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We Can Have a God-Bathed Life: Part 1

Updated: Apr 19

Because We Live in a God-Bathed World



Welcome to Our God Bathed Life! I want to take just a moment and recommend that you read the introductory blog if you have not done so already. It will give you a good idea of what to expect from this and future blogs.


As stated in that introductory blog, the practices suggested at the end of the blogs are for anyone. You do not need to be a Christian yet to be here




"that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist..."


"For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."



"O LORD, You have searched me and known me.

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

You understand my thought from afar.

You scrutinize my path and my lying down,

And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.

Even before there is a word on my tongue,

Behold, O LORD, You know it all.

You have enclosed me behind and before,

And laid Your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

It is too high, I cannot attain to it.


Where can I go from Your Spirit?

Or where can I flee from Your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, You are there;

If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

If I take the wings of the dawn,

If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,

Even there Your hand will lead me,

And Your right hand will lay hold of me.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,

And the light around me will be night,”

Even the darkness is not dark to You,

And the night is as bright as the day.

Darkness and light are alike to You.


For You formed my inward parts;

You wove me in my mother’s womb.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Wonderful are Your works,

And my soul knows it very well."


***


Is there a missing piece, an important one, in our relational experience of God? In this post and the next, we'll explore that question. This might help frame this post, though: When we pray, where do our prayers go, geographically speaking?


Many Christians will tell you that Jesus lives in their hearts. And this is true. But when I ask this question, the response is often one of two places: our prayers go to God in our hearts or our prayers go somewhere beyond the clouds. Because, after all, the Monty Python cartoon has the clouds parting and the face of God appearing between them when He speaks to mankind, therefore He has taken up residence somewhere beyond the clouds, has he not? Whichever view that you have, whichever the locus point of the activity of God, either beyond the clouds or in our hearts, the one place that is not the locus point of His activity and power is all around us right here and right now. He is definitely not on the bus with you as you read this on the way to work. He is definitely not sitting on the park bench with you. He is not in your bedroom, home office, lunch room at work, cafeteria at school, or enjoying the smell of coffee as the baristas are creating their wonderful concoctions a few feet away. He is either in us, or way out there somewhere.


As I say that, you are giving it thought, and it is likely that you are pushing back on the idea. "Wait, He is God. Of course He is in this space with me." But is that how you live? It is often not how I live, though I wish it were.


We often live as though God is in us effecting change, forming our character, but otherwise we live like functional deists. What is deism?:

"Deism is the belief in a God who made the world but who never interrupts its operations with supernatural events. It is a theism minus miracles... God does not interfere with his creation. Rather, he designed it to run independent of him by immutable natural laws... In nature, he has also provided all that his creatures need to live."

Norman L. Geisler, “Deism,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 189.

In other words, deists believe that God made creation, supplied it with all it needs to thrive, caused it to run by certain unchanging natural laws, and now it is up to us what happens with it. What happens from here is up to our God-given creativity. How our lives turn out is up to our effort and our resources.

But we know from the last blog that God injected Himself into creation on Day 1 and never left. We know, as we also learned in the last blog, that He delights in meeting our needs. He seeks to be involved in our lives. And, as we'll discuss in the next post, He has a relationship with us whether or not we have a relationship with Him. (I'm kind-of excited to dig further into that one!)

Deism is a lie.


What do I mean that we often live as functional deists? Here are examples of what that looks like in my life:

1) If I have car trouble I call the dealership.

2) When no water came out of the faucet (or anywhere else on the property for that matter), I called the well and pump service.

3) When I am setting the schedule for the Church Online team and the Connect Card team each month at church, I hop online and set the schedule.

4) If I want a latte, I hop in the car and drive to one of the local coffee shops.


