Friday, December 21, 2012

What does it mean to experience God? I Google-ed it just now – at some risk – and got a lot of well-meaning stuff. I rolled my eyes at most of it!

Personally, I don’t want to experience God’s blessings, or even His power for that matter. I just want to experience Him.

I come to this with the following “baggage”:

  1. I believe I can experience God.
  2. I believe the experience of God is a good thing. In fact, I believe it to be the main thing – the first thing.
  3. I believe God deeply desires for us to experience Him.
  4. I believe my tendency is to experience God in order to get something.  I must proceed with caution, because I believe in experiencing God I do get something.
  5. I believe the world has clouded my mind on experiencing God, making me a consumer and someone who is, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “far too easily pleased.”
  6. I believe there are many, many miss-understandings about the experience of God. I believe there are many “experience” counterfeits. I believe the church desperately feels the need to teach on experiencing God, the same churches whose teachers no little on the subject.
  7. I believe there are people who genuinely experience God – and on a level I have not yet … experienced.
  8. I do not believe experiencing God is complicated or hard to achieve in some sense.
  9. I believe the evil one is very threatened by God’s children truly seeking to experience God.
  10. I believe experiencing God demands patience, trust, perseverance, and faith – a faith that is willing to resist tagging an emotionally charged moment or a pleasurable gas pain as the experience of God. I believe God calls all the shots when it comes to experiencing Him.
  11. I believe we most likely experience Him more than we think we do, and in many diverse ways.
  12. I believe God rewards us when we seek an experience of Him.
  13. I believe the experience of God is primarily with the heart. Surely, though, the mind, the emotions and the physical are somehow “involved.”
  14. I really believe we experience God when we are still and alone. I believe this because the world – whose god is the evil one - is so noisy and congested.
  15. I believe my experience of God pays a dividend in the lives of my friends.
  16. I believe in a God generous and lavish with His love.
  17. I believe the experience of God defies definition and quantifying. Certainly there is no recipe/formula nor are there x number of steps to experiencing God. Yet, I believe we must do something in order to experience God.
  18. I believe grace needs to be mentioned in any conversation about the experience of God. I believe God is Sovereign, and that we have responsibility.
  19. I believe extreme caution and humility must accompany any conversation about the experience of God since we are so prone to impose our own idea systems on them. I believe it is a good thing to talk about the experience of God.
  20. I believe human relationships to be a context as well as a metaphor for the experience of God.
  21. I believe prayer is a central component in experiencing God.
  22. I believe experiencing God can be a corporate thing.
  23. I believe experiencing God not to be a “holy grail,” in that it is some monumental “goal.”  God is our destination, our goal, and followers of Christ have this in the “already” category.
  24. Somehow, and finally but not exhaustively, I believe I will “know” it – sense it – when I do experience God. But, admittedly, I have very little to say on this subject.

Philippians 2:12-13

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.  (NASB)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

On BELIEF . . .

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

As I write, I am learning that endurance and hope are two sides of the same coin.  I am seeing my heretofore self-centered THEO-logy (go figure!) coming to naught. And, I am seeing that as a good thing!  God is really good at disappointing us when we try to make it all about us.  Fortunately, hope is welling up in my spirit as I began to believe, truly believe that God is real and I can live as if He is real! And, I am enjoying the gift of endurance... with a glorious and eternal Banquet set for me in the (hopefully) near future.

God being real is easy for the mind but not for the feet.  I give intellectual ascent to a real God, but do I - day to day - behave as if He is real?  Fear and worry are my middle names. I have taken anxiety-reducing medications!  Matthew 6 says repeatedly that worry is a sin.

Last week, I had to ask my son to leave our home. His choices simply did not come in line with our values, plain and simple. Counsel from many trusted friends affirmed our decision.  Yet, I worry and I am very afraid. Granted, some of that is both legitimate and good. But, will I rest in faith on the belief that I am doing the right thing, that God is Who He says He is - my Provider, He loves and grieves for my son more than I do, and that my obedience will not come to calamity (at least, as He defines calamity)?

A.W. Tozer writes, right out of the starting blocks in The Knowledge of the Holy, page 1:

...The gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.

Again, he says:

A god begotten in the shadows of a fallen heart will quite naturally be no true likeness of the true God.

