Is there a ‘disconnect’ between your desire for God and your experience of God?
This is the question propelling this series.
Most of the good titles have been used. My final choices for this series were "Desiring God," "Experiencing God," and "Knowing God." The first is a book by John Piper, the second by Henry Blackaby, and the third by J. I. Packer. I have been informed and enriched by each these books, and commend them to you.
In the final analysis I settled on "Knowing God."
For me, desiring God is like yearning for water to slake one's thirst; experiencing God is drinking the water; knowing God includes the desire and the experience, and goes beyond them both.
Do you want to know God better?
Writing or speaking on certain topics makes me uncomfortable. In some cases I feel like a fraud. This is one of those topics.
Do I know God?
Yes and no.
On one hand, I fit into that category of which Paul writes: "now that you know God – or rather are known by God" (Galatians 4:9).
But on the other hand, I don't really know God very well.
So, as I write on this subject, I do so as a companion with you, sharing my desires and frustrations; my experiences and emptiness; my knowledge and ignorance.
I am a novice, not an expert, in knowing God.
There are multitudes of opinions about God.
When I use the term 'God', I want to be clear.
‘God’ refers to the Creator, the "uncaused cause" who made all things, including humans. Yet, this description is too vague and malleable.
Eugene Peterson puts it this way: ‘God’ has revealed himself as Jesus Christ, and this name "gathers all the diffused vagueness into a tight, clear, light-filled focus …" Chris Wright confirms this: "God is God as revealed in Jesus of Nazareth."
I called the difference between our desire for God, and our experience of God, a 'disconnect'.
I am presuming that you have a ‘desire’ for God. Not to have such a desire is unnatural.
Each of us is a flawed ‘image’ of God. Among other things, this means we have been ‘wired’ for God. That wiring naturally attracts us to the God of image, even if we don’t recognize Him. As a result we may attempt to satisfy that desire with things other than God.
Blaise Pascal, the 17th Century French scholar, wrote in his Pensées:
There once was in man a true happiness of which now remains to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present. But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.
Do you desire your 'abyss' – your emptiness – to be filled only by God Himself?
Knowing God better is not something that happens instantly, passively, or accidentally.
More than 20 times in the Bible we hear "seek the Lord." For instance (Deuteronomy 4:29):
... seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.
How do we do that?
Here are some preliminary recommendations presented as an acrostic: A.L.E.R.T.
Simply put, this is paying attention to God.
Jean-Pierre de Caussade (died 1751) wrote a helpful little book entitled The Sacrament of the Present Moment. In it he uses an illustration of two sheets of paper abutting each other. One sheet of paper represents our pasts with their memories; the other our futures with their plans, anticipations and fears. The place where the two sheets meet is ‘now’ – that is where you are invited to be present to God.
In practical terms, this means we need to learn how to pay attention to God in the ‘now’. How do we do that?
Primarily, we listen to God through the holy and ancient text of the Bible. You are invited to read and listen intentionally, intelligently, consistently, and responsively.
There are other ways of hearing God including the voices of community and the circumstances of life. If these other ‘voices’ are genuine they will be validated by Scripture, the person and work of Jesus Christ, and God's character of love (see: Is that you God?).
God has spoken, will speak – and, is speaking. We need to develop our sense of expectancy for hearing his voice, receiving his gifts, and experiencing his presence.
We read ‘stories’ of biblical characters such as Abraham, Moses, Hannah, Samuel, Isaiah, Mary, Peter and Paul. We note that God met and spoke with them, and they responded with lives that said “Yes, Lord.”
This is also true of more recent followers of Jesus like Jim Elliot, Amy Carmichael, and multitudes of unknown men and women.
How do you respond to God?
5. Taking time:
As with any relationship you value, you need to devote time to develop, deepen, and enjoy it. This is not the work of a moment; it is the investment of a life-time.
Do you take time with God to develop, deepen, and enjoy your relationship with Him?
In the next weeks, we'll explore, expand, and apply A.L.E.R.T. and other grace-filled practices that flow from it.
Do you have anything to add?
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