Enjoying A Person

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11

If I asked three people how they enjoy God, I would expect blank stares. How do you enjoy someone you don’t know well? How do you get to know someone who is invisible? And, how do you enjoy someone who doesn’t speak to you in an audible voice? These are fair questions and the very reason this short series exists. I fear that few of God’s children know Him well at all much less find Him enjoyable. That used to be me for 4+ decades. I knew God’s resume but not His heart. I knew His history but not His mind on present matters regarding my life.

So, let’s take it out of the abstract. How do I enjoy a person ~ my husband, my child, my friend, my brother or sister? I make time for them. I do things that I love to do only with them. In an intimate relationship, there are shared memories and shared loves of certain things. I watch WWII movies with one friend, savor New England with my husband, share classical music and English dramas with my daughter, play with cats and even go to cat cafes with my son and his wife, go to the opera with my sister, and go to Desiring God conferences with a spiritual journey partner. The choices are endless but your list would look nothing like mine. Mine looks nothing like yours. That’s because no two relationships are alike. I can tell you about my relationship with God but that won’t be of great benefit to you. You have to have your own relationship with your Father. He will enjoy you, and you will savor Him, in ways that are unique to the two of you.

As you begin to carve a new path in your endeavor to find joy in God, you will begin by carving out time for your relationship. The friends and family members I rarely see, I lose touch with. I must make time for them. God is no different. Just knowing the God of the Bible can keep Him at arms length and impersonal.

You might ask if He desires you. The answer is yes. You are the object of His desire and in His desire, there is passion and warmth. There is commitment ~ enough that He gave up the life of His son to win you back from the curse of the Fall. What has He been doing until now? Waiting for you. Yes, He’s technically your Savior, but is He Your friend? It takes effort to make the Lord an intimate companion. Tomorrow, we will explore ideas for what to do in your time together. I can’t wait.

Lord, stir up desire for You. In even this, I need Your help and grace. Amen

He Paid For My Ultimate Enjoyment

Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them.   Ezekiel 47:12 

Milky Way over North LighthosueThe holy of holies ~ the place where God’s Spirit lived.  A priest could only enter one day a year and if he hadn’t atoned for his sins by making a sacrifice, he would be dead when he stepped through the curtain.  For that reason, tassels were tied around his feet so that if he died, he could be dragged back out without others entering and risking their lives.  It was the sanctuary of God. 

Through His death, Jesus tore the curtain that separated us from the holy of holies.  He paid for our sin, became our sacrifice, so that we never need fear approaching Him.  Instead of God’s Spirit dwelling in the holy of holies, He now dwells in the hearts of mankind if they have made Him their Savior and Lord.  I am the new temple.  Inside of me, in my spirit, is the holy of holies where God’s Spirit finds His home.  From that sanctuary inside, Living Water flows freely and changes the internal landscape of my life.  Greenery is not threatened by hard times.  Persecution can not mar the beauty.  Deprivation, scorn, sickness…these are not a menace to my internal Eden.  The Spirit of God lives there.  How our forefathers in the Old Testament would have yearned for such a reality.  They could not fathom that Yahweh could come to live inside man. 

If ever I should enjoy something phenomenal, should it not be this?  Should I not be so humbled and incredulous that I get to be God’s temple, that I make my highest aspiration to enjoy the privilege?  I want to fully invest in the most important relationship I’ll ever have, to get to know God better than I know any earthly person.  The result?  Listen.  Can you hear the river? It promises to flow to every cracked and barren place that desperately needs to see the promise of Spring.  In the days ahead, join me.  Let’s stand in the flow.  Let’s learn to enjoy what only those on the narrow way are offered.

I receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save my soul.  Amen   James 1:21

Enjoy God? It’s a Stretch.

Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones; Praise is becoming to the upright.  Ps. 33:1

God created me for His enjoyment. And He created me to enjoy Him.  How am I doing with both of these things?  I’ve spent the first part of my life doubting whether or not God loved me like He loved others. Enjoying Him never occurred to me.  I feared and served God out of duty.  But enjoyed?  Not on my radar.  

It’s easy to love God from a distance.  When He answers my prayers in a way I like, my love feels real. When I wait for an answer, my love can turn into suspicion.  When He says no, my love can be buried beneath anger.  I memorized Psalm 37:4 as a child.  Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Notice that the delight is in the Lord, not in the pleasure I receive from His gifts. 

cid_71D9E7D8-6454-4B61-A134-CFCA0E2970B2-e1529259377112-225x300What is the foundation of my enjoyment of God?  It’s His enjoyment of me.  “We love Him because He first loved us.”  That doesn’t mean there’s something deficient in my affection.  It merely confirms that God created me to be a responder.  He is the Creator.  I am the Created.  He reached out first.  I held out my arms in response.  He was the initiator.  I was the reciprocator.   

