Monthly Archives: January 2013

Musings from a Madman: The Mystery of Relationship (Part 5)

The missing element for most Christians in their relationship with God is desperation. Most have as much of God as they want at any given moment. The problem is not availability but desire—they don’t want any more. You can have as much of God as you want, but it depends on you—whether or not you are willing to pay the price of pursuing him. Grace is free—salvation was purchased and paid for by Christ, but relationship is hard work and it requires a great deal of desperation on our part.

Desperation is a signal that something indispensable is missing and the hunger for it cannot be quenched by anything else. Most of us are not desperate because we are still stuffing anything and everything in that God-created void only he call fill. Many have a false sense of satisfaction feeling that everything is alright, but that pseudo sense of confidence can vanish in the blink of an eye with one hiccup of a heartbeat, a single word from a spouse, or lump located in a place where lumps don’t belong. All of a sudden, what once satisfied no longer does and you become desperate.

This kind of desperation utters a hungry cry that is amazingly similar and has remained so over the centuries. The psalmist put it this way in Psalm 42:1-2: “As the deer pants (longs for) for the water brooks, so my soul pants (longs for) for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear (see your face) before God?” St. Augustine, a fourth century church father and bishop, put it his way, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” Blaise Pascal, a seventeen century mathematician and Christian philosopher, wrote, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of man which cannot be filled by any created thing but only God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” These men understood that only God can satisfy that gnawing in the gut of our spirit, but far too many seek to satisfy that craving with drugs, alcohol, sex, jobs, hobbies, money, power, and a million other things that won’t fit or start to fill up the emptiness.

Are you desperate—for God? Do you have a burning desire to know him—to be with him? Is there a ravenous hunger or a voracious thirst that relentlessly drives you toward him? If not, something is terribly wrong in your relationship with God. Most Christians are not desperate. They have gorged themselves on religious fluff rather than experiencing God in a full relationship. They are stuffed, but no satisfied. Many have been taught that you “get it all” at salvation. Everything does become available once we come to Christ in faith, but not everything is automatic. Some things require that you stretch up on your tip-toes and retrieve it from the top shelf. In other word, here it is, come and get it.

Salvation is the front door of God’s house. Once you come to Christ you step through that front door and into the foyer of his grace, but God’s house is filled with countless rooms filled with unimaginable experiences and delights, just waiting to be explored. Salvation gives you access to the foyer, but relationship will take you on an unbelievable tour of the whole house. Sadly, there’s a glut of people camped out in the foyer who are convinced they have arrived and this is it—all there is. It’s not, so please keep moving!

True desperation is a state of despair that typically results in rash, extreme, or even dangerous behavior. Desperate people do desperate things. Content people twiddle their thumbs, sit on their contented little cans, and do nothing. Desperate people will go to extremes to satisfy their hunger or thirst for God (extremes are what comfortable church people call those measures that seen a little fanatical and out of the ordinary). When you’re desperate, you go looking for God under every rock and behind every bush. You pursue and track him like a bloodhound that refuses to give up the scent. Giving up is not an option if you’re really desperate.

What about you? Are you really desperate—or just bored?

Musings of a Madman: The Mystery of Relationship (Part 4)

Over the centuries a group of people has arisen who were willing to do whatever was necessary to have a passionate, intimate relationship with God. This stream finds its headwaters in a man named Enoch, who lived in the days prior to the Great Flood. We don’t know a great deal about Enoch, except that he fathered a son named Methuselah (Gen. 5:21), walked with God three hundred years (Gen. 5:24), was a prophet (Jude 14-15), and was taken by God (Gen. 5:24). God enjoyed their walk together so much that he opened up the portal between heaven and earth and Enoch climbed up a little higher until he arrived at God’s home in heaven. Enoch never died—God took (translated or raptured) him.

That simple sentence, “And Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him,” fascinates me. It raises all kinds of questions and creates countless scenarios if you will just let your mind race a little. The problem is we tend to go to the second half of the verse instead of pondering the first half. We like the part about God taking, but we tend to miss the part about Enoch walking. The key is found in the walk.

