I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of your great love,
you who save by your right hand
those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings.
Words I've been digesting this week. Our church declared January as the month for encountering God. When we call and turn our ear to him, he answers and shows us the wonders of his great love. That we can even approach the Almighty One with this kind of boldness and sureness is beyond amazing, beyond awesome!
The last three days have been a culmination of hearts turned towards him and preparation made to receive the rewards he offers to those who diligently seek him. Two visiting ministers with the gifts of a prophet came to share God's word very personally, candidly and even humorously at times with our church body. God did show the wonders of his great love as he declared love, worth, acceptance, and purpose to many individuals and to all of us who were listening. Men who didn't know us personally heard and spoke God's messages very specifically and passionately.
Heaven is open to us! Michael, one of the guest ministers drew our attention to a present day reality as he spoke this morning. Old Testament believers only longed for God to rend the heavens and come down; Jesus fulfilled that cry by his entrance into our world and his death that allowed God to tear the temple curtain from top to bottom. The Holiest place, closest to his presence is now available for us to enter 24/7.
Just as Michael told his kids when they left home that they should never come home and knock on the door-- they were to walk right in because their status as his kids would never change and his house would always be their home--so we have the right (because of Jesus' sacrifice) to come into his presence. This is true on days when we feel worthy and in love with him. AND it's true on the day we haven't read our Bible, failed to resist temptation, or lived in anger towards God and/or others. With him is where we need to be to let him sort it all out, to grant us forgiveness, to declare how much he loves us--EVEN then, ESPECIALLY then.
There are two kinds of God encounters. The times he reaches out to us and surprises us when we aren't expecting it and the opportunity we have every day, ALL the time, to just go through the curtain, the passage Jesus made possible, and be with him and ask our petitions boldly, knowing our Papa is eager to give to us.
Michael shared examples of God encounters of the second kind. On a recent trip to Hawaii, his wife, Gloria, suffered sciatic nerve pain. As they stepped into the bustle of the Atlanta airport for a layover flight, the distance between the arrival and departure gates looked formidable to Gloria. Michael paused and inwardly stepped through the curtain, and asked Papa to provide wheels for his beloved Gloria. Just then a man came alongside them and offered Gloria a wheelchair ride. She explained how far they would need to go and he said, "no problem, I know the way". He wound them through streams of moving travelers, up and down elevators in out of way places, to their destination gate.
Another time they stopped for lunch at a strip mall. Wanting to experience a worthy Hawaiian cuisine they had no idea how to choose rightly between the 5 restaurants offered. Michael thought, wait a minute, why not ask God and see which he would choose? As they stood waiting in front of the unfamiliar shops, a small bent woman passing by, lifted her elderly head and asked if they were looking for a good place to eat. They followed her suggestion, invited her to dine with them, enjoyed the food and later discovered they had experienced one of the most recommended eateries on the island.
Our God isn't a genie in a bottle called up at our fancy or fascination. To those who don't know him as Father, he is still the thunder and lightening in a frightening dark cloud with a voice like the one that caused the people to run away from the holy mountain at Sinai. But as his kids we can always be at home with him, wanting to know him better, to encounter him more so that we might demonstrate to others how Papa takes care of his own and what a close relationship with him looks like.
I'm stepping through the curtain today, Father, and asking for wisdom to listen with your ears to a woman who wants to share with me, her story of wrong choices. I need words that bring your love and hope to her.
Father, will you meet the needs of each of my kids and grand kids? Draw them into your presence, too, where there is never condemnation or judgment, but a Friend who knows exactly what they are feeling, fearing or fighting. You will provide what they need, celebrate their successes and smile in their joy.
Remind me later today, tomorrow at work, when my mind is occupied with details of multiple kinds, and when I'm hearing other voices besides yours, that you love me, live in me and I can come sit with you anytime. I ask for encounters with you, not so I can boast of the encounter in itself, but learn what your heart desires to do with me and in me as you draw close to me.