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Encounter With God

ENCOUNTER WITH GOD

By Ted Schroder

I have found that I have needed a renewed encounter with God at different stages in my life. The days and years can roll along without change for some time and then there is the need for a renewed vision. There is a tendency for our energy to run down and our batteries need to be recharged. A crisis can occur which gets us reaching out for help with a new urgency. There are new demands upon us to which we have to respond. New situations arise in which we don't have all the answers. The former responses don't satisfy and we get discouraged. We need a shot in the arm - something to get us going again in the right direction, with renewed vigor.

Such was the case with a young nobleman named Isaiah. His beloved king had died, and he was in mourning. He went to his church (the Temple) and there experienced a life-changing encounter with God. (Isaiah 6:1-8) What can we learn from his experience to renew us? 1. Focus on the Presence of God.

Isaiah saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted. Above the Lord were the seraphs, heavenly creatures who guarded the throne and led the worship by singing of the transcendent holiness and universal presence of God's glory. The vision was one of sovereignty, power, authority, purity, and omnipresence: "the whole earth is full of his glory." Worship is meant to help us focus on the Presence of God. God is present in worship. God is present in all creation. The whole earth is full of his glory. That is our belief. We need to pray that it will be also our experience when we gather for worship

2. Get in touch with your need, and the needs of others.

Isaiah was convicted of his own unworthiness and the problems of those among whom he lived. "For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty." His vision of the presence of God had awakened him to his own impurity, and the plight of others in his community. While we keep ourselves away from God we can fool ourselves about our own goodness, but when we get near to God, we get a clearer glimpse of our own problems. Self-examination under the bright light of God's gaze can be devastating. There is no way we can hide, excuse, or cover up our shortcomings. But accurate diagnosis or evaluation is necessary before a cure can be applied.

3. Welcome the burning love of God.

The seraph touched Isaiah's mouth with a live coal from the altar: "See this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." A sacrifice on the altar had been offered in his place to atone for his sins. God in his compassion and mercy had acted to cleanse him of guilt, to pay the penalty, and to restore him to fellowship. The love of God came down to us in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, so that we might be made new, given a new start, and totally purified. The fire of God's Spirit brings the presence of God into our hearts to dwell there with us.

4. Hear and Respond to God's Call.

God advertises for volunteers to represent him in the world: "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" The Holy Trinity seeks willing individuals to commission as ambassadors for the Gospel. The world has fallen away from God, it exists against his will, and he wishes to have it back. Isaiah finds his vocation as prophet when he responds to the call: "Here am I. Send me!" In order to get this world back again, and in his compassion, God wants the Gospel proclaimed. God is continually calling his people to reach out to others with the Good News of his love. Just as the live coal from the altar touched Isaiah's lips and he became a prophet, God seeks to touch us to become his messengers. We are his lips, his voice to the community.

In Silence by Shusaku Endo, which Graham Greene described as "one of the finest novels of our time" the author tells the story of a Portuguese Catholic priest who goes to Japan to spread the Gospel. It is a time of terrible persecution when thousands of Christians, and all the missionary priests, have been tortured and executed. The novel takes its title from the priest's concern that God is not speaking to him and his people to defend and strengthen them.

There is a silence of God in a pagan land which is terrifying. But at the end, despite his weakness, and the betrayal of others, the author writes from the point of view of the priest: "He loved him [his Lord] in a different way from before. Everything that had taken place until now had been necessary to bring him to this love. ‘Even now I am the last priest in this land. But Our Lord was not silent. Even if he had been silent, my life until this day would have spoken of him.'"

This is a powerful truth. God speaks to the world through us.

Leighton Ford said, "Jesus was born in a borrowed manger. He preached from a borrowed boat. He entered Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey, he ate the Last Supper in a borrowed upper room, and he was buried in a borrowed tomb. Now he asks to borrow the lives of Christians to reach the rest of the world. If we do not speak, then he is dumb and silent."

Who are the people to whom God is calling us to go?

The Ignostics: those with no Christian background and no experience or memory to relate to Christianity. The Notional Christians: those who have some memory or notion of what Christianity is, but it is not impacting their lives. The Nominal Christians: those who claim to be Christians but are not active in any church. What are the characteristics of the unchurched?

They may not be in a church, but they believe in God. They have legitimate questions about spiritual matters. They want to experience God, not just know something about him. They may be morally adrift but they want an anchor. They are looking for a practical application of faith. They are not loyal to a denomination but want to find a community where their needs are met.

What can you do?

Make sure that your vision of God is fresh – experiential and not just intellectual. Seek that vision in your Sunday and daily worship. Get in touch with your own needs and the needs of others by transparent evaluation. If need be seek counseling, and pray that the Spirit would reveal to you what you need to know about yourself and others.

Let God love you with his forgiveness and cleansing. Thank Christ for his sacrifice on the Cross to heal you. Deepen your appreciation of the Cross and the gift of the Spirit. Seek daily to be filled to overflowing with the Spirit of the love of God.

Listen to what God is calling you to do for others. Reach out to the people God is putting in your path. Get to know them. Ask them questions about their lives. Earn the right to share with them your faith. Invite them to join you for worship so that they too might experience a vision of God.

END

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