What did they talk about? Where did they go? What did they see? Did they have a special place and a specific time to meet? How long did they spend together each day—an hour, a couple of hours, or all day? What was it like?

It is apparent that their relationship never became stale or boring because both of them showed up every day for three hundred years. That’s a long time! They simply lived life together and that’s really what relationship is all about. Step-by-step and arm-in-arm they walked through the day no matter the situation or circumstance that was to be faced..

Another clue to this relationship is Enoch’s designation as a prophet. Being a prophet is far more than just foretelling the future, even though that’s about all most of us think about when we see or hear that word. No, there’s far more here than meets the eye. Enoch may have possessed the gift of prophecy and held the office of prophet, but a true prophet of God is far more than that. Enoch and God had spent so much time together that a deep friendship developed, one where transparency was natural and secrets were revealed. God shared his secrets with Enoch, who held them in a quiet confidence until God told him to speak. The definition of prophesy is to listen for what God is saying and then speak the message that is heard. Enoch’s intimacy with God developed his spiritual ears to the place where he could hear the whispers of God’s heart.

Listening is a lost ability in most of us. We love to talk but we don’t listen very well. In fact, the average length of time a person is willing to listen during a conversation is fifteen seconds. To hear the heart and learn the secrets of God will take far more than fifteen seconds here and there. We have two ears and one mouth, so creation tells us we should listen twice as much as we talk, but that rarely happens. Enoch learned to listen as he walked with God and God shared with him what would happen centuries later during the end times.

True relationship involves conversation, which by nature is a dialogue not a monologue. God enjoyed the conversation of their relationship so much that one day he decided not to end it for the day. Instead God took Enoch back to heaven with him so their conversation would never end.

Enoch was the first of many who have pursued God with an intense passion. He became a friend and trusted companion who is an example of what a true relationship really is. Enoch’s walk with God began with the first step and yours can too. Just take a step, join the conversation with God, and listen. You never know where your little walk may end up.

Musings of a Madman: The Mystery of Relationship (Part 3)

Where are you?

To get where you want to go you must first determine where you are at. To arrive at the desired destination will require an honest assessment of your present location. Where are you?

Long ago, God asked Adam the same question in Genesis 3:9: “Adam—where are you?” Just an FYI to tuck in your knapsack, God never asks questions to gain information. He is omniscient, which means he knows all the answers even before the questions are formulated. God asks questions so that we will stop for a moment and consider the current situation. An honest answer of this question could be the first step in the right direction on a journey that will lead you to the destination your hearts longs for. But, you will have to do the work. You will have to respond correctly.

Adam and Eve had tasted the forbidden fruit. In doing so, they disobeyed God’s expressed will—they sinned. Filled with guilt and shame, they fled from his presence, hoping to find some kind of sanctuary in the bushes. They fled from a God who is also omnipresent—everywhere present at the same time…even in the darkness of the bushes. Now they heard the footsteps of God in the garden, and dread, rather than anticipation, filled their hearts.

Those haunting words—where are you?—echoed through the garden as God came for his daily visit. He was pursuing them but they were no longer pursuing him. An intimate relationship is always a two-way street. It takes two—God and you. God will always be on time as he awaits your arrival. Where are you?

That question could easily be a statement of fact: “You’re not where you are supposed to be. Adam, we have a pre-arranged time and place to meet but you’re missing. You are not here! Where are you?” This is not an angry God with smoke billowing from his ears and lightning bolts dancing on his fingertips looking for someone to annihilate. No, this is a loving Father looking for his son and daughter who are now lost. They are absent because they have chosen something else over God. They have sacrificed relationship for knowledge.

What have you sacrificed? What have you chosen over God? What garners your attention and occupies first place in your heart, that place God designed for himself alone? No-thing—nothing can replace God. That’s why there’s emptiness there even though you are frantic in your daily pursuit of satisfaction, cramming everything you can into that ravenous cavern. It cannot be filled by anything but God. That is the source of your frustration—not your spouse, your kids, your job, or your __________ (you fill in the blank). Where are you?

