Summary: When we are in the midst of despair take some time to remember those times when God has been faithful, when He has spoken to us and has worked in power.
The Discipline of Remembering
June 5, 2011 Psalm 77
Remembering is an important spiritual discipline, with one very important caution.
31 years ago, a 9yr old boy sat on the left side of the tiny sanctuary, about two thirds of the way back, listening to a visiting choir from some long forgotten Bible school. It was Easter Sunday, the evening service (back in the day when we went to church both in the morning and in the evening). I don’t remember much about the music, but I do remember that after a while of singing one of the choir members began to speak, and he told a very simple story about a man named Jesus who had died and rose again. It was a familiar story, I’d heard it for the last 6yrs or so, since my earliest memories, but that Sunday evening there was something different – behind and underneath the words was the Voice of God, and it spoke those words past my mind and into my heart, The Spirit breathed those words on my spirit, and I heard the invitation not just through the mouth of the guy from the choir but from the very mouth of God. The Voice said, essentially, would you like to Believe?
I did. I did very much, actually, so I prayed the prayer quietly, repeating after the choir guy, though I was too shy to raise my hand as requested. But maybe he knew, because after the prayer he said, maybe someone here just finished praying that prayer but didn’t raise their hand, and that is ok – just make sure you tell someone else before you go to sleep tonight. So that night, when my mom came in and sat on the edge of my bed to say goodnight, I told her that I had prayed that prayer to make Jesus my Lord and Saviour.
Even as I write that story again, something important happens to me. I re-connect, I re-live, I re-member the voice of God, the warmth and welcome, the acceptance and forgiveness, the smile of joy on my mom’s face reflecting (I’m sure) the smile of joy on God the Father’s face, and I’m reminded of the words of Jesus in Luke 15:7, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!
It was not the last time:
That day marked a beginning, and like you I have many other stories about when God spoke. I shared one about a month ago, which I think is going to end up in our Canadian Baptist Ministries Magazine, Mosaic, sometime in the near future, so I want to share that one with you also.
It begins in this front pew, about 5 years ago. The current season of ministry was by far the toughest. I’d hung in for a long time, but this particular Sunday morning I was really struggling. I didn’t want to continue, I felt like I just wanted to walk away and go do something else with my life. Surely God could use me in a different career, certainly I could be more effective for building His Kingdom somewhere else…
I sat in my pew through our time of worship, my head down in prayer, seeking God, asking if He wanted to release me from my call to ministry or even to this place of ministry. In my time of worship and seeking, I imagined myself at the foot of the cross, on my knees, head bowed, feeling empty and drained and like I couldn’t go on (and really not sure I wanted to).
Then, in a moment of what I believe to be sanctified imagination, I saw a hand reach down towards me, and I took it in mine, and it pulled me to my feet, and I looked into the face of a Bolivian man. He smiled and held me on my feet, and I felt a bit of hope and a bit of strength return. It seemed to me some kind of promise, though it didn’t make a lot of sense at the moment, and it certainly didn’t change anything. I wiped my eyes, and got up to preach
About 6 months later me and a team of 5 other church leaders went to Bolivia to begin our relationship with our partner. Nothing much had changed in my church, and the experience I had had that Sunday morning was mostly a distant memory. Our last day in Bolivia we were invited for lunch in the home of Senor and Senora Guiterrez, parents of our host Ivan. Two amazing weeks were coming to a close, and after lunch we all sat together in the living room, out came a guitar and charango, and we just casually began to sing together. At first just fun – Ivan’s re-write of La Bamba to ba da ba da Chochabamba, among others, and then a time of worship.