Pastoral Perspectives

Is Your God In The Present Tense?

     The month of August ushers in our Missions emphasis. This month’s focus is “Ambassadors of Christ” and there are four messages covering People in Missions, Purpose of Missions, Passion in Missions and Perseverance in Missions. The climax will be the Missions fair on 29 August at the Event Hall. Our constant struggle is that we tend to look at Missions as things of the past. Is God not calling you and I today to be His Ambassadors? Yes, irrespective of who we are, what’s our career paths is, God is looking for one to fit “into the gap”. That’s the theme of the English Presbytery Mission Fest 2012 on 18 August @ Orchard Road Presbyterian Church from 12pm to 6pm. Do not let your God be God of the past!

           Recently at an EP Pastor’s mentor meeting, we talked about our last mentoring session and one minister remarked that in our mentoring groups, we seem to be sharing and speaking of God in the past tense. It was quite an observation and this triggered my thoughts, wondering if most of us lives with a God who is not present.

          Warren Wiersbe wrote: “My past may discourage me and my future may frighten me, but ‘the life I now live’ can be enriching and encouraging because ‘Christ lives in me.”  If you were sharing your faith in God, I wonder what verb tense you would use. Would you speak of God in the past tense and tell of how good God has been to you in days passed? Or would you use the present tense and say you know God is at work in your life right now? Perhaps you would use the future tense and speak of God’s promises and of things yet to come. God does not want us to ignore the past but the past should be a rudder to guide us and not an anchor to hold us back. Nor does he want us to neglect planning for the future.

            Many of us know God really well in the past tense. Maybe you know lots of facts and stories about the things God had done in the past. Or maybe you know God’s power from a church camp or a conference you went to. But that spiritual high just didn’t last, and you’re not sure you’ll ever experience it again in your lifetime. You’re not really sure what he’s doing in the world. You’re not even sure what he’s doing in your life! You know you’re supposed to have this power God promises, but most of the time you just don’t experience it.

            To God EVERYTHING is present tense.  Standing above time, he sees all of time (past, present and future) as currently happening. God sees your birth and your death NOW as reality. God sees eternity past and eternity future NOW. He sees all of time in one snapshot, one frame, one heavenly moment–present tense–the “eternal now.” It’s best to take the present in small doses. Abraham Lincoln said, “The best thing about the future is it only comes one day at a time.” And as Jesus observed long before Lincoln, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matt. 6:34 ESV) “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow, God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (MSG)

            The secret is for us to live in the right tense. It is all well and good for us to remember the past honestly, to rejoice in past glories, and to remember past mercies. Those memories can sustain us in difficult times. It is wise for us to remember even the painful moments where we have gotten off track as a church or as individuals, so we can ask for and receive forgiveness and direction for today. The past is a nice land to visit now and then, but we can’t live there. So is the future. It’s fun to dream about the future, to envision what we yet might be. That vision can pull us into God’s plans for us. The future can be an exhilarating place to visit in our dreams. But we don’t get to live in the future either.

            The present is the only dimension we get to live in. I must say that it’s also the hardest dimension in which to live. But the art of being a people of faith is learning to live in the present day. We need to believe Christ’s promise and welcome His Gift.  If you are a Christian, what do you suppose God could or would do with you if he had ALL of you? Dwight L. Moody, a shoe salesman in Boston, was known to have said: “The world has yet to see what God will do with someone who is totally given to Him.  I intend to be that man!”  What do you suppose the Lord would do with a CHURCH if he had ALL OF US? God in the Present Tense! Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is a dream. Today is a gift. That’s why they call it “the present.”

            Do you believe God can do anything? Most of the Christians I know would say yes without much thought. Of course He can. What we probably mean, however, is that he could do anything. God could have parted the Red Sea or made the sun stand still or raised someone from the dead. God could do and did all those things a long, long time ago. Or we may mean that God will do anything in the future. One day, ages and ages from now, Jesus will return — long after we’re all dead, of course — and everybody will go to heaven.But what about now? Right now, in this very moment? Do you believe God can do anything today? If there’s anything you can testify of God it must be NOW! The God in the present tense.

Pastor Cheng Huat

August 5, 2012