Extreme Encounters

By Eugene C. Scott

Sitting on a rooftop, years ago, a fellow carpenter and I marveled at the wild Colorado sky. Gray, purple, white, and silver clouds mingled on the blue horizon. Distant bolts of lightning spiked out of the clouds grabbing the plains and pulling the storm down out of the Rockies. Pikes Peak shouldered gray storm clouds bravely. The summer storm rolled unchecked out of the mountains quickly swallowing the miles of empty plains separating the housing subdivision we worked in and the coming storm. We sat dumbstruck, our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches half eaten in our laps. Closer and closer the storm crawled on its legs of lightning. Thunder clapped; the mountains disappeared. Black shadows of rain streaked the sky below the clouds. It was an extreme encounter with God’s creation while sitting in the teeth of a lightning storm.

I looked over at my friend to say something profound. My words never found voice. In the still air his red hair stood, dancing like snakes to the rhythm of the thunder. He looked at me and pointed. My hair too stood straight out from my head. The storm had drawn so close the very air surrounding us was charged with electricity and about to turn us into human lightning rods. We wisely waited out the storm and finished lunch in the safety of the basement.

History records a host of people, a cloud of witnesses, scripture calls them, who have encountered Christ. Rich, poor, men, women, children, those seeking, those not. Jesus always knew their need, even when they themselves did not. Peter needed purpose, a blind man sight, Mary Magdalene forgiveness, children compassion, and Martha a spiritual perspective. He never left them unchallenged, though they sometimes left the challenge unanswered.

Having encountered Christ are we also not answering? Surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses do we sit dumbstruck staring at God’s power? Do we run and hide in the basement? Encountering God is risky. Everyone who encountered Christ took a chance. Yet, in a culture dominated by extreme experiences and risky behavior, we insulate ourselves from God. In acts of pseudo risk-taking we bungy jump, watch scary movies, drive fast, or wear edgy clothes. But, for us, taking real risks like trusting God, or reaching out to the homeless, or teaching Sunday school, or sharing Christ at work, or forgiving a friend or family member are far too real an adventure.

Though naive and dangerous, I encountered something in that electrical storm no television weather report could match–extreme reality. I’ll never forget the smell of the air, the pull of the electricity on my skin and hair, the eerie light, the quiet. So too we can read about how others encountered God or we can experience Him.

God fills the very air that surrounds us. Take a risk; stand up, face the storm, and allow God’s grace to strike your soul. Become a lightning rod. The beauty, the clarity of that moment with God will be stunning for now and forever more.

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6 responses to “Extreme Encounters

  1. Georgie-ann

    What a picture!

    In the long run, what is really scarier than encountering God, is failing to encounter Him at all.

    Some people run from His Laws, but then proceed to make up their own “laws” and “Rules for the Game of Life,” as they wish to “play it,” as seems best to them. They seem to never question the appropriateness of assuming that they “know enough” to cover all the bases on their own. They feel “entitled” to live according to every attitude, whim and opinion that arises within. “After all, it’s a free country!” And little do they realize how infiltrated their expectations and judgment have become, with all the contrived and fanciful hype that they have absorbed from “dreamed up” media offerings on a continual basis. They are expecting a “soft landing,” because that’s how so many of the shows end.

    Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way.”

    Are we so “filled” with this continuous input, that we can no longer realize that we have actual “needs?” That we have places within us that are still empty and left unacknowledged? Is all the “noise” drowning out important realities that would try to “speak to us?” If we could listen, hear? Are our “performance goals” so demanding that it is impossible to really rest, or to taste the wisdom that resides in silence?

    I’ve spent some time in the hold of / (under the influence of) these conditions. It might have been a busy and “productive” time, but I don’t think it was a fundamentally happy time, when all was “said and done.” But I didn’t know anything else.

    My cry eventually became: “God, I don’t know where you are, or how to find you. Please help me find you.”

    I guess because I was starting to seek with my whole heart, and to listen somehow beyond the usual dull noise levels, He did manage to “get through” to me, to make Himself known to me. And I’m so glad.

    God is true to His Word. He does not lie.

    Luke 11:9 [ Keep Asking, Seeking, Knocking ]
    “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

    Numbers 23:19
    “God is not a man, that He should lie,Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”

    So be it.

    • Thanks, Georgie. I too have been in the hold of these conditions. Not fun.

      So true about encountering God. But denial is powerful. I wonder if there are ways “we,” who have encountered him still run from his laws, etc. as well “they,” except maybe more subtly.