That question was asked by God to enable Adam to recognize where he was and why he had ended up in his present predicament and location. The question really is: “Why are you hiding? Why are you hiding from the one Person who really loves you? Why are you hiding from the One who can meet every need you have? Why are you hiding?” Adam’s location in the bushes was his answer—“I am hiding because I don’t want to be found!” Tragically, when we hide we answer this question with the very same answer.

Adam and Eve were hiding because they did not want to be transparent with God. They were no longer willing to pay the price. Transparency reveals everything and sin hates transparency because it can only germinate and grow in darkness.

Where are you? As we get start on this journey—this pursuit of an intimate relationship with God, you must answer this question. Or…you have no place from which to begin. The confession of your present location will propel you in confidence into the destination of your dreams.

Come out of the bushes…God is here!

Musings of a Madman: The Mystery of Relationship (Part 2)

Every question you or I answer determines the choices we make, which ultimately determine the paths we take down destiny’s highway. Therefore, we must consider carefully how we answer these questions. The most important question you will answer in 2013 does not concern your family, your finances, your health, or a hundred other worthy questions. The most important question you will answer is whether or not you will actively pursue an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ? The answer to this one question will have a quantum effect on all the others you will encounter this year. So, how you answer it is important. Think about it very carefully because you cannot ignore it. It will not go away.

I am not talking about the issue of salvation. Without experiencing the saving grace of God you can’t even have a relationship with God. Salvation is a gift God gives to restore the opportunity for true relationship, but this relationship is the result of hard work—a passionate pursuit. It will cost you something and the price you are willing to pay always determine its depth. You can have as much of God as you want—or as little—it depends on you. God has done everything needed—the sin debt is paid, so his arms are wide open. You have to choose.

An intimate relationship is a deep friendship, a heart-to-heart, spirit-to-spirit connection. It is far more than an occasional encounter—that haphazard hit or miss thing most believers would like to call relationship. It is the only relationship that will fully satisfy the longings of our heart. It is, as a friend shared with me, an “into-me-you-see” connection. The more we allow God to see into us (by that I mean surrender and become transparent), the more he will allow us to see into him. Intimacy means that we are willing to search out the other person with all our heart and allow the other person to do the same.

Transparency terrifies most people. A transparent man or woman has nothing to hide. There are no locks on the door, no keep out signs, and no restricted areas—everything is open and exposed. Most people fear that level of intimacy, so they refuse to pursue it, but that’s exactly what God wants and what your heart hungers for. Sadly, if you don’t pursue it you won’t embrace it. Fear paralyzes but transparency sets a person totally free.

Perhaps you are afraid if God really knew the real you deep down inside he would draw back. Perhaps you have experienced rejection in some personal relationship and the sting of its slap has left you terrified of its high cost, but still hungry. Listen—God already knows the garbage tucked away out of sight in your soul. You can’t hide it. The wounds you work so hard to conceal are visible to his omniscient gaze and his heart is filled with compassion the pain they are causing. He alone possesses the ability to heal them, but you must open them up and invite him enter them. Fear is the greatest tool the enemy has in his arsenal to rob us of our rightful relationship with God. Don’t allow the fear of what he tells you “might” happen to stop the healing guaranteed by Christ’s death on the cross.

This is heavy stuff for sure, but I’ll bet the enemy’s voice is screaming in your head right now. If you allow fear to smother you, he wins. If you allow the noise of the nonsense he is feeding you to drown out the truth you will miss the sound of God’s voice at this very moment. Face the fear, and force the enemy’s clamoring out of your head for a moment and allow these words to minister to your soul and spirit for a few moments.

God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” Read it again! And again! And again until the sound of the enemy’s accusations disappear from your ears and mind. Shout it over and over! Write it down and tape in on your refrigerator, over your vanity mirror and on the dashboard of your car. Memorize it! It is the word of God for you right now and for eternity. God desires a deep, passionate relationship with you! Yes—you! And he is wooing you like a lover (that’s the biblical meaning of “drawn” in the Hebrew). Fear always imprisons, but freedom enables you to take a step toward God. That first step is the beginning of pursuit—the first step to the relationship you were created for. That one single step is the answer to the question that confronts you. Take it!

