Archive for August, 2009
Four years ago or so, my friend and now one of my spiritual fathers Andy Taylor, asked me this question in response to my asking him what I should do about some situation: “what is the Father saying to you?” It was a question that began to change my life, because for the first time I started listening to the voice in my heart instead of the voice in my head. An essential part of the Trinity DNA is to point people to the Father as the source of their direction and decisions rather than handing out advice that may or may not be the will of their Father. It is the right way, even though at times it is easier to dispense or receive advice, rather than to wait for the Father.
But like all good and right things you can sometimes get in the ditch by not recognising there is at least one other important way to hear and move in the Spirit. If we are staying in step with the Spirit we must be, in most circumstances, in relationship with other Family members. The Spirit walk is not to be lived in isolation. Just like we are born naturally into a family, when we are born again spiritually we become part of a Family that is as important as any natural one.
Being part of a Family where you are loved, affirmed, valued, encouraged and free to grow and fail is called a covering. Under the covering of a true spiritual Family you are known as you know, your heart is knit together by the Spirit with others, and just like there is no way to be separated from the love of the Father there is no way to be separated from His true Family either.
Under this covering there is safety. There is freedom. There is failure and there is success. Under the covering there also must be direction. Spiritual families have parents just like natural families do. In a spiritual Family we have fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles and cousins. Sometimes I am as close as a brother to my Family and we relate on that level. I do not know all of my Family equally well and so relate to some more as I do my natural cousins. Sometimes for my spiritual family I serve in the role of a father/mother. And sometimes I am functioning as a son to someone else who is my father/mother.
Fathers and mothers provide direction to a natural family and they must also in the Spiritual family. I am not suggesting they are always telling us what to do, as that would negate the first principle of each Family member hearing The Father for themselves, but where and when there are decisions that in one way or another effect the life of the whole Family, then under the covering there are is a place for the Family fathers and mothers to give direction.
When those of us who serve as fathers and mothers (which in reality we all do at times) refuse to give counsel by hiding behind the first principle of hearing the Father for ourselves, we miss one of the ways the Father uses to move the whole Family in the way He is calling all of us to go and we end up in the ditch, just as we do when we are always depending on others to tell us what to do.
No question, learning to hear the voice of the Father for ourselves is preeminent. Nothing is more important and without an ability to clearly distinguish the Father’s Voice from the myriad of other family members voices that try to give direction, we will end up going from one thing to another without direction or focus and we will end up doing what others think we should do at the expense of doing what the Father wants us to do.
But under the safety of the Family Covering there are times when we need to hear the voice of fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers and even a few cousins, to confirm or affirm what we are hearing the Father say. There is also, in the safety of the covering, a place for our spiritual parents to tell us what they think is best for the whole Family, when one of us is faced with a decision that may affect us all.
Hearing the Father for yourself is essential but counsel from under the covering is a complimentary way to hear Him as well.
Since we are both natural and spiritual beings we have access to both the natural realm and the spiritual realms. (see previous post) Access to the natural is easy because we just do what comes naturally. Access to the spiritual realm does not come naturally so how can we tune into the spiritual dimension?
Deuteronomy 4:29 says if we seek Him (God) with our whole heart and soul, then we will find Him. Are there ways to seek God where He will actually make Himself more fully known? Yes.
God is spirit, Jesus said and so if we want to worship Him we must do so in spirit. (John 4:24). The woman Jesus spoke these words to was focused on the natural aspects of worship, finding God in nature, what religion was right, etc. Jesus was calling her to change her focus from the natural to the spiritual, since as a natural and spiritual person she had access to both. God is not flesh and blood, He is spirit so to connect with Him we must enter the spiritual realm.
To worship Him (relate to Him, have intimate interaction with Him) requires us to use our spiritual side since that is what He is-spirit. As I write these words I am in Washington state. I am a citizen of the United States and my location is in the state of Washington. If you want to talk face to face with me you must come here to Washington. You can read these words but to have a conversation we have to connect here in Washington, that is where I am.
God has told us where He is located and it is in the spiritual realm and those who want a connection with Him must go to where He is.
