Friday, January 26, 2018

Discerning God’s Presence

Joseph Herrin (01-26-2018)

























A brother suggested that I include some chapters of my books here, interspersed with my regular blogs. The reason he gave was that many of the things I have written are not known to knew readers, and in any case they would be good for people who have already read them to see them again. When he said this I had already been considering the same thing.

I wrote the first chapter of my first book in 1999. It remains one of my favorite books and would be good to read. The same is true of the other 20 books, and various writings I have written. My last post was the first chapter from the book Evidence of Things Unseen. This one includes another chapter from that book. I hope you enjoy it.

http://www.heart4god.ws/evidence-of-things-unseen.htm

---

In order to enter into a walk of faith that pleases God the saint must not only develop a personal fellowship with God, but they must come to discern His presence with them. While I was still in my twenties I preached a sermon that used the following quote by J. Oswald Chambers to describe the main theme of the message.

“The deadliest form of Pharisaism today is not hypocrisy, but unconscious reality.”

When I first read these words, I understood immediately what they meant. A great majority of Christians walk around oblivious to the presence of God in their lives. They look at the circumstances of their lives as mere coincidence and happenstance. They do not perceive the presence of God, and, because of this failure to perceive His presence, they respond to the events of their lives with human reasoning and carnal strength.

I have always loved the histories recorded for us in the Old Testament. The lives of David, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph and many others have been precious to me, for they are related in such a way that we cannot fail to discern that God ordered their every step, and that He was always present and working in their lives. When I would read about David and his anointing by Samuel, his victory over Goliath, and his initial acceptance into Saul’s house, the evidence is clear that God was ordering his steps. When I read of Saul’s jealousy and persecution of David, and David’s many trials in wilderness places, it cannot be denied that God determined that he should endure these things. What is more, David recognized that God was present with him in all of his trials and victories.

At some point in my life the thought occurred to me, “If God was so present in David’s life, and in the life of the other persons whose histories are recorded for us, then why would I think that God is not just as present in my life and the lives of His born again children?” The Spirit brought a strong conviction to me that God was certainly just as present in my life as He was in the life of the son of Jesse. He was ordering my steps to the same degree that he ordered David’s. The circumstances of my life were not mere coincidences, nor the work of chance, anymore than were the events in the life of King David.

Yet as I looked around me I could see that there were almost no Christians who shared this same mindset. They nearly all lived as if God was somewhere far removed from their lives. They were trapped in this deadliest form of Pharisaism that J. Oswald Chambers described as “unconscious reality.” God would be working right in front of them and they would not perceive His presence. The result was seen in lives that were devoid of faith, which were marked by unbelief and a reliance upon the ability of man to accomplish all things and to deliver from all trials. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, the saints seemed to cry out, "Is the LORD among us, or not?" The apparent answer was that they believed He was not among them.












This unbelief is expressed in a multitude of ways. When the saints would get sick they would run to the doctors and hospitals before they would consult with God. There was no waiting before Him to discern His will for them. By their actions they demonstrated that they believed man was more present and able to help them than God. When a pressing financial need would arise they would pull out the credit card, or go to the bank for a loan. They would not get on their knees before God and seek His provision for them in the matter. They preferred to lean upon the arm of flesh, for man was much more tangible to them than an unseen God. Even when man’s solution led to financial bondage, many Christians preferred bondage to trusting a God they could not see.

Pages could be filled in detailing the vast number of ways in which men and women today demonstrate their unbelief in God’s presence with them, but I would prefer to press on and to cite some examples from my early Christian life where God made His presence known. This I will now do.














In our second year of marriage, my wife became pregnant and we had much anticipation for the child that was to be born to us. From my teenage years on up I had been captivated by the thought of being a father. I suppose I was influenced by TV shows such as “The Walton’s” where family life was depicted as being so rich, and the family bonds between generations so enduring. I thought of how marvelous it would be to have a large family one day, and I wondered what my children would look like, and what their voices would sound like.

When I learned that my wife was expecting I was filled with excitement, and we prepared a room in the house to be a nursery. I painted the walls in pastel colors, and some ladies from the church made curtains and matching wall decorations for the room. We set-up a crib and a changing table and all the things that go along with taking care of a baby.

My wife was doing fine throughout her pregnancy, and she had that glow of expectant motherhood about her. As the day approached for the baby to be delivered all things appeared normal. The due date arrived, but there were no signs of labor yet. We were told this was normal for first births, as they often came late. One week went by and then two, and finally the doctor said that, if the child was not born by three weeks after the due date, he would induce labor.