So, because my God is too small (as J.B. Phillips would say), when I read Isaiah 41, it has no consequence for me. It is no big deal, only stained-glass words from an archaic Bible.

Take a test yourself. Read Philippians 4:19 and ask if you really do believe it.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

OK, belief is tested in life not words. One can only answer that question  as one is, just that, tested!

I am being tested.

God, through Isaiah, is saying to me, "Greg, do not fear... namely BECAUSE I AM WITH YOU." He follows: "The very reason I ask you to abandon dismay is that I AM YOUR GOD." He goes further, " I can and will give you all the strength and help you need and... I AM THE LOVING AND FATHERLY SAFETY NET UNDERNEATH YOU RIGHT AT THIS MOMENT."  Get it?  Fear and dismay are quenched under the overwhelming soul-entrenched Presence of a Big God!

What I believe about God is being challenged! God, grant me the grace to believe unto daring and courageous and trusting obedience. Please help my unbelief.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

You are not your own.
You are not who you are going to be.
You are not now who you could be.
Reason is: You think you are your own.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What the Church Needs Now

Back in the early days of this century Christendom ceased… abruptly. We all shrugged wide-eyed, looked at each other and asked, ”Now what?”

With a bloated blogosphere at hand, virtually everyone has weighed in! The problem with all these prognostications is that the ones answering the question often happen to be the ones who brought about this church-plight in the first place!

Don’t get me wrong – we must “figure this thing” in one sense. Kudos to those of us who deign to comment on it. But, more words are not the answer. Condemnation of one another is not the answer. “Better ideas” solve nothing. We do not need simply to pedal harder, “do better.” Neither do we need more exotic and consumer-driven ways and means.

The ways and means of God are tight and tidy.

Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today (Dt 6:4-6).

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Dt 30:19,20).

No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God (Mic 6:8).

Jesus replied, “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments (Mt 22:37,38).”

Yet, fleshing it out is another issue, right? Might we first ask ourselves: How did we get into this fix? I think the answer is both simple and obvious: We have crawled up on the throne and asked God to get down. And, being the gentleman that He is, He moved.
This is yet another chapter in the human story theologians call the Deuteronomic Cycle: Sin-punishment-repentance-restoration.

The answer, let’s admit it, is humility. How complicated are these words from James (4:10) “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor”? Or Isaiah’s words (Is 57:15):

The high and lofty one who lives in eternity,
the Holy One, says this:
“I live in the high and holy place
with those whose spirits are contrite and humble.
I restore the crushed spirit of the humble
and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.”

In the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, there are these words and phrases regarding humility:

(Humility is not) Willful self-disparagement
(Nor are the humble) Guilty, vile, and helpless worms
Inward fasting
Aptness for grace (Luther)
Pure receptivity
Unassuming readiness to accept favor
(Humility) Requires constant self-examination
Trusting the kindness of the giver
I possess nothing I haven’t received

Saint Augustine: “If you ask me what is the first precept of the Christian religion I will answer, first, second, and third, Humility.”

In John 13 and Philippians 2, Jesus is our Model, our Exemplar, our Teacher.

God, Keynote Speaker at the opening of the Temple, gave of these bedrock words regarding the ways and means of our faith (2 Chr 7:14):

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

We need restoration. We need forgiveness. We need help. We cannot enjoy “restoration” until then. It seems a no-brainer; humility and repentance are the pre-requisites we so desperately need as a body of Christ-followers.

May I pray for us – God’s church.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Will the church survive?

The success, if you will, of the church lies with the few who willfully, yet counter-culturally, see hope in Christ alone, who are willing to answer the call, "Come to Me," and are daring enough to "Be still." I might add those who pray and fast as well.

It is those who let convention and outcome go hang, those who know God enough to trust Him fully for outcome and are confident He will honor their faith.These are the ones who are willing to go years upon years, if necessary, without what the contemporary church calls "results." The future of the church rests on those whose trust is truly radical.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On the Future of the Church

I put the following on my Facebook status recently – my thoughts this summer are full tilt about church:

Leaders won't take the church into a healthy future. Neither will those intent upon "the will of God," nor the ones committed to a "healthy church." The hope for the church lies upon ordinary people who have experienced intimate nearness to God, Himself. Of Peter and John it was said, "They recognized them as having been with Jesus (Acts 4:13)."

