The Ebb and Flow of the Spirit: Where is God?

Many of us know of Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” But in most cases, the person quoting the verse is unintentionally taking this verse out of context, for the following verse expounds upon verse 28. Verse 29 continues: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” So we must surmise by its context that the phrase “all things working together” is meant “to conform (a person) into the image of His Son (Jesus)”. This is above and beyond creature comforts, this is not a conditional “good”, and this is not a situational “good”. This is part of the sanctification process that changes a person spiritually from a selfish, soulish person to a holy person. Now before you get offended by the holiness condition, let me say that we have HUGE misconceptions about what holiness really is. Suffice it to say, being transformed is necessary and deep; being satiated with temporary happiness or material, conditional wants, needs, and desires is profoundly shallow. Holiness is a process and one ordained by our Lord, so let us take what follows in this article and really understand the implications of process.

I learned an incredible lesson not too long ago and I would like to share it with you.

I’m sure there are many Christians out there that completely understand this statement:  “When God is speaking into my life, He always uses a rapid-fire approach”.  Something I read or hear sparks my spirit, and then at least two more times, usually in quick succession, the same theme is repeated.  It is like the Lord saying, ‘Hello…I’m talking here!’”  From my many conversations with other Christians, I have found this to be the case more often than not.  It’s funny actually when we think ourselves the only ones that get these “coinkydink” messages!  Almost every time I think I’m the only one who experiences the voice of our God in a particular and peculiar way, I am presented with many others who say, “Yeah…that happened to me too.”  At first you reel back and think, “Well, I’m not that special after all”, and what quickly follows is, “Thank God I’m not the only one”!

This scenario played out recently. As with all Christians, I had been going through a time of spiritual unrest, a period of confusion, and a stretch of time marked by what we sometimes refer to as the desert trial.  I just so happened to be reading a book by Graham Cooke when the following nugget of wisdom jumped out at me:

We cannot operate from a continuous flow of the Spirit.  For every flow there has to be an ebb in our experience.  What we do in the ebb is just as important as what we do in the flow.  We learn Lordship in the valley and the mountain.  He is Lord of every life experience.  Nothing prevents Him from being God.  We must experience Him in the depths as well as the heights.  We must learn to be a contribution when everything is against us.—Approaching the Heart of Prophecy, page 125.

This part of the reading hit me square between the eyes.  It convicted me.  It spoke into me that I personally cannot expect everything in my walk with God to be in the mountains; and that in a practical way, God necessarily must take us through the valley.  In other words, the valley is good; it doesn’t matter how I feel about the valley.  Someone once said, “You must travel through the valley to get to the mountaintop.”  So true, so true, but we do everything in our power sometimes to “pray our way out” of the valley because we feel we need to be on the mountaintop to do God’s work or to progress in our spiritual maturity.  Another misconception is that the valley is merely a season in our life that must be overcome once and for all; the idea that we have traveled the hard road as entrance onto the high road and that now the hard road is behind us!  How much different would your life and my life be if we embraced the hard road when it inevitably comes?  What if we approached the valleys with as much zeal as we do hopping around the mountaintops?

Let us understand of what I speak.  I’m talking about the times when God seems far from us, when His presence is not tangible, and when we feel quite lonely.  Our spirit is not quickened, our spirit can’t feel the Holy Spirit, and our spirit seems hopelessly buried and unattainable like a distant memory.  I’m not talking about the “hard times” we face in the natural, although that surely is part of the equation.  But any seasoned Christian knows that life can be handing us lemons and the Lord is making lemonade with us, but I’m talking about when the Lord seems MIA, when we feel He is not near, and when the lemons come they are simply sour and it’s all we have to eat! And when we are eating lemons, we look up and pray, “Oh God, oh God! Where are You? Why am I having to eat lemons?”

