Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How to See God (cont.)

The reason why most people have difficulty seeing God is because they don't have the right perspective.

First -- if you are looking for God, do you really know what you are looking for?

Are you looking for a man? A woman?

Are you looking for love? For continuity? For a profound experience?

Are you looking for a sense of peace and stability in your life?

When you say "God," what do you really mean?

We talk about God all the time at Church and with other believers, but how often do we stop and really think about our perception of God? Is God a King to you? Is He a separate entity hovering somewhere in space or another dimension? Is He something abstract, a word, or a sense of meaning that you are lacking from your life? If you are looking for God, where are you looking, and what are you focusing on? 

These are extremely important questions to consider if you are looking for God. Change what you are looking for, and you might just see it.

Here is a simple way to know God:


And watch.

And keep your eyes open.

Remember: God is not something that you control. You cannot "force God to show Himself," as though you were herding a deer into an open meadow. God has His own timing and way of doing things. Do not look for an angel in the clouds or an unexplained envelope of money in your mailbox. God is right in front of you, but this is not how to see Him.

Instead, be patient. Pray, and watch for opportunity. Look for coincidence in the world around you. It is difficult for the mind to understand, but God is the world, God is your heart, and when you begin praying/communicating with God, you begin moving by His timing, then His blessings and bounty begin to fill your life by otherwise ordinary means. No, you will not receive an unexplained envelope of cash in your mailbox... but suddenly you might receive a raise at work. Stop looking for God in the clouds. We are already living inside of the miracle. Watch how it works around you.

Seeing God has nothing to do with where you look. It is the eyes you see with. God is all around you, all the time, but we do not see Him because we are not "wearing the right glasses." To see God, we must change our internal perspective. We must believe in Him and trust that, if we ask, He will make Himself known to us. And then, when coincidences begin to happen, we must not close our eyes. It can be terrifying at first, seeing God work in our lives. It is strange and exhilarating, suddenly feeling as though the world is moving to accommodate for us. But do not turn away. Eventually God will be more than coincidence, and you will know His Presence in everything, and then you will see God and Life for what it really is.

Friday, August 26, 2011

How to See God

God is so big, how else is He supposed to communicate with us, except through coincidence?

Case and Point: I recently went camping in the Sequoias with four friends and an old RV. I prayed several days before the camping trip that God bless the trip and let it be a rejuvenating experience for everyone. I prayed all week, because I was nervous about the trip and really wanted it to go well.

The morning that we left for the trip, an old man just happened to be walking outside of my house. I greeted him and we chatted briefly about the RV and my trip. When he heard that I was going to the redwood trees, he said, "I love it up in the Sequoias. Angels made them, you know. They're a blessing on earth. Do you study the Bible, by any chance?" He then invited me to a Bible study that he holds at his house every Monday night.

I thought it was a strange coincidence that I would meet someone who spoke so openly about God on the very morning that I was leaving on my trip.

Sadly, it seemed that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong on the first day of the camping trip. The RV broke down 3 times on the road to the Sequoias. A 4-hour drive turned into an overnight extravaganza, "camping" on the side of the road halfway up a mountain when the RV finally died at 1am. Despite all of the terrible things that could have happened, we were able to keep the RV running, and even more importantly, everyone stayed in high spirits. We made it to our camp ground and found ourselves stunned by how intensely beautiful the camp site was. We spent the next four days hiking, eating, and lazing around in the outdoors. When we finally left, everyone gushed about how perfect and wonderful the camping trip was, and how they couldn't wait to do it again.

Did God stop the RV from breaking down? No.

Did God work in our hearts so that, even when everything went wrong, we stayed in good spirits and still had a great time? Yes. Exactly.

And how did I know that the camping trip would be perfect? Because on the morning that we left, God sent one of His workers to my house to hint at His presence. God sent me a coincidence. Through the presence of another believer, I knew that my prayers had been answered, and that God's joy would be with us in the sequoias. 

This is how God speaks to us, and this is how we begin to see Him... not in the wonder of His creations, such as the redwood trees... but as an incidental meeting, a crossing of paths, between two people who have the Spirit in their hearts. The old man may not have said it directly, but his presence confirmed the truth -- that God heard me, that God answered, and that God wants me to know He's here.

