Tag Archives: Pursuit

To Explain or Experience? That is the Question

There is a hunger, a craving in all of us for something more. Something we can’t explain or describe. This longing is a desperate need that can’t be satisfied with facts, figures, or fickle fantasy. It won’t be met with any of the alternatives we, as desperate human beings, have attempted to substitute throughout our generations of habitation on this earth. No—power, position, prestige, money, sex, food, drugs, idols, and a thousand other endless, empty pursuits simply lack the power to quell the gnawing pangs of an internal hunger generated from the very genesis of our DNA. Blaise Pascal, a 17th century mathematician and Christian philosopher, summed it up this way: “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are…”

 This is not a “me” or “you” problem—this is a human problem. This satisfaction, this craving and helplessness as Pascal calls it, is etched in the primordial memory of our consciousness. The problem is no created thing can scratch this infernal itch and we can’t seem to remember what or perhaps who can.

That is—except God. Pascal provides the solution to the unanswerable question and the insatiable internal appetite: “…Since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”  This abyss in our soul and spirit needs far more than you or I can cram into it—we need God.

We were created by God for God. Let that sink in for a moment. God needs nothing so he did not create us out of a need. No, he created us out of desire. A desire fuel by an unconditional love he longed to lavish on created creatures made in his likeness and in his image. God desired that his heart be experienced—that is known intimately.

Sadly most of us have spent our entire Christian life in an attempt to explain God in a way we can understand. We demand rational explanations, deductive arguments, and laboratory experiments, which are finite at best and flawed at worst, to explain the infinite. We preach three point sermons with revelation, application, and illustration on things we cannot comprehend, or teach in-depth, perhaps inept lessons on things we have no real clue about, or worse, we write endless articles, papers, and books with seven steps to this and twelve steps to that when we are totally out of step in our flawed, yet limited approach. Yes, God did give us a brain to think with, but he also gave us five senses, an impassioned soul filled with emotions, and a spirit that can only receive communication on God’s personal frequency. God is not looking to be explained. He never explains his omnipotence, his omnipresence, or his omniscience. He simply declares it or demonstrates it. So why should we think we can explain him. No, God is intent on our experiencing him.

Perhaps this kind of thinking frightens you to death. Perhaps it sounds dangerous—you know that right brain stuff oozing into good, solid theological thinking. Perhaps you have been trained not to trust your emotions, and because of this, have shut them off completely in your pursuit of God. Instead you have chosen to be dependent on rational, intellectual, and cold, hard objective facts and figures to gratify that voracious hunger. So how is that working for you? Have the fangs of your ravenous soul stopped gnawing? Has your heart stopped longing for something more? Are you still cramming things that don’t fit in that God-shaped vacuum?

Stop the explaining and begin the experiencing. You can use your brain, but realize you are far more than a brain—you are a spirit, soul, and body with a brain, not vice versa. Psalm 46:10 (KJV) says, “Be still and know that I am God…” To paraphrase this powerful statement—stop cramming everything you can into an infinite abyss and allow an infinite and immutable God to satisfy that ravenous desire he’s hard-wired in you.  Be still—stop explaining! And know—start experiencing!

Finding Intimacy with God

photoThe difference between finding intimacy with God and talking about intimacy with God is as different as day and night. Human beings are notorious for talking about things but never experiencing them. All of us were hard-wired by God to experience intimacy with him, but few people ever do. We talk, write, teach, and preach about our relationship with God, but without a genuine intimate experience the best we can hope for is a casual acquaintance. Intimacy is the game-changer. It’s what transforms an acquaintance into an authentic relationship.

Jesus didn’t die to restore a casual acquaintance; he died to restore authentic relationship with God. He hung on the cross and suffered unbearable pain so that we could have true intimacy—a heart-to-heart connection with God, one that could be experienced.