A word of wisdom here before we continue:  many Christians (me included) unfortunately think that when God seems far away, that they have done something wrong or that they haven’t done something right!  The liar loves to whisper in our ears, “God has withdrawn from you because you don’t pray enough”, or “The reason you feel so lonely is that God has turned away from you”, or “You are not holy, you are not righteous, you are a terrible Christian…and a really talented sinner!”  Listen to me right now and take this deep into your heart (I’m preaching to myself right now as well!).  That type of thinking is bull-crap (if you prefer, you can substitute the word doo-doo, rubbish, horse-*$#@, stinking-thinking, etc…whatever word doesn’t offend you…oops, too late)!  I have been guilty of this myself, so I speak from much experience.  As you continue to read, you will see just how faulty this mind-game really is…yes, sometimes we are so far off track that the Lord needs to chasten us, but even in this we rejoice, for the Lord chastens those He loves!  However, I would say most of the time it is simply a process to increase us.  Please read on and be edified.

Shortly after reading the above gem from Cooke’s hand, I was talking with a friend that shed even more light onto the truth of this epiphany.   Now, mind you, we all intrinsically know that life is a series of peaks and valleys, but we somehow convince ourselves that if we walk holy, righteous, and pure, that God will keep us from the valleys.  So the epiphany that I refer to is not the actual truth of it but rather my finally embracing it and seeing clearly how it applies to my spiritual walk.  Most of the profound truths are hidden in plain sight!  We read and hear things all the time that seem shallow, but when the Spirit breathes life into these truths, they take on a new life and we finally “get it”.  So this Christian friend of mine struck up a conversation with me after a Bible study that honed-in on the fact that life is about balance, that we can’t appreciate the good unless we truly comprehend the bad, that the highs of walking in the spirit are of no value without the perspective of the lows, and that walking through the desert sometimes creates a real thirst within.  You don’t appreciate water until you don’t have any, you don’t appreciate your health until you don’t have it, and you don’t appreciate the Holy Spirit’s leading until you are without it.  Awesome.  Thank God for Christian friends…

O.K.  It started with the reading, and then progressed to this conversation.  That will suffice for now to bring my attention to the truth the Lord was trying to show me.  Ah, but wait…there’s more!  Only a day passed when another conversation was sparked by another Christian brother focusing on the same theme!   Where have these conversations been?  Why haven’t we talked about this before?  If it is so darn important, why don’t we speak of this on a regular basis?  And why now?  Good grief!  I love the Lord’s sense of humor and timing.  Anyone who thinks God is so somber and matter-of-fact that He doesn’t get a kick out of this type of stuff is sorely mistaken.  And don’t get me wrong, we talk a bunch about how the Lord will get us through the hard times, and “I will pray for you” is tossed about like an empty promise that noone really wants.  We speak hollow cheers like “wait on the Lord”, “this too shall pass”, “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”, and the like; but rarely do we speak of the beauty and pricelessness of the valley (or desert or ebb)!

This brother spoke of how our spiritual walk is a series of ebbs and flows or rather high tides and low tides…really?…did he have to use the same words “ebb” and “flow”?…come on now Lord, surely you could have been a little more subtle than that…sheesh!  Anyway, he spoke of the low tide as being the time when the ships were being readied for their purpose:  repairs were made, cargo was loaded, crews were assembled, and the destination was charted.  On the other hand, the high tide is when the ships leave the port and head to sea to accomplish their mission.  Wow!  That is what I call a trifecta of truth.  Thank you Jesus! You see, what I now know, somewhat begrudgingly, is that God uses the low-tide to prepare us, that God lets us walk through the desert to take the pulse, if you will, of our faith, and that God walks with us through the valley unbeknownst to our selfish, blind eyes. Just because you can’t “feel” Him doesn’t mean He is not there! One famous teacher rightly pointed out that in his opinion, more than 80% of our spiritual growth happens without our even recognizing it, without our “seeing” it or feeling it, and without any harbinger to warn of an approaching time of testing. Beautiful.

