I have to try to explain the way in which we connect to the heart of Jesus, and the best passage I can think of today reminds us of what Christians claim even if only half-hearted: "It is now no longer I that live but Christ lives within me." (Gal. 2:20)
So much of our spirituality and religion is greatly affected by who we know God to be. A.W. Tozer said, "Nothing twists and deforms the soul more than a low or unworthy conception of God." We all have within us a gallery images of who God is, and those images dramatically affect our responses to Him. This gallery greatly affects the faith and religion we live out each day in relationship with God. The trouble is many, if not most of those images are distorted at best or entirely false at worst. This God many of us relate and respond to is not the God of scripture, and we begin to wonder why some of us live out such a grim, hard, and loveless faith each day.
It is because the God we have come to believe is distant and hard to please. God becomes a cold Father demanding your work without encouragement or love or pride in you. It is very difficult to serve that god with enthusiasm or joy. It is difficult not to chalk up other more enthusiastic brothers and sisters to fanaticism when the god you know is cold, removed, and grim. But this is not the God presented in scripture. This is the god of the Pharisees and he will always drive a Pharisaic religion and faith.
The moment I was first ambushed by the love of God is when I came to see the Father of Scripture who loves and delights in me, His son. He comes close to me in a true fellowship where I can find rest and healing. He is not hard to please.
Yes, he disciplines us, but I have come to know His delight and smile. He will correct and challenge me with the smile of a Father who is tender and proud. My Abba is proud of me and knows I am His "imperfect by promising" son. I see His delighted smile which knows I am coming to look more and more like my Abba every day.
Several years ago I quit making resolutions or new years goals. I accepted, then, a challenge to choose only a word for the year. "One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live or what you want to achieve by the end of 2015. One word that you can focus on every day, all year long. It will take hard work, and will require intentionality and commitment. But if you let it, your word will shape you and your year. It will guide your decisions and help you grow.”
This year my word is: PRAYER.
While I would say I am a man of God's Word, I want to be more of a man of prayer. Prayer is not an element of my relationship with God, it IS my relationship with God. I have to realize my relationship is dependent upon communication and time together.
If I wrote my autobiography, someone could read it inside and out, over and over again. They could highlight important parts about my story and things that mater a great deal to me. But that person does not know me. That person and I have no relationship. We have never sat and spoken together.
Much like this, I can study God's Word inside and out, over and over again. I can highlight important parts and dedicate years and whole college degrees to studying things very important to God. But I could do all of this and still not know God. I do not have a relationship. I have not sat and spoken with Him.
I am a man of God's Word and a man after God's heart, but I want to be MORE of a man of prayer than I have been before. I want to be more of a man of prayer at the end of 2015 than I am right now. I want to know Him more intimately. I want to be terribly close to His heart, and that will only come as we sit and speak together with more intentionality and frequency.
When I wrestlewith my kids, I hold back my strength so they can win
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28 I am more and more convinced that what we think is "good" will almost never be the same as what God thinks is good. In fact, more often than not, we will question most things as to whether they are good at all, but most of the time we use a metric for defining "good" that is based on feelings and thoughts of an eternally narrow definition. God works all things for good of those who love Him, and it will be so according to HIS purposes; not mine.
But if I truly love God, I KNOW that God will work this together for my good as He defines good. If I love God truly and with all of me, I KNOW God...IS...GOOD to me. That is not to say God is only good to those who love him, it means that those who love God know God is good; that to them, God is good.
Recently I have read a few amazing books on prayer that have challenged me. It challenged my view of God. God is a spiritual being, and he is not flesh like us. We are flesh, but God created us flesh and souls with spirits. I cannot be theological enough here to say I know how that all works out (the diagram above is created by Dallas Willard, and has served me greatly).
Sometimes, I try relating to God awaiting the right feeling and emotion, and it always fails. I just know that I too often try relating to God while starting with my emotions, and I fail. Then I try relating to God with my mind, and that humorously fails. Then I just try to learn more about the spirit, and that spirit is what was made perfect and blameless by God on the cross. Now if that is the only part of me that is blameless, I have to learn how to come to grips with it.
I do not know how to describe that, but I do know it takes a lot of trust (faith); like more trust than anything in my life has ever required before. As I strive to learn, I do know that when my spirit is engaged (another thing I don't have space to define here), I THEN feel closer to the heart of God. That is because he is a spiritual being and that is the only way to be relational to him. This is why I said that when I come to him in spirit, it often forms, changes, and engages my mind, my emotions and my flesh.
There is no way I have clarified anything for you. So what say you?
The interesting thing about leprosy is the MAIN ailment is the absence of pain. Because leprosy patients do not feel or know pain, they often do self-destructive things and know nothing of it. They grab splintered rakes and sharp objects with bare hands and know no pain. They wear very tight shoes and create blistering and festering sores they only see and not feel. Leprosy patients are absent of pain, but it is that absence which dissolves the reality of destruction happening to them all the time. We ought to praise God for pain. We are SO quick to get rid of pain when it is that pain which tells us we need aid.
There are parallels to be drawn to spiritual and emotional pain. Without it we would be callous and shut off...which is destructive to our emotions, spirits, and souls. We make it easy by trying to defeat pain. It's like we don't want to hurt, but what if that hurt is exactly what keeps us from destructing. If we felt no pain, we would only be a spiritual leper...an emotional leper. The craziest thing is that lepers are afflicted, but I, as an emotional leper, afflict myself. I resound with lepers of Biblical times and silently scream, "UNCLEAN!" I am a spiritual and emotional leper. I shut off my own pain sensors by covering them up and saying, "I'm not hurt...I'm tired of being hurt...so I won't be anymore...I'm tired of hurting...I'm tired of caring." So begins a self-destructive disease.
I get so terrified of pain that I shut myself off from it, but without it...without being honest about my pain, hurt, real emotion, I just destruct. I am self-afflicted, but can only be healed through the grace of GOd.
In recovery! Experiencing pain with gratitude because at least I feel.
I just miss it for lack of attention. When I pray with some intentionality, I should immediately anticipate God's answer (whatever it might be). Most often, though, I pray and immediately forget about what I was praying about. I forget to then look for how God may be answering that prayer. I ignore and miss all the unusual things about my day. I see them as menial or distracting, and fail to connect them with the activity of an omnipresent, sovereign, omniscient God I had JUST spoken with.
When I pray I need to immediately begin watching and listening to what happens next. Be prepared to make adjustments to MY plan. The thought that God is not going to answer my prayer should never cross my mind.
God actively answers, I just rarely stick around to notice.
"Let me know that you hear me. Let me know your touch Let me know that you love me. Let that be enough."*
I listened to the song and prayed it sincerely almost 5 times on repeat from my home to the church. I sat in the parking lot, BEFORE church already preparing my heart in honesty with a basic cry, "God, please let me know that you hear me. I don't ask you to solve my problems, my anxieties or my fears. I merely pray that you let me know that you hear me."
There are times we thirst for and grow parch for lack of God's presence.
I remember worshiping and singing to a God I knew loved me, but whom I had needed to just BE with. I remember standing to worship again and choosing to only mouth the words and let them really speak and scream from my heart,
"You're all I want... You're all I need..."
* Let That Be Enough by Switchfoot