“Who” (Not Just “What”)

 

God is a Person.

Sometimes I feel like that just needs to be stated.

I listen to a lot of speakers from a lot of backgrounds, including some of the most progressive voices in the Christian community. Many of them have a great understanding of how definitively loving God is, and how pervading His (and many would say Her) Presence is in all of life. One thing I have found to be seemingly lacking in the theology of some of these teachers is that God is personal.

He’s a real (Triune) individual with a personality, and He is highly relational.

In other words, He’s not just a “force.” Nor is it appropriate to equate Him with the Universe itself. He is the Creator of the known world, and the lover of our souls. Without that understanding, our concept of “love” and the Divine “Presence” becomes somewhat detached from reality. We are missing a more full picture of the Lord’s nature if we turn Him/Her into an ethereal “it.”

God actually has a heart. He actually has passion for us. He sincerely wants to communicate with us — back and forth. He really is relatable, just like Jesus is in the Gospels. Saying all this is not a form of “anthropomorphism” or personification. Christ was being straight forward when He claimed, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). He truly is “the brightness of God’s glory, and the express image of His person” (Hebrews 1:3). We can know Him intimately… just as with any other close friend (John 15:9-17).

Yes, God is Spirit (John 4:24). Yes, He is the inner light in our souls. And yes He is everywhere. But He is also a distinct Being initiating and building a unique relationship with each one of us. Further, He personally desires the reciprocation of love from each one of us. We cannot fully respond to or appreciate His love if we do not actually address Him as the interactive lover that He is. He gives heartfelt devotion to each one of us, and He is worthy of our happy, voluntary adoration in return.

So let’s just be a little careful with how we describe “The Divine.” This Transcendent One has a Name (Philippians 2:10-11), and we can consciously connect with Him much deeper when we acknowledge Him for who (not just what) He says He is. 

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Repost: A Prophecy

The following is a repost from a previous blog I published online at a different address:

Do you ever feel an unhealthy lack of fulfillment in your relationship with God, like you need more of His Spirit but sense a great distance between your heart and His? Like you know He loves you in your head, but part of you still feels unconvinced?

While in a time of contemplation back when I worked at a house of prayer in my city, I felt led to prophesy against that sense of spiritual dryness. God gave me a word to share with brothers in the Faith who are in such a discouraged state. It is a word all about His Son(s). This is how that message came to my heart as I began writing it:

“Sons, sons, sons. You are all in Christ My beloved Son, so you are all My sons. You are mighty ones, all of you children of the Most High (Psalm 82:6). You are seated with Christ in heavenly places, for you have died and your life is hidden with Him in Me (Ephesians 2:6, Colossians 3:3). You have received of His fullness as My Word says, ‘grace upon grace’ (John 1:16). Here at My right hand you have been made to sit – in the epicenter of joy where there are pleasures evermore (Ephesians 2:6, Psalm 16:11). You couldn’t attain to any better position. You can’t get any more favor than this (Psalm 5:12). So I say to each of you, ‘Son, you have always been with Me, and all that is Mine is yours.’ (Luke 15:31)

“I ask you, have you ever seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread? (Psalm 37:25) Even the Syrophoenician woman looking for crumbs to fall from the table was fed (Matthew 15:21-28) – and she was not consciously walking in divine sonship like you are. I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst (John 6:35). I have not left you as starving and neglected orphans, but I have prepared a table before you in the presence of your enemies (John 14:18, Psalm 23:5). Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good. Delight yourselves in abundance (Isaiah 55:2). I have provided for you every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Take and eat My flesh (Matthew 26:26). Drink of My cup that overflows (Psalm 23:5). Find your contentment in My presence, as you have been given access by faith (Romans 5:2, Ephesians 2:18). Taste and see that I am good! (Psalm 34:8)

“I tell you, out of your belly will flow rivers of living water (John 7:38)! You’re not just looking for rain from above, for behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst (Luke 17:21). I live within you. Your hope does not disappoint, because My love has been poured out within your hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to you (Romans 5:5). My divine power has granted to you everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Draw from those deep inner wells and rejoice in the intimacy you have with Me (Isaiah 12:3). You are one with Me forever (1 Corinthians 6:17). Do not let the joy of knowing that be taken from you. And don’t be misled into thinking I am reserving some of My goodness from you. I withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11).

“Did I not say, ‘Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied?’ (Matthew 5:6) You have hungered, and I answered by not just giving you My righteousness. You became the very righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). So receive your sense of satisfaction! Enter into a greater appreciation of your own transformation that took place by My offering. Jesus became poor that you might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). He sacrificed His own sense of connection with Me so that you could experience the wealth of that love. He cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) so that you could host the Spirit of adoption by which you cry out “Daddy, Father!” (Romans 8:15) You are not in lack! The whole earth groans for you to realize that and to live out of the relationship that you have with Me (Romans 8:19).

“My sons, jump into the river of my delights (Psalm 36:8)! I am with you and I will never leave you (Deuteronomy 31:6). My nearness is Your refuge. It is a strong tower (Psalm 144:2). Nothing can separate you from My love (Romans 8:38-39). Rest your hearts there and receive your peace. Just look at Jesus and experience Me. For in Him, I already pursued you. And I won! Now you are sealed with My Spirit (Ephesians 1:13) – even unto the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).