Now don't get me wrong, those things in and of themselves are fine. It has more to do with the attitude in which I do them. Despite the fact that I want to develop and live within an ongoing conversational loving relationship with God, I often fail to invite Him into the things I am doing now, into my daily routines. So I end up going about life like it depends on me and is up to my creativity and abilities. I sort-of live like a functional deist. I continue to get better in these areas by the grace of God's work in me, though there is yet far to go. But there are areas where it is worse:


5) Or maybe there is doubt that creeps in and lingers in the background even through my prayers and seeking God's direction. Two years ago I moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina taking some time off of work to get settled and start this bog/podcast/website. That was all coming together and I was getting ready to search for work. Further, after actively avoiding it for essentially all of my adult life, I'm pretty sure I heard God telling me to consider dating, even over my protests. Then my birth defect right hip took a turn. My cane upgraded to crutches, the pain and discomfort caused trouble sleeping, which in turn caused trouble focusing during the day. The orthopedic doctor says there is no repair, and pain management has done little. I've pretty much stopped going out - even to restaurants or the open mic night I enjoyed that a friend of mine runs at a local brewery. What do I do? Well, for one thing I'll need to work from home. Is it even fair to a potential future spouse to rob her of doing all the things she would want to do with her husband? Things like going for walks, hiking, or other physically active activities? How do I reintroduce or manage going out and doing things I enjoy again? Restaurants, art galleries, concerts, etc. I know, and I mean that I absolutely know, that God can work in all of this, but will He? Is it up to my creativity, effort, and resources?


We experience God in us, changing us. We even know that God has blessed us, and is blessing us, but it often feels like He does so either from afar or from within.


If, in our non-conscious view of God, He is absent from around us, can He really affect change in our external circumstances? Can we really trust Him with our day-to-day lives? Will He really meet our needs? It is one thing for Him to be in us and empower us to change or to carry out a task, but it is quite another for us to act side-by-side in cooperation with the almighty God of the universe who can do anything He chooses to do.


Imagine what it would be like to have certainty that we can place our well-being, and the well-being of those we love and care for, into His hands, and that He will work for their good and ours. We live in a nation of anxiety and outrage. I wonder if it would be different if we really knew that a good and powerful God filled and overflowed the earth all around us, always right here and always right now.


Before we are too hard on ourselves about this, Dallas Willard tells us that God actually does hide Himself from us. It is this truth that played a role in the title of his book called The Divine Conspiracy. He says, and I agree, that if God did not hide Himself from us, and we were thereby essentially forced into an awareness of His presence, we would find it hard to exercise the agency He gave us and holds in high regard. If Eve was forcibly aware of God's presence would she have had the freedom to listen to the serpent? If Adam were forcibly aware of the presence of God would he have had the freedom to take the fruit from Eve and eat? If we are forcibly aware of the presence of God, are we free to choose whether or not to worship Him, whether or not to invite Him to be involved in whatever we are doing at that moment? In my examples above would I be free whether or not to ask Him to fix my car or provide wisdom for what to do, to pray for the water to be restored or who to call for help, to invite Him to work on the church teams schedules with me, and to give me courage that He is with me and will meet my career and relational needs? Of course we are encouraged to, and should, seek to be ever aware of His presence, but that is invitational, not forced.


To recap, I am suggesting the missing piece in our relational experience of God is in the right here and right now in the space all around us, like He is missing from the space where we live.


Are we then consigned to this state? To going about unaware of the very real and actual presence of God all around us here and now? Of course not. God simply wants us to want awareness of His presence before he grants it.


What Israel, His Ancestors, and His Lineage All Knew


Our God Bathed Life gets its name from a chapter of Dallas Willard's aforementioned book The Divine Conspiracy. The chapter is titled "What Jesus Knew: Our God-Bathed World". This whole book rocked my world when I read it, and this chapter captured my imagination for years, and it still does. I can't tell you how many times I see a wide open space between valley and mountaintop, between horizon and cloud, between earth and sky and repeat to myself Dallas' phrase concerning the vastness and presence of God:


"Empty space is a myth".


This is not a new idea. Did you know that Israel isn't just the name of a people group that God chose to call His own, but is the name given by God to a man named Jacob? The background story isn't important for our purposes here today, but I encourage you to read it for yourself (the entire story of Jacob can be found in Genesis 25:19-Genesis 50).