The day before Tony was to be admitted to the hospital to have the baby delivered she began experiencing some pains, and, not knowing if they were normal pains, she wanted to see the doctor. We arrived at the doctor’s office right before they were to close and the doctor was evidently in a hurry to get home. He listened to the baby’s heartbeat with a stethoscope and concluded that all was well. Since Tony was already scheduled to be induced in the morning, he advised us to go home and come back to the hospital as previously planned. The doctor did not run any type of fetal stress tests, or check on the welfare of the baby in any other way.

That night was a difficult one for Tony as she continued to experience pains. Since this was her first pregnancy she did not know if these were the normal pains associated with labor, or not, and neither did I. Both of us passed a restless night, and early in the morning I took her to the hospital. I checked her in and she was then taken to the birthing suites while I filled out paperwork. When I had finished I went up to the maternity ward, and I found the department in a rush.

When the nurses had hooked my wife up to a fetal monitor they found the baby’s heartbeat to be erratic and in distress. The medical staff immediately decided to perform an emergency C-section and they were wheeling my wife back into the operating room when I arrived. A short while later the doctor came out and told me that my son had died, and that my wife would be taken to a hospital room where she would most likely be kept for a week or longer.

It was all I could do to go to a phone and call a dear woman from our church and ask her to let the other church members know what had happened. I was able to see my son, and my wife held him for a moment. He was a beautiful baby, and I could see my features in him. We learned later that because he was so long past his due date that he had his first bowel movement while in utero and this material had gotten into his lungs and he had died.

Because my wife was recovering in the hospital, I attended our son’s funeral without her. We had named our son Joshua Caleb Herrin. These were days of grief for me, and I had never wept so bitterly as I did at this time. My expectation of fatherhood, of seeing my son grow up and hearing his voice, was met with tremendous loss and sorrow.

Over the next six months my sorrow over our loss continued, though the sharp bitterness of the first pains were lessened. One evening I had come home from work and had gotten in the shower when the Spirit began speaking to me with a clarity that I had rarely experienced before. In fact, I only knew of one other time when I had discerned the voice of God so distinctly. The Spirit said, “I am going to restore your joy. I am going to give you a daughter and her name will be Kristin Noel.”

























I hurried up and finished my shower so that I could go and tell my wife what God had spoken to me. I told her that Kristin Noel sounded like a Christmas name. (This was before Yahshua had taught me about Christmas.) A few weeks later my wife discovered that she was once again pregnant, and the doctor determined that her due date was right around Christmas. Kristin Noel Herrin was born on December 29th, 1987.

Now this was an amazing thing to me. My wife and I had discussed baby names before, and we thought that if we had a girl we would name her Hannah Joy. We had never discussed the names Kristin, or Noel. As I later found out, Kristin means “follower of Christ,” and Noel means “new life.” Kristin is now sixteen years old (2004), and her entire life she has fulfilled that which God’s Spirit spoke to me. She has been a source of joy, and my delight in being her father, and in seeing her own relationship to Christ blossom into one where she also hears His voice, has been beyond measure.

One thing that this event in my life did was to affirm to me the presence and watchfulness of God in my life. It is God who opens and shuts the womb. It is God who orders my steps and who establishes the times and seasons of my life. While I may not understand why God brings certain trials into our lives, I am confident that He is ever present and that He will turn even our sorrows into joy. I can be assured that His intentions toward His children are always good, and not evil, to give us a future and a hope.

As these events unfolded I had many opportunities to live in the reality of the spiritual realms all around us, or to walk in “unconscious reality.” We were told that we had an open and shut case against my wife’s doctor, that negligence could be proven and we could be awarded a substantial amount of money. Yet as I considered this I sensed the Spirit telling me that it was not the will of God that I pursue this matter in court. The Spirit bore witness that our own emotional healing would be delayed if we followed this carnal course, for by keeping the matter of our loss and the doctor’s negligence before us, both my wife and I would give room for a root of bitterness to take hold in our lives. God would have us to forgive the doctor, and by releasing him we would ourselves be released into the freedom of forgiveness and love.

Though the money we might have been awarded was a small temptation to me, I felt the Spirit bearing witness that we did not need the money, for God would be our provider if we would trust in Him. Also, I knew that ultimately it was not the doctor that ordered my steps, but it was God. At the funeral service for our son, one couple came up to me and shared a verse from Scripture that they said the Spirit had given them in relation to this situation. The Scripture states, “The firstborn male that opens the womb is holy unto God.”

