my search to understand the bigger picture

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Conversational Intimacy

this is one of those topics that is just very hard to describe.  how does one explain that they heard from God?  that God spoke to them?  most of us throw in some things about it not really being an audible voice, but more of a prompting in our hearts.  it just gets real dicey real fast.

so, i'm not trying to solve any riddles today.  not trying to lay down the a,b,c's of developing this type of relationship with the father.  i just want to attempt to propose a few thoughts, examples from my own life and then let you formulate your own theory from there.

jesus clearly says in john 10:27 "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."  now, if it were not possible at all to have any sort of back and forth communication with the Father, i don't believe Jesus would have made this statement.  whether it's metaphorical in this situation or not is irrelevant in my opinion.  

now, how does one get to know the voice of another?  how do i learn to recognize the voice of my wife, my kids, etc?  simple.  by spending lots of time in their presence, actively involved in the moment.  i only learn to recognize my wife's voice by being with her.  so, the way to recognizing the voice of the Father is by spending time with him, reading the Bible, in prayer, just hanging out while being conscious of his presence with you.  

we have many recorded instances of Jesus speaking with the Father in the New Testament.  one passage in particular is John 17, where Jesus prays for his disciples and then believers as a whole.  now, why would this situation be recorded, Jesus speaking to God the Father, if that were not to be something we should be doing?  what about the Lord's Prayer, where Jesus specifically directs us to "pray" a certain way?  or there's that little scene in the garden of gethsemane where Jesus pours his heart out to the Father.  are we not to follow his example?

i fully believe most people don't "hear" from God because they have not made room in their lives for it.  at least, that's been true in my own life.  we love packing our lives full of "stuff" to be doing.  we've gotten really good at doing "christian" things without taking the time to "be" with jesus.  that's got to change if you want to begin to hear from him.  luke 5:16 fills us in to a few keys when it comes to conversing with God.  "But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer."  three keys, that i've shared before:

  1. Jesus withdrew often.  He made time with the Father a priority, and had this time on a regular basis.
  2. Jesus went to the wilderness.  He went to a place where distractions were severely limited.  No people.  No cell phone.  No internet.  Nothing to do but "be" with the Father.
  3. Jesus went for prayer.  He went with a purpose, to speak with the Father.  
many times we forget that there's two parts to conversations.  there's the part where we speak (we've got that down) and there's the part where we listen.  typically, we are not very good at sitting still and quiet for very long to listen.  friends, if you want to hear from God, this has to change.   i believe first and foremost we will learn to recognize God's voice by getting familiar with his words in the Bible.  Begin reading your Bible, and God's voice will begin sounding off all around you, if you are paying attention and looking for it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ed Dobson's Seeing Through The Fog

i began reading this book this morning.  i've only ever read one other book by ed, titled the year of living like jesus, but really enjoyed his perspectives.  this new book details his experiences over the past 11+ years with ALS (lou gehrig's disease).  the following is a quote from the forward written by joni eareckson tada.

"so i thank my friend ed dobson for reminding us how to hold on to hope as though it were the thin string of a big kite-the string is so thin in your hand, yet it connects to a force that can almost lift you off the ground."

for some reason, that really resonated with me, and i'm still thinking about it.  i found another quote in the intro to be captivating, "i have never been afraid of dying, but i was very concerned about the process of getting there."  

no real point here, other than to share a little about what i'm reading right now.  i'd love to hear what you are working your way through, or if you have any books you're excited about reading at some point.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Thought For Today

"god wants people to be desperate for jesus; he longs for them to long for him.  he wants folks climbing sycamores up and down the streets of this world to get a glimpse of jesus.  don't you?  i sure do.  now, god has arranged this story in such a way that it is largely through our lives that people get a glimpse of jesus.  so it might be good to ask yourself, when it comes to my life, what is the jesus they see?"

-john eldredge, the utter relief of holiness

Thursday, February 7, 2013

God in Creation

i love this part in the book Stuff Christians Like by Jon Acuff found on pages 124-125 called Seeing God In Nature.

