Monday, June 1, 2020

It Is Personal

Every so often I have thoughts that persistently run through my mind. Sometimes the thoughts are "ANT's," which are "automatic negative thoughts." I take these thoughts captive to the truth of God's word. At other times the persistent thoughts is God prompting me to remember something important. Lately the thought running through my mind is, "It's personal." I am not talking about the cultural climate right now, in which people take every thing personally and get offended and defensive. I am talking about God who knows each of us in a personal way. For someone who once believed God was distant and angry, I find it comforting to be reminded the relationship I have with God is personal.

As I have meditated on this thought, I have realized it has always been personal. It began in the Garden with Adam and Eve. God fashioned  Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed life into his lungs. He knew Adam well enough to know it wasn't good for him to be alone and took one of his ribs and fashioned him a wife. And, when Adam and Eve chose to sin and hide from God, He sought them, calling, "Where are you?" In the face of their disobedience He promised them a Savior and the clothes he fashioned from animal skins foretold of their future Savior's death. This tells us that in the face of sin our God is a God who is in the business of seeking us out.

Then there was Moses who tended his father-in-law's flock. When he was near Mount Horeb the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a burning bush. Moses became curious as he realized the bush wasn't being consumed. God seeing Moses' curiosity called out to him from the burning bush, "Moses, Moses." He told Moses He had seen His people's oppression and heard their cries and called him to lead His people out of Egypt into the Promised Land. Moses resisted, but God persisted, telling him to tell His people that He, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has sent Moses to lead them home. God went before them continually guiding and instructing Moses on how to lead a nation that had been traumatized by years of slavery, mistreatment, and infanticide. He is a personal God who continually takes a personal interest in the suffering of His people.    

Then there was Samuel who ministered to the Lord before a priest named Eli. Eli's sons behavior in the temple was vile and unrestrained and uncorrected by Eli. One night Eli was lying down in his room and Samuel in his when Samuel heard, "Samuel, Samuel!" God had been silent for so long Samuel assumed the voice to be Eli's and ran to see what he needed. Eli said it wasn't him. This happened two more times and on the third time Eli told him if it happened again, to say to the Lord, "Speak Lord, for Your servant hears." And on that fourth time, when Samuel was about to go to sleep he heard his name, "Samuel, Samuel!" Samuel did as Eli instructed him and God spoke prophesy over him and over Eli's household. I love that in the midst of such a sinful environment God called a young man by name not one time but four times, choosing Him to be His prophet. His calling of Samuel tells us that even in the midst of sin in the household of God, our God is still a personal God.

Skipping over a bunch of other stories we find land in the new testament on the story of Zacchaeus--a man with whom most of us are familiar. He was a short Jewish man who lived in Jericho and collected taxes for the Roman government, most likely charging people extra taxes to pad his own pockets. Because of his stature and his job he was not popular among his fellow Jews. Zacchaeus had heard of Jesus and was curious about him when he heard that he was coming. As Jesus arrived Zacchaeus ran ahead and climbed a tree so he could get a glimpse of him. When Jesus was passing beneath Zacchaeus, He paused, looked up, and then called him by name, "Zacchaeus, Zacchaeus!" Jesus invited Himself to Zacchaeus' home and ate and fellowshipped with him. Our Jesus not only knew Zacchaeus' name, He knew where he was perched and made himself at home with him. The despised Zacchaeus found the love he craved in Jesus. And, Zacchaeus was changed because it was personal.    
Lastly, let's look at a man named Saul who was breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. As he was traveling to Damascus to arrest Christians, a light shone around him and he fell prostrate to the ground, hearing God's voice, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" They conversed and the nonbelieving Saul became the believing Paul who authored much of the New Testament. I love this passage. As a young believer, I took criticism of my faith so personally, but after I became familiar with this story, I realized when someone is criticizing or mocking my faith, it isn't me they are criticizing, it is Jesus and His calling upon their lifes. In the face of the mocking, I can smile, let go of defensiveness and pray the person would realize faith isn't a philosophy to be reckoned with, but an invitation to a deeply personal relationship with God who radically loves them.

I want to remember when I feel unsettled that the same God who called, Adam and Eve, Moses, Samuel, Zacchaeus, and Paul by name is the same God who has called me. It is comforting to know that in the face of failure, He calls my name. It is comforting to know that the God who called Moses and gave his life significance has called me as well. It is comforting to know that at the times I don't recognize His voice, He calls to me again and again. It is comforting that He knows my proximity and all that concerns me, and calls out my name to spend time with me. It is comforting to know when I think I am doing His will and am heading in the wrong, He will call me by name and redirect my path. I want to remember this relationship I have with God--it is personal. 

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!