If I’m not enjoying God, there are some things I need to consider.  I may not really believe God loves me.  I can’t be general about this.  I need to be specific in all the places I still carry shame and regret.  Also, I may not believe the truth about God’s character.  Deception causes distrust.  But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  2 Cor. 11:3   When I believe lies about God, I  hide and avoid.  I back up.  I’m shy of His proclamations of love.  Who can enjoy someone you’re unsure of.  

Enjoying God is at the epicenter of passion and connection.  How to do it is the topic of this series.  You can be sure that none of what follows will be abstract.  It will be hands on and practical.  Ask God to open up the channels from your heart to His because “In His presence is fullness of joy.”  Psalm 16:11

If I’m not enjoying You, show me I can.  If I don’t want to, pinpoint my objections.   Amen

The Cost Of A Life On Fire

Never let the fire in your heart go out.  Keep it alive.  Serve the Lord.  Romans 12:11

When I read the biographies of great saints, whether biblical or historical, I’m always wide-eyed over their passion. I want what they had. God’s hand was on their shoulders and the fire of His Spirit went wherever they went.  He propelled their movements.  Oh, it’s a beautiful thing for God’s Spirit to burn brightly through a disciple’s life.  

After having traveled through this series with me, is your appetite engaged to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in your life?  Have you found yourself longing, even aching, to burn with a purpose that transcends what is earthly?  If we were together today, most likely we would recognize the Spirit in each other and already see the evidence of the Spirit’s warmth. But while it is wonderful, there is a cost I must embrace.  

  • You may be in a marriage where faith has divided you.  Your home has hung together but perhaps that’s because you’ve toned down your Christianity.  You’ve made the puzzle pieces fit together by compromising your passion.  The cost for a life on fire will be that the puzzle pieces will no longer fit.  You will be out of sync (until your spouse embraces Christ and engages with the same journey).  You will obey Jesus instead of obeying your fear.  
  • You may have a group of lifelong friends.  Down deep, you’re aware that you don’t really fit like you used to but they don’t know it yet. You’ve played it safe by not letting your love for Jesus and His kingdom ooze out in conversation.  You might fear, “If I pursue the disciple’s life of passion, I will be alone.  I will be peculiar to my friends and they will not want to go with me.”  Following Jesus might mean starting over with new relationships. We must keep company with others on fire.
  • You may be afraid of personal change.  You don’t know what you will be like if you give yourself completely to God.  It feels safe to stay the same.  It’s scary to become what you’ve never known before.  Is this too costly?

Passion15_ATL2_Day2_9-copyMy new life will resemble those whose effect on people was nearly identical to the reactions others had to Jesus.  I will be like Moses, face on fire, causing those who are repelled to look away and those who are attracted to draw near.  I will be as Stephen whose electric testimony delivered words like with a sword, igniting the crowd to stone him.  I will be as the eleven disciples who challenged the god and philosophy of this world, marking themselves as ones who aligned with Jesus.  One thing is sure.  Living this life is impossible without proper fuel.  Serving God will fizzle because the cost feels too expensive.  Make a decision today with your eyes wide open.

I love you, Jesus, and I have a passion to see You glorified.  Make my life a burning bush.  Amen

The Face Of Revival

For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.  Isaiah 57:15

Someone once stood, drew a chalk circle around his feet, then prayed, “Lord, please send revival, and start inside this circle.”  Revival of a home, a church, and even a nation happens with the God-encounter of one individual at a time. 

You’ve heard the term ‘the fires of revival,’ right?  To have a fire, I must be revived. I can’t generate heaven’s fire on my own.  The energy of the Spirit is just that ~ it’s of the Spirit.  I can be excited temporarily by a sermon, inspired by a movement, influenced by friends, but the only fuel that stands the test of time and transcends the ups and downs of life is the real thing.  Fire comes from a relationship.  I must be connected to a Person, not a scripture verse, not a charismatic leader, not a church.  Jesus.  One and only Jesus.

When one thinks about revival, it’s common to picture something that happens in great numbers.  In days past, it involved a tent, a a week long crusade perhaps, and a fiery evangelist.  But more often, there’s an individual revival where I don’t need a group, a preacher, a tent, or special music.  In private, Jesus and I meet and I am never the same after that. 

GettyImages-467077481-56ad28995f9b58b7d00af522There are conditions for revival though. Isaiah quotes God as saying that He dwells in two places, in the heavens and with the lowly and the contrite. The wealthy don’t have an advantage, neither does a seasoned bible scholar or even a long time believer.  Money can’t buy an appointment.  Knowledge doesn’t impress.  God comes running to the lowly and the contrite.  Period.  ‘Whosoever will may come’ and the entrance to the presence of God is humility and repentance. 