So I write this so I won’t forget it.  I write this for you and me. We must be prepared for the inevitable times in our lives where the REAL progress happens. Is it painful? Oh yeah! Is it enjoyable? No way! Is it necessary? You betcha…if it weren’t, then much of the New Testament wisdom on trials and tribulations would simply be filler! I want to fully embrace the dry spells, I want to humbly allow God to do some character shaping in me, I want to stop dreading the ebbs.  The real beauty of this is how we react to the hard parts in the road. For how we react to these times will shape our future and purify our faith.

Here is how we must approach these times:  1.)  Pray even when it is most difficult to do so, 2.)  Dive into the Word of God even when we don’t feel like it, 3.)  Understand that faith without testing is not real faith, 4.)  Meditate constantly on what am I supposed to be learning in this situation and what does God want to be for me in this time.  I know, I know, easier said than done; but God has proved to us over and over again that He will always show up and that He is always up to something good in our lives.  What the Spirit has taught me recently is that the most precious offerings to God are the ones that have to be wrought, that a prayer when you don’t feel like praying is a magnificent blessing to our Lord, and that pushing past our emotions into our raw faith is where “waiting on the Lord” truly finds a foothold.

I am convinced that it is these times in our walk that prepare us for the next move of His Spirit.  It is almost like He is shaping us and enlarging us as clay vessels to contain the next outpouring of His living water! I often repeat the saying, “You can’t pour the ocean into a thimble!”  The functions of the valleys in life are to prepare us for the mountaintop; if we resist the valleys, we in essence are refusing passage to the very thing we seek.

The kicker for me is accepting the fact that it is a continuing process, not something to progress past; for if we refuse the continuing process of sanctification then we will never be able to reach the heights that most of us (including God) want to reach.  Remember what Jesus said, “Every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may produce more fruit.” (John 15:2)  So if you are being pruned, then you must be pleasing to God, for He doesn’t mess around with the unfruitful branches…He simply removes them.  So take the purifying process of the ebbs and build God’s trust in you so that He will continue to use you to flow in His Kingdom.
Just know that you are not alone and that you are highly favored! We all must and should actually welcome the times that refine our faith and enlarge us to contain more of Him. May you be blessed by understanding that just as Christ suffered so must we suffer, but it is for our own good. The ultimate destination is worth the price…Amen?

Shall We Dance?


Why do we struggle against God? Why do we always complicate things even in our best intentions? I see clearly now that God can and will wrestle with you, but that the struggle is the price to pay in order to dance with Him.

We all know the scene in the movie: the woman is drawn close by the man, the woman resists and beats on his chest in a rage, she is hurt and confused but he is understanding, the man takes the beating and her angry tears but continues to draw her closer in an embrace, finally the woman releases her anger and it turns to sorrow, the man comforts her on his shoulder as she cries out all the pain, she realizes she can’t resist any longer, and finally they are in love again…

This is a rough example rife with bad metaphors, but the feeling is what I’m after. When we resist God and struggle with Him, it is ultimately to submit to Him. Finally submitting to God begins a marvelous journey I call “the dance”. When we completely give in to our Lord, then the dance begins, we can now walk in freedom, we finally are shown what walking in the spirit means, and we joyously allow Him to lead. This is God’s intention: He only wants to dance!

The kingdom of God is founded on love. To learn love is to learn the language of God. All of scripture points us to a discovery, the discovery of a God that loves us. The love God has for us supersedes all known language and description: it is better and purer than your love for your spouse, it is deeper than the love for a child, it is more personal than your love for a best friend, and it is sweeter than a broken heart for those who suffer. We simply cannot function in the kingdom if we are not founded in love. That love is given freely to us from God…when we stop wrestling with Him and begin to dance with Him.

I see two clear reasons for resisting God: Pride and Unbelief.

