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Sunday, 15 April 2012


(CFRA broadcast date: Sunday, April 15th, 2012)
Broadcast Notes:
Searching for God’

Today’s message starts with the Bible passage from Psalm 27:7-14   (NKJV):

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice!
Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me;
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation.
10 When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the Lord will take care of me.
11 Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.
12 Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries;
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
13 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
14 Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

There is a deep need to experience God, to know and experience Him in a profound and personal and intimate way. Going beyond the formal or mechanical knowledge about God that is so common: to quicken our worship and take it beyond mere formalities; to make our study of faith relevant; to intensify our mission; to enrich our Church life. That is, to give us a personal claim on our faith; to take us beyond mere tradition.

All the great prophets knew God this way, that is, face to face…..
To experience God personally has been the lifeblood of Christian faith and the key to the Church’s fellowship and effectiveness. We can know God and experience Him because He is a person; because He is accessible; because he is friendly.

The point is, God is a self-revealing God.

Yet, we need to search for God, for we discover that it is not always easy to meet God face to face.
The Psalmist said, “Seek ye my face. My heart says to me, ‘Thy face, Lord, do I seek.’ Hide not Thy face from me.”

To experience God is desirable, yet often difficult. Things get in the way. Our other experiences get in the way. Our presuppositions sometimes get in the way. And circumstances create blockages.
Please open your Bible to Psalm 27. Let us consider the Psalmist’s dilemma and its resolution. Psalm 27 is often taken by scholars to be composed of two separate and quite different psalms: Verses 1 through 6 being a positive, upbeat declaration of faith in God, and Verses 7 through 12 being a lament; a downbeat cry from the heart.

The problem with this assessment is that it doesn’t answer the question of how these two pieces or psalms came to be amalgamated in one song, if they are mutually exclusive and don’t belong together.
A second problem exists. This critical view misses the whole point of the psalm. The point that is being made is that we can have a clearly defined formal faith (verses 1 through 6), that can be sorely challenged if we don’t have a close and intimate fellowship with God. That is, if we don’t have a daily experience of God, Verses 7 through 14.

Taking Psalm 27, then, as it was meant to be, as a single unit or whole, we see that it commences with a declaration of faith. And a marvelous declaration it is. Quote, “The lord is the stronghold of my life.” Not much wonder, then, that the psalmist is able to put the serious, but rhetorical question, “Whom shall I fear? Of whom shall I be afraid?” The answer is, of course, “No one”, because God, in whom I trust, will protect me. “My adversaries shall stumble and fall,” (Verse 2), “in the face of many adversaries, I shall be confident” (Verse 3). “He will hide me in his shelter. The house of the Lord shall be my refuge” (Verses 4 and 5).
Note that all of this is in the future tense. This is the psalmist’s expectation as to how he will handle life as it unfolds in the future, made on the basis of his formal confession of faith.

But then we come to Verses 7 through 12. It introduces a note of reality. This is the psalmist’s experience, present tense. Experience takes us beyond expectations. Life in the present isn’t always like that we expected. And our response isn’t always as noble and as successful as we had hoped. We recite our Creed, read our Bibles, and go to Church. But then reality hits, and then the confidence and courage that we expected to demonstrate, in the face of it, dissipated like mist. Our noble and conquering attitude sputters, proceeds in fits and starts, or perhaps doesn’t even materialize. Now, we can’t afford to be without a creed. No man or woman can afford to face life without a well-rounded framework of faith. We don’t have time to find one when trouble strikes. If we don’t have a creed, we should get cracking and find one. We can’t afford to be without a creed. And it should be a competent and well thought-out creed. After the Bible, I prefer the Nicene Creed, (, myself. It was hammered out over a considerable period of time, using the Bible as its basis and the life and experience of faith as its touchstone. 

The Nicene Creed has been the bulwark of the Church through the ages. But even the best creed isn’t enough when the harsh realities of life fall on us, in the present, like an infantry barrage. What we need in addition to a sound creed is a deep experience of God. This is what the psalmist was faced with. He had recited his creed, quote, ”The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” Then reality struck, and he began to say, “Hear, O’ Lord when I cry aloud” (Verse 7), “Turn not thy servant away in anger” (Verse 9). “My father and my mother have forsaken me” (Verse 10). “Give me not up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me and they breath out violence.” Then the psalmist remembers what God once said to him in a moment of personal revelation, “Seek ye my face.” In other words, “Seek my fellowship. Seek my presence. Seek my counsel.” And the psalmist did just that.

The lesson we learn from Psalm 27 is an important one. We need a second creed and we need a personal, and if possible, a continuous experience of God. We need God to answer our prayer. We need Him not to hide his face from us, but rather, to disclose Himself to us in an act, or acts, of self-revelation. We need Him to take us up in His strong hands and carry us. We need Him to teach us His ways and lead us and protect us. In other words, we need a personal, persistent and profound experience of God.

On the one hand, we need a sound creed, a formal outline of faith, a specific and adequate theological framework within which to live our lives, make our decisions and face our futures. We need to be able to say at all times, “The lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?” We need to be able and willing to embrace intellectually, and deliberately, the great Trinitarian faith of the Bible and the historic Creeds, which have kept the Church and its faithful members on track for two millennia. We need to accept and rejoice in Luther’s “The Bondage of the Will” and Calvin’s “Institutes” and “The Basis of Union” of the United Church of Canada. But on the other hand, we need to know intimately and consciously the God of whom the Bible and Creeds speak.

