Back to the Present…

Ben Schoettel   -  


“You know that new sound you’re looking for? Well listen to this!” If you haven’t seen Back to the Future, well, I guess you have a homework assignment. To summarize, after Marty’s dreams of being a rock star are shot down by a rejected audition and fearing becoming just like his parents (which he sees as not ideal) he ends up traveling time, which means ultimately his existence now hangs in the balance. I know, this currently has nothing to do with Encountering God, but we are getting there.

The most iconic scene in the movie is when Marty Mcfly, the failed musician in his reality, gets to be the rock star he always dreamed he would be. Marty absolutely stuns everyone at the school dance with his enthusiastic rendition of “Johnny B. Goode” (a song and style that at that time did not exist yet.) I think in some way, shape, or form, we’ve all wanted to be Marty in that moment. Which one of these scenarios have applied to you?

Wished you could take what you know now and change the actions of your past?

Wished you could offer something or be something that seems to blow people’s minds?

Wished you could change the course of your life or shake off the feelings of not measuring up?

Well, as far as I know, we still can’t travel time. But admittedly, we all still do it in our imaginations. Whether it’s looking back to the past or forward into the future, our brains are often not in sync with the present reality our bodies are living out.

This becomes a real challenge when it comes to our desire to fully Encounter God. This past Sunday we discovered that God is love. Meaning the holiest and most holistic understanding of love is of God and is God. We also discovered that God’s desire is for us to embrace the gift of that love. In the passage in 1 John we see “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.” (1 John 4:15-16)

So, when we say that we desire and prepare for encountering God together as the Church, we are describing an exchange of love. Us expressing love to God BECAUSE of our continued recognitions of HIS love for us. The challenge? Our insecurity. We are Marty McFly. We don’t fully accept the truth of those verses in 1 John. Our hearts become too layered with regrets from the past (I’m not good enough) or aspirations for the future (I’m still not good enough) that we find it hard to believe the great depth of God’s love for us.

This often leads us to skipping past God’s invitation to encounter His love, and embrace communion with Him and the Church, and go right to trying to earn a seat at the table. We are then motivated by our insecurity, not by faith. We may strive to do many things FOR God, but we lack the peace from being WITH God.

A scripture verse that was drilled into my brain growing up was Philippians 3:14. “I press toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” If we pull that verse out of the rest of Paul’s letters, it would seem like the Christian walk is based on merit. “Gotta keep pressing on… Gotta win that prize…” but if we read the rest of scripture (or even verse 9 of the same chapter) we see that this verse is not a command, it is an encouragement. Paul now knows the love God has for him, knows that the righteousness required for salvation was a gift through Jesus Christ. He now has the faith and confidence that is needed for him to be able to continue to press toward the call to holiness because he knows that no matter what trials or challenges, God loves him, and is forever with him through Jesus Christ.

So, as we seek to know God in a deeper way, and be able to recognize those encounters with God, let’s guard hearts from those insecure thoughts of “I can’t be with God, look what I’ve done” or “I can’t be with God, look where I am.” Instead, let those words from 1 John sink in. If our faith is in Christ, God is here. And God is love. And God is not relying on our love but inviting us to rely on God.