The Stolen Tent
Experiencing the felt presence of God
Popular book – hopefully less than 200 pages
Personal book with my own story and questions interwoven through each chapter.
Each part will have about 3 chapters. – 12 in all, hopefully.
Each chapter and “part” will end with a summary of what has been said in that chapter or part and a lead in to the next chapter or part.
Personal story, Linda’s impact, etc.
Describe book as a journey and ask reader to join
My own struggle with cerebral Christianity
Explain a central theme and thesis of the book
The joke about the stolen tent
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson go on a camping trip. After a good dinner and a bottle of wine, they retire for the night, and go to sleep. Some hours later; Holmes wakes up and nudges his faithful friend.
°Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see
"I see millions and millions of stars, Holmes," Watson replies. "And what do you deduce from that?"
Watson ponders for a minute.
"Well, astronomically; it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically; I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologicaly, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. "
Holmes is silent for a moment. "Watson, you idiot!" he says. "Someone has stolen our tent!"
The point – Watson could only see the particulars, he was oblivious to the obvious, the universals. Not only did he not notice that the tent was stolen, but he completely missed the reality behind the reality he was seeing. The heavens, said David, shout forth the glory of God but Watson, in his myopic view of the universe saw only galaxies, planets, the Zodiac, and the time of day, failing to see the awesome Designer who placed it all there.
Experiencing the Presence of God comes as a result of, by faith, viewing all of life as a conspiracy of accidents, and seeking the Reality behind the reality, seeing everything against an “infinite horizon.”
Explain where the book is going and the relevance of the stolen tent story to the rest of the book. Summarize briefly the point of each Part of the Book
Explain what the reader can expect to get out of this book- why should he take time to read it.
Part 1 - The Presence
The 10 aspects of presence
Need many stories of people who have experience these 10 aspects. – they can be drawn from history and from contemporary experience
Satisfied with a Lesser God
May need a better title
Discuss false substitutes, psychological experience, paranormal, demonic counterfeits, recent studies on the brain and religion, meditation the same with Buddhists, etc
Discerning the Presence
In view of the possibility of false substitutes and deception this section will provide some biblical and practical principles of discernment derived from Teresa, Jonathan Edwards, Evan Howard, and the Bible
Wesley vs. Edwards, etc.
Part 2 - The Barrier
Why we do not experience the felt presence of God described in Part 1
There are 5 bricks in the barrier between the believer and this experience of Presence.
This results in two problems:
We do not see correctly
We do not see the reality behind the reality - refer back to Watson’s problem
We do not love
Jesus said he will disclose himself to those who love – John 14
Refer back to angelic conflict again and the notion of being a servant and what that practically looks like in daily relationships.
Problem of evil destroys our faith - brief response dealing with the emotion more than a philosophical defense.
We do not take God’s Providence seriously and see Him in all events.
Pride and Independence
God knows the proud from afar
Brief discussion of Angelic conflict to set the whole thing in a cosmic context.
God discloses Himself to those who obey him - John 14
Specifically – how are we proud
I have tried it and it does not work.
Gets to the point of persevering in faith and making some decisions as to what we are going to believe. Also makes the point that we believe God not because it works, but because He is God - this is the life of faith – it is a struggle, etc.
Doing rather than Being
Mary and Martha the one good thing.
Our restlessness and busyness, etc. keeps us from knowing God.
Part 3 -The Stolen Tent
An experience of Presence is God’s choice to give. We cannot create it. To do so is simply creating a psychological substitute. Difference between consolations and delights. All we can do is predispose ourselves to God’s work and if he chose to grant a feeling that is good but it makes no difference. We live by faith.
There are seven things we must to if we are to experience the felt presence of God.
Entering the Presence
Define Worship – Linda
Clarify that all of life is to be an act of worship. Possibly go back to the angelic conflict again and explain that Satan wanted worship, etc.
Possibly explain praying the music, the ABCs, praying the Tabernacle, and praying the Scriptures?
Gratefulness - enter his courts with thanksgiving
Practical counsel on how to do this
Viewing everything against an infinite horizon - the Stolen Tent again
Madam Guyon – Strabo p. 113
Prayer and Contemplation
Discuss contemplative prayer from a biblical perspective
Praying the Psalms, etc
Quieting our spirit – solitude
Possibly two chapters with one focusing on prayer and the other on contemplation
Loving and Serving others – John 14
Abandonment John 14:27
Living with the End in View
To experience the presence of God daily, we must view our lives from an eternal perspective. This perspective provides motivation for persevering in faith, and focuses us more attentively on the meaning and significance of every event, interaction, and relationship. Probably a whole chapter.
Lessons from Avila
Some counsel from the past
Describe the 7 mansions briefly but focus mainly on the 12 lessons from Teresa’s book and the concept of a journey rather than an event or a spiritual exercise.
Practicing the Presence (Abiding in Christ)
Go back to the Stolen Tent and the central theme – a major aspect of abiding is seeing the reality behind the reality – viewing life against the background of an infinite horizon.
Brief discussion of John 15 and other Scriptures
Helps from brother Lawrence and Stabo “The Life I want in Christ”pp- 93-121
Leighten Ford, Strabo – p. 107
Possibly, material from Mimi on Holy Habits.
Part 4 - The Practical Outcomes
Explain that focus on spiritual disciplines or character is misplaced. These things are the results of abiding in Christ. Our abiding frees the Holy Spirit to produce fruit. However as we see change taking place in these areas, this is evidence of the Spirit’s work.
Walk by the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh, etc - don’t focus on the correcting behaviour but on Walking in the Spirit = abiding
Discuss the 13 questions about our spirituality, survey results and personal stories.
Summary and Conclusion
Tell them what we have told them
Summarize the stolen tent motif again
Exhortation to abide and to live by faith, not missing the obvious, but viewing all of life against the backdrop of an infinite horizon.
Exhortation to practice His Presence – make a decision, a commitment to believe.
Three things necessary to apply
Vision - living with end in view
Intention – decision to obey Christ
Means – living by Faith and practicing His Presenc