Pride in this context is choosing our own will over God’s will. We are easily blinded by the enemy; he has many crafty illusions. Sometimes we believe the lie that we are having a hard time hearing God’s voice in our lives. Other times we doubt God’s mercy and grace and believe the lie that we have to “clean up” before approaching Him. Another good one is the lie that God is angry with us for being screw ups. All of these lies are borne of pride. Self-deprecation is the ultimate in pride because you can never take your eyes off of self! God doesn’t want you to focus on what you aren’t, but rather focus on what He is.

The body of Christ has an identity crisis. We have believed the lies and have measured ourselves by faulty measuring tools. God’s measure of a person is simply how well you both know each other. To seek God solves every problem…think of all the times in the Bible that God implores us to focus on Him and He will be our God. You don’t bring anything to the table…ever! We must sober up and realize that the greatest sin on the planet we call Earth is guilt.  That’s right, guilt.  Why? Because guilt negates the power of grace, because guilt limits the love God has for us (“He can’t love a loser like me”), because guilt causes us to distance ourselves from God, because guilt prevents us from praying in thanksgiving and praise, and because guilt makes us ashamed to be naked before God. We should never confuse guilt with conviction. Conviction causes us to approach God for forgiveness; guilt (or rather “being accused”) keeps us from approaching God.

What we simply will not recognize is that the only thing, and I mean the only thing, we can bring to God as an offering is our brokenness! Don’t bring your good works, don’t bring your promises and plans, don’t bring your lip-service, don’t bring your wisdom and crafty speech, but DO bring your brokenness. We don’t “take up a cross daily” for any other reason than to be broken daily.

This sounds awful! We say to ourselves, “That is harsh, that sounds painful…” But the reality is calling out to us that by being broken we now gain the pleasure of dancing! We finally take our eyes off of ourselves and gaze firmly into the eyes of the One who loves us, has saved us, and has been waiting to dance with us. The music can start anytime you choose; you don’t have to wait until you “pass to the other side”. Eternal life defined by Christ Himself is simply “knowing God” and “knowing His Son”. The Holy Spirit is present with you now, and He wants you to know God through Christ…and the Holy Spirit will lead you into His presence! If you will take His hand and dance.

The other stumbling block besides pride is unbelief. This one gets all of us from time to time. The truth is painful to hear. The truth is that unbelief is conquered by faith. You cannot have faith without it being given to you. And it is given to you by God Himself…in person! Belief gets you to the door; faith is the reward when the door is opened. It is almost a damning accusation that we still don’t get it! The spiritual life is profoundly different than the worldly life, in that they operate in completely different realities and modes. If you are not spiritually seeking God, then you are not actually seeking God but rather a manifestation of Him. You can’t find Him in church, you can’t find Him in a “glory cloud”, you can’t find Him on the internet, and you can’t find Him in the Bible. The only way you can be reunited with God is one-on-one in the spirit…for God IS Spirit. Don’t get me wrong here: most of the above examples are necessary road signs, church and God’s written word ARE the map to the gate, and there is no other map. Period. But we must understand that the Bible is in one profound facet, the map to God, and church is how we function in the world to share the good news of a knowable God. This is the difference between knowing of God and actually knowing God. The end-game has always and always will be to know God because without faith, it is impossible to please God! “Seek ye first the kingdom of God”, not secondarily, as an afterthought, after the bills are paid, after I get my life together, after, after, after, but rather first!

Walking by faith (dancing) is simply doing what you have seen Him do, loving the way He loves you, saying what you have heard Him say, and acting the way He has shown you to act. Faith is the ultimate reality, but to walk in it, you have to spend time with the Lord. More time with God = increase in faith. He changes us and gives us faith; this is the opposite of “blind faith”, for we once were blind but now we see (with spiritual eyes).

