Friday, August 30, 2013

Going Deeper: A Becoming Mystery


GOING DEEPER WITH GOD, A BECOMING MYSTERY

PREMISE: GOD made us for RELATIONSHIP.

 SETTING THE STAGE
There is a spiritual need for going deeper with God. A  need for an active seeking, a need for a realizing of a God-placed inner desire deep within which creates a longing for something more.  This something "more" is found in an intimate relationship, living in close fellowship with a Triune God.  A God who genuinely cares for his people, created in his image, redeemed through his Son.  Where, and why have we as a people of faith missed this integral element in Christian life? Some have found it. It is where true living finds its satisfaction and joy.

Spirit growth is commiserate with a person’s closeness to God. Much of that which may seem spiritual because of its theology and study may be an academic exercise which fails, in its practice and even in an inward state of deception, to change the heart. It is not enough to fill a mind with concepts about God, even though study of God's Word and tenants of the faith are extremely important for knowing why and what we believe. These are not an end-all. Neither is prayer. It must go one step further than obedience, knowledge and service. One must also let the things of God penetrate below the surface of the mind, funnel down to the heart, then absorb into its very tissue. This will have everything to do with a God-filled, healthy heart that loves well and loves without expectation or self-protection.

Time to look inside. Be honest with yourself. This might be a good time to ask God for some wisdom and a looking glass that will reveal what is inside your heart.

QUESTION - Does love for God make a difference in your life? 
Be honest, does it  really?  I didn’t say belief about God.  I don't mean to interfere, but sometimes it is important to do a reality check.  Does your love for God transcend your wants and ambitions?  Even knowing the answer to the question may be hard to identify or to put your finger on. Does my love for God make a difference in how I live my life? Is it love or is it belief or is it that they intertwine? True love must have an object.  Let's look at purpose. This may help. Identify the motive that prompts action. Is God the object?  Is it pure in its love? Take a moment take stock, make a spiritual inventory. Ask yourself this question. In what way does my love for God outwork in my life? Notice if it is duty-bound, part of a spiritual prototype, or if it is genuine.

Name biblical characters who display this type of love, a passion for God?

What characteristics in their lives make this evident to us, that their love is real?

A thought to ponder — Do we try to grow our spiritual life, and our church, to become what we want them to be? Or,  do we grow our spiritual life, and our church, to become what GOD wants them to be?

What limits us?

What limits the church?

QUESTIONS - Where is the power in our spiritual walk? Where is its life?   
What is missing?
If we want God to do more, we have to be more, that is, more in Christ.  But do we want more?  Do we really?  As Christians, we may become complacent, comfortable, not in the fray. There are areas in our lives (of which we are aware) that may need some attention. But, basically, we may be inactive in the spirit realm. We may be living with our stuff, and our pain, mostly content with the way things are going. We are doing our best effort, for the most part.  Yet, we may be stuck, not moving forward. If we’re honest with ourselves, sometimes we feel alone, with a sense of  being abandoned by God, disillusioned and even second-rate, especially if God has not acted on our asking, seeming deaf to our persistent petitions.  

What about that empty, going through the motions, feeling of deadness?  What about our  own troubling issues? Something is going on, we know, when there is a complacency or a conflicted separation in our person in regards to spiritual matters. We know there are reasons for this, of course, for that which is part of being human, with its struggles against the world, the flesh and the devil, and its spiritual warfare, in an on-going battle against those things that resist a closeness to God. But, that’s not what is meant in this paragraph. Rather, what is missing in this picture is a lack of engagement with God in the center of self, in what some old writings call The Ministry of the Interior. That deep well within a person that needs to be filled with God. The Spirit is there, but the well in the center of the heart is empty or getting close to dry. It cannot give what it does not have at its disposal. The Spirit Life is being lived without its power, which means, it is being lived in its flesh, out of human effort. This is the nitty-gritty where-it's-at for many-a-Christian, and all of us at times.