What we believe intellectually can give us a great deal of confidence and courage, but we are human. We have personal limitations. When we are faced with the hard realities of life, with fear and despair, and when the bottom begins to fall out of things, we may well begin to ask, “Will God really be there for me? Can I really count on God?” Of course we are not simply talking of having an emotional experience of God. Emotions rise and fall like the tides. They are unstable. The experience of God that the Bible advocates is based not on our emotions, but rather, on God’s unveiling Himself to us: His self-disclosure, in other words; an objective revelation of Himself to us. That is what the psalmist meant when he prayed, “Hide not thy face from me.” This is the God we can count on. We know we can because He has revealed Himself to us, clearly and unmistakeably to us in Jesus Christ, personally and profoundly and continuously, our ever-present Saviour and Lord.

Consider, again, this: What prevents us from experiencing God despite all He does to make Himself known? What prevents us from that? The first kind of problem that stands in the way of our experiencing God is sociological and psychological. What I mean is the captivity of the Christian mind and heart by certain perspectives that have washed through us and immunized us, and thereby diminished the possibility of our knowing God intimately. These perspectives have neutralized or subverted our capabilities of moving conceptually and experientially beyond the norms and expectations set by those perspectives. Take for example the captivity of the Christian mind, and the Church, by the surrounding culture. Current traditions, morays and attitudes determine what is acceptable, and indeed, possible. Once what were peripheral and amoral gods are now ‘in’. What was once heretical has now become the new orthodoxy. The occult and new-age ideas and Satin-worship is in. The Trinity is out. The Department of Education and Boards of Education are increasingly scandalized by traditional Protestant faith. The historic faith is ridiculed by both Queens Park and Hollywood. In that climate it is not easy to believe that you can or should have an experience of God of the Bible. Add to the cultural scenario, the influence of the enlightenment, which has caused the Western, and to some degree the Eastern World, that part affected by Marxist thought, or what once was, to move towards a man-centered universe. A consciousness of God has largely been replaced by human self-consciousness. This has affected everything from education to advertising; from ethics to political and social administration and science. This self-interest and self pre-possession affects all of us to some degree, even the Church. And it prevents us, often, from letting go sufficiently from our perspectives and preoccupations to allow us to be completely open to God. Our narcissism stands in our way of getting to know God intimately. Add to this the growing emphasis on pluralism and relativism. If God is only one among a pantheon of more or less equal gods, and goddesses; if one god is as good as another, and as powerful as another, why should be bother to get to know the Biblical God in a particular and profound way? The captivity of our minds by culture, by current educational philosophy and by a long-standing in the primacy of man, and even our religious preconceptions, prevents us from taking an experience of God seriously. And this affects all of us to some degree or another. It is a bondage that neutralizes any serious spirituality; unless, of course, we cast off those bonds. That would certainly change things.

The second kind of problem is moral. What stands in the way of experiencing God, can be our sin. Your iniquities have separated you from your God. “Your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear you” (Isaiah 59:2). If we insist on doing what God rejects, we cannot expect to have a deep experience of Him. Nor should we hesitate. To put it off is a sign of self-will, or moral or spiritual doubt. “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found” (Isaiah 55:6). In other words, don’t put it off. Show some earnestness. Nor should we seek to control it. We should let God be God and let God name Himself, define Himself and reveal Himself.

When we see the Lord we should seek the God of our fathers, who has given us the Law and the Gospel. We should not seek some strange god or accretion of gods.

The third kind of problem is that of faith, or lack of it. We should seek the Lord, believing, but so often we seek with only half a heart. We are called to seek the Lord with all our heart, and all our soul. Sometimes, even our theology is either cold and legalistic, or indifferent and stands in the way.

And finally, let us consider waiting on the Lord. God wants to reveal Himself to us. He wants us to know Him and Love Him, and fellowship with Him. His incarnation in Jesus Christ, His activity and His word, and by His Spirit, are clear indications that God wants to be experienced by His children. We need to jettison any and all of those conditions, whether psychological, sociological, moral or spiritual, that prevent us from knowing Him intimately, and as a friend.

“We need to wait upon the Lord” (Psalm 27:14), not just chronologically: that is, wait until He acts and reveals Himself to us; wait His leisure; but also as a servant waits upon his master; To serve Him; To put ourselves at His disposal; To make ourselves available to God; To read His Word; To think His thoughts; Believe His Gospel; and, of course, to pray.

Expect God to expose His presence to you. That is His will and His way: To open up Himself to people. Why should He not do so, also, to you and me? Remember the words of Jesus, “If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:11).  Remember the words of the Lord through Isaiah 65: “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me. I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said ‘Here am I, here am I’, to a nation that did not call on my name.” 

God is certainly ready to be experienced.


Will you pray with me?

“Heavenly Father, we find life often to be a conundrum. We don’t know where we are or in what direction we are going. There are challenges beyond anything anyone might find too difficult to do anything about. We find your love to be too limited and we need you to address your power and peace to our situation. Heavenly Father, reach fully into the depths of your unmistakable concern for each of us. We are convinced that your mercy is a sweet mercy. Lift us out of that morass of life and death that is overwhelming and destructive. Set us free, we pray. Thank you, Father.  Amen”

Dr. Allen Churchill
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