Musing of a Madman: The Mystery of Relationship (Part 1)

The Mystery of Relationship

Have you ever wondered if you might be mad? You know—crazy as a loon, crackers, nut-so, touched in the head, or wacky Jack. I’m not referring to those who suffer from a mental illness, rather I’m speaking of being a person who dreams of things that seems to go against or even defy the status quo of what is commonly taught or believed. I’m speaking of hungering for something God says is possible, but most have yet to embrace or taste. When you think this way, you are often labeled a fanatic, kook, or heretic (this one usually rears its ugly head when those who disagree are unable to mount a real biblical defense and resort to demonizing the dream because it makes them very, very uncomfortable).

I don’t mind the names because I refuse to stitch their labels in my shirt. Those labels neither define who I am nor the depth of my dreams. So I refuse to fly their flag, wear their tag around my neck, or brandish their brand on my hip. There comes a place in your life when you have to push off the shore, paddle out into the deep, and pursue the things God has planted in your spirit even if it appears you might sail right off the edge of the world. That boat ride can be lonely, and usually is until the dream you are pursuing starts to making sense to other dreamers stranded on the shore, who long for more.

God is not into uniformity, even though he loves unity. We don’t all have to think, act, or dress the same to follow God. Uniformity equals boring and God is certainly not boring. He loves diversity, and I’m sure he gets a kick out of the dreamers all the others think are mad as hatters.

One of my dreams is a core value that God really desires a passionate, intimate relationship with all of us. That’s why he created people. I believe he placed us in Christ and has given us the Holy Spirit to enable each of us to experience this mind-blowing experience. There are few who would disagree with the concept, and yet most are unwilling to follow the path that will lead them that deep into the true heart of God. Its cost is far too much. Its pathway is fraught with danger and its steps too slippery. Most would say the cost outweighs the return, but those who would warn you away from this path and discourage you from this journey have never tasted the sheer satisfaction or the utter ecstasy of God’s true presence. Unwilling to pay the price, they have devised their own tales and woven their own stories about all the things God no longer does.

But…there are men and women, wandering pilgrims throughout the ages, who have chosen this passageway and been labeled eccentric, odd, fanatical, mystical, heretical, and even enemies of both church and state. Many were beaten, imprisoned, and martyred at the hands of their own religious leaders, fearful that their little earthly kingdoms might be destroyed if the heavenly kingdom of God envisioned by these dreamers ever truly manifested. Their books and writings were ridiculed, labeled as heresy, and burned because they challenged the ideas and dogma of an earlier dreamer. Their pages may have become ash and their bodies dust, but their dreams and ideas still fuel a fire that cannot be quenched. Those dreams and ideas have their genesis in God, therefore they are eternal. Chains could not restrain them. Swords, axes, stakes, and gallows failed to snuff them out. Armies cannot stop them. Death has no power over them. They belong to God—these ideas are the desires of his heart—ideas, visions, and dreams lent to the dreamer willing to embrace possibility of the impossible.

If—in the depths of your spirit you dream a similar dream or are driven by an insatiable hunger for something yet unnamed, or you just know there’s got to be more than you are currently experiencing—I invite you to walk with me along this narrow pathway for a short distance. I want to challenge you to dream the dream, jump off the ledge, let go what holds you back, grab for the gusto, spread your wings and fly, or whatever you choose to call it. There is far more than we have been led to believe or have yet to dream when it comes to the passionate heart of God.

And…it all begins with this mystery called relationship.

God-Sizing Your Dreams (Part 13)

A God-sized dream is the only dream worthy of God. If you and I can entertain them with our mind and heart, God can bring them to fulfillment. Dreams are what drive us to excellence. Without a dream, a man or woman will settle for whatever is available, regardless of what they could have achieved. Dreams fuel championships, create new and better ways of doing things, and push us to the next level of our destiny.

Dreams and destiny are inextricably linked. The size of your dream will determine the extent of your destiny. Dreams always come with both peril and price—the larger the dream the greater the peril and the higher the price. The danger and cost go hand-in-hand, but so does the payoff. God-sized dreams are no exceptions, but they are exceptional in every way.