So the catch is that unbelief has to be conquered by faith and faith comes by hearing God speak. But what if you don’t really believe? Then you start by seeking, you start by following the map, you begin to ask a God you don’t believe in to make Himself known to you. The tools of scripture and preachers and teachers and loving Christians are all there for you to help you find the “treasure hidden in a field”, the “pearl of great price”, and the ultimate prize of life.

If we wake up every day and seek time with God, share a loving time with Him, and meditate on His grace, mercy, and glory then the day is seen through a spiritual lens…everything matters, every detail important, and all for God’s agenda instead of ours. If we miss the opportunity to be “changed glory to glory” by starting our day in love with our Savior, then we are walking through our day without the proper lenses. We see the world in its temporal, visual state and are subject to its faulty system…including the lies. Blessed is replaced with lucky, faith is replaced with opinion, and worst of all, “our will be done, not Yours”.

I exhort all who read this to simply succumb to the desire to seek God, I beg of you to let go of everything and bring nothing but brokenness before God, and I extend an invitation to stop resisting God, taste that He is good, and learn to dance with the One that desires this dance so very much that He suffered and died for the opportunity.


The Magnetic Force of God’s Love


Every human alive has a natural, built-in magnetism towards their Creator. To deny this fact is to deny the essence of what it means to be an image bearer of the Creator. We are intrinsically able to know of a God that we cannot see. The embracing of this magnetic attraction causes us to seek Him; the denial of the inward pull toward a heavenly Father causes us to run as fast as we can away from Him. For it is this distance from Him that diminishes that aching in our hearts. Like a planet on the very outskirts of an orbit from its star, we grow colder the farther we get from the energy and heat that the star emits.

In my years of learning from the Spirit of God and His written word, I have discovered an apparent truth. This truth is that most of what God wants from us is hard-wired within and can be totally natural. In other words, once we let go of all the weight that the world puts upon us, the spiritual disciplines are really not disciplines at all; rather, they are more like graces or blessings. It is the letting go that is hard. Drawing close to God, once the weights are removed, is the most natural response known to us. When we are weighted down with doubt, pride, sin, and selfishness, we cannot fall into His intimacy. But once we finally figure out that it is our own hands that keep us from a loving God, we can choose to let those weights fall from us. Once that choice is made, the spirit that lives and breathes in us rushes to Him like a balloon ascending upwards. The balloon doesn’t have to try to rise; it simply follows the natural laws of physics.

The Crow

Some examples to ponder are practices such as prayer and worship. Prayer can be a chore! Why is prayer a chore at first? The reason is bizarre but nevertheless true: we think too much about ourselves! We want the universe to revolve around us, not us around God. Our fallen, carnal minds come equipped with a sense that we are special, that we are the most important part of our little world, and that we, whether we know it or not, have set ourselves up as our own god! That sounds harsh, I know. But it is an undeniable fact. We are born, because of sin, with ME sitting on the throne of our heart. Until we allow God to execute a coup in our dictatorship, His kingdom cannot reign within us. He will not storm into your life and overthrow YOU. He must be invited to the throne that is your heart. This is the ultimate act of spiritual worship. Prayer, for instance, becomes completely natural and comfortable when we know we are talking to our King. And He is not “out there somewhere”; He is ruling our kingdom, which ironically is now His Kingdom, the seat of which is in your heart! Why do you think Jesus told us that “the Kingdom of God is within you”?

Madam Jeanne Guyon penned this gem in the 17th century: “When the soul’s efforts to withdraw itself inward brings it into the influence of the law of love, it falls gradually without any other force than the weight of love into its proper center…God. The more passive and tranquil the soul remains, and the freer it is from self-effort, the more rapidly it advances, because the drawing power of God is unobstructed and has full freedom of action.” By the way, Madam Guyon was imprisoned for 7 years for statements like these! Three of those years were spent in the Bastille in Paris. She never recovered physically from that brutality. That is how powerful this truth is! It is worth that much.

