Face to Face

Posted: January 31, 2020 in Meditations

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A young military boy worked alone in a darkened photography studio. The son of a Pentecostal preacher, the oldest of eleven siblings: he stood at a crossroads in his life. He asked himself the fundamental question, “Is the God of my childhood real? God, are you really here? I need a sign. Show me who you are.” In that moment, a presence made itself known. The hair stood up on the young man’s neck. He felt the press of something other- than on his entire being. The presence intensified. He feared for his life. “Back off, God. Enough. I can’t take anymore.” The presence lifted. He knew in that moment he had just come face to face with the essence of God, the essence theologians call, “Holiness.” Glen Brown’s life changed forever.

In Genesis 32, Jacob returns to his home country many years after a personal treachery. He stole his brother’s rightful birthright, the blessing of a sick blind father intended for his twin brother Esau. His own name, “deceiver”, betrays his character. And the mighty brother Esau awaits. He asks himself, “Will he kill me? He is coming to meet me with four hundred men.” Jacob sends the others across the river. That night he camps alone. He confronts a man and they struggle through the night, neither can subdue the other. The stranger touches Jacob’s hip and throws it out of joint, still Jacob will not let go. “I will not let you go until you bless me.” The stranger replies, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” Jacob knew what he didn’t know early that night. “So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.’ ” Jacob’s life changed forever.

Glen pursued God with a whole heart. He is forever my father’s hero. You see, Glen is my uncle. He served God as a pastor, a Navy Chaplain, a missionary, a philanthropist. Most important to me, he loved me. He invested in me best he knew how and that wasn’t the easiest. I was a gifted young man with elusive deficits. Some of us require a longer journey upon the road of sanctification. But he loved me, never condemned me, and he taught me so much by his disciplined example. I rarely open a commentary or my Greek Testament without the image flashing in my brain of my uncle at his desk. I often check in with the memories of my uncle when I confront sin. Glen was fearless without being mean. Glen passed away at the age of 89. I listened to him say goodbye to his sisters the day before he died. Death interrupted another missionary journey to the Ukraine. He taught me my most important lesson in death, service to the Great God never ends.

“But now you have been set free from sin and become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”  Romans 6:22  Holiness is much more than a collection of good deeds. It connotes communion with the divine presence of Almighty God.  God’s essence, the Holy Spirit, abides in and with us. This, my friends, is our first taste of heaven. Do you know this intimacy, have you sensed the holiness of presence? It forever changed my uncle’s life. It marked a new defining chapter in Jacob’s life. That presence continues to transform my life. I am consumed with my sense of service to God. I thrill to be his slave. A life well lived leaves a legacy, a forward momentum that cannot be fully appreciated until heaven welcomes us. Glen’s legacy lives in my heart. That life changing face to face with God in a darkened photography studio changed my life as well. So again, be bold, seek his face. In the end, Christ is all that matters.

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