Against my better judgment, the Lord has burdened my heart with something that I just have to share; for to keep it to myself, in the end, is selfish. Please forgive me for the format, I know a lot of people are turned off instantly by the prospect of a “silver bullet” and all of us have probably been hit by enough “infomercial” preachers, God bless them, to last a lifetime. That is why this post is so hard to write…It scares me to turn anyone off. I don’t want people to think that I consider myself a “know-it-all”. I dread the thought of someone not getting to the essence of what I am trying to do because they stopped reading when they read the title or I lose them somewhere along the way. God will do what He will and maybe I can be “a flame to light your candle from”.
If you fall into one of the following categories, then this is for you:
1.) You believe in Jesus as the Son of God and believe in Him for salvation. However, you are not pursuing God as much as you would like and feel guilty about it like a nagging headache. You hunger for something more but aren’t sure how God fits into your life.
2.) You are a steady church-goer but find yourself unfulfilled. You have put your spiritual life on a shelf named “Religion”. You find yourself being two different people. One self presentable to God, when you can “focus” on Him and the other self functioning in the world “business as usual”: your life really isn’t that much different from anyone else’s…believer or non-believer. You give your best in all that you do, are hard working, and wear many hats. But, deep down, you know there must be more to it than this. Walking around with a “punched ticket” to heaven just isn’t cutting it any longer.
3.) You are the person who has made such a wreck of your life that you feel hopeless…like there is no way that God would want to have anything else to do with you…that was my category by the way. You believe in Jesus but feel very far away from Him and have reduced Him to a fairy-tale like aspect in your life…something to write poetry about or play music about. You feel it is impossible to know God, like philosophy or theology…always asking questions and never getting any answers.
1.) You must understand the God you want to approach: there are many gods; one would be a fool not to look around and surmise as much…don’t be fooled. GOD would not have mentioned “other gods” if they did not exist. The GOD we seek is the God of Israel, the God of Jacob, the God of Abraham, the God that begat a Son named Jesus the Messiah who also is GOD, the Lord of Hosts, Jehovah, the God of heaven, the Holy Spirit who also is GOD, and the purest name which I refuse to type because it is too Holy. This God has many more names that I’m sure you are aware of. If you do not believe in the Trinity of the Godhead, then we cannot go any further. You cannot ever completely understand the mystery of the Trinity. Don’t get hung up before you start! We are not in the business any longer of putting GOD into a box; quite the opposite, we are trying to let Him out of your box that you have crafted for Him. He is claustrophobic! If you want to suspend your disbelief and move forward, you will believe in the Trinity very early on in this journey. Otherwise, do a little research in Scripture first.
2.) Be willing to start over, to be built from the ground up, to start as a fresh lump of clay in God’s eager hands. God is worth the price of admission: willingness to start “from scratch”. I don’t care how “advanced” you and I think we are…we can never get too set in our ways to approach Him in humility.
3.) Understand that the journey I will outline is simple, but quite overwhelming. If you don’t set time aside for this endeavor, it may be doomed to fail. Action on our part is necessary and this action is a sweet sacrifice that God desires and cherishes. The plan that I will lay out is best done in a spirit of “immediacy”; reading here and there for an hour at a time is very difficult if you are like me at all. One should feel “swept into” this journey with the understanding that “one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back, is not worthy of the kingdom of God”. I speak from experience and Scripture confirms: God is blessed by our humble decision to “seek Him with all our heart”. It gives Him pleasure! Imagine that; that we can be His delight and bring Him pleasure…
1.) The Prayer: this is the prayer of your own making; I would not presume to do it for you or tell you how to do it. I can, however give you the ingredients that work. One must come to a point where they ask God for the “real deal”. With all the desire of your heart, you want to know what He wants from you or has for you. This prayer is a personal plea for wisdom and understanding. If you really want to know, all you have to do is ask. It must be in your heart to desire to know God. If you ask and don’t mean it, then this journey will end very quickly. Prayer is about your heart, not your words. The simplest of prayers will do. This was mine: “God, I think you exist but I want you to make Yourself real to me. If you are there, please show Yourself!”
2.) The Book of John: this book is, simply put, the most powerful Word that we have available to us. The secret to John is really not a secret but rather a “hidden in plain sight” phenomenon. Most of us have heard many verses quoted from this love letter. Start over, my blessed friend. Pretend you have never read it before. Approach the beginning of your journey with this mind-set: leave all pre-conceptions at the door; pride has left many a soul washed up on the rocks of despair. Do not bring your prejudices or personal feelings about the framework of life including your religious views. Approach this book as a child. Start from scratch and let the words of Christ Himself shape your heart anew. The beauty of John approached this way is a spiritual high-place, in that there is more than meets the eye of someone just reading it. Before you begin to delve into the words, ask God for His guidance. Remember, you prayed to know Him and He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. God will not lead you astray or allow you to fall prey to “false doctrine” etc. “Fear not”…We want to learn directly from Him, not through the lens of anything else; we don’t “bring anything to the table”. Ask GOD for His guidance and begin to taste the sweetness that flows from the Book of John. You can and will spend a lifetime learning wisdom from this book, but for now, we are focused on being fed milk directly from the hand of God. You can come back to John anytime you desire, but we need to move forward. So don’t spend months, right now, probing the depths of the spiritual life. Remember, I promised a simple plan.
