Can We Activate God’s Presence?

One of my favorite movies is Galaxy Quest. It’s a spoof of the original Star Trek series and is a lot of fun. At the end of the movie, to save the universe (this happens frequently on Star Trek), the captain activates the Omega 13, which is a device that turns back time for 13 seconds. It’s not long, but it’s long enough to redeem a single mistake.

To activate the Omega 13, he opens a compartment, a plunger rises, and he pushes down on the plunger. Then the science fiction magic happens. Sadly, this is how some people think God works. They talk about activating his power and invoking his presence, as if pushing a button or casting a spell of some kind can get God to appear or grant wishes like a genie. (I’ve been reading devotionals again.)

As I’ve said many times here, God is all about relationship. I didn’t understand that for most of my life, but seeing God through this lens, as a being in relationship as Father, Son and Spirit, changes our perspective on everything. He’s not a vending machine, a genie or someone whose power and presence we can invoke. He’s not watching us from a distance, keeping a list of sins and offenses against him. He’s not sitting on a judge’s bench, anxious to send us to the executioner.

God has a father’s heart for us. Jesus loves us like a brother. The Spirit is always on our side. God loves us with an unfailing love and delights in us loving him back. We don’t need to push a button or rub a lamp to enjoy his loving presence.

God of the undiscovered country

“For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6, NLT).

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The sixth Star Trek movie, The Undiscovered Country,is about a place none of us can go—the future. The captain and ship’s doctor are accused of assassinating the Klingon High Chancellor and the rest of the story revolves around their and the crew’s efforts to restore peace. The future of the universe was at stake.

Being united in and with Jesus means our future is now. Not only do we already have all the spiritual blessings of heaven, we have also been raised from the dead with him and seated in heavenly realms. While we live within the constraints of time and space, this is a now-but-not-yet reality for us, but in God’s reality, it’s a done deal. He is the God of our future, discovered and secure.

God gave us the earth

“The heavens belong to the Lord, but he has given the earth to all humanity” (Psalm 115:16, NLT).

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.
The Earth seen from Apollo 17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the Star Trek world, Class M planets can support carbon based life. Their atmospheres are composed of nitrogen and oxygen and they have an abundant supply of water. We don’t have warp drive technology and can’t travel the universe, so as far as we know, earth is the only Class M planet, at least in our galaxy. There is evidence of water on Mars, but it’s a small amount and it’s frozen, not enough to support life.

Even the Star Trek writers knew not to over do it by making all the planets they discovered M Class. In that fiction, most were uninhabitable and even hostile. Our earth is just the right distance from the sun, has just the right tilt and the exact components necessary for life. It’s a rare jewel in the cosmos and an amazing gift from God. We too often take it for granted, but the space travelers never did. They seemed to always breathe a sigh of relief as a life-welcoming and supporting planet came into view. May we be thankful every day for God’s wonderful gift of our delightful home.

God of time

“All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time!” (Jude 1:25, NLT).

The Whirlpool Galaxy (Spiral Galaxy M51, NGC 5...
The Whirlpool Galaxy (Spiral Galaxy M51, NGC 5194) is a classic spiral galaxy located in the Canes Venatici constellation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love watching Star Trek movies and all the TV series. The ones about time travel and the time-space continuum especially intrigue me. It stretches the mind to consider the possibility of going into the past or the future, or even switching between dimensions. It takes a willing suspension of reality and logic too, because if you think about it too much, the time-space thing just doesn’t seem to work.

But it does work: time travel and dimension hopping is God’s reality. He isn’t bound by time. He exists outside time, space and all the other boundaries we experience on earth. God is the Lord of time, space and everything that exists and all the glory, majesty, power and authority are his. Science fiction writers were on the right track with their speculations about time. One day we’ll get to experience these things for ourselves and that will be a lot more exciting than a Star Trek episode!

God provides the lights

“It is the LORD who provides the sun to light the day and the moon and stars to light the night” (Jeremiah 31:35a, NLT).

