Wednesday, November 2, 2011

God Encircles His People

This phrase in Psalm 125 (The Message paraphrase) caught my eye:
"Mountains encircle Jerusalem, and God encircles his people-always has and always will"
The word picture caught my attention because I can visualize it in my mind.  Having grown up in Vermont, I can picture a place that is fully surrounded by mountains because, where I lived, no matter what direction you looked in, there were mountains!  Hunger Mountain, Camels Hump, Mount Mansfield!  They were always there, solid, unmovable, but always changing!  In the winter, they were brilliant white, with shadows of light and dark gray, or pinkish orange at sunset.  In early spring, the white would start to fade and the gray bark of the trees and the dark color of the soil would begin to show through until the leaves would start showing up in their lime green outfits.  Summer brought deep dark greens and blues depending on the shadows as the clouds drifted lazily across the range.  Fall was when the riotous colors of bright red, orange and soft yellow would dance across the landscape in a blaze of glory!  Same exact mountains, different faces depending on the season.

God does the same thing, although we may not realize it consciously.  He is always there, always surrounding us, even if we do not realize that he is present.  Unmovable but changing as the season requires.  Sometimes we perceive the bright fresh newness of his spirit.  Sometimes we experience the riot of colors during worship.    Other times, we may laze about like on a summer day and just enjoy his presence.  During our winters of discontent we may wake up and see the bright hope, like freshly fallen snow when the sun shines on its surface.  Same God, different faces.  Always present, always there.

There are a lot of things I miss about Vermont and the mountains would be one item that makes my list.  Good days or bad days, you could always look out of the window, or simply look up, and there they were!  On rainy days they might be obscured behind a bank of clouds, but you knew they were still there!  There is something very powerful and comforting about mountains.  Perhaps it's because they have withstood the ravages of time, the storms and the sunshine, and still they stand in all of their majesty and glory.  A testament that things can and do endure.  Something you can see, touch and perceive.

Does God still endure?  A strange question, but one that we "modern civilized" individuals should ask.  Do we believe that God can and does endure, even today, with everything going on around us?  Do we believe that God still surrounds us with his loving care and protection?  Can we sense his presence and see his varied faces during times of joy and sorrow?  How often do we notice what is right around us, when we are so busy trying to keep up?

Let me stop beating around the bush and be more direct.  For many who believe in God, they believe on an intellectual level.  It's a head knowledge belief, rather than a heart knowledge belief.  Oh, many modern day Christians believe but that's as far as it goes.  Even individuals who claim to have no religious affiliation would say that they believe that there is a God!  It's easy to say yes, I believe, but it's a lot harder to take the time to know who you believe in!  We're so busy, it's non stop go, go, go!  Seriously, when is the last time you looked up and saw the stars-really took the time to look at them?  When is the last time that you watched a sunset, or a moon rise and let it take your breath away? When did you just go outside and stand in the wind and let it wash all over you?  We have to do the same thing with knowing God. We have to get out of our head and connect with our heart.  We have to stop and look.  Feel and listen.  Experience in order to perceive.

We need to take the time to go beyond believing to knowing and we do that by experience.  Knowing helps you weather the storms.  Knowing makes you appreciate the joy of the sunny days in life.  Knowing helps you appreciate the presence of God through all of the seasons.  Just like the mountains that I grew up among, knowing means that you accept and understand that they are there even when you can not see them.  I didn't know that the mountains were there simply because I read it in a book or I saw a picture.  I had experience!  Can each of us honestly say that we know God is still there even when we can not "see" or "feel" his presence?  Have we taken the time to know God?  Can you say, yes I know because I have experience?

That is a question that we each have to answer at some point in time.  It can be a slow and tedious process to go from believing to knowing but don't worry.  God is there.  God is always there, surrounding you, like the mountains, patiently guarding and guiding you with his love.  You may not "see" him or "feel" him but he is still there, waiting for you to start to know him!  The Bible doesn't say "be still and believe that I am God", no, it says be still and KNOW!  Take time to know the God who encircles you-he always has, and he always will!

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