Let's look at Jacob's renaming in two passages. First, the dream that helped to frame for Jacob his own experience of the fact that he lives where God lives, then the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) event that led to God choosing a new name for Jacob (I know that it is now called the WWE: World Wrestling Entertainment but remember that this happened a long time ago).


"Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it."

(remember that in Genesis 1:8 the Bible calls the space between the seas and the clouds heaven. Heaven is the air around us, our atmosphere. So think of heaven as near. The ladder may have been a short one that lead to a different dimension of the same space as where Jacob was. Some have suggested it may have been like the stairway of a temple. As we have seen, heaven is also the name for where God lives.)

"And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, 'I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants.' "

(Jacob's grandfather was Abraham and his father was Isaac. God was saying that He is the God of his father and grandfather.)

“'Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.' "

(the same promise God gave to Abraham, Jacob's grandfather.)

“'Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.' Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, 'Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.' He was afraid and said, 'How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.'

So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top. He called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz."

(Bethel translates into "the House of God")


So Jacob experienced the spiritual realm break into his physical realm. Jacob experienced God from the air around him, right there and right then.


So did his grandfather. Remember how in the blog titled Because He First Loved Us, God called to Abraham "from heaven" not to harm his son Isaac. God did not part the clouds and call to Abraham from the sky, regardless of what Monty Python wants you to think, but spoke to him from the very air around him in the right here and right now. Remember how, in the last blog, God showed Hagar, Abraham's other wife, the water when she thought that her and Ishmael were going to die in the desert? There, too, it was God calling to Hagar "from heaven", from the space around her in the right here and right now (Genesis 21:17).


In fact, we see this everywhere in the history of God's people in the Old Testament. Just a few examples:

  • God called to Moses from the burning bush right where Moses was standing (Exodus 3:4)

  • God led the people Israel through the wilderness in a pillar of cloud going before them during the day, and a pillar of fire going before them during the night. God was in the pillars. (Exodus 13:21-22)

  • God met with Moses on Mount Sinai (starting in Exodus 19:18-25).

  • God would "descend" as a cloud and fill the tabernacle in the camp of the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 40:34-38)

And this doesn't just take place in the books of Moses (the first five books of the Old Testament). For:

  • In Judges 6:11-27 a careful reading of the terms and capitalizations will let us know that Gideon was speaking with a theophany (a word that means that God took human form to speak with someone, in this case Gideon).

  • In Isaiah 6:3, Isaiah has a vision of the throne room of God. In that vision, Seraphim angels are singing that the Lord is holy and the whole earth if filled with His glory. But the whole earth is filled with the glory of God because the whole earth is filled with the presence of God.

  • We know this because in Isaiah 66:1 we see God saying that heaven is His throne and the earth is His footstool. This is the same word for "heaven" as in Genesis 1:8 where it explains that heaven is the space between the oceans and the clouds: it is the space around us, the air we breathe.


You thought I forgot. Well I did. My initial write-up failed to include the renaming story. Anyway, before Jacob's renaming story, it may be important to know that the name Israel itself implies struggling with God, struggling and overcoming. That is what God chose to name His people. What might that imply about the way that God expects us to engage with Him? Might God welcome our questioning? Our struggling with how to deal with it when it seems He isn't listening or doesn't care? Might it be an invitation to come to Him not just with our praise but with our concerns and doubts about Him as well? Might we be free to bring the entire spectrum of our experience with God to Him directly?


Anyway, here is what happened:

"Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, 'Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.' But he said, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.' So he said to him, 'What is your name?' And he said, 'Jacob.' He said, 'Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.' Then Jacob asked him and said, 'Please tell me your name.' But he said, 'Why is it that you ask my name?' And he blessed him there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, 'I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.'"


So God visited Jacob again, this time in a wrestling match. And God let him win.


We live in the very same space that God does. We live where God lives. The spiritual realm and the physical realm exist in the same location. We just don't have eyes that see the spiritual realm.