But the greatest of these is love....

"1 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing. 

 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 

 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 

 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

I understand what Paul is saying when he speaks of love. My honest thoughts are that I have always understood the importance of love in faith, even though I am not perfect and I do not always act out of love. When I found God, it was Love that made itself known to me; pure and intense Love that cannot be fully described or understood. God has always made Himself known to me as Love, so when Paul talks about love, and about "knowing in part and knowing fully," I understand exactly what he means.

The love we experience within our families and in relationships is not the same Love that God is. They should really be two separate words. It is as Paul said... the love we have on earth is only "in part," it is incomplete, imperfect, soiled by selfishness and neediness, tainted by the fear of loss and our own insecurities. God's Love surpasses this so completely that it must be named something else. It is like comparing a lump of coal to a diamond, or a pine cone to a redwood tree. God's Love is perfect. God's Love is so complete that it created Life. God's Love created you.

And when we act and pray with God's Love in our hearts, miracles happen, because God's Love is Life.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Leading by Example

Actions speak louder than words.

I have found much more success in changing the hearts of others by showing my faith through actions, not so much by arguing or trying to convince through words. I have found that having a kind and uplifting character does much more than sitting and arguing. When others see our happiness and joy in faith, they begin to wonder what they are missing -- and don't be fooled by a bitter heart. Everyone wants faith, every soul yearns for God's love... even if they can't identify the source of their own longing.

I could sit here and write out a long list of all of the small things I do each day to serve the people around me... I could also sit here and write a long list of all the times I grow impatient or selfish. The bottom line is that, when one believes powerfully in God and shows their faith through compassion and generosity, people congregate around you. People are naturally drawn to you and begin to imitate you. By letting your own light shine, you allow the light in others to shine as well. By believing in God, you give the people around you permission to do the same. By being good, you remind others that we are all, essentially, good.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16

Friday, August 12, 2011

Thoughts on Christianity

For most of my life up to this point, I have avoided calling myself Christian. Something about the label always bothered me; I didn't want all the negative stereotypes that apply to "Christian" to also apply to me. Since I was raised by atheists, these stereotypes were very prevalent in my home. Christianity was synonymous with "judgmental, irrational, ignorant, superstitious, and belligerent." I wanted people to see my faith for what it was, something I had experienced in the purity and sincerity of my childhood, not a string of negative connotations that would push them away.

But a part of growing in my faith has been realizing that, as we get older, we need ways of explaining ourselves to others. People as a whole are not that smart or open-minded, and they can only understand faith in terms of what they are familiar with -- in this case, the Bible, Christ, and Christianity. I am understanding now that there are as many different kinds of Christians as there are different kinds of people, and the next challenge for my faith is not to maintain an ambivalent, "in between" belief system where I pick and choose from various traditions. No, the next challenge for my faith is to embrace a tradition and grow from it. Learn from those who have come before me. Get over my pride and submit to the experience and wisdom of hundreds of generations.

And the honest truth is that when I read the teachings of Christ, it all rings true for me. Not everything in the Bible strikes me as being spiritually potent and accurate, but the words of Christ do. The way he explains God matches up exactly with my own experience of faith, and the Spirit that confronted me when I was first saved, before I had ever been introduced to Christianity or anyone's teachings, before I even learned what the Holy Spirit was. God was with me before Christianity, and coming from that perspective, when I first read the teachings of Christ, I felt as though they had already been imprinted on my heart, as though I was reading something that was old news, because my experience of salvation had already imparted those truths in my heart and spirit. 

I still believe that there are many different ways to practice faith in God... and everyone needs to find the way that helps them grow in their relationship to God... but, if all ways are the same Way, then instead of picking and choosing from different doctrines, find one doctrine and stick to it. Following a religion, in this sense, is not really about "being right" or "knowing more"... it is about having a daily practice, something to challenge us to let go of our prior beliefs and seek a new way of life, something that changes us in ways that we need to be changed.