“My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’  Your face, Lord, I will seek.”  Psalm 27:8  Amen

Initiating Combustion

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose hearts are blameless toward Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9

The Holy Spirit goes where he’s wanted. He’s absent from where He’s not wanted. Jesus couldn’t do miracles in Capernaum because He was not welcomed and the people were full of unbelief. It wasn’t that He no longer possessed the power to perform supernatural acts; the people weren’t willing to receive the Healer. In how many churches has the Spirit stopped working because the desire for Him has ceased? The United States, for the past 200 years, has been a birthplace of so many missionary ventures. How things have changed. Now, we need the missionaries.

  • Not so in China. It is said that there are more Christians than Communist party members.
  • Not so in Iran. Christianity is thriving and Muslims are awaking after encountering the risen Christ in the night. In the first light of dawn, they are on their knees calling him ‘Lord’. This is without churches and small groups for the most part yet some people are ready to receive Him.
  • Not so in Germany. For the 1st time in centuries, there are churches with 800 members.
  • Not so in Brazil. By 2020, it is believed that half of all Brazilians will be believers. There are reports of Christian gatherings in the streets.
  • Not so in North Korea. Bibles are being smuggled in from China and for those fortunate enough to have a radio, Christian broadcasts can be heard across the border from South Korea. Missionaries from China are risking their lives to cross into North Korea at night to teach the scriptures. They have reported that the number of Christians is exponential and only growing.

shutterstock_1659893.jpgWhat preceded the work of the Holy Spirit in your life? I suspect it was your awareness of your own spiritual needs and then a prayer that expressed your desire for His presence. Is this not what happened at Pentecost? Those upon whom the Spirit of God descended had been praying and waiting for what Jesus said would happen. He had promised that the Spirit of God would come to them. He had assured them that He was not going to leave them as orphans after His death. It’s no wonder they were looking up, anticipating, praying for the presence of Jesus to come in a form they’d never experienced.

Fervent prayer and a breathless anticipation of His movement in my heart is the environment where the Holy Spirit feels welcome. Whether church, country, ministry, or an individual, I must remember that the He goes where He’s wanted. The fuel of the Spirit will be absent if I am nonchalant about whether or not He’s active and also nonchalant about my own sin. But how the fire of His Spirit will burn and glow through the one who desires Him most of all and at any cost.

Show me if anything is preventing You from being larger in my life. Purify my heart so that You have a place to live and work. Amen

They Were On Fire!

John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. John 5:35

If I want to experience more passion for Jesus, I hang around with those who have it because it’s catching. It’s contagious. That’s why ‘remembering and reviewing’ the stories of my spiritual heroes is so important to my spiritual walk. I ask myself, “Who was it that was on fire? What was resident in their lives that is missing in mine?”

John The Baptist ~ He was set apart from the mainstream. I love his depiction in The Gospel of John movie. (Ian Cusick was cast as Jesus and it is a word for word delivery, with acting, of the Good News Bible.) Watching John the Baptist, it seems he can not speak of Jesus, nor speak to Jesus, without being nearly breathless. When grilled by the Pharisees about who he was; the Messiah, a prophet, or even Elijah, John only described himself as being a voice, one too unworthy to untie the sandals of the Messiah to come. After John was beheaded, Jesus described John in today’s scripture. Imagine having Jesus say of you, “She was a lamp that burned and gave light.”

Elijah ~ It was a dark day in Israel’s history. King Ahab ruled along with his evil wife Jezebel, the Phoenician princess. Elijah came on the scene full of power and with a fiery passion for God. He performed miracles that left people speechless. He raised the dead, called down fire from heaven, rode on a fiery chariot, and challenged the evil priests of Baal to a showdown. We never read that he ever stopped to consider, “Is this possible?” He knew God and marched into supernatural realms where miracles are born.

Nate Saint ~ One of five missionaries speared by the Auca Indians in 1955. Each of the five men had guns to protect themselves but wouldn’t think of using them for their own safety while evangelizing. Initially, they delivered gifts to the Aucas by making drops from a plane. The Indians seemed warm and receptive. But when they went back and landed on a beach near their encampment, the Aucas came armed. They speared Nate first, then his four teammates. Many years later, the Auca who personally speared Nate Saint baptized Steve Saint, Nate’s son. When Mincaye was asked about that awful day, he told Steve Saint… “We immediately knew we did something bad because after we killed your father, the angels came and sang and stayed with him as he died. Then they took him up in a big celebration.”

Gertrude Hewitt ~ My mother. Though she died of cancer when I was only 30 years old, her life’s example influences me every day. She was quiet, loved to serve, and sang as she worked. In our small town of 1200, she took notice of who hadn’t been seen in a while. Inquiring about their welfare, she would have them sitting at our kitchen table or plan to take food to them. Our house may as well have been named, Gertrude’s Soup Kitchen. When our town’s alcoholic hadn’t been seen in weeks, she went to his house looking for him. Eventually getting inside, he was lying in bed, near death, and she sat with him til the end. If Gertrude knew you were alone, and hurting, she would be there. She had passion to show compassion.

The fire in my heart is stirred just from writing these stories, Lord. Let their passion spread to all who read this today. Amen