Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tasting the Family Heritage

God’s presence is the family heritage. I turn page after page in the family album of scripture and discover my God is highly relational. He wants us to know him. Let’s pull out the album and remind ourselves of the past. Can you hear the pages crackle with the testimony of lives impacted by his touch?
There’s our father, Abraham. He was visited personally by the creator of the universe no fewer than four times. God spoke to Abraham, and Abraham spoke to God. They discussed where Abraham should live, what he should do and how he should raise his family. Abraham served God a meal, heard God laugh, and bargained with him for the lives of the righteous.
Abraham’s son, Isaac, shared his life with God as well. God helped him through difficult economic times with specific advice. Isaac waited a long time for the God of his father to become his God, but it was worth the wait. Isaac’s wife asked of God and discovered why her pregnancy was so difficult; in the process she learned the secret destiny of her twin sons.
Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, did his best to avoid the presence of God. Yet even while running away he stumbled into God’s house. He didn’t know where he was, but he awoke at the base of Heaven’s gate. Later in his life he found himself in hand-to-hand combat with the Almighty, and the experience changed his identity forever: “I’m the one who wrestled with God” (and I have the limp to prove it).
This is our family album as well. Our ancestors conversed with God, questioned God, wrestled with God, and heard his secrets. They bargained and pleaded with him, and--most amazingly--they experienced his presence even while they were in conflict with him.
Those of us with a high view of scripture should allow it to whet our appetite, to provoke our thirst for his tangible presence.  We have a choice: if our experience does not match the revealed word of God, we should change our way of life and pursue the experience we see. Instead we have settled for knowing the record of the past, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Monday’s post collected stories from everyday people who have felt his touch in our time. Their stories should encourage us that Abraham’s blessing can be ours as well. God’s relationship with others is a promise to us. We were made to be with him. Do we experience his presence? Are we aware when God is in the room? Jesus intended that, like our family, we should know his presence. We should settle for nothing less. One taste is enough to bring hunger for life. We should feel him for real or wrestle with the lack until he comes and touches us himself.
Many Christians have no story to tell because they have been taught avoid subjective experience. They’ve been taught the facts of God’s presence, but what good is it to have a theology that asserts God’s presence is everywhere if there is no evidence of it? It may be the central failing of the North American church: His presence is rarely manifest. We do not even feel the lack. He is indeed with everyone, but everyone is not always with him. God is present with everyone; more important, He longs for everyone to be present with him.

We have settled. The presence of God has been canned, preserved and placed in the pantry. Our taste for the freshness of his presence has been dulled. We have subsisted on the remains of his presence when just one taste of the real thing is enough to cause us to hunger for the rest of our lives. It’s the kind of hunger that will keep us filled for life.


  1. I like picture you've painted of a canned "God experience" that we've preserved. I heard a sermon once where the preacher said we all need our own well where we get the living water from the Spirit. That has stuck with me. Am I relying on the water from other wells alone or am I also drinking from the things God wants to speak into my life?

  2. Thanks Ed: would it be too scandalous to suggest that for some people (probably not you) the "other" well is sometimes the scripture?

  3. Yep! I was actually thinking this morning that theology (or the Bible in general) can become a crutch that saves us from having to listen for the Spirit.

  4. It's so true... but if you need some other kind of answer than a relational one, a relational answer is not going to help.

  5. @Ed: "bible-olotary" can certainly occur.

  6. I suppose--unless the relationship is with the Creator of the Universe: he has some pretty deep resources :-)

  7. when I was losing my faith at the local vineyard -- truly, mandatory tithing was the "straw that broke the camel's back" -- it was reprovingly put to me that someone had been sent to talk to me -- was that not sufficient? However, it was not sufficient, since the man did not have answers to my questions, and suggested I go elsewhere. And I did lose my faith over this. Yet my persistence was apparently sinful enough that it was "suggested" to me that I go elsewhere. I did not need a hug. I needed answers, which I never got; though I did get an "invitation" to go elsewhere. I am only saying that hugs -- "relationship" is not always the answer. Relationships can be, but are not necessarily, the organic fruit of the shared body life. The are *not necessarily.*