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.
The tallest building in the world is 32604 inches high. It was built inch by inch. Carefully crafted together piece by piece. Now that it is finished we don't see it as inch by inch but instead we see it as the tallest building in the world, though what we really see is what happens when you put 32604 inches together one at a time. Have a look at snowflakes, which are one of the weakest things in nature. Yet if you put thousands of them together they are capable of stopping traffic and bringing a whole city to a stand still. These two things on their own are meaningless but string enough of them together and you can see the extraordinary take place.
The moment we think that something begins with us or our religious practice we need to understand that it is very likely that we have become involved within the space of a performance based religion and not a life giving grace based relationship with God. You see life begins in and within God. Forgiveness begins in and within God. Grace begins in and within God. Your true identity begins in and within God. . The Bible is clear about this when for example it tells us in 1 John 4:19 "We love because He first loved us." All good things come from God with no conditions attached. The Bible is clear about this. Take for example the birth of a child or better yet a time of great satisfaction given to a parent by a child.