And it Continues Into the New Testament


God's presence in the space around us here and now wasn't just experienced in the Old Testament.


  • In the first four books of the New Testament we see Jesus, God Himself, spending 33 years living among and interacting with humanity as a human Himself.

  • In Matthew 3:16-17 we see God the Father pulling back the veil separating heaven and earth to exclaim His good pleasure with His Son Jesus.

  • In Acts 2:1-12, the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was experienced as a rushing wind and tongues of fire that settled on the twelve apostles (including Matthias who had replaced Judas).

  • And we have the story of Saul in Acts 9:1-31, a man who was persecuting and murdering Christians, who was blinded by a vision of the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus and became a follower of Jesus in the process.


Today we have stories of miraculous healings, Jesus appearing to people in visions in Asia and the Middle East leading to conversions to Christianity, stories of the Christian Church growing like wildfire under tremendous persecution in places like China, the Middle East, and Africa.


It is indeed "in Him" that we "live and move and exist". And it is "in Him all things hold together".


Make no mistake, Dallas Willard was right: empty space is a myth.


As I write this I am in my fifties. Back in Junior High or maybe High School we learned about atoms. We learned that they are made up of a nucleus made up of protons and neutrons, and around this nucleus would fly little electrons. If we encapsulated an atom into a bubble the size of the atom, we would see that there is more space taken up by not stuff than stuff. In other words, there is more space taken up by space than by the protons, neutrons, and electrons themselves. I checked with a high school student recently to see if this is still true. He said it still is. Now I have no idea whether this is the case or not, but I invite you to share my imagination and wonder with me whether all that space taken up by not stuff in an atom is the presence of Jesus Christ holding it all together. Wouldn't that be something?


I say again, empty space is a myth.


But What Does That Mean in Practice


It means that what David said in Psalm 139 is true: there really is nowhere that we can go where we are beyond the presence of God. God is omnipresent. That means that He exists everywhere all at once all the time. Not only in the place that He calls home, the space between the seas and the clouds, the space where we live, but beyond the clouds, across the galaxy, across the universe, everywhere where there is matter, and outside of it. But God is also infinite in wisdom and knowledge and power. That means that He can be, and is, intimately present. None of us can hide from his constant notice. Nor should we want to, for He is good and compassionate and He loves us.


He also works with us. And He works ahead of us. What does that mean?


Two examples from the Bible, and two from my life


Notice a couple of curious events with me from the Old Testament:


First, In Joshua 2 we see that Joshua sent spies into Jericho to check it out. Here is the story:

"Then Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim, saying, 'Go, view the land, especially Jericho.' So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there. It was told the king of Jericho, saying, 'Behold, men from the sons of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.' And the king of Jericho sent word to Rahab, saying, 'Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.' But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them, and she said, 'Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. It came about when it was time to shut the gate at dark, that the men went out; I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.' But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them in the stalks of flax which she had laid in order on the roof. So the men pursued them on the road to the Jordan to the fords; and as soon as those who were pursuing them had gone out, they shut the gate.

Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, and said to the men, 'I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. Now therefore, please swear to me by the LORD, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth, and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.' So the men said to her, 'Our life for yours if you do not tell this business of ours; and it shall come about when the LORD gives us the land that we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.'


Wait, how did they know that God was going to give Jericho into the hands of Israel? Just the fact of Israel's victory in battle likely would not have lead all the way to that conclusion. So how did they know?


Because God is present everywhere. Let's look back in Exodus when God is giving Moses His Law. He is telling Israel that they are to enter and take over the promised land, but not alone:

“'Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him.

'But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.

'For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them. You shall not worship their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their deeds; but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their sacred pillars in pieces. But you shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst. There shall be no one miscarrying or barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you. I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land.'"


It tuns out God had sent an angel and warned the residents of Jericho to leave. He sent terror and hornets to drive them out. Yet they refused to leave. Then Jericho heard that Israel was coming. And they are winning in battle. They knew they were next and that they had ignored God's warning to them.