A few comments on the future of the church:

 Pastors nowadays are good at evangelism, not helping others cultivate intimacy with God. These “converts” are like seed thrown by the path which will invariably get trampled by today’s culture and die.

 Pastors nowadays are good at running an organization. Churches have organization, but if the leadership is not in tune with the Spirit and deeply committed to personal Godliness, the only product will be fruitless activity, not kingdom building.

 Pastors nowadays are scholarly and good orators. But, if the words are not formed in the crucible of the prayer closet by a heart grown healthy in stillness and solitude ever heeding the Spirit’s direction, then sermons become nothing more than moralistic prattle telling others how to behave. And, God’s kingdom is not built.

 Pastors nowadays are good at telling others about obedience to Jesus. I know of very few that know Jesus – see the difference? We can figure out the implications of this one quite easily.

 The “successful” church will consist of, as Brennan Manning puts it, “bedraggled ragamuffins” whose desperate and primary goal is to plumb the depths of Christ-acceptance. Church people nowadays (who get this honestly from their leader(s) who think they know the love of the Father, but don’t) are driven by guilt or fear that God is gonna getcha! This will not survive the current wave of cultural and godless persecution.

 The healthy church will devote priority energy toward building community, true community – the context for true spiritual growth. (I have defined community elsewhere in my blog).

 The healthy church will hold tradition loosely, careful not to jettison practices just because they have been around for a long time, nor lose the respect for the holiness of God through crazy and novel innovations.

 The church of the future will live by and submit to the authority of God’s Holy Word, the Bible. Scholarship is a must. The right combo is a smart mystic!

 That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 19, 2009


The experience of Jesus as Lord, which brings forth the response of faith, varies as widely as the people who encounter it.

Could it be that we “experience” God more than we think or are aware of? We so limit ourselves by our already set ideas of experience.

(Quoting John McKinzie) The basic element seems to be recognition. In Him [Jesus] the obscure is illuminated, the uncertain yields to the certain, insecurity is replaced by a deep sense of security.

Our trust in Jesus grows as we shift from making self-conscious efforts to be good to allowing ourselves to be loved as we are (not as we should be). An inner stillness pervades our being….

Self-absorption fades into self-forgetfulness, as we gaze upon the brightness of the Lord.

Incremental and a slow process for me! I want fireworks, adrenalin and sky-writing. God wants to cuddle with me and warm my heart!

… The personal experience of the glory of Jesus, the shattering encounter with the transcendent/immanent Christ, is the foundation of the faith and the hope that form and inform a life of naked trust.

Oh, how I want everything under the sun but what I really need… HIM!

Like faith and hope, trust cannot be self-generated. I cannot simply will myself to trust. The one thing I need to do I cannot do.

Yet, somewhere along the way, we must practice stillness, solitude and a protracted willingness to listen and obey.

What does lie within my power is paying attention to the faithfulness of Jesus. That’s what I am asked to do: pay attention to Jesus throughout my journey, remembering his kindness (Ps 103:2).

Trust comes from some experience of the other person, an experience not reducible to proof. Most often, it grows in a relationship of mutual love, one in which we have loved, and been loved, by another.

Experience comes from a humble, yet eager, heart.

The story of Job implicitly states that we can endure the unwanted intrusion of evil when we have experienced a theophany – that is, an insight into the reality of God.
Walter Burghardt writes: “Only trust makes evil endurable – trust not because God has offered proof, but because God has shown his face.

Experiencing God seems to be, at its core, an experience of being totally loved and accepted by God and accepting that acceptance.

[Quoting Walter Kasper] “Experiencing God’s love in Jesus Christ means experiencing that one has been unreservedly accepted, approved and infinitely loved, that one can and should accept one’s self and one’s neighbor.”

[Quoting Julian of Norwich] It is God’s will that we receive three things from him as gifts we seek. The first is that we seek willingly and diligently without sloth, as that may be with his grace, joyfully and happily, without unreasonable depression and useless sorrow. The second is that we wait for him steadfastly, out of love, without grumbling and contending against him…. The third is that we have great trust in him, out of complete and true faith, for it is his will that we know his will that we know that he will appear, suddenly and blessedly, to all his lovers.

Experiencing God comes from an existential awareness that I am God’s little boy (girl), that He is my Daddy in the purest and most infinite sense of Daddy-ness!

(From Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning, Chapter 7, “Trusting Jesus” – bold words are my own)