Denison Forum – The day that changed my life forever

Today is my thirty-eighth wedding anniversary. I am to be congratulated. According to my friends, my wife is to be consoled.

I cannot imagine my life without Janet. The world knows what an amazingly gifted teacher, writer, and minister she is. Our family knows that she is the very same person in private that she is in public. Her passionate commitment to her Lord, her family, and her calling animates everything she does.

I remember well the moment I first saw her: she walked into our sophomore English class at Houston Baptist University, smiling. I’d not seen that done before.

I had to know more but soon discovered that she had boyfriends. One after the other. I was finally able to get in line for a date. Two years later, we were married.

“If any of you lacks wisdom”

I will spend eternity thanking God for leading us to each other. But I cannot tell you precisely how he did. He used feelings, circumstances, and other people. There came a time when we simply knew that we knew we were to be married.

If I had to prove to her that she should marry me, I’d still be single.

We are facing many dilemmas today for which we need God’s direction. For instance, the American Bible Society is being criticized for requiring employees to affirm a statement of moral commitments. Among them: “I will seek to refrain from sexual activity outside of the marriage covenant prescribed and exemplified in the Bible: ‘a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and the two will become one,’ symbolizing the relationship between Christ and His Church (Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31).”

We now live in a day when a ministry dedicated to distributing the Bible is criticized for affirming biblical morality.

More Americans are suffering from depression, stress, and anxiety, a trend making news following Kate Spade’s tragic death this week. According to a new study, nearly half of American veterans who need mental health care don’t receive it.

We are a people in need of God’s wisdom. Here’s the good news: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). How does God give such wisdom to us?

“You are an unceasing spiritual being”

Dallas Willard taught philosophy for forty-eight years at the University of Southern California and was an award-winning writer on Christian spirituality. His classic Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God makes a point I’d like us to consider this morning.

According to Willard, we were made to hear from our Maker. We may think that it’s rare to hear from God and difficult to discern his leading, but the opposite is actually the case. Our Father wants to speak to us.

We must simply position ourselves to receive what his grace intends to give.

Willard claims, “It is very important to remember and to always keep before your mind this fact: You are an unceasing spiritual being, created for an intimate and transforming friendship with the creative Community that is the Trinity. Learning to hear God is much more about becoming comfortable in a continuing conversation, and learning to constantly lean on the goodness and love of God, than it is about turning God into an ATM for advice, or treating the Bible as a crystal ball.”

So, how do we become “comfortable in a continuing conversation” with God?

Willard notes that the ultimate question is not whether we are hearing from God but whether we are in love with him: “Our concern for discerning God’s voice must be overwhelmed by and lost in our worship and adoration of him and in our delight in his creation and his provision for our whole life.”

Remember that Jesus’ “great command” was not that you “hear from the Lord your God” but that you “love the Lord your God” (Matthew 22:37). Are you in love with the God who is in love with you?

If not, ask his Spirit to draw you closer to your Father. Act as if you loved God more than you do, knowing that feelings typically follow actions. Make loving God your foundational definition of success and the motive for all you do in life.

Otherwise, what you do today will be “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).

Our first words in heaven

On my thirty-eighth wedding anniversary, I can testify to the wisdom of this definition: A perfect marriage “is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.” My wife refuses to give up on me, a fact for which I am grateful every day.

My Father refuses to give up on me as well. He loves me more than I can comprehend and seeks a more intimate relationship than I can imagine. The closer I am to him, the better I can receive what he loves to give.

And the better I can live in gratitude for such grace.

Dallas Willard died in 2013 after a short battle with cancer. His last words on earth were “Thank you.” When he stepped into heaven, his first words were likely the same.

If we love the God who loves us, the same will be true for us

 

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