When God leads, He goes ahead of us to help to prepare the way. There is still work for us to do. The idea of God fighting our battles for us does not include the idea that we sit out the battle. When God calls us, He goes ahead of us, equips us, and brings it about together with us. We work together with Him. Remember that at creation the idea was for us to rule together with Him.


How does that work today?


I was sitting for a sermon at the church I attended in Pennsylvania one Sunday, and something that Pastor JR said went directly to my heart and I started tearing up, Even after the service was over I sat there all teary. The place was emptying out and I still sat there. Pastor JR came up to me and asked how I was. I, half weeping and half speaking, told him about how I had been feeling badly that I wasn't further along the path of my spiritual growth than I was. But when he spoke about trusting the pace of God how it really struck me. I had been too hard on myself and should lean into trusting God's pace in my life more. He responded that he had no idea what I was talking about since he never said anything about trusting the pace of God in his sermon.

What?!

He continued that it happened a lot. People would tell him that what he said in a sermon really spoke to them, and he would have no idea what they meant because he never said that. God had sent His Holy Spirit ahead to prepare the way. God was working on the sermon with Pastor JR. God was working on my heart. Then when the words left the mouth of Pastor JR that Sunday, they traveled through the air, not through empty space but through the very presence of God, and then they landed in my ears and heart where the Holy Spirit was preparing the way.

I heard what God had prepared.

JR's words were amplified through the very presence of God before they landed in my prepared heart. JR had to preach. I had to be there and listening. And God prepared and amplified.


I used to sell cars for a living. I liked it. It fit me well and I worked for an honest employer. A couple decades ago, one night just before closing time we received a truckload of cars in a pouring Monsoon-like storm. There was no attendant to check them in so we all knew what that meant. I got my jacket on and, once the cars were being unloaded, I started checking them in, getting soaked and cold in the process. When I came back inside, no one else had moved from their desk and everyone was dry. I cracked. I went on a profanity laden tirade at the injustice of it all. On the way home I felt terrible. All that time I was working on building my witness to others about the work of God in my life, poof! It was gone. How could I face them after that? I knew it had to start with an apology. The next day I went up to each person individually, embarrassed, and apologized. To a person none of them could remember what I was talking about and seemed genuinely confused.

Huh?

Could God work to preserve my witness in a time of failure?


Let's take a quick look at that second Old Testament curious example. Jonah was a prophet called by God to go and preach to the people of Nineveh. Jonah wasn't having it. They were enemies and bad people. So he hopped a boat headed the other direction. You may have heard the story but if not, give the Biblical book of Jonah a read. It is pretty short. Anyway, to make a short story even shorter, God worked on him and he grudgingly agreed, but did about as little as he possibly could and still obey God's call to him. That's where we pick up the story:

"Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 'Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.' So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days’ walk. Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, 'Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.' Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.

When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. He issued a proclamation and it said, 'In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.'

When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.


But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry."


Jonah didn't put forth much of an effort. Ninevah was so big it was a three days' walk. He walked one day. His sermon was as vague as he could possibly make it, consisting of 8 words when translated to English "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown." No exclamation point at the end of that sentence, just a period. And out of nowhere the entire city repents and turns to God!

WOW! How did that happen? God went ahead and prepared the way.


God is present in the here and now. God is active always working for good, for our good and the good of everyone, even our enemies. Empty space is a myth, and it is filled with a God who is on your side, on everyone's side.


Concluding Our Teaching


In this post, we explored the "Because We Live In a God-Bathed World" part. In the next post we'll explore the "We Can Have a God-Bathed Life" part. Here we looked at the element of our relationship with God that might be lacking, or at least a little weak. The element where we experience, or at least are aware of, God in the space all around us. If our view of God is limited to residing in our hearts and living somewhere beyond the clouds, is He then really present and active in the events and circumstances of our lives like He is present and active in our spiritual/character development?