What do you think ‘doing’ versus ‘being’ looks like?

What could contribute to this lethargy, this lack of fulfillment?

QUESTION - What is the need?  
To walk closer to God, in step with God, in active realness, in joy, in peace, in communion with God, is to be dissatisfied or unsatisfied with the status quo.  A life that is content with the status quo, is a limited spiritual life.  It is spirit-life in a box.  A box made up of  secure walls, self-made boundaries, insecurities, and human pleasures and wants. We seek those things we can live with, that  make us happy or, at least, okay.  We often fail to see the weakness in this human, limited spirituality with its fa├žade of spiritual activity, which falsifies our true driving passion, the desire for self and self-protection.  It is often us and our view of the Christian life, Christian life as we think it should be, instead of what we could have in a true, God-Christ-Spirit shaped-enabled-driven life.   

There are some problems that get in the way of a Centered-in-Christ spirit life. Here is a partial list of some that come to mind. One problem, is the failure to want more than we already have  in our spiritual life.  If that’s not the problem, another one is quick to appear. If we want more, we aren’t sure of ways to access God, how to find him as this sort of God.  And, then there is this ugly little problem that surfaces, we really aren’t so sure about God, who he is, what his real plan for us will entail. Will we like it?  And, the biggest worry of all, if we really look deep inside ourselves and at God and what he is doing, it is possible that we may be disappointed with what he gives us.

Surrender to God is necessary to change this no-win position. Surrender of a controlled (for lack of a better word) "spiritual" life, the self-contained spiritual life the person has come to expect and live, surrender of it all, form and function, to become real with God, to a new life that is scary, hard, and unpredictable.  Fear may trump faith. Fear or a spiritual routine of going-through-the-motions, a partial fulfillment, is what a person will experience without a riveting closeness to God, without his transforming life in active engagement within the person's soul, a removing of the fears and human stuff of life with its areas of bondage, then replacing it with his person, his love, his power, his grace, and Him.  It is God who removes the fear and doubts that weaken and contribute to spirit-life-lived-in-a-box, a limited spirituality.  But, when the box falls apart, and the person lets go, the relationship is set free.  Praise God for this! It is the first step toward freedom in the spiritual life.

Name some ways Christians experience disappointment with God?

What are some of the frustrations Christians internalize but think would be unchristian to acknowledge?

A few months ago I was talking with a Christian woman who has lived a faithful, faith-filled life for all of her years. Her family has been on-hold in several areas as they wait for God to answer their prayers. They are very dedicated servants in the Church and also with their fellow-man. In the conversation a statement was made that has a hidden meaning. She said to me what many of us feel. I mention it in this writing because it spoke to me of something that holds many from knowing and participating in the fullness of joy in God. "I want to give it all to God, I want to draw closer to him, but I'm not sure what will happen if I do." I could identify.  I still identify. It is human to struggle in this area. The emotion is fear. When you take it further, it is also a distrust in God's goodness or it can be a lack of faith to believe in his goodness. And if you take it further still, it also reveals a less-than-desired-some-what-cautious love for God. Love and trust live together in tight fellowship. Don't misunderstand, it is true that love for God is already in place in the well-lived, obedient, Christian walk. The problem is that it is not enough to carry the person into a deeper level of spiritual life, the acquisition and communion found in an intimate relationship with God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  

Once a person steps through the door of no-return and leaves self and its need for security behind, God becomes the sweetest friend a person can have in this mortal (and immortal) life. He will become so dear that the thought of Him brings tears to the eyes. That is when a person falls in love with God and life unfolds in a newness of being. It is when Question 1 can be answered in confidence to the affirmative. It is when a person fully loves God and they will act "in love" for God in regards to the people and opportunities God will put in their path.

Bless you if you seek God in this way. It is well-worth the journey.

This "Going Deeper" series was written by Norma Brumbaugh for an adult Sunday School class.
*to be continued on another blog

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