March 11, 2007

He is still here. . .

The schedule at this conference is so full that I’m having a hard time fitting in quiet time with the Lord. I know it is a spiritual discipline that I need, but I also know that my relationship with God doesn’t change if I miss a day or am not able to take much time for it (unless, of course. It is sin that is keeping me away).

The idea is out there that if we don’t do everything right, God just turns His back. Or if our symbols and various religious practices are lax, He makes Himself scarce. Those who think that way are bound by ritual instead of bound by His love for them.

The Israelites were bound by symbol and ritual. In 1 Samuel, the Philistines captured the Ark (made famous in a movie that had very little to do with what the Bible says about it). When that happened, the prophet Eli was so distraught that he keeled over and died. His daughter-in-law, who was about to give birth, found out that her husband had died in the battle when the Ark was taken, and that her father-in-law died when he heard about it. As she gave birth, she also died. Her last words were, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God has been captured.”

The story has anguish and I couldn’t help feeling their despair, but at the same time wondered how well they really knew God. How can One who is omnipresent go somewhere else? How can the God who says He will never leave or forsake His people and who is far above and beyond all objects and rituals of worship identify Himself with a wooden box to the point if the box goes, God also goes?

I know, there is much more to their attitude about the Ark than I understand, but if the government came and took away all Bibles, would I think that God went into exile? If all the churches in the world were burned down, would that mean God perished in the fire?

God is more than the things that I associate Him with, including my morning quiet time. If I miss it or cannot spend as much time as I’d like, He didn’t go anywhere. Not only that, the time I spend time with Him does not have to be the same as always. God is not in the ritual either; He lives in my heart. I can think about Him and talk to Him anywhere, anytime, and not be anxious about a switch in my routine. Even if I lost my Bible and every other thing that draws me closer to Him, He is the same, today, yesterday, and forever, and does not go away.

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