But God really is present in the whole world. He even calls where we live His home. Old Testament scholar Carmen Joy Imes, in her book Being God's Image, tells us that in ancient times temple dedications would often take a week. She points out that God took one week to create and populate the earth: perhaps creation was the dedication of His temple? Ancient temples also had images, idols, of the god who was worshiped there. God called us His image bearers. Perhaps one reason that God says in the Ten Commandments that we shall not make any idols is that we are meant as His image bearers. God cares about the affairs of his image bearers and works to promote their good.


While I am excited about the revolutionary idea of God's active presence all around us, our God-bathed world, I am even more excited about His intimate presence with us, our God-bathed life. We cover that in part 2.


What God Might Say


In this section, we imagine what God might say if He were to speak for Himself to us on the subject. Here is what that might sound like:


In a fallen world where so much occurs that is disheartening, it may seem like Me in you against the world. But it is not. I was just telling you the truth when I said that in this world you will have trouble (John 16:33 NIV), but I said that in context of you having My peace. I have overcome the world. I live here, too, with you. You live in Me, both as a spiritual position within My family AND as a geographical reality. We are in this life together, and I go before you, all around you. Therefore WE have overcome the world, and you are invited to live into that reality.


But there is something I really want you to understand. I never intended to do life for you. You aren't a passive observer. You won't learn to trust Me that way. When I made this world, perfect before its ruin, My intention was for us to rule together, to act together, to tend to creation's goodness and upkeep, and to allow your creativity for good to flourish. Seek Me and My desire for your life, My guidance, yes, but like any good parent My desire is to grow you in wisdom and strength. That way we work together. While it is true that you can do nothing without Me, it is also true that if you do nothing then that will be without Me, too. We rule together. We act together. So after you have asked Me for wisdom, listen. Sometimes I will speak and sometimes it will be up to you. But then, either way, act in faith, faith that when you mess up that I have your back. You will mess up at times, but I will be there. I will work with you.


Tim, I knew what was coming in JR's sermon. I also knew what you needed to hear. Like so many of My children, you can be a harsh critic of yourself. You are a piece of art I am working on, and it will be so for your whole life. But look back at the early outlines on canvas, and how color is now causing the picture of your expression of Me to emerge. It is good now, and will be even better later. (But it was always good.) *** I was there during your outburst at work. It wasn't your finest moment. But the harm you feared never materialized. I literally stood between your words and their ears. And you continued to bear witness of Me, imperfectly just like all the rest of my ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), but I am here to help when you mess up. *** Why do you still delay in turning to Me in times of need? Yes, your hip pain and discomfort is unfortunate, suffering is a part of this world. But of course I have work for you, of course you can risk stepping out again. If the pain comes on strong, I'll be there with you. As for whether to listen to Me in pursuing dating, why do you doubt? There may or may not be anything that comes of it, but trust Me, please. I've gifted you with a good mind, but sometimes you rely on that gift more than the Giver. Your understanding of anything is only partial: you cannot see the future nor the spiritual realm, and even what you can see is often clouded by a paradigm that is imperfect. Trust in Me, please.


We occupy this space together, My image bearers and I. I am actively working for good. But I made this creation in such a way that it usually requires us to act together. Your faith is an important part of that action. Mark said that I could do little in my hometown because of unbelief (Mark 6:1-6a). That stands in wild juxtaposition to so many miracles I did elsewhere. But notice something about those miracles: almost none of them lacked involvement of the person or caretaker of the one receiving the miracle. Look at what we did together:

  • The feeding of 5000 men plus women and children (in Matthew 14:15-21). You brought Me five loaves and two fish. You served the people. You picked up baskets full after everyone ate their fill. I brought food into existence out of thin air, so to speak. We were both important for the miracle. It is how I designed it.

  • The healing of the lame man at the pool at Bethesda (in John 5:2-9). He picked up his pallet and walked, and I healed him. Both actions were important for the miracle. It is how I designed it.

  • Peter walked on water. I enabled it, but he had to exit the boat. This perhaps shows the principle best, for while he looked at Me, he walked on water. When the storm and waves distracted him, he began to sink (Matthew 14:22-33).