I still like to learn about different religions because it brings me joy to hear about God's ways, but I understand now that I must dedicate myself to only one... otherwise it is very difficult to grow spiritually; it is easy to become overwhelmed or lazy, or to hold back from what one is doing, to stop oneself from fully plunging into the journey. Spirituality and faith, after all, is more about forgetting what you think you know than understanding everything. We will never understand all of the secrets of life. God's secrets are ineffable and found only in the heart, and the heart can be reached through any religion, or no religion at all, as I hope my experiences have shown you. God's truth, however, remains the same and consistent across all teachings.

All truth being the same, choose one doctrine and live by it. I choose Christ. He is my Way.

Friday, August 5, 2011

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
Ephesians 4:29

Messages on 8/5

Today, I was sitting in the courtyard at Cal State Northridge when a very unusual man came up to me. He was African American, perhaps a few years older than me (still young), with three friends in tow. He approached my table and asked, "Can I pray with you?"

It was surprising. I told him, yes, that I was feeling sad and I would like to be prayed over. (I never pass up the opportunity for a prayer.)

Then he told me that he had driven to campus all the way from Long Beach because he felt that there was a need here. He said that he felt that the need was mine.

As he prayed, he said that the Spirit spoke to him. These were the Spirit's words:

1) You are like an Eagle. You sit and observe and see things. I made you far-sighted; you can see a situation from every angle, and which direction certain paths will lead. Seer. Architect. You can see the plans and how they have been set in motion. You see things that not everyone can see. I want you to use this to glorify Me.

2) Trust Me. Trust Me. Have a relationship with Me. Draw closer to Me. Trust Me. Relax. Read my Word that we might have a better conversation.

3) She's still a good friend. Pray for her. (I previously lost a very close friend to a silly argument. He even said her name started with a "K," which was true.)

4) I'm going to show you things I don't show everyone. You are going to see things that not everyone gets to see. I have huge plans for you; you are going to do very important work, touch many people, and work with children. Just follow and trust Me, and Watch Me Move.

5) The Spirit said that I was suffering from blood pressure and back pain. (Both are true.)

6) A financial blessing is coming into your life in the next thirty days. A new job opportunity is on the way that will bless you immensely. Be patient, it is coming.

7) I am showing you how to be patient, how to be a hard worker, how to give glory to Me.

8) You have too many expectations of people. Put your expectations on Me, and watch how I fulfill them.

9) Pray for your father. (When asked for clarification, he said that he had the impression of an older male figure, one who is related to me by family. It was amazing, because on this day I was mourning for my father and feeling very depressed. He had no idea that my father passed.)

I don't know what to make of all of this. The man and his friends stayed at my table for close to an hour. To be honest, though, this is not the first time this has happened to me. I've even had strangers come up to me and ask ME to pray for them. I've had friends send me emails from across the country with similar "messages" that I need to hear. And sometimes, those messages arise from my own writing.

I think, if we walk close enough to God, these things are not unusual. It is all a part of walking in His Kingdom. We are all connected, you see.

And sometimes, I receive messages for other people, too.
He knows us so thoroughly.... It leaves me in endless awe how God fulfills our desires, even the ones we don't realize we have. Perhaps, in some cases, the fulfillment in momentary... a brief relationship or a day that goes much better than planned, a meeting with an old friend, etc... yet still God sees directly at the heart of the matter and brings us each to where we ideally belong.

God has a place for me, for my faith. It is not a place that I can imagine, nor do I think that anyone can imagine their own ideal home in the world, because we are barely acquainted with ourselves. But God knows all things, and if we are patient and follow in His footsteps, abide by His ways, then we reach that ideal place. Through each stage of our lives, even in deep suffering, we are in an ideal place.

Everything is always moving, in the process of becoming something else. I, too, must allow my faith to move and progress. I must allow myself to see God in different ways, so that I might understand to the best of my ability all that my Father is... because He is so many things, all things, and I am only one thing... and He is One in me....

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"When love beckons to you follow him, Though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him, Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth....

But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure, Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor, Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears. Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.

Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love. And think not you can direct the course of love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.

But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires: To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully."

-Khalil Gibran (The Prophet)
"Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars."
-Khalil Gibran