The practical awe of God
When I was deciding on what to write during Lent I forgot about the panic of seeing an empty page. On 1st January this year, I said I wanted to get my awe of God back. Then thinking about Lent I wanted to build on the idea that God’s gifts are practical, The Holy Spirit equips us to minister in whatever way we minister.
I ended up with six steps, no not really steps as they are not consecutive, six questions about how your life relates to God, to other people and how I can relate God to other people. To look at all aspects of life, there is no barrier between spiritual and physical. I got these questions from an internet search and I do not know who came up with them. If they are yours please reply so that I can give credit where it is due.
How we make decisions is another key to our relationship with God.
The next step in getting my awe of God back through practical steps is to live the kind of life to which guidance makes sense. Guidance is not a way of opting out of the responsibility of making decisions, it is an aid to making decisions. Not receiving guidance is not an excuse for doing nothing. The Holy Spirit is like the wind, she blows wherever she wants to. You cannot predict what the Holy Spirit is going to do not make her guide you at your demand.
Just before Lent started I looked at Psalm 25, which is a song about getting guidance from God. It is a song of David, a man in quite a pickle and asking for help getting out. The 22 verses of this psalm is an acrostic, in 3 stanzas of 7 lines, the last line of which sums up the rest of the stanza before a final summing up verse. Here are the stanza end verses:
7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;Psalm 25: 7, 14 & 21 ESVUK
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
14 The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
21 May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.
These are the three sections of this prayer:
- Confession of wrongdoing
- Friendship with God
- Integrity in life
Confession of wrongdoing
Deciding to do what you like to do and then asking God to bless it is not asking God for guidance as it closes you off from doing what God wants you to do. Repentance is needed here, I believe God accepts all sincere apologies, but have come to realise I only receive certain types of apology and assumed that this is what God wanted. In short, I have put God in my image. I need to make God big again, a god who is like me is not worth worshipping.
When I was preparing this blog post I took the Apology Language test on the 5lovelanguages.com website. What I found out revealed a lot. It revealed that the way I want to receive apologies is by people accepting responsibility for their actions and expressing regret. Where I am weak is that I do not accept apologies which contain phrases like, “What can I do to make things better for you, immediately.” I feel it is putting the onus on me, the hurt party. to put things right. I will have to learn that some people want this type of apology, which as far as I am aware I have never made, because without wanting to make restitution they find apologies insincere. Getting my awe of God back may involve repentance on a different level.
Friendship with God
The bottom line is that God is not lonely, God has no need for friendship with us. But God loves us and God wants to express that love for us discreetly. For me, that means that I want to feel God’s embrace because God knows me enough to know that touch and affirmation are what I need. This embrace is in some ways like the embrace of my wife and in other ways like a big man hug, like being wrapped in a lovely sheep’s skin (except unlike a sheepskin it never gets too warm). You may not be like me.
This is why I visited the Five Love Languages site, I found that how I thought God loved all his followers was the way that corresponded to how I want to be loved. People according to Five Love Languages author Dr Gary Chapman* feel love in one of, or a combination of two or more of, five different ways. These are:
- Acts of Service
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
- Words of Affirmation
- Physical Touch
How you receive God’s love will depend on where you stand on this. I need to realise that not all Christians need to feel God’s embrace (yes my love language is physical touch). Others may need to realise that not appreciating quality time with God the way they do is not a bad thing for all Christians.
Integrity in life
I’ll just leave that as a headline apart from the reminder that Jesus said, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Matthew 5:37. Can you be relied on? Sadly my answer is “Not all the time.”
It happens in that order too. We do not become friends of God because we live a life of integrity but because we accept Jesus who has accepted our confession. Acceptance starts with Jesus. We get our Integrity from our relationship with Jesus, and our friendship with God. From that friendship and integrity, we can make decisions that are in line with the love and integrity of God even when direct guidance is missing. My decision-making needs to be more Godly, especially in the way I relate my faith to other people who are not like me.
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Picture copyright: © Michael Trolove and licenced for reuse under cc-by-sa/2.0
*Dr Chapman was a pastoral counselor at a Baptist congregation in Winston-Salem, North Carolina for 48 years.