Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Experiencing God

People under the influence of religious spirits will usually minimize experiences.  Don't get me wrong, I fully know the danger of experiences that are not aligned with the word of God - but don't let that deter you from experiencing Jesus. He desires you to know him personally, not just to read about him in a book.

What if you had read many guidebooks about DisneyLand, watched some videos about it, heard from others how great it was and what a fine time they had. But, when you got there you found the gates were closed. A person at the gate said: "There are enough things written about DisneyLand so that people don't really need to experience it any more.  Go home and read your guidebook some more!"  Wouldn't you feel a little ripped off, even cheated? I'll bet your kids would be wailing!

Reading about a beautiful sunset, or the wind blowing through the leaves of the trees is far different than actually being there - seeing it, feeling it, smelling it, savoring it!

That's what the Church of today has done to God - in fact, that's what the church has been doing since  the church became institutionalized.  The bible was taken out of the hands of the common people and only those who were "qualified" could interpret it for you. A priest had to be a mediator between you and God.  No, the Holy Spirit is our teacher and he will use his word to guide you into experiencing God and doing his will.

The bible becomes dry and dull when we don't take it as a guidebook for really experiencing him and obeying him.   As Jim Palmer put it in "Wide open spaces", it is a launch-pad, not a landing-strip.  The purpose of the bible is to get to know God and have a living relationship with him.  Many churches esteem the Bible so highly, they almost believe it is the 3rd person of the Trinity!  Father, Son, Bible.  We are not to worship the Bible, we are to worship God!  I am not minimizing the Bible - I am simply putting it in it's proper place!

I believe those who make a big deal about Sufficiency of Scripture are many times off base because they under-emphasize experiencing God.  The scriptures are only sufficient when they lead you into a real relationship with the living and very interactive God - who speaks to us today!  Of course, he isn't going to tell us to do something opposite of what he has already spoken through the scriptures, but there are a lot of areas where we will need more specific guidance through the Holy Spirit.(e.g. why are spiritual gifts necessary if the scriptures are sufficient?)  Scriptures can become twisted and bizarre when a person doesn't have a real relationship with God and is not taught by the Holy Spirit.  In fact, it is the Holy Spirit who is doing the work in Hebrews 8:10,11.  He is the one who applies God's word to our heart and teaches us. 

Heb 8:10,11
10For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
11And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.

The bible in the hands of a person not relying on the Holy Spirit is a very scary thing! Look at what happened to the religious people of Jesus' day.  Their over-emphasis on the scriptures, interpreted in the wrong spirit(without love), caused them to miss Jesus!

John 5:37-40
37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

Luke 11:52
“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”

The experts in the law knew about God, but they didn't really know God.  To really know God comes from personally experiencing him.  Experiencing his love, his forgiveness, his truth.  When his truth comes into contact with our lives, it changes our hearts and makes us like him.  Real knowledge of God comes from an interactive relationship with the living God!

In conclusion:
Reading about something is far different than actually doing it and experiencing it.  Let's look at the experiences of the early disciples not as something to be theorized about or doctrinalized as events that only happened in the past. Instead, let's look at them as something to be sought after for our day.

Habakkuk 3:2
 2 LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.
Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Exuberance and Joy of Jesus

 Luke 10:21
 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

We have been reading the book "Beautiful Outlaw" by John Eldredge.  While not agreeing with some of his broad-brush strokes in other books he has written about what most men are like, we have found this book to be very refreshing and gives a much-needed glimpse into the real personality of Jesus.

Beautiful Outlaw Web site

We gathered with some friends along with our children a couple weeks ago and shared some of the different characteristics of who Jesus is, and found it to be a great discussion.  We are focusing as a family on getting to know Jesus better as he really is.  The religious fog surrounding who Jesus really is has confused and kept many Christians from experiencing a daily, interactive relationship with him. 
Some of the interesting characteristics we shared about Jesus included:
1. Fearless
2. Courageous and determined
3. Close to the broken and downcast
4. Prickly - unshaven (a picture of his humanity and realness)
5. Humble and real
6. Sacrificial Servant
7. Exuberant and enthustic
8. Exceedingly Joyful
9. Peaceful
10. Extravagant Giver
11. Good receiver
12. Eyes of Fire
13. Intense

I will add to this list as I get time, it is by no means comprehensive, but gives a picture of the direction we were heading as we shared.

I shared a dream I had about 2 years ago that helped me get a better glimpse into Jesus' personality.  I remember in the dream, there was a gathering of people who were waiting to see God revealed, like he was going to come out on stage where we could all see him.  The anticipation was great amongst the people gathered there, and I remember wanting to get into the front row.  When a man came out on stage and began telling jokes(good ones of course), we were all taken aback a little.  And, he was actually quite funny.  He then came down amongst the audience, and began to touch people, dancing and laughing the entire time.  His Joy was contagious, and everyone he touched began to laugh uncontrollably, including myself.  He was having a great time of it, he absolutely loved filling people with this joy.  I remember thinking - this is the most exuberant, excited, joyful person I have ever seen.

