I have a clear recollection of the day I received the phone call inviting me to lead a weekend seminar series at this church. The pastor, a good friend of mine, expressed the desire for his congregation to draw on the Adventist vision of God in a manner that would allow them to not only experience God’s Love themselves, but also to become conduits for His Love, channeling it to those around them. I accepted my friend’s invitation and we immediately began to outline a schedule. We decided to begin with a weekend of presentations for church members, and then to follow up with a longer series for the larger community a few months later (this community series will begin next April).
During my first visit to Fairfield Adventist Church, I gave a presentation aimed at encouraging those present to reflect on their understanding of God. I reminded the congregation that Christianity is not all about assessing our behavior (and certainly not the behavior of others). Our spiritual development is also dependent on our grasp of the True Nature of God. It is only by love that love is awakened; how can we ever grow in the direction of God’s Perfection if we have never truly seen this manifested in everything that He is? The experience of understanding in one’s heart what He truly is has such a deeply profound effect that one is transformed into God’s likeness.
As I delivered this presentation, I became aware of one of the dear saints in the room. He had been sitting across the sanctuary, it seemed, and he now stood up and came over to our gathering in order to correct some inappropriate behavior by a visitor that he felt needed to be addressed that night. Occurrences such as this take place in all of our churches more often than we would like to admit. I then heard God lovingly whisper to me.
“Do you see that, Herb?” He asked, “That is what you and I are going to be working on together this weekend. Are you with Me?” I smiled at Him as I replied, “Yes, Lord, I’m in!”
Over the course of the next few presentations, the group and I looked at our different perceptions of God’s Character in the context of human suffering, sin, forgiveness and salvation. The final discussion in the series was an unexpectedly memorable conclusion to our exploration of God’s Being, which took the form of an amazingly intense encounter with the true Nature of God that we had been talking about. This took place as we all looked together at the Cross.
Following this, there were some truly wonderful testimonies at the end of the weekend. Many approached me afterward, expressing deep repentance both because they had formerly seen God incorrectly and because they had communicated this false depiction of our Heavenly Father through their behavior towards others.
Reflecting back on the weekend, what stands out in my mind the most is the speech given by my pastor friend at the end. With tears in his eyes, he told us that he wanted to more deeply see and be like the God he had experienced in our sessions..My friend went on to say, that this was the picture of God that he wants his church to share with the wider community. I was deeply moved by his words and wish that you, dear reader, could have been among this congregation to witness the power of God’s Transforming Grace this weekend. When I got into my rental car afterward, I sat for a moment before beginning my drive home and whispered to God, “Yeah God, I’m with ya! I’m in! Where next?”