English: Pleiades Star Cluster
English: Pleiades Star Cluster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you live anywhere near a city, ambient light makes it difficult to see any stars except the brightest ones. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to South Africa and spend a few days at a wildlife preserve. One night we sat outside on the edge of a plateau overlooking a huge valley, listening to the night sounds, including elephants roaring as they foraged for food. We couldn’t see the elephants but we could see more stars than I’ve ever seen in my life. The blackness of the night sky was almost lost against their brightness.

The sun, moon, stars and everything beyond our atmosphere have always been a source of fascination to us. We want to know what’s out there, spending vast resources to study, gather data and even travel as far as we can. Science fiction stories of space exploration are still popular (I love Star Trek). But only God knows the secrets of the universe and only he can go where no one has gone before. He placed those wonderful stars, planets and galaxies beyond our reach and the mysteries of the heavenly bodies are his to keep. It’s exciting to think one day he may share those secrets with us.

Engage!

When Star Trek Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise points his finger at the view screen on the command deck and says “Engage!” the whole spaceship springs into action. The navigator sets the course, the engines come to life, the crew occupies their stations and the ship speeds away to some faraway destination and a new adventure. With that one word, a huge vessel and hundreds of people go into motion.

We use the same word to describe someone fully involved in an endeavor or a conversation. If you’re engaged in conversation, you are in the moment with the person, looking in his or her eyes, listening intently and even physically expressing yourself with gestures and facial animation.

Being fully engaged in a relationship means being with the person in every way—mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Sometimes relationships aren’t easy, but we can understand how they work on the human level. With God, it’s a bit more difficult. How can we be fully engaged with someone we can’t see, hear or touch?

The usual methods of connecting with God are prayer, Bible study, meditation and the various other spiritual disciplines. But it’s possible to do those things and still not be fully engaged with God.

If all we do is talk during our prayers and don’t pause to listen, we might as well be talking to ourselves in a one-sided conversation. If we read the Scriptures without considering what God may be saying to us personally, it becomes a collection of interesting stories. If we see him as a casual observer in our lives, who only checks in occasionally to see if we are toeing the line, God becomes like a distant relative we don’t know well and perhaps even fear. We certainly don’t relish his visits.

Engaging with God in a meaningful relationship isn’t a weekend thing or a morning quiet time encounter we forget about for the rest of the day. We engage 24-7 with him, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically (we honor him with our bodies, the temple of the Holy Spirit) as we get to know him better and grow in grace and understanding, which is a lifetime journey. That’s why it’s called practicing his presence. Some days we’ll do better than others, but as long as our faces are set toward him, we’ll be moving in the right direction.

The disciplines are still the foundation of spiritual formation. They help us learn to be continually aware of his presence. Our one-sided conversations turn into listening prayer, with times of silence and reflection. Lectio divina, an expanded way ofreading the Bible (praying, reading, silence, journaling and more reading, silence and more prayer), turns our relationship with God into a deep meeting of the minds.

We don’t have to worry about whether or not God is pleased with our progress. As a loving dad is happy with each baby step of his child, our heavenly Father is happy with our baby steps as well. His grace permeates everything we do and teaches us to be more fully engaged with him.

Engage! And may his grace be with us all.

What God imagines for us

“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, NLT).

As my favorite Borg queen from Star Trek First Contact likes to remind us, we think in three dimensional terms. God gave us our imaginations, and even though the human race has imagined and accomplished many wonderful things, we are limited. Many have tried to imagine what waits for us beyond this life, but as no one has ever come back from the grave to tell us, we really have no clue.

In God’s wisdom he has kept a lot of answers to himself, including what life after death will be like. From this verse, we are told it will be so much more than anything we can imagine. This is a good thing—I’m sure we couldn’t handle knowing. But it’s comforting and exciting to realize God’s imagination has no limits and he’s preparing a marvelous future for us, one way outside our three dimensions.