      God is true to his word. It is a good thing. Eugene

  2. Georgie-ann

    Dear Eugene,…on considering “denial:”…(btw, I initially wrote something very much longer,…boo-booed electronically, and “lost” most of it,…I then attempted to recreate it,…but now I’m just going to chose this part, which slipped in kind of “like a nice little surprise:”)

    Since we (Christians) are now “in the world,” but not “of the world,” we will yet have our ongoing times of conflict, challenges, choices, and temptations. Yes, by agreeing with some of the possibilities suggested or flaunted before us, it can be easy enough to be distracted and diverted from our better spiritual options.

    “Denial” can always be an excuse, a way we try to protect ourselves, or even an evasive subterfuge. As humans, we all share pretty much the same vulnerable “psychology” as anyone else. For some, “putting their heads in the sand” (like ostriches), may feel like an “easy way out” for awhile, or even “the only way out,” and I’ve “been there” too!

    But, I was “hiding,” and God called me to come on out “into His Light.” I found that there was nothing to fear! But, quite the contrary, “thanks be to God,” as He has reconciled us to Himself by His Love, and He is not a wicked taskmaster looking to find ways to re-condemn us for every twist and turn we take on the way to “growing up spiritually” in Him, — (it is satan, His and our enemy, that retains this temporary “position” for the time being), — we can be assured of His Love and encouragement toward us as we move closer and closer to Him, in what may seem like a rather long journey to finding and experiencing personally the fullness and reality that we hear described in His Word.

    God is Good and God is Faithful.

    Joyful acceptance of this freely offered Salvation is the first step of many that will carry us toward the goal. And, as you have said, it is a journey that will last (and surely outlast) a lifetime.

    And really, for the sincere, “it’s all good.” A lot will be “coming out in the wash.” We can’t really Be Perfect just by wishing and trying ever-so-hard. We also have to learn how to allow God to work within us, to be patient and accept the imperfections of our own “human condition,” (and everyone else’s too!), as nothing very extraordinary or even particularly alarming. We are the (at first, fearful) clay “in the Potter’s Hands.” What Joy is ours when we really begin to feel His touch and just how deeply and sincerely He does Love and Know us. Well, after all, He’s the one who made us!

    John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]”

    Romans 8:1-39 (excerpted)
    1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

    2 “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

    3 “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

    4 “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. …

    6 “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

    7 “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. …

    9 “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. …

    11 “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. …

    13 ” … if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

    14 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

    15 “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’

    16 “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: …

    18 “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. …

    28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. …

    31 “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

    32 “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

    33 “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. …

    35 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …

    37 “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

    38 “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

    39 “Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    And if that isn’t powerful enough to give you the “Godly goose-bumps,” here’s another beautiful promise!

    2 Corinthians 3:18 “And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit.”

    Amen and Amen.

    • Georgie-ann

      I once heard it said that God knows when we are “moving toward Him” (in our heart), and that this is the most important aspect of our journey, rather than this or that achievement or where we happen to be on the journey. What is sad, for both God and the person, is if He sees that we are moving away from Him instead.

      Another thing that I believe that God “shared with me” regarding what is sometimes called “the sin of comparison,” (and perhaps falling into a category of “coveting” as well), has to do with the discouragement some people feel when it appears to them that another person is “more blessed,” “more beautiful,” “more talented,” “more spiritual,” “more successful in so many ways,” “higher up on some visible ladder,” “yadda yadda,” and so on.

      Again, God is not as concerned with the “outer” as we are.

      1 Samuel 16:7 “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’ ”

      In our human thinking some things that we “see” around us do not appear “to be fair.” In times past, I don’t think that people agonized quite as much as they seem to nowadays about such issues. Somehow, I think we trusted God more, questioned Him less, and were more accepting in general of “our lot in life.” I think we were happier inside too — it’s hard for television to overpower your images and expectations when it’s pretty small, full of “snow,” and in black & white! Not much competition there! WE were the ones with the real technicolor lives!

      So, — trying to make a longer story shorter — in “talking to the Lord” about some things I would see/observe/wonder about along the way, He explained to me that from His point of view, people are inevitably born into different circumstances on this “fallen earth” and kind of “willy-nilly” subjected to all kinds of broken, less than perfect, “unequal” circumstances, including social, genetic, and economic and ethnic parameters, to mention just a few.

