I am still trying to negotiate this period of transition in my life. One thing I have become aware of is the truth that we really use a very small percentage of the brain’s capacity. Time is a relatively abundant gift to me in a way that it didn’t seem to be for so many years. My body and mind seemed conditioned by the demands of parish ministry and wider ministry to always be moving on to the next thought, the next thing. Now I have time to think about a thought for longer or enjoy doing something or nothing for longer. My GP told me today that I must allow myself to do that and not feel guilty about it! I sometimes have to tell my body or mind that I do not actually need to go and do something else. I can stick with the moment and see where it leads, stick with a thought, a God thought, for longer and really use more of my mind’s capacity to think it through.
Actually that can be quite scary. I guess most of my life I have in a sense had to offer bite sized portions of spiritual food to a congregation, truths that hopefully they can easily chew and digest and be nourished by. Business has often meant that I have made the mistake of living on bite sized portions of spiritual life and food myself despite knowing that is not the best idea. With God there is enough time to sit down and eat from a fully laden table even in the presence of enemies and in the midst of battle! Well, that is what Psalm 23 tells us anyway. Part of my own personal experience of God is that He can come to us in such abundance, such fullness that it is hard to cope. It hasn’t happened that often to me but it has happened that God has come to me at times with such power that on occasion I have had to say, “No, Lord!” I know that sounds dreadful but it is true. Surprisingly though saying “no” convinces me it really was God I was meeting with at such times and not an imaginary experience.
On a couple of occasions when I felt His power drew near, I realised this was not a gentlemanly God, it was not the God who seemed content with accurate biblical exposition and hymn singing and prayer meetings and conferences and spiritual rave ups where a great time was had by all and Rev. So and So closed the meeting with the benediction as recorded in the neatly written and duly proposed and seconded and signed minutes! This was a God who could do what He wanted with or without my consent. He could do what He wanted in a church or a school or a town or a nation without asking permission or making enquiries as to whether what He wanted to do would be wanted or acceptable: what God does has often not been wanted by the bulk of His people anyway! It is not possible to charge Him with wrong and for that charge to stick, save when the charge of our wrong was stuck upon Him at the cross. It felt as though to end a meeting would be to risk controlling holy fire that might end up with a few folk including me being slain by the Spirit in the Ananias and Sapphira sense rather than the charismatic experience sense. It was as though a hurricane was approaching me at tremendous speed. The thing is, I knew on those occasions that I was not ready. We talk blithely sometimes about revival and asking God to come by His Holy Spirit. I think revival must be the most terrifying experience in the world when God comes not to simply do our will but His own will regardless of the response for or against what He does. Revival is not a revival meeting. It is not a few miracles that make us laugh or clap our hands in appreciation, it is not even discovering with joy that God can use us to expand His Kingdom. It is about saint and sinner being caught in the hurricane of a God who sets aside our programmes, our missions, our plans, our endeavours, our theories, who may use us or may set us and our gifts and ministries aside as He moves and works with extraordinary power in a way that causes men and women to fear Him, whether that is the fear that leads us to turn away in order to hold on to our own lives or the the trembling hopeful fear that causes me to come towards Him realising it might cost me my life as I have known it.
Today, in a cafe, I felt the beginning of such a moment. I felt He was close…. the God who needs no permission to do His will. There was something beyond my thoughts about Him going on , something beyond spiritual principles, ideas for a blog, my current ministry. All such thoughts seemed like dross compared to Him, compared to Jesus Himself. He was close,not an idea that I could write about, a principle that I could expound. It was Him…. I started to think of Him, but it was almost as though all of a sudden I saw if I go down the thousand and one trails of His life that seemed to open up, well, will I ever find my way back?… and I hesitated. Will the day ever come when I don’t care if I find my way back, in fact will a day come this side of heaven when I am truly lost in God? Will it come for you?
My notebook today was excited random thoughts each of which could have led to an ocean of further thought. The words are disconnected, one thought seemingly not bearing a connection to the next. The handwriting is worse than usual, which is really saying something! I really will need eternity to marvel at this God and so will you. Flesh and blood could not endure this for eternity without being changed. Even the angels in heaven who have never sinned need to hide their faces to survive. He is the God who is fearfully abundantly Himself, the Lord of Hosts, which just means “many.” We tend to think “The lord of hosts” means the angelic host. Well it does, but “host’ just means many. He did not just make one angel but myriads of them! He did not just make one daisy but billions. He did not just make on star but billions of billions. He did not just create everything in monochrome but has created a whole spectrum of colour much more than the spectrum we know about. There are sounds that human ears cannot hear that dogs and God alone can hear, and he made them for His glory which is beyond what the human eye alone can see, the human ear hear or human hearts imagine. We need the cherubim and the dogs and everything else that the Lord of Hosts has made to see and hear, demonstrate and declare even a fraction of His glory! The earth and all its fullness belongs to Him and is filled to overflowing with His glory. He is muchness, manyness, abundance. He does not just adjust His bounty to the size of a necessity. He is the God who even when He came to this earth in our size nonetheless created enough bread to have 12 baskets full of leftovers; He miraculously caused catches of so many fish that nets begin to break and the extraordinary number of fish caught was recorded for you and I to read about.
Oh friend, may He come close to you. When he does we will tear up the plans, the programmes. All that we will be able to say in hushed tones lest we offend Him and He slay us is “God has come!” And here is the wonder; though He is “Big God” He can come into a cafe, He can come into your home, He can stand beside bedsides as truly as He came to an animal’s feeding trough, or sat down beside a well, or doodled with His finger as He sat on the dust of the earth while others towered over Him. In the words of the brilliant black American Preachers who can preach so much better than us white guys and who allow God to interrupt the sermon, “ I tell you, somebody ought to praise Him right now!”
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