This intimacy I’m talking about is one you must find for yourself and on your own. It’s one you must pursue with the passion God implanted in your heart. Your hunger must drive you. My hunger and passion for God is not enough for you because when things get tough (and they will) you may discover you have little or no hunger or passion of your own and give up. I can paint some pictures, describe some experiences, and point out various pitfalls, but you can’t find intimacy with God based on my own personal encounters. Those you must pursue on you own.

All I can tell you with certainty is that if you pursue God with all your heart you will most certainly find him. That’s a promise straight out of Jeremiah 29:13 and God cannot lie. I can point, but the pathway you’re on and the speed at which you are traveling are likely not the same as mine. Besides that, I can only lead you to the places I’ve visited.

Pursuing intimacy is first a choice you must make and second, a step of faith you must take. Included in the backpack you will need for that journey is a copy of God’s Word that you can understand, a journal and pen for writing down what God shows you (as well as the pitfalls you encounter), a desperate desire to carry on a conversation with God (some call this prayer), an appointed time and location for meeting God, and likely some worship music of your particular persuasion. You may choose to pack more and that’s up to you. Take what you can carry comfortably.

A word of caution and encouragement—find a time and a place where you can quiet your self and not be interrupted. Intimacy is something you have with one person—not a crowd. Don’t become mechanical and check your religious list at the door. Be spontaneous (that may take a while), experiment (keep what works and discard what doesn’t), and be adventurous in your pursuit. Don’t be embarrassed or afraid—whatever happens in the secret place stays in the secret place. God certainly won’t tell and no one will know unless you do.

There are countless ways to find intimacy with God. You can do it quietly, with shouts of praise and proclamation, with hands uplifted or on your face in the floor. You can sit, kneel, stand, jump, spin, or dance. You can sing, shout, or run about. God won’t be offended by how you pursue him as long as you do it with all your heart in a genuine manner. Find out what works for you—but don’t be afraid to take a step past the artificially installed boundaries of your denomination or your teachers, preachers, and mentors. Push the boundaries—veryoften God eagerly awaits only a step passed where your comfort level ends and his grace begins.

So pick up your backpack and begin to pursue. If you pursue God’s presence with all your heart you will find him.

Now it’s your turn to share something from your journey for others who will follow?

1) What is an artificial boundary that your hunger for God has demolished?

2)What kind of location harbors your secret place? A closet—a porch—a quiet place in your yard—a walk in the woods?

3) How has time in God’s presence changed the ways in which you worship?

Crisis: Religion or Relationship (Part 1)

 

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Crisis (Part 1)

Fasting is tough. I am eighteen days into a 40 day fast from religion, as are many of the members of Eagle’s Wing Church where I pastor. We are driven by a desperate hunger and a passionate desire to experience a genuine relationship with God. Our desire is to know God rather than the facts or things that point us to God. We want to personally experience God and his love rather than live off the past experiences others.

Perhaps you’re wondering—why a fast from religion? Isn’t religion a good thing? Isn’t religion all about God?

Let me define religion. Religion is a system that must be practiced so that perfection can be reached. On the other hand, relationship is a heart-to-heart connection with a real person. You can’t have a relationship with a system. Relationship requires two people (not a person working a system). Jesus came to pay the price of sin so he might restore our ability to walk in communion with God—to have a personal relationship with him. Relationship is pursued,  while religion is practiced. And in this case practice will never make us perfect.

Our hearts yearn for relationship. We are born with a hunger to be loved and to give love in return. God created us that way. And he created a deep craving within all of us that can only be satisfied by a genuine relationship with him. God is relational. It is a part of his nature. Relationship starts in the heart of God.

Humanity created religion because we like systems where we can achieve things on our own. For some reason, we want to do it our way, rather than God’s way. Religion demands a pseudo perfection that is somehow achieved through rigorous practice and good works. The problem with that is we can’t rise to the measure of perfection God requires. Otherwise the death of Christ on the cross was a tragic waste.