The Spirit has borne witness with my spirit that God took my son directly from the womb to His presence, and that he is considered holy unto God. He was spared from ever having to walk in this sin filled world of heartaches and sorrows. He has not known the grief of falling short of God’s perfect will, of being overcome by sin and bringing shame to the name of Yahweh. Like Enoch who walked with God and was no more, for God took him, so my son was taken into the presence of all that is holy. We are all creations of God created for His pleasure, and it is only just and right that God should choose the life for each of His children that pleases Him the most. With this I am content.

Perhaps some who are reading this have been in similar situations. Maybe you have been in an automobile accident, or encountered some other loss or suffering. We all have an opportunity to see the hand of God in these things and to respond accordingly, or we can choose to live in unconscious reality. We can live as if we are on our own and that God is not present, nor is He in control of our circumstances. We can choose to pursue a carnal path of getting all that we can by any human means possible, and relying upon the institutions of man to be our defense and source of succor. Yet it is always best to rest in God, to hear from Him, and to believe and obey.

God is present in the tragedies and triumphs of your life. He is as close to you as He was to David in all of his life. “The steps of a man are ordered of the Lord” (Psalms 37:23). We must choose to believe that God is present in our lives. Only then can we respond to our circumstances in a manner that is acceptable and pleasing unto Him.

Let me share another occurrence in our early married life that also demonstrated powerfully the presence of God in ordering our footsteps. One year we received a tax refund of about $600, and when it came we decided to go to a nearby Sam’s club and stock up on some groceries, for our pantry had become depleted. As we were driving up the Interstate toward the store I thought of another young couple in the church whom we were good friends with. They also had young children, and I knew that making ends meet was a struggle for them. I mentioned them to my wife and I suggested that we could get two grocery carts at Sam’s, and everything we bought for ourselves we could also buy for them. Since God had just blessed us with this money we could well afford it.

My wife was excited about this idea, and in great agreement with me. So we proceeded to the store and ended up spending several hundred dollars on groceries. We swung by our friends’ house on our way home, and they came out to greet us. We told them that the Spirit had led us to buy them some groceries, and we opened up the trunk of our car to give them their portion. Upon hearing and seeing this, the wife of this couple began crying. She then told us that her husband had just lost his job and she had only moments before asked “How will we eat? What will we do for groceries?”

God had answered her concerns, and the question she had vocalized, so quickly that she could only weep. God was demonstrating to her that He was present in her life, and that of her family, and she need not act as if they were on their own and left to their own resources. It also spoke volumes to me. We left them their groceries and then had to hurry home to put up our items, and on the way I was amazed as I pondered how God had directed our steps, giving my wife and I both the desire and the ability to do this thing when we did not even know the circumstances occurring in the lives of our friends. The Scriptures state:

Philippians 2:13
It is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and  delight.
(Amplified Bible)

The apostle Paul is declaring here that God both gives us the desire to do His will, and the power to accomplish it. Oftentimes God will move us to do a thing and we will not even know that it is God leading us. We may merely have a desire arise in our spirit, and perhaps later the Lord will show us what it was He was doing, though many times I am convinced we do things and never know what God has done. We may speak a word to someone, and it is just what they needed to hear. They may be convicted, or encouraged, or consoled, or receive direction, and we are unaware of what just transpired within them.

It is necessary that those who would walk in faith should believe that God is ever present with them and that He is ordering their steps. I would be surprised if one out of a hundred Christians in this hour have such a conception. There is such a mass of Christians who are walking by sight and reason, judging all matters in the same way that their lost neighbors judge. They are leaning on the same arm of the flesh for all of their needs. They resort to the same carnal and worldly means to deal with the trials and tribulations that they encounter. In doing so they have succumbed to this deadly form of Pharisaism. By their actions they declare, “Is God even among us?”

“But the righteous man shall live by faith” and “apart from faith it is impossible to please God.”

Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws    

Parables Blog: www.parablesblog.blogspot.com    

Mailing Address:
Joseph Herrin
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063

2 comments:

Skip said...

Brother Herrin,

Your sincerity and honesty are greatly appreciated. Reading your story required me to use a few Kleenex tissues as you communicated your pain and suffering, and your joy and happiness, so effectively. That might seem ‘sissified’ to some to read of a man in his mid-sixties who would admit such a thing as having to use a Kleenex when reading about such emotional experiences. But it is the love of the heavenly Father within, by His very indwelling presence, which mellows the soul and enables the honest admission of such true emotions, the very same emotions that you undoubtedly relived while relating your experiences.

James Dodds said...

I'm at a place in my life where my future is uncertain to me. I am unable to discern the right way forward. I pray, and much like your last post stated, I can't tell what effects my prayers are having. Though I know they are not in vain. I know God is in charge. Your story was uplifting and I appreciated it. It encouraged me to keep trusting that all things work together for good to them that love God.