So often in life we strive and are so consumed with figuring God out that our urgency and anxiety actually causes us to miss him. For example over the years I have spent many quiet times in the mornings doing anything and everything but being quiet. During these times my prayers have been noble and centered on the usual requests for things and ways in which I wanted God to show up and show me, yet all I heard was silence. For some years now I have chosen to spend more of my time silent. You see, remaining quiet has helped me to center myself and be present and most importantly aware of what he wants to do with and in me on any given moment. It has helped me to relax my perspective and shift my attention to begin to understand which is the language that God uses most of the time he speaks to us.
The Israelites left Egypt where they were slaves for several hundred years. As they came out to the desert God waited for them longing to woo them much the same way that a man woos a woman during courtship. Things unfortunately started to go South very quickly when the Israelites did what most of us normally do which is to put the face of Pharaoh (who/what we live to please) over the face of God. This action implants in us an erroneous view of God which means that we try to relate with him much the same way we did/do with the one who has wounded us the most. In their case, Pharaoh, with whom they knew no relationship was possible apart from one that revolved around hard labor. He gave them their marching orders and they performed them. As long as they did this all was well and they were allowed to survive.
Not long ago I sat listening to someone speak about their relationship with God and the way He involved himself in this persons life. As I sat there I saw the face of yet another individual light up when he began to explain to me how God paid him from time to time, in an amazing way, a visit in his life. Inevitably every time I hear something like this I am led to ask the person where was God all those other times when he was supposedly not visiting them in an amazing way? And believe me that while I understand what people mean I see this picture as being the same as someone saying that within their marriage the only time they are aware of their partner is when they are having sex with them.
God says do not harden your hearts – I have been meditating about this for a little while now in the hope of being able to understand in a practical way what this might look like and how it impacts our lives when it happens. I began for some reason to think about muscles and how they work and are renewed. As I sat there I tensed the main muscle on my leg and kept it tense for a short while. As I did this I noticed that even though this was a voluntary movement it nevertheless rendered my muscle useless as in this state of tension nothing could enter nor exit from it. I also noticed that unless I relaxed it the muscle would cramp up and remain hard and in pain until treated.
"Man one thing is for sure and that is that this Christian walk is so hard," said a man on a plane I had the opportunity of speaking with in a recent trip. Unfortunately the reality is that for many of us our encounter with Jesus is nothing more than a mental illusion instead of the spiritual experience it was always meant to be. Even though we make a decision to follow him, and try really hard to do it, we do so from our minds and not our hearts. This is why so often Christianity is so hard and so many of us give up on it and God, as we believe that if practicing it is that hard then God must be equally hard to relate with.
I had the opportunity last week to speak to thousands of people in China where I spent twelve days sharing the message Dad has given to me. As I spoke to many people before and after each engagement I could not help but to sense that the majority struggled along in their spiritual journey. Please understand that what I am referring to here by "struggled" is not circumstantial as much as it is experimental. In other words it was not the hassles they experienced but the impact they had on them and how they felt. I sensed that somehow with each obstacle there was a lot more that was challenged in them and it had to do with their identity.
I have visited the Sea of Galilee dozens of times. Each time I have had someone with me almost always the words "I must have a really long way to go yet as unlike Peter I have never walked on water" are uttered. Over time as I heard these words over and over something began to be stirred within me. It was the kind of stirring I get every time I sense that something is not quite right with the assessment we are making from something that happened within scripture. Each time this stirring begins I ask Dad for clarity knowing that our current understanding of what God is trying to share with us is somehow falling short of what he intended for us to see.
Have you ever wondered why the Father said over Jesus "This is my son in whom I am well pleased?" As I consider these affirming words I also realize interestingly enough that up until then Jesus the man had not done anything whatsoever of significance according to the standards of the world. His life had been lived in complete obscurity serving alongside Joseph in the family's "handyman" business. No special awards had been awarded to Him. No position of significance had been attained and no resume could have been submitted. His was just a normal life of daily routine like the rest of us, yet God was still very well pleased with him.
Many ask and I am sure even many more wonder what I mean when I say that I long to be raw, real, and uncensored to God and the rest of us. Well before I tackle this let me tell you that the reason I have decided to share this is because I have noticed that there seems to still be this notion and false belief that somehow those of us that write and share our discoveries through books have it altogether and have somehow reached some sort of utopia that only the few and privilege can. Please let me begin by telling you that as far as I am concerned this is not true at all and in fact it is because it is quite the opposite that I am able to share and appreciate what others maybe also struggle with.
I was listening a short while ago at an Evangelist share the Gospel according to his perspective. He spoke for a while and towards the end of his time he started to share about this movie that God is going to show to everyone. He spoke how everyone would get to see all the bad things we did both in public and in private. I must admit that as I listened to him I felt a blanket of shame attempt to cover the whole of my being. So strong was the feeling that it made me shift my position on my seat. As I turned off the TV I began to contemplate what I had just heard. I began to recall how I once long ago subscribed to this very heavenly movie theatre experience and perspective. Yet today what I once vociferously supported, didn't quite sit the right way within me.