"God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’" (Acts 17:27-28)
These words ring in my ears, “he is not far from any one of us.” What is the distance between you and God? Not far. So many of us have been told there is chasm between Holy God and sinful man, and I’m sure that’s true in some respect. Yet Paul spoke these words to people who did not care whether Paul’s God was real or not. He spoke to pagans who had no regard for the holiness of the God of Israel or his son, Jesus. He told them that God was behind the events and identities of their lives and working in everyday situations in order to encourage them to turn his direction.
What is the distance between you and God? How far do we have to go to connect with him? Not far. It turns out that each day we live, we move, we take our steps, breath our breaths, we run our errands and do our jobs and live our lives--and all the while he is not far from any one of us. Do we know this? Do we feel it? If he is not far, how far must we go to connect with him?
How can we make space for him? The answers are as practical--and unique--as our daily routine. John Wesley was one of 19 children; his mother, Susannah, made space for God by pulling her apron over her head and taking a moment to pray. How can we make space for him? I have a friend who takes a ten-minute retreat from everything, including his own thoughts, just to sit in silence with God. I have another friend who uses a scripture reference as his computer’s password; each time he logs on he recites the verse and asks for God’s help in his work. Bill Johnson, pastor of Bethel church in Redding, CA suggests, “Since you can't imagine a place where he isn't, you might as well imagine him with you.”
Whatever we may think the distance is, the testimony of the scripture is that he is not far from us. No one is excluded. How far do we need to turn? Some things we can only learn by doing. We will discover personally that the answer is “Not far.”
As I considered my need for presence of God I turned to John’s gospel. At the very beginning I was arrested by a tiny word. It caused me to put down the book and worship with a fresh heart. My cup of wonder, amazement and gratitude was dripping from the rim again. I was reading along at the beginning of John’s gospel when a simple two-letter word rocked my world. Perhaps it will mean nothing to you, but for me the lightning flashed and the thunder followed when I read the word, “he.”
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
Did you see it? The Word, the Life, the Light is also a Him. He is alive and personal.
It’s risky to share your personal response to scripture. Huh? Others say. Yeah, so, what’s the big deal?
Like so many passages in the Bible, I am tempted to think I already know the truth: until the truth breaks into the room and becomes alive. What before had been only an idea came and sat by my side. The ink on the page is a mere cipher, a code devised by the cunning of men. When the true word was spoken the universe began to spin. There was no air to carry the sound. There were no ears to hear the command. There was simply the Word. And the Word was a Person. Personal. Real. Relational. Alive. All I needed to do was make space for him--not my ideas about Jesus, not my knowledge of him.
For me, the big deal is the amazing metamorphosis from Word to Person. Too often what passes for faith lives only in my head--the paltry collection of thoughts from (honestly) a bear of very little brain. I suspect the Word became flesh and lived among us, in part, to reinforce that brains have very little to do with real life. He is the source of life.
Do you want to experience his presence? Stop reading. Turn away from the screen, turn off the music, and invite him into the room. You won’t have to wait long.