“Be thankful therefore in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and be continually filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). This is your inheritance. This is your life. You are going from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18) and you have nothing less to look forward to. You worship Immanuel – the ever present God. And I will never change…”

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Eternal Life Today

Jesus said that He came “to bring life, and life more abundant” (John 10:10). Some versions say “life to the full.” This is eternal life – the life found in the Kingdom of Heaven.

In religion we sometimes piously project this “abundant life” far into the future. We put all our hopes in the after life, a postmortem experience. We wait to die or to be resurrected from death at Christ’s return. We limit our understanding of eternity to this future experience, downplaying the significance of the here and now.

Even more commonly though we take a less spiritualized approach. We look forward to a future day when things will get better on this side of eternity. A day when we will graduate college. A day we will get married. A day we will finally get into shape like we want. A day we will get a better job.

But Jesus said He came to give us life to the FULL. And we are alive right now. Today.

Everyday we can choose to live in abundance. This is not an exaggeration. We can live in expectation of what is yet to come, but we can also take full advantage of our present opportunities.

We can connect with people who contribute to our well being. We can indulge in contemplative prayer, appreciating God’s nearness and dwelling on His goodness. We can go outside and enjoy the Sun and get our bodies moving with physical exercise. We can express ourselves through art, or through purposeful acts of service to our communities. We can make decisions big and small that result in our health and well being, following the rhythms of grace that produce both greater maturity and a more constant sense of delight in our lives. We don’t have to wait until tomorrow to live to fully and to practice contentment.

I frequently remind myself that the Spirit of God is within me already, so I already am walking in eternal, Kingdom life. Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is… righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” These things are all given to us freely in the space we are in right now.

It takes a conscious shift of mind sometimes to fully appreciate all that is at hand. When we do though, our days grow much brighter. We live much more accomplished and much more restful if we just lean into the life Christ offers us as we walk with Him in THIS season of life.

And we trust that there is only an eternity of more life to unfold before us.

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Feeling the Impact of this Crisis

Someone said to grab my five year old nephew and a friend of mine and go take cover in a small stairwell. “Don’t worry, this is just practice,” I was told. “But take it seriously.”

Thinking, “This is going to be fun,” I put an arm around my nephew and pulled him down into the corner of the wall. I assured him with a grin that this wouldn’t be too bad. My friend leaned into the wall of the stairwell with us. Before we could get comfortable though, a booming explosion went off. 

Holy crap. That did not sound safe.

The explosion did not sound like “practice,” and it sounded close enough that I thought the bomb could come flying through the top of the stairwell at any moment and penetrate the level we were hiding on. I pictured a massive rock blasting through the wall to crush us.

In a matter of mere moments I scrambled to pull my nephew closer to my chest and to make sure my friend a few feet away was still okay. At the same time I was struggling to move my jacket to cover all three of our heads and was trying to get us into a safer, lower position. I had no time to readjust everything, but I was desperately hoping I could protect us from the force of any debris now flying our way. And the explosions only continued to roar through the little stairwell one after another — coming from who knows where.

My nephew starting crying loudly, and then the dam broke in my own soul. I too began to weep profusely as I shook with the impact of the bombs hitting near us and with the fear and pain now rising in my soul.

It was real. And it was terrifying. 

All at once it had become clear that I was not preparing for battle. I was in the middle of war, and for the first time in my life I felt responsible to somehow preserve the life of someone else I cared for who was also under attack. But I had no idea what we were even up against.

I was in a swirl of intense emotions and feeling like I could only process them by just letting them all out. Then I woke up.

It was just a dream. Yes, I literally just woke up on a Thursday night from a nap and realized I’d just had a dream. But I was smart enough to know it wasn’t “just” a dream.

God just gave me a very vivid picture of what it is like to be in a war zone like Syria right now. I actually felt like He was processing His own emotions through me in the dream… conveying that He stands in complete solidarity and empathy with the victims who are currently suffering in this tragic situation. He was showing me how He really feels as He is present in the bodies and hearts of His children in that nation, seeing things from their perspective.

Jesus is not apathetic to the pain and injustice of this crisis.

However we respond to what the news is showing us, we must not become apathetic. Let the situation hit home, just as if it was your own nephew or friend going through this.

The Lord wants us to allow ourselves to feel the impact of what is taking place. He wants us to care.

 

More From Robbie

It’s been less than a week since I last posted one of his podcasts… but you’ve got to hear this new talk from Rob Bell. He’s a master with communication and he does a beautiful job of capturing and revealing the nature of the Gospel in this episode. That is, especially as the Gospel relates to our personal identities as the objects of divine love.

Listen and be refreshed. Keep your Twitter account pulled up too, you might want to quote a few lines from this message if you’re like me!

 

Let’s Notice

     As a Charismatic Christian I have spent a lot of time “seeking” the presence of God. I’ve put it in many hours reaching for His heart, beckoning for Him to come, and even sacrificing money and energy to go places to “get in His Glory.” Often, I have felt frustrated with the lack of fruit that has come from such attempts to attain a deeper connection with the Lord.

