Can't help but wake up this morning and write a note of thanksgiving. I have a migraine, stemming from my chronic shoulder pain but it's worth it at the moment. I woke up at 4:30 this morning, but since I got to bed early it wasn't so bad. And then, as is habitual with me, I began talking to God. Sometimes I use the time to complain to God about not letting me sleep, sometimes I pray for people, sometimes I just think and dialogue with him. I started out this morning praying for people, and then I entered into the whole grace dilemma I previously wrote about. I just started telling God how much I missed him, missed his tangible manifest presence in my life, and I asked him to come back and He actually started speaking to me. Of course, he's been with me all along just as he promised he would be. Of course he's spoken to me at times even through this long, dry and barren desert place. But I was so happy just to hear words of hope and encouragement. He even temporarily removed the worst of my pain and let me go back to sleep! I say temporarily because it's back and he let me understand that it would be, giving me instructions on how to deal with the problem of my shoulder (which I believe he will fully heal in his time).
I realize this whole post puts me in the charismatic nut job category and quite frankly I don't care. I grew up in a non-charismatic church/home and have had this relationship with God since before I can remember. In other words, I pity those believers who have honestly never had a conversation with God. Just for the record, I don't put authority in what I subjectively 'hear', but all authority is from Scripture. Believe me, God doesn't say anything that isn't rooted in Scripture, he just says is in a way that I understand it better, if that makes sense.
Anyway, back to the conversation. As you all know, I've been recently struggling with how to move from living in legalism to living in grace. I'm not sure I can remember everything, but I'll detail what I do remember (it will help me even if it bores readers hehe). For one thing, he reminded me that I am a brother/sister of Jesus. I'm from the same family and I can do the same things. I can heal people, I can tell people the truth with power. I can have that same kind of relationship with the Father. I know it doesn't sound impressive, but revelation is impressive because it turns on all the lights inside of you and you finally really get it. Revelation plants truth so deep inside you that you'll never forget it and forever no matter how far you stray from it you'll always come back to that truth. That's why knowledge is so weak. You can easily change your mind, but when you've had revelation from God you will stand firm on that truth.
What was so encouraging was just being in God's presence and him letting me know that the answer I'm looking for is just that. To live in grace is to live in him, his tangible manifest presence. To go through my days hand in hand with him, sharing every moment with him, being WITH HIM. Of course he's with me all the time as a believer, but there is a big difference between this objective truth and the experience of it. And there's a difference between him being with me and me abiding in him. There's nothing I've ever wanted more than this life of living in him, being always aware that he's with me. I've lived that way before and it's the most wonderful joyful abundant life imaginable. And I know I was just discovering the tip of an amazing iceberg of him and his love and grace and beauty and power.
Incidentally, just one encounter like this will have me singing songs to him, talking about him, and rushing eagerly off to read his Word for quite some time. So this is the answer, which is not far off from what I thought. The answer to living in grace is having an encounter--yes, a personal encounter--with the Great Eternal Living God.
My proposal for the new club is the "8:30 P.M. club". But since some of you work jobs that require staying awake at night, I'll change it to the "Get More Sleep" club. The premise being that the longer we stay in bed, the more we might willingly converse with God 'in the watches of the night'. But really you know I'm joking and we should pray without ceasing wherever we are. I think my bed in the middle of the night is my place right now because my days are so busy and noisy. God is not content to let me go without the joy of his presence in the quiet moments I do have. There's something special and unique about the quiet moments, though he's with us in the busy noisy times as well.
Just to leave a more credible thinker's thoughts on the subject, here's a quote from Spurgeon, from a sermon called "Mysterious Visit", on the text "Thou hast visited me in the night" (Psalm 17:3).
"For our Lord to visit us is something more than for us to have the assurance of our salvation, though that is very delightful, and none of us should rest satisfied unless we possess it. To know that Jesus loves me, is one thing; but to be visited by Him in love, is more. Nor is it simply a close contemplation of Christ; for we can picture Him as exceedingly fair and majestic, and yet not have Him consciously near us. Delightful and instructive as it is to behold the likeness of Christ by meditation, yet the enjoyment of His actual presence is something more. I may wear my friend's portrait about my person, and yet may not be able to say, 'Thou hast visited me.' It is the actual, though spiritual, coming of Christ which we so much desire...By 'spiritual' we do not mean unreal; in fact, the spiritual takes the lead in real-ness to spiritual men. I believe in the true and real presence of Jesus with his people: such presence has been real to my spirit. Lord Jesus, Thou Thouself hast visited me."