By David Faust
In August 1960 I had a close encounter with John F. Kennedy. It happened during a family vacation to Washington, D.C. I was 6 years old and JFK was a senator running for president of the United States. Our country was less security conscious then; there was easier access to government leaders. I was standing with my parents and my brothers on the steps outside the Capitol when JFK walked out. I still have a photo that shows one of my older brothers and my dad listening while Senator Kennedy chatted casually with the group standing there.
Not realizing the significance of the moment, my brothers and I were more interested in Kennedy’s car, parked by the curb. We peeked inside and saw overripe fruit and orange peels on the floor of his white Thunderbird. After speaking with the crowd for a few minutes, JFK strode to the car and drove away. My brief encounter with this notable American figure left my childish mind with one main impression: “He drives a messy car.”
Have minor distractions ever made you miss a memorable moment? Sometimes we miss life-changing opportunities because we’re preoccupied with lesser things. It can even happen in church.
UP CLOSE WITH GOD
James 4:8 contains a gracious invitation, “Come near to God,” followed by this precious promise, “and he will come near to you.” Don’t take this opportunity lightly. It’s remarkable we can be in close proximity to God. When Moses met the Lord on Mount Sinai, the crowd had to keep a safe distance away (Exodus 19:10-13). In the temple, ordinary worshippers remained in the outer court while the priests offered sacrifices on the altar.
When we encounter God’s glory, social distancing seems like a safe approach. It seems like signs should surround heaven’s throne warning, “Private Property. Do Not Enter.” Coming near to God sounds like getting close to the sun, which is so bright it will blind you and so hot you will be consumed by its heat. I am mortal, fickle, and sinful; God is holy, holy, holy. I don’t deserve to be near him. If no one could approach the throne of King Xerxes unless he extended his golden scepter to allow them access (Esther 4:11), how can anyone dare to approach the throne of God?
“God is a consuming fire,” so we must enter his presence with reverence, awe, and overflowing gratitude (Hebrews 12:28-29). Safe access to God comes only through his Son, our high priest. Because of Christ’s redeeming blood we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence” and “draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings” (Hebrews 4:16, 10:19-22). It’s as if God has extended his golden scepter to us through Christ. This is amazing grace!
When our souls are hungry, the King invites us to eat at his table. When we’re cold and weary, he invites us to sit with him near the warmth of his love and grace. Are we close enough to hear his voice when he speaks through Scripture? Is our relationship with him so strong that it’s natural for us to introduce him to others? In the words of a classic hymn, is it the desire of our hearts to pray, “Nearer, My God, to Thee”?
What will you do this week to move closer to the Lord? What prevents you from drawing near to him? Do your words and actions move others closer to God, or push them farther away from him?