These questions were mentioned as I met with a group of friends last week to discuss a Bible passage we had been reading.
Have you ever had a vision, a spiritual experience or an encounter with God, which left you shaken or standing in awe? Many people would speak of having such an experience at some point in their life, and it’s not too unusual to hear people talk this way when confronted by one of the wonders of God’s creation. The Psalmist David for example, speaks like this in Psalm 8:1-4
My friend David and I meet regularly for a coffee and to discuss the Bible narrative. One day recently we were looking at the creation story, and were ‘blown away’ by some of the mind stretching statistics of our universe. Here’s just one example: If you travelled at the speed of light (186,000 mps} around the globe at the equator you could go around 7+ times in 1 second! You could be at the moon in 2 seconds, at Mars in 4 minutes, and Pluto in five hours, but Mars and Pluto are only planets in our solar system. To reach the nearest star would take 4.3 years! Our star, the Sun, is just one of a billion stars in our galaxy called the Milky Way, and it is estimated that to travel from one side of our galaxy to the other at the speed of light would take 100,000 YEARS – WOW! And astronomers tell us there are billions of galaxies! Surely the Bible makes one of the greatest understatements ever, when speaking of God it says ‘He made the stars also’.
Later that day I started reading a book by R C Sproul, entitled ‘The Holiness of God’, and in the first chapter he speaks of an experience he had as a University student. One day he reluctantly attended a lecture about the Christian philosopher Aurelius Augustine (commonly known as Saint Augustine). The lecture that day centred on Augustine’s views of the creation of the heavens and the earth, and how it was done? Augustine taught that God created the world out of nothing. Sproul couldn’t get his head around the idea that before creation there was nothing. I smiled as I read how the idea gave him a headache! He says, ‘Have you ever tried to think about nothing? Where can we find it? Obviously nowhere. Why? Because it is nothing, and nothing does not exist. It can’t exist, because if it did, then it would be something and not nothing…. so thinking about nothing is impossible.’ (Now you know why Sproul got a headache.)
So in the beginning there was nothing, except for GOD, and suddenly by His command there was a universe. (the ‘’Big Bang’?) This was God’s first dazzling act of creation. Today of course, some will tell us that the world was created by chance from nothing, now that is hugely different from saying, that God created it from nothing, as Saint Augustine asserted!
Sproul who at this time was a young follower of Jesus Christ, says that his experience in the classroom that day was life changing as suddenly he had a passion to know better this Father God, in His majesty, power and holiness, the God who created the Universe from nothing. He recounts how later that night just as he was about to fall asleep he felt a strange and urgent summons to get up, a summons he could not ignore, and within minutes he was up and dressed and walking across a snowy campus on a clear frosty night, where he entered the darkened chapel alone, lit only by the moon shining through the chapel windows. When he reached the carpeted chancel steps he sank to his knees in an attitude of prayer to meet the source of the summons that had disturbed his rest. There in the quietness with some fear and trembling he met with an awesome God, and then he speaks of a wave of unspeakable peace bringing rest and repose to his troubled spirit. That moment he says was life transforming.
This morning at Church, as we approach Easter, we sang a hymn, which I always find touches my heart. The words are these:
His hands were pierced,
The hands that made
The mountain range and everglade;
That washed the stains of sin away
And changed earth’s darkness into day.
His feet were pierced,
The feet that trod
The furthest shining star of God;
And left their imprint deep and clear
On ev’ry winding pathway here.
His heart was pierced,
The heart that burned
To comfort every heart that yearned,
And from it came a cleansing flood,
The river of redeeming blood.
His hands and feet
And heart, all three
Were pierced for me on Calvary,
And here and now to him I bring
My hands, feet, heart, an offering
The Bible says concerning Jesus, God’s Son, He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
Yes, it is possible to know this awesome transcendent God personally, and Christians all have different stories to tell. The common factor in them all however is this encounter, which they have had with God through Jesus Christ, His Son.
For another of my friends, Iain, his encounter with God was sparked by something quite different, not the wonders of creation, but a painting! You can hear and see him telling his story here, just click on the link.