  • Notice the pattern, faith and action on your part, miracle on Mine. That doesn’t mean a miracle every time you act in faith, remember that you don’t always know the paths of life and goodness. I do.


I live with you in your neighborhood. I am actively working for good. But I designed it so that we work together. So let's do this. Trust in Me.




Practicing With

In this section we engage in a practice that we do with God, and hopefully with God together with those He loves. As mentioned on the introductory post, hopefully you get to invite others to experience Our God Bathed Life with you. It might look different for you, but one way you might do that is to get together with a couple of people each week for a meal. Over that meal you get to know each other better and discuss what stood out to you in the blog post, what questions you might have, and especially what your experience of the practice has been. Let's look at this practice:


God lives here, with us. Not "just" in us, but all around us as well. Therefore He is capable of affecting our circumstances and our lives. This exercise will help us to better "see" His presence all around us (meaning to increase our awareness). The practice is holy imagination.


Now I know that the idea of applying our imagination to things of God makes some nervous. All we are doing is taking what we know to be true and applying our imagination to that. What do we know:

  • Heaven is God's throne and the earth is His footstool (Isaiah 66:1)

  • Heaven is the space from the sea to the clouds (meaning it is where we live, too) (Genesis 1:7-8)

  • It is in Christ that all things hold together (Colossians 1:17)

  • It is in God that we live and move and exist (Acts 17:27-28)

  • God is actually everywhere (Psalm 139:7-10)


So what do we do with that? You know how you think better than I do, and you know what will capture your imagination better than I do, but here are some ideas to get you started:

  • As I mentioned earlier, we think we know that within the space that an atom occupies, more of the space is taken up by not matter than by matter. We can imagine that the space in between is taken up by Jesus literally holding all things together within Himself. And we can take some time to mentally dwell on that idea. Perhaps the "empty" space is full of the presence of Jesus holding it all together?

  • We can consider Dallas Willard's comment that empty space is a myth and look out to the space between the horizon and the sky and imagine every square inch taken up by the reality of the presence of God.

  • We can imagine ourselves on a trip to anywhere we want to go: the bottom of the sea, a foreign country, to the moon or even to outer space, and imagine all along the way we look to our side and God is already there as we have an ongoing conversation with Him about it.

  • One day I took a young adult Bible study through this exercise:

    • Close your eyes and imagine yourself going through your day. You wake up and turn off your alarm. You get ready for work or school and leave the house. Imagine your commute by train, bus, car, bike, or on foot. Picture your day at work or school or home. Picture your activities: the things you need to get done, lunch, more things to get done. Imagine the commute home, dinner, final chores of the day, and a time of relaxation before turning in. Imagine falling asleep for the night. *** Now imagine the same thing but with a purple and white barely there mist everywhere around you. You turn off your alarm and take a deep breath, purple and white mist in, purple and while mist out. You get ready for work or school and leave the house, purple and white mist barely there but swirling all around you as you move. Purple and white mist passing quickly by on your commute. It is everywhere but it does not hinder your sight. Picture your activities done ever in the presence of the purple and white mist. The commute home through the mist. The final activities of the day done in the mist. You turn in with the mist all around you. *** Now imagine that the purple and white mist is the physical residue of the presence of God. You are always aware of His presence. What is different about your life without the mist as it is now, and with the mist? Do you think differently? Do you act differently? Are you more confident? More nervous? Do you want to hide? Do you have a greater desire to love God and love others? Are your priorities different? Do you watch different shows or communicate differently with your spouse, your children, your parents, your coworkers?


This exercise is called holy imagination. Ask God to help you imagine and meditate on something that will help you become more aware of His presence in your life. Then talk about it with others that you do this with. What did you learn? Are you becoming more aware of the presence of God in your life?


*******


Be sure to visit OurGodBathedLife.com for curated voices that are sure to help you better live into your own corner of Our God Bathed Life. See you next time when we consider that we can have a God-bathed life because God already has a relationship with us, whether or not we have one with Him. I can't wait for us to discuss that topic! It is the one I have been most looking forward to.

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