The modern Christian church is in crisis. Most preach salvation by grace but then we turn around and try our hardest to achieve God’s favor, love, and blessings through works and activities. That’s religion, not relationship. Most believers attempt to connect with God through religion—through the system. But the only way we can make this heart-to-heart connection is through relationship.

For the next several weeks I want to share the subtle deception of religion and the satisfying depth of relationship through this blog. I encourage you to join us in a forty day fast from religion. If you will commit—God will bless you and set you free from religion’s crushing coils.

How do you start? Simply ask the Holy Spirit to show you anything in your spiritual life that is smacks or smells of religion. That may be a belief, a doctrine, a cherished idea or practice. It could be anything. As the Holy Spirit exposes those hidden things, confess them and move on. Invite the Holy Spirit to examine all your beliefs, doctrines, practices, and way of thinking. Don’t be afraid to invite him in to those things—he should be at home in all of them or that belief is not from God. That’s it!

You may be thinking there’s got to be more to it than this. What are the rules? If you need more rules than I’ve shared, you can start right there with that thought—it’s riddled with religion!

God is Passionate About You

Passion is the driving force in humanity’s pursuit of satisfaction, whether it is in a relationship, a vocation, or an activity. Passion is the fire that causes one’s love to flourish, or one’s anger to seethe, or one’s willingness to sacrifice even their life for a cause. Without passion, love wilts, anger ceases, and sacrifice becomes routine. Passion is the sole ingredient that can ignite the smoldering embers of the life’s fire and cause it to blaze with renewed intensity. The object of one’s passion determines the intensity of the desire.

The object of God’s passion is you. Don’t be startled or embarrassed; the Father loves you with an intense passionate love. His is desire for you and He is a jealous God (“You shall not make for yourself and idol, any likeness of what is in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God…” Deut. 5:8-9a). You are His bride and the intensity of His passionate love is white-hot.

Perhaps you’ve never considered passion and God together at the same time. Perhaps for you passion is desire out of control and thus evil. The passion of love out of control becomes lust, but the passion of love under control brings life. And life can never be all that God intended unless God is the priority of your passion.

Perhaps you are not totally your Beloved’s. Perhaps the object of your desire is not God. God designed your heart to burn with love for Him in the same way His heart burns with an intense love for you. But often we contaminate the fire of our hearts with polluted fuel like position, power, or prestige. Anything that excites you more than God is contaminated fuel. Oh, a heart fueled by pollution can burn with a passion, but when the fuel is gone the flickering flames slowly recede and leave only the empty smelly shell of unrequited love. Unrequited love is frustrated love. Frustrated love results when the object of one’s love does not respond in like manner.

Thus, the ultimate difference between the Bridegroom, the Lover of our soul, and everyone and everything else is that God’s love never frustrates, instead it always stimulates. God’s love is not the result of a reaction or a response; instead it is the unconditional choice of a heart that truly desires you without regard to who you are, where you’ve been, or what you’ve done. The passionate love of the Father depends on Him not you. And He has chosen you as the object of His love and He will not be frustrated in His desire for you.

When passions of like manner collide, tremendous explosions always take place. When the pure fuel of God’s love is injected into your heart, it will beat with the song your spirit was created to sing. But an intimate God will never force His love. You must invite His presence and His love to burn away the contamination of the world. It is in that moment that you will know His passion for you.

Understand this: He will not share you with another. The choice is yours, His passion or your perversion. Are you frustrated in your walk, in your relationships, with your prayers? Have you settled for less than the best? If so, open the door to the Bridegroom and allow Him to passionately love you and then respond to Him with the passion He calls forth from within your spirit. You will be satisfied and complete in His love and in His love alone.

Am I a Christian Zombie????

Am I a Christian zombie? Now that’s an interesting question you might be thinking. Freeze the first picture that went through your mind. Everyone knows what a zombie is. In our culture they have become folk heroes, video game celebrities, and movie icons. It might even be chic, bad, hot, rad, or cool (depending on the generational language you speak) to be a zombie.

