Echoes of Eden | 11.14.16

Have you ever had the sense of something so much bigger than yourself, maybe catching a glimpse of something so beautiful, something strange or exciting, and yet peaceful? Like, that overwhelming feeling of awe at the birth of your child, or the lump that comes into your throat at a poignant moment in a movie; a piece of music that taps into something deep inside, a warm sense of “rightness” when you give of yourself sacrificially, or that sense of deep mystery and beauty watching a sunset over the ocean. NT Wright describes this as “echoes of a voice that points beyond itself.”

So what are these echoes pointing to?

For years, I didn’t really get how the Bible stories from centuries ago had anything to do with my life now, or what the long litany of the people of Israel had to do with Jesus. But, slowly I’ve begun to understand that the Bible is telling an on-going epic story that isn’t over yet – a drama that we are now experiencing. This story is full of adventure, romance, danger, and betrayal, with a hero/lover and a evil villain. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that we have eternity written in our hearts, planted there by God – a Story (with a capital “S”) that we just can’t escape; somehow we just know there has to be more to our existence.

The Bible stories of the people of Israel are not just random stories, but are pieces of the saga that tell of God’s long-term plan to rescue and redeem the hearts of people and restore things back to the way they were meant to be – before evil entered the Story. The circumstances of your life are not just random events, but are interactive scenes in which you have an important role to play – one full of adventure, intrigue, sacrifice, danger, love, regret, and hope.

I believe the echoes are whispers from the One who loves us and will do whatever it takes to win our hearts back to Him. The voice is calling to us of a world set right again, a foretaste of what living life with God at the center will be like, pointing to the ending of the Story – which has already been written. Like all great stories, the villain is disposed of, the hero rescues the heroine, and they all live happily ever after – the kind of ending our hearts long for.

“There is far more going on around us than meets the eye. We live in a world with two halves, one part that we can see and another part that we cannot. We must live as though the unseen world (the rest of reality) is more weighty and more real and more dangerous than the part of reality we can see.” ~John Eldredge, Epic

How would you live differently if you believed this Story to be true?

God With Us | 11.7.16

For me personally, I think one of the hardest things about having faith in God and following Jesus is the simple fact that God is invisible. We can’t see Him physically or talk with Him face to face, the way we do with other people. We talk about spending time with God, but honestly, this can seem a pretty nebulous and unrealistic activity; in my most doubt-filled moments, I wonder if the Emperor has no clothes on, after all. You know what I mean? And yet, even in the middle of all the questions, somehow we persevere. Like the man who said to Jesus, “I believe, but…help me in my unbelief!”

Ancient Biblical characters struggled with maintaining their faith and obedience to an invisible God, just as we do. I’d like to think that had I been around for God’s miraculous rescue of the people of Israel from Pharaoh, or been fed by manna every day, getting visual travel directions from a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, I for sure would never have doubted that God was real and present. Or, if only I’d been around to see Jesus in the flesh and watched the miracles He did, I’d never doubt again.

HA! Probably not.

Although God hasn’t changed at all, the way He reveals Himself to people has progressively developed over human history. We have the benefit of hindsight, the written Word of God, and the presence of the Holy Spirit; we know that eventually, God came to be with us by becoming human. Although the people of Israel had the tabernacle as evidence that God was with them, we now know that the blood of Jesus made the blood sacrifices of approaching a holy God unnecessary – a much more perfect way for God to be with us than tabernacle worship rituals. And, we also know that the presence of the invisible God is with us through the Holy Spirit living in us, promised to all who believe.

Even though the people of Israel had stunning and physical evidences of God’s presence with them, the whole chapter of Hebrews 11 is a list of how even they had to live by faith, waiting in hope for what God had promised. Just like we do.

And just what is that promise? The one thing we were created for: to be in God’s presence and speak with Him face to face – to fully know Him as He knows us, and to enjoy Him forever. Until then, by faith we stumble on and continue to live in His invisible presence, waiting and hoping.

Do you have trouble really believing that God is with you?

Watchman Nee says, “I must first have the sense of God’s possession of me before I can have the sense of His presence with me.”

God’s Word | 4.10.16

This is my second spring in North Carolina. If anything, I’m more excited this year than last. Every day I go out and poke around in the yard to see what new green thing has popped up. The really amazing thing to me is that most of this overflowing color and life just happens; spring is kind to all, even in the yards that aren’t really even being taken care of.

What does this have to do with hearing God? God’s word comes to us in another important way. Alongside His written Word in the Bible, Jesus the Living Word, and the inner voice of the Holy Spirit, the Bible also tells us that God’s word also refers to any expression of His heart and mind, His character, and His purposes. Continue reading God’s Word | 4.10.16

Three Lights | 4.3.16

We’ve been thinking about the importance of listening to and recognizing the still, small voice of God in our inner spirit – comforting, teaching, affirming, convicting, and guiding – the Spirit of Christ living in us. But what about those times when we need specific direction from God in making a wise and godly decision or a choice about something we are facing?

There is no magic formula, but in general, a message from God usually comes to us as we are responsible to study and meditate on Scripture, become experienced at recognizing the Spirit’s voice within us, and then stay alert to the circumstances that happen. These three interdependent points of reference are what Dallas Willard refers to as “the three lights.”

Most Christians believe that the Bible is the inspired written Word of God, and is always where the voice of God can be heard. It contains everything we need to know about how to live well, with clear instructions about many areas of life that there’s no question about God’s will for us. We rely on Biblical principles that can guide us in the areas that aren’t covered directly in Scripture; such as how to parent your kids, where you should live, what college you should go to, or what career or job you should pursue. You just won’t find that kind of specific information in the Bible, and here is where you can begin to see the importance of developing your conversational relationship with God.

Reading and studying Scripture is useless without the Holy Spirit’s voice to interpret, reveal, and illuminate the truth of the mind of God. I know from my own experience that the inner voice could be my own thoughts, or any number of other voices that enter my consciousness. But, the voice of the Holy Spirit will never contradict Biblical principles. And on their own, external circumstances – often referred to as the opening or closing of a door – don’t tell us much either. Could be God, could be Satan, and could be anything, really. But our study of the written Word of God and inner promptings of the Holy Spirit come together to help us discern whether this particular circumstance is an open or closed door from God.

For me, knowing that God’s voice of guidance does not usually come out of the blue is reassuring. Reflecting on the “three lights” is something tangible we can actually DO, as we seek to know, hear, and follow God.