The time has come for all of us to consider (or re-consider) the God-sized dream God has planted in seed form within us. The time has come to muster the courage to dream that dream—to seize that vision and walk it out until faith becomes experience. Most will call you a fool—a daydreamer—one who has lost your mind. But, God will call you a partner and join with you in this exciting endeavor.

If God has given you that dream which drives you—dream it with all you might. Don’t listen to the naysayers and the experts. They are standing on the sidelines for a reason, and that reason is they refused to get into the game. Listen to God. Your job is to embrace the dream, but it’s God’s responsibility to empower it. Be faithful, and you will see that dream reach fruition and the fruit will be far larger than you ever imagined. It will be God-sized!

God-Sizing Your Dreams (Part 12)

The supposed solution in Abraham and Sarah’s mind finally arrived. Isaac was born and Abraham was in pig’s paradise. The son—the son of promise—he had waited for so long was finally here. In his mind, the solution to the problem of fulfilling God’s promise was this tiny baby boy he held in his arms. It is likely, given his age, that the father-son relationship consumed the old man and all of his attention. Why not? Here was God’s answer to his promise given so long ago when Abraham had set out for Canaan.

But Isaac was not the key; he was only a small piece in a much larger puzzle. It is likely that Abraham’s obsession with Isaac caused him to lose his focus on God, the dream giver. Now it seemed he was focused only on Isaac, his answer to the dream. Earlier in this series I shared with you how Abraham had become fixated on just one of the three promises God had sworn to give him. The descendant issue in Abraham’s mind was the guarantee to the rest of the promises.

Whenever we lose focus things become blurry. Very often we make minor issues major issues and elevate things out of their proper place and make them idols. A blurred focus or divided allegiance will lead us down paths that always end up at dead-ends. God was determined that Abraham would not travel to that destination.

God, not Isaac was the key to the fulfillment of the dream he had implanted in Abraham’s spirit, and he is the fulfillment of the one he has given you as well. The time had come to re-focus Abraham eyes and attention—away from the promise and back on God. Now might be a good time to pause a few minutes and allow the Holy Spirit to do a little soul-searching in your attention data base. What are you focused on? What consumes your time, money, and energy? What is your obsession? Has the fulfillment of the dream replaced your relationship with God? Good things can easily crowd out the best thing if we are not careful. Our focus can often blur without our even realizing it.

Like Abraham, God will sometimes ask you to sacrifice the dream—to give it back to him—to lay it on the altar and kill it. That may sound implausible to you unless it has happened in your past. Perhaps you’ve watched what you thought was the solution—the answer to the dream taken. Perhaps you are there today and are convinced God has short-changed you or somehow left you hanging.  Perhaps there is another solution to the situation you find yourself in. Rest assured, God never short-changes one of his kids. God is not playing games with you. He is not an Indian-giver. Perhaps God is in the process of refocusing your attention off the dream and back on the One who gave you the dream in the first place.

Here is another principle you must grasp as you dream God-sized dreams: God-sized dreams are capable of consuming us unless our focus is firm on the God who gives the dream. We can never love the dream more than the Dream Giver. If this happens, God must repossess the dream that he entrusted to you. The dream can never become the center of our lives or it becomes an idol—which is, after all, a godless dream.

Abraham made no argument when God told him to sacrifice Isaac. He simply obeyed. The lesson had been learned and there was no need to repeat it or go any farther down that road. Abraham was willing to do whatever God said. He climbed Mt. Moriah with his dream  bound him with cords, and laid him on an altar. He gave the dream back to God—it was God’s dream anyway and so is yours. Ownership of the dream rests with God—we are only stewards.

As Abraham prepared to kill his dream, Jehovah-Jireh (the God Who Provides) showed up and gave his son back. He re-issued the dream by re-focusing its recipient. The refocus was complete. Here is the point: you must be willing to relinquish all rights to the dream and keep your focus on God who gives the dreams. The dream is only a vehicle God uses to draw us closer to him. Abraham learned that day high near the top of Moriah that it’s God—not the dream—that provides our purpose.