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July 2015

GC15 Means God. People, and Other Things

I pray. I worship. I just want to seek God in all His splendor. I prefer to bring my guitar and make music to my Creator Savior all alone with the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. My desire is to be with my God in the privacy of my innermost thoughts and the deepest cravings of my heart. However, I keep running into people. I cannot help but talk to pastors and leaders here in this conference in Florida.

I am right now at GC15 or General Conference 2015 of the Free Methodist Church, USA. I am participating as a visitor. Many other Asian FM leaders from Asia are here. For some reason, I end up introducing these leaders to each other, or if they already knew each other, I find myself facilitating some kind of dialogue about a possible future visit to their respective countries and regions. "Why don't you invite this pastor to come to your area and teach a class on Wesleyan Theology?" "How about organizing a mission trip from your group of young adults and visit our FMC ICCM children's ministry there?" I start talking about plans. The ensuing conversation is very encouraging. One pastor from CA is now considering visiting Taiwan. My Filipino Superintendent friend is liking the idea of coming to Myanmar. One Michigan pastor is making plans for a visit to the Philippines. People, FMC leaders, from Vietnam, Japan, India, and other countries I cannot mention here because of political restrictions, are talking. I stand aside and watch them exchange plans and ministry opportunities. I see them, but I am wishing I could be alone with my God and commune with Him in His beauty and splendor. Why do I find myself in this predicament? I want God but I find myself being with people.

Now, I realize that this is God's plan for me here in Orlando, Florida, at this GC15 gathering. God is working in Asia. He is moving people to His ministry. He is raising up leaders and bringing them to places where He is touching lives and His Spirit is ministering healing and forgiveness. Asian FM leaders are in God's thoughts and plans, and deep in His heart for the world. I seek God and I am finding Him through these leaders. I long for His holy presence and I discover He is walking with these FM pastors and leaders ministering among the beautiful people of Asia. Now, as I seek my Creator Savior, I walk with Him, as He is walking alongside these leaders.

I still play my guitar. I still make music to my God. Right now, I need to sing the song of "God walking in the garden alone" with these Asian leaders. Each nte will proclaim God's goodness and beauty among the people of Asia.

Listening To God's Silence

How do you listen to someone who is silent?

The Desert Fathers are known for their dedication to prayer. They approach prayer with a passion for the inner workings of the Holy Spirit. They have made the decision to leave everything behind and spend the rest of their time in the desert in silence and meditative prayer. They are not running away from life or their commitments to relationships and people, but they have made a greater choice to seek God’s presence in solitude and meditation. They believe that this initial step of solitude is the first step of faith to knowing God.

I grew up as a second-generation Christian. I loved my family and my local church, but there was a time when prayer became an outward exercise rather than the inward longing of the heart. As a young child, I remember prayer more as a form of expressing our needs rather than a soul’s search for the Creator Savior. I saw prayer in its form and not in its essence. However, Henri Nouwen has reminded us that solitude and silence is essential for every Christian before one can appreciate the inner workings of prayer and meditation. God can only be encountered when we stop bringing our needs to him, stop clouding our minds and hearts with all the concerns of this world, and start listening for the small still voice of the Spirit of God. When we start listening to God’s silence, it is only then that we see Him in His glory and grace.

When is a good time to listen to God’s presence? Sometimes, it is when you are suffering that you are able to listen to God better. Some people say that the early morning hours is the best time to come to His presence. Most pastors recommend reading the Bible first and meditating on the teachings of Scriptures before opening your ears to listen to Him speak.  However, the Desert Fathers have reminded us that the question of when, of a time of listening, is secondary. What is really primary and essential is the question of who we are listening to. Are we listening to God? Are our spirits in step with the Spirit of God? When we are focused on the Person of the Trinity, who God is in our lives, then the time of the day or the occasion of our prayer becomes less significant. What is important is to hear our God say: “This is my child, with whom I am well pleased.” We seek Him out because He longs to put His arms around us. We listen to God’s silence because He is the God of the universe and the Savior of the world. He is silent because He wants us to encounter Him in His own terms and not in the predilections of our humanity or the constraints of our history. He is the Almighty Lord of all . . . and so, we pray.