Locating God

Matthew 28:20 – …and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Someone recently asked why the name – Dimensions of Grace? Grace they understood to be the unmerited favor of God, but what, they asked, was the significance of the term “Dimensions?” As I explained I knew it was time to also speak to our blog friends about this concept. You see, how we think about God has everything to do with our relationship and access to Him. That does not mean that if we think right, God will be there and if we think wrong He will not. Quite the reverse is true. He is there, here, everywhere, whether we know it or not. It is not God’s presence that is the issue, but our accessing that presence.

As I child I was trained that in worship and in prayer, I needed to do certain things to get God’s attention and to bring down His presence. So I went to prayer meetings, church services and had my personal times of devotion and study, working as hard as I could to get God to come and pay attention.  It was not until I was in Bible college that I had a paradigm shift in my concept of the presence of God. It was sort of an awkward event, at about 5 o’clock in the morning. Every morning I would get up at 5 A.M. and go to the chapel to pray. Outside, I knew that the college President was going to be passing by, walking and praying. We were usually the only two people up at that hour, and we knew that each of us had this morning pattern, but we were separated by our different styles. I would go inside the chapel, turn on the heater, get close and then kneel and pray for about an hour. The President would walk around the campus and pray.

One cold morning he came inside, I thought to join me, but instead he just quietly stood at the back of the room and watched me. I prayed fervently, loudly, and aggressively. Finally the President came forward, and asked me softly, “What are you doing?” I explained that I was praying and trying to get a hold of God.  He smiled and then asked, “And if you get a hold of Him, what will you do with Him?” I realized that he had a different paradigm than I had. He said little more than that and then, smiled and walked outside. But I spent the next hour quietly thinking through what he had said. It was in those few minutes that I understood something. God was incapable of not being there and hearing me. All of the frantic work I had presumed necessary was style, it was not substance. It may have been familiar to me, expected in the circles I related to and not, in and of itself, wrong. But it did betray a perspective of God. It presumed that God was somewhere, out there, or up there and that I had the responsibility to get His attention and to move Him from where He was to where I was.

As I thought, my mind raced first to Genesis, as Adam and Eve sewed together fig leafs as a covering to hide from God. We, the human race, do not by nature seek God. We run, hide and think that if He cannot see us, we will not exist or be absent from His presence. It is God who seeks us, not the reverse. The Bible is not about man’s search for God, but of God’s approach to and provisions for His wayward creation. He knows where we are and what we are doing, and our humanity is not a barrier to His presence.

Somewhere along the way, I came across an old book entitled, ‘Practicing the Presence of God.’ It helped in the shaping process of how I thought about God and where He is. He is not hiding from us or up there somewhere. His presence is not in a place it is in a dimension, not apparent to the flesh but certain in the spirit. The difference between the flesh and the spirit is a difficult concept for the human brain to grasp. All too often we presume that being in the spirit is some other worldly state of consciousness in which we are, well, sort of out of body, weird, – you know, spooky. But all of that is the style of those who have to do something of physical gymnastics or of creating  an altered state of consciousness, in order to believe that they are in the presence of the Spirit of God.

After my encounter with our college President in that little chapel, my perspective had forever changed. I do not pray or worship as though I needed to do something to get God’s attention or to bring Him down or to work Him up. I understood that there is a spiritual world, coexistent with our natural physical world and it is as real…, no, more real that the physical world we see and relate to. It is not in a place, it is a dimension that surrounds us. It is an inescapable reality in which God exists in all time, but above and beyond time. It is an ever present resource that we can both believe in and trust, to be attentive to our presence and our need.

God is not somewhere, He is here! Now! Always! And, the resources of His blessing and grace are not released by our striving and begging and working to get them, because they are simply an extension of His ever present love for us. Right there, beside you, in front of you, yes, in you, exists the dimensions of God and all of His resources to you. The problem is not in locating God and finding out where He is. The problem is in get our mind cleared of the sense of distance and of touching the dimension of His presence. It is an abiding reality! Go ahead… reach into it and live – IN HIM!