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page let’s get a working definition for a zombie. It’s a dead body that appears alive. I could give a more graphic description of one but this will suffice. We use the term “zombie” as a slang term to denote someone who is just one click on the life meter above a corpse. All of us have had days when we’ve wandered around in a funk or fog wondering what the heck am I doing? I’m breathing air, occupying space, but getting nothing done. You know what I mean—it’s a dead man (or woman—zombies are no respecter of persons) walking.

It’s very easy to go through the motions in our relationship with God. If we are honest, all of us have done this at one time or another. You may have been weary and exhausted, or caught in sin, or hurt by someone you trusted, and then, all of a sudden, you wake up two weeks later and find yourself mindlessly coasting—you spiritual gear knocked into neutral. That’s what I mean by a Christian zombie—going through motions but making absolutely no difference in anyone’s life including yours.

I’m not talking about being a Pharisee—a hypocrite. They belong to another class of zombies for which I do not have the time, energy, desire, or word space to describe. I am talking to regular people who love Jesus, follow Jesus, but without knowing it, are aimlessly wandering around in right field in the high grass near the bleachers desperately trying to find Jesus.

Right now might be a good time to test yourself and see where you register on the zombie meter. Today is a good day for a self-evaluation—a good time to check your spiritual oil.

  1. Am I existing but not living abundantly? In other words, am I just here getting by. Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came that we might have life, and might have it abundantly. That means a life of superabundance, excessively good, over and above and life over the top. Am I living an abundant life?
  2. Am I modeling a powerless life?  Is it a life marked by religious piety—a mindless list of do’s and don’ts. A life externally shaped to look one way, but on the inside a life totally empty—a Hollywood movie set façade of powerless power. Do I hold a form of godliness, yet I have denied its power (2 Timothy 3:5a)? Am I living a powerful life?
  3. Does my daily walk require faith? Am I walking naturally or supernaturally? If the Holy Spirit decided to step out could I survive without Him? Perhaps I am walking without him—walking without any faith whatsoever? A faithless walk is a natural walk and does not require God to get by. Am I living a faith-filled life?
  4. Does my outward reputation match my inward devotion? Is there any passion or do I have it all—job, family, the right church, membership in the right organizations…? Do I look good on the outside but feel dead on the inside? Am I living a passionate life?

To sum it all up in one simple question: If Jesus had preached the gospel I’m living right now, would they have crucified him?

Are You Too Busy?

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Are you too busy?

Well…what kind of question is that you might be thinking? It’s a question that’s really worth answering if you find yourself pre-occupied with other things at your kid’s ballgame, incapable of sleeping because your mind won’t stop spinning, unwilling to go home because you’ll be by yourself, unable to complete anything yet totally exhausted, or fearful of the gentle voice of God.

Is your life a blur—run, run, run but nothing gets done? If you watched a replay of your day would you look like a hummingbird tanked up on Red Bull? Are you too busy?

I know! I know! We all have things we are responsible for and chores that must get done, but is what you are so frantically engaged in really worth the wear and tear, the exertion of energy, the stress or strain, or the investment of your precious time? Is it? Come on…really?

Only you can answer the question. The problem is most people don’t slow down enough to even consider this question. They are just a blur of frenetic energy—here, there, and everywhere!

You are likely dog-tried—worn out but unwilling to admit it. Hey! It’s O.K! Everyone around you already knows it. You’re really not hiding anything…except from yourself.

Busyness is Bondage!

Busyness is not next to godliness (and neither is cleanliness for that matter, but that’s a topic for another day). Busyness for the sake of being busy or to avoid facing reality is bondage. And bondage eventually results in death—of relationships, joy, health, etc. You name it and busyness will eventually kill it.

I’m not talking about working hard. Hard work is necessary and important. But staying busy to avoid something or someone is unhealthy—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Perhaps your busyness is a choice you’ve made to avoid something God wants and intends to do in your life. Perhaps you don’t want whatever that is or perhaps you are terrified of it because it’s new to you and not something you are comfortable with. Perhaps your bondage has convinced you that anything new will create even more problems than you are equipped to handle at this moment. So you stay busy—content on enduring life rather than living and experiencing life to the fullest.

