” I think there is something to this … Today if I walk by faith I will not have the answers. That is actually a fairly wonderful truth.

2) Today I will be fully present to the people in front of me and to God. How can I affirm the image of God in each person I see? How can I affirm my love for neighbor and God? By being present … practicing the presence of God at this moment with this person in front of me. I am not thinking of Brett Favre or Alabama football or even where my girls are. I will engage this person because they are God’s special creation and will fully endorse their worth by honoring them as the very image of the King of the Universe. The doctrine of the Bible finds its fulfillment in my relationship with them.

3) Today I will be the Christ. As one who has been incorporated into the very life of Jesus, indeed he is my life, I have his character traits. His voice is my voice. His love is my love. His heart is my heart. His anger is my anger. His suffering for the world is mine. His involvement with the outcast is mine. His emphasis on the weightier matters will be mine. His impatience with religious squabbles that hurt people will be implanted in my own heart. Today I will be Christ … and I just might end up on a cross just like him.

4) Today I will see the Christ. On this day rather than seeing “sinners” and “unclean” folk I will see the world through what Ignatius called “grace healed eyes.” Today I will see in the poor, and the downtrodden none other than the very image of the Son of God. This day I will see not a homeless and nameless person. Rather I see Jesus himself sitting on the corner. Today I see with my grace healed eyes I see the Son of Man in the AA circle. Today I will see Christ.

Perhaps if we adopt these four practices on a daily basis we will notice a lot more of the aroma of life wafting through the air rather than the stench of death. Perhaps we will see a flowering of truly sound doctrine among the assemblies of God across the globe … especially in the USA. But in order to practice being the presence of God we have to become convinced that God is truly interested in humans and the world they live in.

Many Blessings,
Bobby Valentine

10 Responses to “Practicing the Presence of God”

  1. tammy Says:

    Excellent writing! Perhaps the best I have read so far.

    Thanks for this insight. I will put them to practice.

  2. muriel b Says:

    This was very good reading for the night before I start a new school year. Tomorrow is our first full day of school. As I get to know new students and see again those who did not pass the class the first time, I need to try to see Christ in them. I want to be a little kinder and yet still consistent, a little more understanding but still stand by the rules that are put in place to teach character. Say a prayer for all teachers, that we may do a better job of “Practicing the Presence of God.”

    Take Care,

  3. wjcsydney Says:

    Thanks, Bobby, that was powerful and humbling.

  4. cwinwc Says:

    Being near the Space Center, Disney World, and the Cruise Lines affords us opportunities for out of town visitors to come our way. Most are friendly but the last few have left us verbal or written lists of what they feel are markers of the church and then where we in their opinion fall short.

    It seems we have a generation of people who have cut their teeth on proof-texting instead of the type of reading of the Scriptures that you referenced. These poor folks end up being cheated (my opinion) out of the true story or marker if you will of the Bible:

    That God is God and our ability to understand Him “perfectly” is a myth but His Grace is sufficient.

  5. Gardner Hall Says:

    Haven’t had much time to check in lately, but today I’ve had a few minutes and glad I did. Thanks for the always thought provoking writing.

  6. Cheryl Russell Says:

    Amen Bobby! I really enjoyed this post! I’m also really excited about the renewed focus on relationship. Seems like I am seeing more and more about relationship and less about programs and doctrine. For far too long, the focus has been on less important and less fulfilling things.

  7. GaryM Says:

    Scarey. Bold.
    I have only recently been totally convinced of your last statement.

  8. ben Says:

    Focusing is difficult. It’s too simple for our complicated lives. But we can do it. We can practice, that is, discipline the self to be aware of Christ.

    Excellent post.
    ben overby

  9. preacherman Says:

    Excellent post Bobby.
    I really enjoyed reading.

  10. the verner Says:

    Thanks Bobby . . .and keep a goin’ . . .I appreciate your focus. We’re working on the NEXT generation mostly – but on this one too. Had a very OLD sister tell me recently, “Thanks for your ministry, I am now ready to die in PEACE” . . .it IS better to put ourselves into GOD’S HANDS . . .as any child should know. Thanks again . . .

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