Pastor Dave

Laughing Out Loud

Proverbs 17:22 – A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

 As most of you know, I am a dog enthusiast and exhibitor. One of my great joys in life is to play with the dogs and watch them exhibit their play instincts and sense of humor. God does have a sense of humor which He provides for all of us, well, most of us, at least.

 Studies of dogs in different environments show that dogs that live with and interact with people exhibit more play instincts and sense of humor than those who are isolated from people and confined to a kennel for long periods of time. The studies go into some detail trying to determine what causes this loss of humor and play instinct. Having raised dogs for over 58 years now, I do not need a great deal of time or money to answer that question.

 Happy dogs play. Unhappy dogs do not. Laughter is an expression of delight and joy. It comes out of us when we are happy. No big mystery here. No need to launch an expensive study! Some things are just funny and delightful. But I fear that our culture has lost its sense of humor. Today’s TV situation comedies seem to rely of shock rather than surprise and crudity rather than delight. I do not watch them anymore, preferring the old situation comedies of people trapping themselves in dilemmas that we can all relate to and which trigger, not only laughter at them, but at ourselves. Life is filled with colorful and humorous events. The church world is no different. I can remember quite a few…

We had traveled to Washington D.C. with a groups of people from our church to an event entitled, Washington For Jesus, many years ago. When we returned we invited the people in the team to report of what they saw and experienced. Several got up and told about their experiences and then a young lady related her experience of waiting in the long line at the port-a-potty. She related how calm and nice the other ladies were while waiting, then said, “Usually, when you are delayed in those circumstances, something wells up within you!”

There was a moment of quiet and then the congregation exploded in laughter. I can remember my own slip-of-the-tongue moments in ministry through the years. And some of my fondest memories are of people, just being people. We had a dear older fellow in the congregation for many years who simply could not always stay awake through the sermon. He would open his bible, lay it on his lap and then, somewhere in the middle of the sermon, it would fall off of his lap signaling that he was sound asleep. His wife would periodically elbow him in the ribs to wake him up, but one time, it was not enough and the bible again hit the floor. I stopped what I was saying, put my fingers to my lips to hush the congregation, then tip toed down to where he was setting, picked up his bible and placed it back on his lap. Everyone had a good laugh, but I went back to the lectern and changed my whole sermon. I explained that our world had become so tense, filled with tension and trouble that people could not even get a good nap in church on Sunday Morning anymore.

 Then I invited everyone to drop their bibles on the floor and have a good snooze occasionally. It would be good for them, I explained, and would signal me to be more interesting or at least more brief. We laughed a lot that morning.

I remember the baptismal service at the river when my Dad and his friend were baptizing people. One rather large lady, well, OK, huge lady, waded out to where they were baptizing and took her position. They said their usual things and then dunked her in the water, into the current. There had been no problem with the others, but when the current got under the lady, it ripped her from their hands and down the river she went. Everyone ran to get her and she was successfully helped to the shore, but everyone, including her, laughed hilariously.

I also remember a time of tension in a special meeting. One of the speakers had some rather caustic things to say about another speaker on the platform, without naming him, of course. The tension was instant as the congregation understood the situation. The speaker finished his attack, then went to his seat on the platform, pulling his chair away from his adversary and sat down with a huff and a scowl, without realizing that he had repositioned the chair too far, and as he sat down the leg of the chair slipped off of the platform throwing him off of the platform and into the congregation. I am not sure if he did it himself or if God had a hand in it, but that was the end of the service.

The laughter rose, peeked and remained for so long that the service was concluded on that note.

And then there was the time….

Well, I’ll bet you have some stories and memories of your own. In fact, I’d love to hear them. I started saving some of them years ago with the intent of putting together a book of church humor. Maybe you’d like to help me by contributing your own memories. If so, just email them to me at:

d_fritsche@gotsky.com

Thanks, and keep laughing. If you do, you may get to be as old as I am.

Pastor Dave