Seeing God in nature is one of our favorite things to do.  We love holding retreats in places like the mountains or the beach.  Something about a panoramic view really drives home the point that "God is big.  If he can handle how the ocean works, he can take care of my little problem."  But a panoramic view is only half the battle.  What we really like is when we can find a cross shape that has naturally formed somewhere on God's green earth.  Two trees that have grown together, a formation of rocks that kind of looks like a wobbly cross, that clump of stars out in the dead of space that resembles a cross.  We love finding reminders of God in nature.  
I think that's great, except that the last time I went to the beach, on the roof deck of the house my family rented, I tried to force God to meet my schedule.  I got up early, took my notebook and pen up there, held my breath as the sun came up, and........nothing.  So I literally walked the entire deck to make sure I was not in the wrong God spot, as if maybe the God juice was flowing to the corner I wasn't standing in.  
And when it didn't happen, I tried to help God out by priming the pump.  "Wow, that water is endless.  Maybe you want to tell me about your endless love?  No, nothing there?  How about all the shells that are scattered across the sand when the tide goes out?  Maybe you want to talk about how the search for wisdom is a lot like searching for a perfect shell amongst a million broken ones?  How's that sound?  Nothing, hmmm.  Let's think about the dunes or storms or something.  Help me out, God; I'm doing all the work here."
I was at the beach so I expected a God performance, for him to speak something deep and beautiful into my heart.  But he didn't.  I didn't leave the beach that day with any new insights, even though I probably could have written a pretty amazing sequel to "Footprints in the Sand" called "Footprints 2: The Revenge".

have you ever done this, try to basically tell God how things are going to go down?  i did this past monday.  i took a day away from work, and headed to majestic indiana, a place called turkey run.  almost immediately after taking off from my driveway, i felt God give me a little picture.  from then on, the day went nothing like i had planned.  

i had planned on doing a lot of reading and writing, and a little hiking since it was the winter, and trails were snow covered.  well, i started off with what i thought would be a little hike.  i had some questions that needed answers.  the long and short, was that God told me he wasn't about to be interrogated by me, and i sheepishly apologized.  from then, i spent 5 hours hiking with my papa.  it was good; just nothing like what i had planned.  but here's what i walked away from this experience with:

i didn't need answers.  i just needed some time with my papa.  

now, what i love about connecting with God in creation, is that most distractions have been removed.  i don't think He speaks more or any louder when we are in nature, it's just that we have less to distract us.  it's no secret, no special formula.  just less distraction.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Open Heart Surgery

so, for the better part of a week now, i've

some have noticed; some have not.  i've hidden it from some, not so much from others.

depression is a strange thing.  this is not depression.

i feel, used up.  it's not a bad thing; it's been by good things.  but somewhere along the way, i've not figured out how to recharge.  usually, i recharge best by being in nature, by just having a break.  but this has been hard to come by.  life is so insanely friggin busy.  

i.  don't.  do.  busy.  very.  well.

so, i'm struggling today.  i'm a pastor.  and i'm struggling.

people say, "give it to God."  i have.

others say, "focus on others."  i have.

i don't need "christianese-type" answers.  

honestly, i don't know what i need.  yesterday seemed to be better, but today, things are worse again.  

so, i write in the hopes that are others out there, who are struggling.  know that you are not alone.  people that don't struggle with this won't understand.  that's ok.  i don't need you to understand.  just need patience and love.

so, holy spirit, i invite you to do some open heart surgery today.  take a good, clean look at me, repair what needs it, and close me back up.  have your way.  do what needs to be done.  fix me up and get me back out there.

i'm thankful for a surgeon with the care and concern this world knows little about.  i'm thankful for a surgeon that has intimate knowledge of me, know what to do and when to do it.  he knows what to tweak, and what to leave alone.  thank you holy spirit for your pruning, molding, shaping.  

teach me, how to love others better.  teach me, how to live more fully in your truth.  love me.  care for me.  deeply.  thank you for doing so.  thank you for never leaving or forsaking.  thank you, for your tenderness.  for your mercy and grace.  for your infinite wisdom.  for your goodness.