     One of the most popular worship songs of our time has a line in it that I’ve really grown to like. It says, “Let us become more aware of Your Presence.” I like that because it indicates a reformational truth about the nature of God.

     God is here. He is not just “out there” somewhere. 

     The incarnation of Jesus revealed to us that our Maker is not inclined to maintain a separation from humanity in any sense. He is committed to be with us, manifestly.

     This is not even just something He does. It’s who He is….

     He’s Immanuel – which literally means “God is with us.”

     He’s Yahweh Shammah – “The Lord is here.”

     He is the promised Spirit of Christ, “with us even until the end of the age…”

     Most of all He is love — and when seeking to overcome relational distance, “love never fails.”

     Instead of asking for more of God’s presence, my prayer life these days consists primarily of finding ways to acknowledge and appreciate His nearness. I actually make lists of “encounters” I have with Him, to help bring them to my attention more. For instance, I’ve made note that…

  • I wanted to spend alone time in prayer and reflection, but instead I felt God when I took time to encourage a friend who interrupted me wanting to talk about their problems. God showed up through me, rather than to me.
  • I had a dream at night that really caught my attention, and upon taking time to consider its deeper meaning, I realized there was divine counsel hidden in its imagery that added guidance to my current situation in life.
  • The number 11:11 caught my eye repetitively this week. I can’t help but think God is winking at me every time I see it, encouraging me that my life has an orchestrated symmetry to it just like the four linear ones standing side-by-side each other.
  • I was thinking about my own personal weaknesses and failures, right when Katy Perry’s song came on the radio saying “I will love you, unconditionally…”
  • I was thinking about someone I missed, and then five minutes later I ran into them for the first time in years at a grocery store.
  • At church I was let down because I was getting caught up in worship right when the pastor cut off the music. He immediately started preaching a message though that turned out to be exactly what my soul needed to hear that day.
  • I wake up dreading a long work day ahead of me, but suddenly the dread turns to optimism and I end up having a full, fun day. (I often find out later that someone just happened to be praying for me that morning!)

If I don’t take time to stop and savor these moments in life, I can become blinded to just how active and intimately involved the Lord is in my seemingly mundane routine. Even the more spectacular divine encounters – such as when an angel physically touched my head – can seem incredibly normal at times. The most dramatic signs from Heaven have a way of becoming easy to forget if we do not make an intentional effort to rehearse what happened and praise God for it.

Whatever it takes, I encourage you to practice looking for and listening for the presence of God in your life. Contrary to religious tradition, He isn’t one to simply “intervene” on special, awe-inspiring occasions. Rather, He is creatively weaving Himself in our daily lives already. He is loyal to keep working for our benefit whether we notice or not.

Let’s notice though. ? 

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Learning to Like People

I was at the gym the other day when a song came on the radio with the lyric, “I love you, even though I don’t like you right now.” 

That didn’t sit well with me.

I had heard the same sentiment expressed growing up in the Church in the past. Some people would say, “As Christians, we don’t have to like everyone. But we do have to love them with the love of Jesus.” After years of having my heart changed by the work of the Holy Spirit though, I can no longer agree with such statements.

You see, in order to “love with the love of Jesus” I think we have to actually like people. Jesus does not practice loving us unconditionally as if it’s just His divine duty. He loves us affectionately.

Passionately.

I could do a whole Bible study on this, which would be worthwhile. To save time though I will just suggest you read John Crowder’s The Ecstasy of Loving God. It covers the subject of God’s fiery affection well.

All that said, after extensive time having my mind renewed to recognize and receive the Lord’s love for myself, I can’t project on Him some heartless “love” that doesn’t really include a liking for people. Nor can I excuse such a heartless “love” in my own lifestyle anymore.

Everyone has their quirks. Everyone can be in a bad mood, in a rough patch of life, or in a place where they push people away instead of behave like someone who we would call “likable.” Some even get stuck in a toxic, long-term cycle of being unnecessarily difficult to get along with.

But none of that defines a person. As those called to live with prophetic vision, we take it as our responsibility to find the gold inside of people even when it is more of a challenge. This takes work, and sometimes we have to practice more firm boundaries with people because they are making a close relational connection more risky for us. Nevertheless, it is inexcusable for us to just “put up” with people and think we are still committed to loving them.

Love likes.

And I have found that people can feel it if we don’t really like them — even when we don’t necessarily critique them or say anything rude. Trying to just keep things “professional” with people who we really don’t want to be around won’t always work. It doesn’t legitimately help them to trust us.

Thankfully, we actually have the power to find things in people that we can appreciate and celebrate about them. We can call out the best in them even if they don’t see it themselves. Our connection with them will thrive much better when we do.

It might sound too good to be true to think that this kind of love is something we can walk in on a regular basis. I will admit — with some people, learning to like them may actually take a miracle. But that shouldn’t intimidate us in the least bit.

Our God doles out miracles like candy.

As Jesus put it, “With God all things are possible,” Matthew 19:26.

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