3.) Depending on your age and your reading skills, I have three options here. Before I go any further, I must nip something in the bud right now. I don’t want to lose anyone here. People who dedicate their life to God can and do write inspired works: God Himself speaks through them through the power of the Holy Spirit. God makes them do it; the writer has no power to resist. If you want to make sure that the writer is speaking Truth before you even read their work, then God has a litmus test as well. You will know they are “Mine” by their love. First and foremost, anyone worth reading on the subject of these deep mysteries is marked by love. That love may manifest itself in several different ways. The Scripture tells us point blank that: “good trees bear good fruit”. Period. How did the author change lives with love and for God’s glory? Answer that question and you are good to go. Of course it goes without saying, I would never lead you to a book that didn’t stand up to Scriptural Truth! So here are the options that I know take us to the next level (you can take my word for it or research them yourself):
A. If you are an older, well-read adult you absolutely have to read “The Pursuit of God” by A. W. Tozer. If you read this book many years ago, it is worth another spin around the block. Because I promised a simple journey, this book is very small (about 100-120 pages long). You can get a copy at a used bookstore or order it on-line. This book opened my eyes in a way that cannot be expressed. It is like someone spied on your heart and put into words the things that we all find so very difficult to put into words. The author is obviously not a character from the Bible; the author is very much a modern human that we can relate to and gain a more “tangible” perspective from. There is an apparent power in this book that grabs a hold of you, will not let you go, and that will continue to transform you. Do not skip the preface; it sets the table for the meal.
B. If you are a younger person and/or relate to modern language better than literature, then you absolutely have to read “The Sacred Romance” by John Eldridge and Brent Curtis. It is another anointed work that echoes the same power found in Tozer’s book. The power is apparent and speaks to the deepest part of what it means to be “human”.
C. If you have a hard time reading, then I need you to do yourself a huge favor. Find a Christian that can help you and don’t be shy! You asked God to make Himself known to you, so if you don’t boldly seek help from a loving Christian, then you took two blessings away. Both people are blessed in this type of powerful, enriching relationship. Every loving Christian whose heart is set on God would love nothing better than to help you along the way! The key to finding the right person is to pray about it and then open your eyes and go to that person who is a loving person. You will recognize them by a burning love for others. Contrary to urban legend, they are not hard to find!
4. The final step in this journey that you would have braved thus far is one more book. From here, your life is completely different anyway. If you have gotten past the first step or two, you already know that your personal journey is about to depart from mine. Each person’s journey is magnificently unique. God is awesome like that. He wants a personal relationship with you, and He is a creative genius. The steps I laid out here for you are only a starting point. Remember, I have written this post against my better judgment for this exact reason (it could be viewed as “just another starting point”). There are, I am sure, a million different ways to begin the journey of discovering God, but the one I have laid out is simple and it works. Others may work just as well, but you didn’t go there or haven’t gone there…you are here. The old expression, “Well, it worked for you…so what? Maybe I can find my own way”, is a trap and another way to shrug off the cry you hear from your thirsty heart. I am bearing testimony of a way that DOES WORK. If it didn’t work, then the books I have laid out would never have changed or continued to change the world anyway! The books are, in essence, their own testimony. So the last step before I will let go of you is this: Read “No Greater Love” by none other than Mother Teresa. Forget about religion, forget about how an 85 pound woman changed the world, forget any pre-conceived notions of her and hear what she says…in her own words. Her voice is so simple and profound that you will feel humbled. Humility is the key to progressing. Listen to her, for the fruit that she bore out of the love of Christ is mind-boggling to say the least!
Well, there it is…my simple cure for thirsty Christians. I will not go here again, I promise. If you have read this and decided to take this challenge, then I can guarantee you several things:
1. You will be changed forever, and you will KNOW FREEDOM.
2. You will not fear life (or death for that matter) any longer.
3. You will know God and thirst for more of Him in a good way.
4. You will be loved with a love that never dies or diminishes…a good place to live, my friend.
May God bless you with His love and please report back to me, if you so desire, when you take these first steps into the kingdom of God as a child again! I would like to know, later, each of your personal journeys. That’s why we “gather ourselves together”, to share and celebrate our journeys…
I am going to “stick” or leave this post on my Home Page for one month. If you find that you want to share this information, please forward it along at your pleasure.