If that’s you—you’re far too busy! And busyness is one of the devil’s fundamental tools in drowning out the voice of God in your life. It’s the mindless chatter or the endless roar of static that deafens your ears to God’s  life-giving instructions. Busyness is nothing more than spiritual ear plugs in most cases.

What’s the solution?

Be Still!!!!!!!!!

God says, “Be still!” Simple, to the point, and amazingly effective. Stop moving! Stop talking! Stop doing! Just stop! “Be still” means exactly what you think—pause, intermission, time-out, take a breather, hiatus, or suspend all motion.

And listen! Silence is not your enemy—it’s the absence of your real enemy’s incessant condemnation and chatter. Hearing God’s voice is a choice. That choice results in a blessing out of the silence, rather than a capitulation to the noise of busyness.

Overwhelmed by God

Have you ever had a moment when you were completely overwhelmed by God? What happened? How did your spirit, soul, or body react to his touch?

Perhaps you wept…laughed…collapsed…rejoiced…shouted…were totally confounded…or just went silent.  All of us are different and all of us respond somewhat differently to God’s touch. But one thing is for certain, when God touches a person, that person knows they’ve been touched.

Yesterday, as we were ministering to people who came forward for prayer, I saw the touch of God on a shy, blond-headed little girl. The fact that she came forward and waited patiently for her moment of ministry in front of almost a hundred people amazed me.

In fact, when I turned to assist her, I was struck by the matter-of-fact manner in which she stepped forward. No hesitation. No fear. It was as though God himself was escorting her toward her heart’s desire and she would not be denied. This little girl was waiting patiently in line to be hugged and prayed for by a ninety-nine year old lady who had just spoken for about ninety minutes. She carried her burden quietly but confidently, as if she knew somehow she would not return to her seat with it.

Her voice was so soft that the praise and worship music seemed to drown her words out. Ms. Ruby motioned for me and told me she could not hear what the child was saying. So I leaned in and asked her what her need was. She replied very calmly, “My Papa died!” A knot welled up in my gut, and tears flooded my eyes, but I relayed the message to Ruby, who took this precious baby in her arms, hugged her like there was no tomorrow, and began to quietly pray with here. Two people, one ninety-nine and the other seven or eight took a load far too heavy to bear into the very throne room of God and I was an overwhelmed witness of the power of God.

I was transfixed and undone—knowing I was standing in a holy place where all the presence and power of God was being brought to bear on an unbearable burden that was crushing a child. I was afraid to move—it was such a holy moment. I stood still and gazed at the wonder of God’s love at work.

I watched as God embraced this tiny girl because she was his most important treasure in the world at that precise moment. Her burden became his burden as he lifted it off her petite shoulders. Ruby’s arms became God’s arms as he drew her close to his heart. Ruby disappeared, and in her place stood the King of kings and the Lord of lords—the Lord Jesus Christ himself.

I couldn’t think. Or say anything. Or do anything. I was confounded and confronted with the gentleness of omnipotence. I was overwhelmed by God, touched by his power, yet torn apart by the tenderness of that touch.

That same touch carved out the Grand Canyon, dug out the depths of the oceans, and tossed the mountains into place. This touch, that flung the stars throughout the universe and gouged out the pathways of the rivers, had just wiped the tiniest of tears of the cheek of a little girl. His touch had reached deep into her chest and lightened the heavy load crushing her broken heart.

And…I was overwhelmed by God. Overwhelmed…because I know that I know he loves you and me in the exact same manner. He is omnipotence willing to touch frailty and give power to the powerless. He is unbounding grace willing to caress the powerless, the vulnerable, the helpless and the impotent. He is infinite love swallowing up the unlovable and the unwanted.

Oh God, I am overwhelmed by your presence! May I reside here forever more?