      What God cares about and is looking for is that any person do the best they can with what they have been “given” to deal with. (And life on earth will give most of us problems, big and small, to “deal with!”) An “unnoticed” person in very difficult circumstances, doing the best they can “as unto the Lord,” may feel they’ve spent more time resisting obstacles and seemingly “getting nowhere,” than another person who appears to have had “an easy road” to a very visible success. We mustn’t forget that God sees and knows every last detail — the efforts, the sufferings, the faith, the hopes, the prayers, the set-backs and the breakthroughs — and will be the one to “reward” as He sees fit when all is said and done.

      In contrast to some of the popularized Christian “teachings” that had come into vogue, with a very strong emphasis on upwardly mobile outer achievements, success, looks, etc., — (this, in order to “counteract” some sloppy Christian patterns of doubt and unbelief, we were told) — the Lord seemed to be telling me that the problem with His people being so caught up with some of this as some kind of “measuring” criteria, was that some very significant things were going to be ignored.

      Something very dear to God’s heart is when a person not only turns to Him for their own Salvation, but also becomes a loving and concerned member of the family (Body of Christ) in such a way as to desire to help improve the quality of life (spiritual and natural) of others in the Body, and those who still need to be “reached.”

      The kind of consistent efforts needed to bring help, encouragement, relief, inspiration, “setting the captives free,” etc., are often not the up-front visible programmed dramatic displays of power, wealth, glitz-glam, and authority, that have captivated so many — (and this is not saying that there is not a place for dynamic presentations made “in God’s name”!). But there are many times when a simple and sincere, God-fearing saint on their knees, invisible to the rest of the world, is doing just as much and maybe even more for the Kingdom. These are the things that God sees and knows about us.

      If we can find peace in our hearts — knowing, loving and serving God — without becoming distracted, diverted and preoccupied with “keeping up with all the things the ‘Joneses’ are doing and having” in those “supposedly” spiritually “high” places, there is more than a very good chance that we’ll actually be as pleasing to God, and maybe even more so, than some of the “expert” fanfare makers.

      We shouldn’t disparage humility, even though it’s kind of counter-cultural these days. Jesus didn’t. Not only did He humble Himself completely on our behalf, but He gave a very significant “nod” to the Widow who gave “all she had” in her “insignificant” two mites. The “important” Pharisees were already “getting”/(taking) their “rewards” while here on earth, but this simple, faithful widow was the one with a reward waiting in Heaven.

      Luke 21:1-4 [The Widow’s Two Mites]
      1 ” And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, 2 and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. 3 So He said, ‘Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; 4 for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.’ ”

      Matthew 6:2 “Thus, whenever you give to the poor, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites in the synagogues and in the streets like to do, that they may be recognized and honored and praised by men. Truly I tell you, they have their reward in full already.”

      Matthew 6:5 “Also when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward in full already.”

      Matthew 6:16 “And whenever you are fasting, do not look gloomy and sour and dreary like the hypocrites, for they put on a dismal countenance, that their fasting may be apparent to and seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full already.”

      Galatians 6:2 “Bear (endure, carry) one another’s burdens … , and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ (the Messiah) and complete what is lacking [in your obedience to it].”

      • Georgie-ann

        Colossians 3:2,3

        2 “And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth.

        3 “For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God.”

  3. Georgie-ann

    http://www.afa.net/Blogs/BlogPost.aspx?id=2147507090

    I came across this article today called “Probe Ministries: What a Biblical Worldview Looks Like.”

    A book called “Total Truth” by Nancy Pearcey is discussed, particularly in reference to something called “Thinking Christianly.” This was explained quite succinctly and well, but I don’t know if “copy & pasting” from one blog to another is the right thing to do, so I’ll just try to use my own words. Basically, it encourages people to use the Bible as the frame of reference for evaluating EVERYTHING in life, and how one lives, etc.

    This is something that I’ve kind of taken for granted, based on my particular training, but as they explained it, it seems that there is a very big “disconnect” for many “moderns” as far as really applying the Word of God to the way they choose to live.

    If this is interesting to anyone, hopefully the copied address above will work to connect to the article. I’m laughing to myself because it’s kind of long, (but pretty interesting to me), and I realized that for me it was pretty much “up the same alley” that I usually try to go myself — examining a thought as connected to appropriate scriptures to see how it will develop,…and it gets to be a pretty long project for me as well, and often frustratingly so!

    I’m kind of glad/relieved to find others trying to do this too, as a serious effort, and happy to see what a good job they did! Some of their ideas looked really great to me.

    Well, I just thought I would mention it!

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