Practicing the Presence of Jesus: Experience the Gift of His FriendshipPracticing the Presence of Jesus: Experience the Gift of His Friendship
Wally Armstrong
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* Save a seat at your table for Jesus and begin to know him better! Learning how to communicate with the real person of his Savior in everyday life, Armstrong shares how to experience Christ up close and personal. Explore what it's like to talk with Jesus as if he were sitting right next to you. 128 pages, hardcover from Summerside.
     

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Q: You write about a deep spiritual hunger that led you on a pursuit to experience a closer relationship with Jesus. Was there any one event that awakened the hunger?

A: There has always been a deep desire to be an authentic believer and pursue a closer relationship with Jesus. He just seemed so unapproachable for many years. I didn't feel worthy and did not feel I had achieved the level of understanding or performance that I needed to get to that higher level.

In Practicing the Presence of Jesus, I talk about the series of events that happened when I picked up a book by Dallas Willard on spiritual disciplines and was tipped off on a book from the 1920s about friendship with Jesus. It was when I started reading the first paragraph of the book’s prologue titled “A Modern Vision of Jesus” that the hunger was heightened. For the next two hours, I totally indulged in this new experience with Jesus that took me to the beginnings of living life on the highest level. It was completely different than how I had envisioned, and it all had to deal with having the truth become a reality.

There's a big difference between believing something is true and experiencing something as real. Before this experience, I believed Jesus was alive, but I had no idea that he wanted to be my friend and companion every moment of every day. The picture I have in my mind now is standing shoulder to shoulder with Jesus facing my sin together. I always felt alone and that he would have nothing to do with me in the midst of my sin such as, impure thoughts or unfair criticism of someone.

Q: Tell us about the day you met “Jesus” in Augusta.

A: In the spring of 2004, I drove up to Augusta to follow the King – Arnold Palmer. I had no idea that I was going to see Jesus standing there in the flesh talking to another golf professional like me. The Jesus I encountered behind the 18th green had no sandals or beard or long flowing robe, but was dressed like every other spectator at the event with a golf shirt and slacks. He only stood out in the crowd because people had seen the movie The Passion of the Christ that winter and recognized Jim Caviezal’s face as that of Jesus. So when they saw Caviezel, they were saying “look Jesus is talking to that Pro over there!”

When I came around behind the 18th green to meet my friend Jim Hiskey and his granddaughter, Rachel, I had no idea that I was going to see Jesus there talking to another player. It was just God's timing that Jim asked me to come up there and meet his granddaughter or I may have missed this whole encounter. It was the affirmation that this was the picture that I needed to secure the truths that I believed in as well as validate the personal encounter I had with the real Jesus four months before.

You see months before I found myself in my library reading a book which encouraged the reader to envision what Jesus would look like today if he showed up in your world as someone like you or me. As I thought of this, I envisioned Jesus as a fellow golfer and all of a sudden he became approachable and alive and real for the first time. The truths about Jesus became a reality. So I began to engage him mentally, not only as my Savior and Lord, but as a friend. A friend who is up-to-date and spoke my language. I always heard the scripture “I am the way the truth and the life,” but now I realized that this was just not encountering truth or discovering a way or a lifestyle. He is a real living person who was always there, I just never saw him in that light.

Back to Augusta – Later that evening when I was on the phone being interviewed live on a national radio sports talk show, it all gelled and made sense when I began to describe what it was like to see Jesus in the crowd. It must've been similar to what the disciples saw or maybe Zacchaeus saw from up in the tree. He saw that Jesus as one of them. The moment I finished the interview  I felt as though God were saying to me, “now this is a wonderful way for people to connect with Me on a level they were created to experience, so tell others so they can meet Jesus as their personal friend in this simple uncomplicated way.”

Q: What is the chair experiment?

A: The chair experiment came about when I read the book I mentioned earlier, and the author’s own personal experiment of desiring “the friend’s” comforting presence and envisioning him in his office. The writer told the story of a man that a pastor once visited. The old Scotsman was ill and had a chair beside his bed. He made the Savior real by imagining him sitting in the chair and talking to him eye to eye as though he were his friend. When I read that from his old book, I decided to jump right in and visualize Jesus in my room and to imagine him as real.

Once that connection was made, and I saw that I could receive his gift of friendship as if he were a loving friend, I turned my desk chair to face me in my reading chair and began to imagine Jesus sitting across from me. I visualized what he would look like and how he would speak to me. This became a habit, and I could not get enough of this relationship every morning. I would get up and imagine him in the chair and mentally speak to him. Then, I would listen and imagine how He would be sitting and how he would be talking. The friendship was developed and nurtured day after day. To me it's finding space, a place for him not only in the morning for our special times together, but throughout the day whether it be imagining him in the car sitting next to me, on the golf course walking down the fairway together, or playing with my grandchildren. My desire is for him to be involved in my daily life and to acknowledge his presence in the good and the bad, knowing that everything is okay because he is there and as much alive today as he was with Peter and the disciples when they were on the beach cooking fish.

Q: What does it mean to practice the presence of Jesus? What steps are involved?

A: Practicing the presence of Jesus is something that takes discipline and work just like building a friendship with anyone else. It requires spending time with them and being totally transparent with them. It requires learning about them by asking sincere questions, sincerely listening and hearing with your heart.

My first waking moments start with meeting him wherever I am, whether it's in a hotel room on the road or at home in my den. This is the time when I am most alert and alive. It's an acknowledgment of his presence and his sovereignty and his love, the time when I talk to Jesus eye to eye and worship the Father for who he is.

I read his word in Scripture and visualized him speaking the same words to me in a modern setting with modern language. I know that he is present in all of my activities throughout the day, so there is an acknowledgment that he will be a part of everything I do and everything I think. It's more than a relationship but a companionship. A relationship is on and off, but a companionship is alive all the time because he lives in me and walks beside me every moment of every day. I desire for him to enjoy my life, and that I would be a loyal friend to him wherever I am and whatever I am involved in.

As I come to situations, circumstances, decision-making, and meeting people, I desire to have an awareness of his presence and check in with him during the day. Some days I may go for hours without this actively happening. I just think you develop a mindset to look back and to look ahead in order to have the assurance that He has been a part of it and will be a part of the future whether you want him to be there or not. It's a lifestyle and the mindset that follows the Scriptures of “come to me,” “learn from me,” and “fix your eyes on me” so His joy may be in you. The truth is because of his presence he experiences our life with us, now that an incredible truth to ponder.

Q: What do you mean when you talk about not only accepting Jesus as a Savior, but as a friend?

A: 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?

A: 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.


 

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