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Weekly Devotionals

Weekly Devotion: Proximity and Presence

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among
us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from
the Father, full of grace and truth.

Our special guest, Professor John Walton, shared today about
“Immanuel Theology.” (I highly recommend catching this on our app if you missed
out.) He described God’s ultimate purpose was to dwell among his creation and
we find this all throughout the Bible from creation, to His presence in the
tabernacle and temple, fulfilled ultimately in Jesus who dwelled among us and
also in the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.

We often spiritualize God’s presence to mean something
ghostly or magical or transcendent. It may be those things as well but first
and foremost I think it’s meant to be something more real, tangible, and human.
That’s why it’s so important that the Word literally became flesh and not just
metaphorically. Why couldn’t God just save us from heaven? And even if Jesus
came, why couldn’t he just die for our sins right away? Why go through 30 years
knowing it would end anyways?

At least one answer is that he made deliberate plans to
dwell among 12 students and teach them first-hand what it meant to live in
grace and truth. His physical presence mattered to them. He didn’t just teach
from afar but communed with them and taught by example. His life and death were
the ultimate lessons.

I recently realized just how important physical presence was.
Our family has lived in Korea for 12 years now and we’ve been blessed with a
good community of believers. A few years ago, we met a new family who came to
Korea, became friends, and they decided to move into our apartment complex
knowing that we would be close to them. We’ve had a lot of good friends over
those 12 years, many of whom we have said goodbyes to. But there was something
objectively different about our new friends.

Over the course of two years, we saw this family 3-4 times a
week. Our kids played together, we vacationed together, we had sleepovers, and we
ate countless meals together. Many times we would run into each other at the
playground or grocery store and a spontaneous dinner just happens. Or we have
leftovers so we text them and tell them to come over in 10 minutes. Why? The
main reason is because they were right next door to us. It helps that we get
along and our kids are similar age but those are secondary. Nothing beats
proximity.

I think that’s how Jesus dwelt with his disciples. Think of
all the stories in the Gospels where spontaneous gatherings just happened. We
have all these stories because He lived among us. If we really believe that His
Spirit now lives within us, then we now have the privilege and responsibility
to dwell among other people and love them the way Jesus did. The truth is there’s
no way we can form this community when we only see them once a week for an hour
or two on Sunday. The obvious people to love are those closest to us: our
families, coworkers, and neighbors.

Sadly, our friends left Korea and we miss them dearly. As
short as it was, we were still able to experience true community. It reaffirmed
just how important physical presence is to forming rich friendships. I pray
that we may find new meaning in Immanuel, God with us and invest our presence
in the lives of those around us.

Alex Lim