Practicing the Presence of Jesus
Although professional golfer Wally Armstrong had pursued a relationship with Jesus for over 35 years, he always sensed that there was something missing. As Armstrong puts it, there's a big difference between believing something is true and experiencing something as real.
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We are living in a performance driven society where everything is based on the curve. You're constantly being graded and everything is achievement oriented. From the time you understand this force, it becomes more and more drilled into you. Relationships take time and, most of all, risk. It’s much easier to perform a task than to develop a relationship. God wants people to be involved in being real with each other and be in relationships that are genuine and filled with integrity. With Jesus and others, risk is the path to certainty. If you don't risk, then you'll never be sure that relationships are real and sustained. This is where so many opposites come into play. In order to be a leader, you must be a servant. To be a true follower of Jesus requires looking at life in a whole different way. You make choices every day to follow his lead rather than your own common sense or instincts. Jesus said my sheep hear my voice and they follow me. So as we live our life in this interactive companionship with Jesus, it requires looking at him and stepping out onto thin ice, or as Peter was encouraged to do, by walk on the water to Jesus.
Q: We often think of Jesus as being condemning, but He was nothing like that with His disciples, was He?
As I read in the Scriptures about Jesus’ relationship with his disciples, there was a tremendous amount of patience with these numbskulls. They were very numb to what was happening around them. Jesus was teaching a whole new way of life than what they were used to experiencing. Jesus lived an upside down life and was encouraging them to follow him in the same way. You have to go back and understand the culture that they lived in to see how incredibly upside down Jesus was turning everything. He wasn't condemning people except those who were religious fanatics or cruel to little children. He loved the disciples and corrected them, but he realized that they were not filled with his Holy Spirit yet, so their spiritual insights were not fully developed yet. When they got connected to Jesus after the resurrection, then the Holy Spirit helped them to see Jesus clearly and connect with him and live life on the highest level. So there is no condemnation, only corrective love.
Q: What do you mean when you talk about not only accepting Jesus as a Savior, but as a friend?
There is such a reverence to Christ and a loyalty to his sovereignty that some people like me keep him at arm’s length in the sky as a royal judge. They see him as a task master who requires them to shape up and get to work. They're not comfortable sitting at his feet and resting. They have no time to learn from him because they're too busy learning about theology and doing all kinds of benevolent things for others. They're becoming disciples on their own efforts and the have never been taught the first step of how to follow him as the living person he is and the friend that he wants to be.
They don’t see the gift of his friendship that is offered. We are talking about a living person who is a brother and is an advocate (someone who comes along beside to help). He is someone who is approachable and has walked in your shoes, experiencing everything to the same level that you experienced them. This is a side of Jesus that very few people see and understand. They have not been enabled to see a simple way of entering into this friendship.
That's what I am hoping that this little book will do: open up this side of Jesus that is personal and intimate and that people will enter in to this invitation he gives to be his friend and develop intimacy (which means – “in to me see). Now that's what friends are for.
Q: What can we learn about Jesus by looking at His relationships, especially with His father?
Jesus was the actually the first disciple, a disciple to his father. And because Jesus was the first disciple, we can learn many things by looking at the way that he described his relationship with his father. Then we can realize that these are the same opportunities we have to enjoy fellowship with the father and the son. It was his desire that we would be living together in communion with the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit. In the Lord's prayer, Jesus encourages us to live on earth as it is in heaven, so we just live on this Earth with the triune God as it is in heaven. We are invited into their family as a son or daughter. It was once said, the son of God became a son of man so the sons of men could become the sons of God. God is in the business of building a family of sons and daughters who will live with him forever and ever. Jesus was sent to start the ball rolling again. He was mankind’s second chance. The best second chance ever and it's all about being saved by grace. On Earth as it is in heaven.
Q: You say that you waited a number of years to write this book. Why did you wait so long?
I was a busy bee, writing another book and traveling to support other ministries with my speaking and clinics.
As I began to practice the presence of Jesus and study his word I began to put many of my thoughts and experiences down on paper in my Journal, so the book was written over many years. I'm an avid reader and usually have three or four books I am reading at one time and because of this, I'm constantly learning from others new ways of looking at this interactive life with Jesus.
As I began to get deeper into this friendship with Jesus, I realized that I had many misconceptions of the truth. I began to categorize these within my Journal, so when I had enough of them together I wrote out my story. I started the first rough draft about five years ago, then I had a number of writers take a look at it and doctor it up, so the book just kept growing and being refined.
Just like in golf instruction, there's nothing new under the sun, so this book is a giant compilation of many things that I have read from other people and listened to other people talk about. It's always been my desire to share with others the simplicity of the gospel. I've spent my lifetime refining the golf swing into its simplicity and teaching it so people can play golf and enjoy it for what it was meant to be not for what it has become. This is the same desire in writing this book – that people could be freed to live life on the highest level in the simplicity of a friendship with Jesus.
Armstrong invites readers to visit his website www.oldprobooks.com for more insights about receiving the gift of friendship Jesus offers us, and check out www.wallyarmstronggolf.com for free golf tips.
Practicing the Presence of Jesus: Experience the Gift of His Friendship by Wally Armstrong
(Summerside Press, October 2012, ISBN 978-1-60936-702-2, $12.99)