When ME is sitting as the center of our being, we want everyone and everything to revolve around us…even God. The problem is that we don’t emit energy outward; we are takers of energy instead of givers of said energy. Eventually we are like black holes that suck the life out of the people we love, or suck the joy out of life that was meant as a gift. Life without joy, peace, and love is not life at all. Our original design is not to take from this life, but rather to give life all that we have! We have a perverted need to take from life instead of giving into life; we need other people to love us, to pour that love into us; and even when we think we are giving of ourselves, we are really investing ourselves for an expected return. Sad, isn’t it?


The good news is that once we place the Lord on the throne of our hearts, He emits all that we need and more, and He fills us enough that we have plenty to give away. Suddenly, we don’t need to take from others because we have all we need in Him. So the order reverses. Now we become givers instead of takers. We give love because Godly love is naturally overflowing and outflowing; we become peacemakers because we live in a land of inward peace; and we become free of darkness simply because He is light. We don’t have to try at all! All was made right when we surrendered our kingdom to His Kingdom.

So the one and only key is to seek, knock, and ask how to release yourself from ME. This is no easy task as we all know; however, it is the quest of every person determined to find the missing piece in our soul. All that is temporary vanishes in a heartbeat when the eternal enters. All chains that have held us captives to self are broken when we realize that we, all this time, have been responsible for our own captivity and misery. The evil that has kept us trapped and enslaved to sin and death is overrun by the infinite power of a loving God.

When all is said and done, all we really crave at our deepest level is to be loved. To be loved unconditionally, to be loved deeply, to be special for one reason and one reason only…because our Creator thinks we are special. This divine love, once allowed to enrapture us and drown us in grace, becomes the driving force of life. And more than that, the love that has conquered us is eternal and infinite in its nature. It draws all who yearn to it. It pulls the poor in spirit, it confounds the wise, it makes the bitterness turn to sweetness, and it gives sight to the blind. God’s love is irresistible once tasted. But our burdens that we carry have kept us from tasting His goodness! Jesus came to earth and offered to not only remove those burdens, but to carry them for us…all the way to Calvary. He offers us rest. Rest from our running away from Him, rest from our finite worries, rest from the pain of life, and rest from the exhausting affair of ruling our own kingdom.

The old hymn says it aptly:

All to Jesus I surrender; all to him I freely give; I will ever love and trust him, in his presence daily live.

All to Jesus I surrender; humbly at his feet I bow, worldly pleasures all forsaken; take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus I surrender; make me, Savior, wholly thine; fill me with thy love and power; truly know that thou art mine.

All to Jesus I surrender; Lord, I give myself to thee; fill me with thy love and power; let thy blessing fall on me.

All to Jesus I surrender; now I feel the sacred flame. O the joy of full salvation! Glory, glory, to his name!

light entering body

You see, it is wrong in the worst sense to ask God to come in and fix our situations, and then mock Him for not accommodating us. The problem is that God doesn’t want to fix your situation; He wants to fix you! Once you are no longer the center of your own world, everything falls under His rule. Until you invite Him to take over, He is merely doing your bidding for a temporary fix and God doesn’t operate like that. God works freely in a person yielded to His love and power and authority. To ask Him into your orbit as a guest is disrespectful and such a heinous crime that it is like slapping the Almighty in the face! Can’t we see that no one in the universe is more in love with us than God, no one wants to fix our problems more than He, and no one has the antidote to what ails us but He alone? The cure for our disease is His rule in our lives. And His rule is lovely beyond words. When Christ reigns in our lives, we can honestly say, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain”! Our Lord is bent on a permanent solution, for our own good.

My invitation today is will you finally surrender? Will you finally come to the end of YOU and embrace Him? Will you, at this very moment, succumb to the desire that has haunted you all your life? Fall into the magnetic force that is God’s love. Why wait? It’s time to let go completely and fall into the arms of grace. He will catch you, I promise. Let go of everything holding you back because you will need both hands open to completely embrace your only true and eternal love.

freedom from bondage