When I woke up, I realized that this man was Jesus Christ.  This dream has changed my view of Jesus, and has stuck with me to this day.  Many times I look back and I can still remember how this dream changed my picture of who Jesus is in my heart.

When I woke up, I was also reminded of the scripture Zephaniah 3:17
17 The LORD your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”

I am also reminded of David in  2 Samuel 6:14 "And David danced before the Lord with all his might."  He was undignified, not caring what people thought - his only focus was on "the Lord".   "with all his might" speaks to me that he was very exuberant and enthusiastic in his dancing; this was no mournful ballroom dance. David's dance was a dance of joy and an expression of enthusiastic love and praise to God.  Let's get rid of our religious, dignified, Michelangelo-like picture of what David's dancing might have looked like and see it how it really was.

Also see 2 samuel 6:5 "David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals"

Here we have a picture of David and others celebrating with all their might. This is not a solemn, dignified worship service here, this is un-restrained abandon before God. This is a picture of what the "man after God's own heart" did to show his love and passion for God.

2 Samuel 6:16, 20
16 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.
20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”
The religious spirit operating through David's wife tried to shut down this worship.  The religious spirit always despises and looks with contempt on those who express great joy and enthusiasm.  See how she criticizes and finds fault with what David was doing by focusing on what he was wearing rather than looking at his heart, sounds just like the Pharisees of Jesus' day doesn't it?

21 David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”
23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

See how David responded to her criticism? Rather than attempting to please her, he gave absolutely no place for the spirit of religion - in fact, he said he would go even further next time. "Even more undignified than this"  David did not care how people perceived him, he knew his heart was pure before the Lord.

In conclusion:
We all need to have revelations and experiences to help us get a real picture of who Jesus really is.  We need to get rid of the religious thinking and demonic lies that have distorted our view of who he really is.  How can you have a relationship with someone like the man pictured in most of these paintings?
Traditional depictions of Jesus

Much Christian art (and theology) has concentrated on guilt and suffering. But Jesus came to bring joy to the world - not to make guilt-ridden wrecks. This collection of paintings from artists from 18 countries gives their impressions of a laughing, loving Jesus who is a living presence.
Jesus Laughing Exhibition

I believe Jesus is very un-religious, in the sense that he really enjoys life and people.  I believe he loves to laugh, and he has a sense of humor.  He created you with a sense of humor, didn't he? What makes us think our creator would have less of a sense of humor than his creation?

I invite you to open yourself up and ask God right now to reveal to you the real Jesus so you can experience his exuberant love and joy!

Jesus is passionate for you, his heart burns to reveal himself to you. His heart is directed towards you, his eyes are ablaze, turned in your direction. He longs to give you his joy and he is enthusiastic to spend time with you. He wants you to experience him and get to know him!  Don't be afraid of experiencing and encountering Jesus!

The Road of the Kingdom

“In the desert prepare the way for the Lord;
make straight in the wilderness
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
The rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all mankind together will see it.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
– Isaiah 40:3-5

Ondrea had a vision last year while we were in prayer with a couple others.  In the vision, she saw a road or highway.  The highway was the road that represented God's kingdom and also led towards his kingdom, the Promised Land.  The hand of God was there, directing and guiding the builders.  The work was hard, but enjoyable; it was not stressful or overly-difficult because those building were doing exactly what God wanted them to do. 

Those who were building the road did not know exactly where it led; all they knew was they were listening to God's instructions and obeying him.  Along the road were settlements, villages, houses, etc.  Many would leave the road and join the settlements.  Those in the settlements would spend time attempting to convince those building the road how great the settlements were, and why they should join their settlements.  The settlements many times were great places, filled with great people.  The settlements were not inherently evil, many great things were happening there. However, it was bad in the sense that those who settled had left their primary calling and were no longer building God's kingdom.  The settlements offered peace, safety, comfort, and could meet many needs.  Those trying to get those on the road to come into their settlements were sinning because they were distracting the builders from their true purpose in God.  They should have been able to recognize the call on others and encourage them in it rather than trying to make themselves feel better by getting others to "settle" with them.  Those on the road looked foolish to those in comfort so they felt "better than them" and a need to "help" the poor people that weren't in their settlement.
We believe the road represents the life of Faith, such as in Genesis 12 when Abraham left his country, not knowing exactly where he was going.  He was leaving a life of comfort and familiarity, leaving much of his family, to follow God. 

Hebrews 11:8-11
 8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

I am reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 8:20
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Jesus had no place to call his own home.  He was a marked man from the time he entered his ministry, the religious leaders were out to kill him.  He lived to follow and do the will of the Father, he had no room to settle down and grow comfortable, not even a place to sleep at times.

I am also reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 7:13,14
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

The way to life is narrow and difficult while the way to destruction is easy and wide.  There are many detours and seemingly great places that God wants us to stay away from.  We are called to a life of faith, and that will include difficulty and self-sacrifice.

Settling for less than God's call on your life will mean different things to different people.  Listening to the shepherd's voice, obeying and following him is the key!