Faithful Presence to God
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”
— John 15:4
“Time! There’s never enough time!” As a pastor, I hear this quite often. As we strive to remain faithfully present to God in a city as busy, transient, and distracted as Seattle; our time is of incredible value. “Be attentive to time and the way you spend it. Nothing is more precious. This is evident when you
recall that in one tiny moment heaven may be gained or lost. God, the master of time, never gives the future. He gives only the present, moment by moment.” Perhaps the biggest clue on how to remain present comes from where we might least expect – children! Swiss theologian, Hans Urs Von Balthasar encourages us to take note of how children keep time.
“Pressured man on the run is always postponing his encounter with God to a ‘free moment’ or a ‘time of prayer’ that must constantly be rescheduled, a time that he must laboriously wrest from his overburdened workday. A child that knows God can find him at every moment because every moment opens up for him and shows him the very ground of time: as it if reposed on eternity itself. And this eternity, without undergoing change, walks hand in hand for the child with transitory time. God defines himself as ‘I am who I am’, which also means: My being is such that I shall always be present in every moment of becoming.”
Remaining present to God primarily has more to do with remembering that God is present us through the Holy Spirit. It is from this space that we then begin the active disciples of Bible Study, corporate worship, Scripture memorization, fasting, praying, etc.
Faithful Presence to Self
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
— Proverbs 4:23
We are not only to remain present to God but also to our own selves. John Calvin said “Our wisdom, if it is to be thought genuine, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” Solomon said “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23). He understood that the unattended life is one that soon finds itself in distress. The word “guard” is best translated as “keep” as in Adam and Eve were intended to “keep the Garden of Eden” The point being that they were to maintain it and see it continue to flourish and bloom in beauty. Our souls are in need of that kind of diligent, focused, care. We are to be mindful of our temptations, our longings, our pasts, and what is going on within us so that we might be on guard against the enemy and his schemes and so that we might walk wisely in this day and age. Pete Scazzero writes that “True spirituality frees us to live joyfully in the present. It requires, however, going back in order to go forward. This takes us to the very heart of spirituality and discipleship in the family of God–breaking free from the destructive sinful patterns of our past to live the life of love God intends.”
Faithful Presence to your own self takes real time, intentionality, and discipline. Those words can strike us as overwhelming but the reward is so worth it! As we are present to our own selves, we become whole in Christ because we can see where he has worked, is working, and pray for his continued witness in our lives. Again, this will take time.
Faithful Presence to Others
Having researched the ins and outs of the American Dream, author Courtney Martin said in an interview,
“Rather than having a symbol—the white picket fence, the fancy car, the big house— the next generation needs to measure their quality of life on symbiosis. How is the health of my relationships? How intentional am I able to be with my time and presence? Do I feel like I belong somewhere beautiful? These are the new questions we can ask ourselves about a life well-lived.”
We are all feeling the weight of the truth of her words. God diagnosed this problem long before the American Dream was even dreamt up and he provided the solution in the gospel and in giving us not only salvation but he has given us to each other. As we journey through life following Jesus, we recognize that we are undoubtedly going to endure hardships and suffer and the temptation will be to “steel ourselves off from reality” and not share our burdens with one another. Yet, that is to our own detriment.
“The trouble with steeling yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed secures your life also against being opened up and transformed but the holy power that life itself comes from. You can survive on your own. You can grow strong on your own. You can even prevail on your own. But you cannot become human on your own. Surely that is why, in Jesus’s sad joke, the rich man has as hard a time getting into Paradise as the camel through the needle’s eye because with his credit card in his pocket, the rich man is so effective at getting for himself everything he needs that he does not see that what he needs more than anything else in the world can be had only as a gift. He does not see that the one thing a clenched fist cannot do is accept even from le bon Dieu, himself, a helping hand.”
Oh the difference it would make if we understood that each member of our church is a gift from God to one another!
Faithful Presence | Inside the Church
“Encourage one another day after day as long as it is still called ‘today’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin”
— Hebrews 3:12-13
Pastor Eugene Peterson wrote, “Our membership in the church is a corollary of our faith in Christ. We can no more be a Christian and have nothing to do with the church than we can be a person and not be in a family.... It is part of the fabric of redemption.” The writers of the New Testament place a tremendous emphasis on being faithfully present to one another in the church.
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love...” (Romans 12:10)
“...have equal concern for each other.” (I Corinthians 12:25)
“...serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)
“Carry each other’s burdens...” (Galatians 6:2)
“Bear with each other...” (Colossians 3:13)
“Teach...[one another]” (Colossians 3:16)
“Confess your sins to each other...” (James 5:16)
“...spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)
“...meet together... encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25)
As we replant Redemption, we need recover the discipline of coming together with real intentionality.This means we don’t merely show up to worship services, Small Groups, or serving events. We arrive with a purpose: to bless and build the church! One way that we are going to see our relationships grow is to practice the often overlooked skill of listening. Our city moves so quickly and each day we have countless exchanges through text and email. We are on information overload from sun up to sundown. Yet, in all the back and forth communication; we often don’t feel heard. How can we as members cultivate a community of faithful presence? Through listening. “Listening is the way we are present to time, to self, to another, to God. Listening is not something you can do in retrospect–it is not remembering; listening is the way we attend to here and now in the fullness of time.”