How do we do that? Remember what God said in Deuteronomy 4? (quoted above) To find Him requires that we seek Him with our whole being. What I think He means is that we must take everything we are and direct it, focus it, point it toward Him. Just focusing our minds toward Him will not get us into a connection with Him. All we can do with our minds is think about Him, rehearse facts about Him, remember past things about Him that are special and unique about Him. Focusing our mind is a good thing to do and one step in the process but since we are body (mind), soul and spirit we must bring our whole being to the pursuit of a connection.
Preparing the soul is a key step in making a connection with the spiritual realm. The Scriptures often speaks of the soul by using the word heart. The heart is the place where spiritual connections take place. The heart is the place where we are most sensitive, real and open to spiritual realities. The heart is where the Spirit of God comes to live when we are born again and receive a new nature, one with a capacity for connecting. So the soul/heart must be prepared for a spiritual connection.
A humble heart, the Bible says God will not despise (Psalm 51). In other words the Father likes humble hearts. Psalm 113 talks about a humble heart that is focused on quiet, spiritual things and not taken up with things we can’t or don’t need to understand. It goes on to say that the heart of a child is the attitude God seekers need to have.
Entering the spirit world requires a humble and quiet heart/soul. Approaching God with a heart consumed with natural worries and philosophical ideas muddies the flow into the spirit. There are things we cannot know with the mind and to try and figure them out keeps the heart from opening into the spiritual.
James writes: draw near to God and He will draw near to you (4:8) We do that, James says, by leaving the cares of the world behind (1-4), submitting our wills to Him (7), and cleansing our hearts (8). We are also to lose the double mindwhen we come, which I think means we must stop arguing with ourselves about whether or not access to the spirit is available to us. Preparation of the heart is essential to entering the spirit realm.
It is from a place of humility that we move into the deeper places of the spirit. We must open the pathways into the heart if we are to experience the fullness of the Father. As we direct our focus toward the Father our hearts enter into agreement with Him and our body (the temple of the Holy Spirit) fulfills it’s most natural function which is to house the presence of the Spirit and that presence filling me up begins to manifestto the entirety of the believer.
Last night at the healing room we spent an hour in worship before we began to pray for the people who came for healing. I could have used more time because I really needed to get myself out of the way last night. I needed to find humility and brokenness by emptying my heart of the stuff of my life. I needed to get in tune with the spiritual side of who I am and to do that required me to be cleansed, to submit my will to His will, to get my heart in tune with His, to put away doubt and release faith. Because I know my Father loves a broken and repentent heart, I spent time moving my spiritual side to that kind of position and by doing so I released the Spirit to take control of all of me, body, soul and spirit.
Making a spiritual connection takes time. Making a natural connection only requires me to know things about my Father, but when I want a spiritual connection I move from knowledge about Him into intimacy with Him and that usually takes more time than I think it will, but when I get there it is really worth the effort.
Sometimes I need to fast from things that I have allowed to be more important than an intimate connection with my Father. Often the pathway I take will start with reading the Word, especially those scriptures that point us to release and withdrawal from the cares of this world. Singing in the Spirit, praying in our prayer language, listening to music, all help to create an environment that is free of distractions. Even getting my posture to a place that shows I am serious about this encounter and that I am truly humbled before Him opens my spirit up to connect with the Spirit.
When I take the time, as we did last night to tune in a connection in the spiritual realm is made and I take my seat in the heavenlies and encounter my Father.
More on tuning into the Spirit, next time.
Our friend Kim and her son Ben have been going through some tough days lately. Ben, a high school senior has a diagnosis of lymphoma and along with our Family have been believing the Father for the manifestation of healing for Ben’s body. A few weeks back Kim, concerned that she was doing everything she could do to see healing take place, asked some of us this question: “if we go ahead and do all this chemo-therapy, doesn’t that show a lack of faith and which will keep God from healing Ben?” My answer to that question was this: “we live in both the natural and the spiritual world and so we want to do everything we can in both worlds to see Ben healed.”
They continue to walk it out in both worlds and the Father is operating to bring healing through both.
We exist in two worlds and we are responsible for our actions in both. We get inspiration, purpose, direction, wisdom and many other things from the Spirit but all of these have to be worked out in the natural world we operate in. This is the way we were created. It is why we are left to live on the planet even though we have a seat in the heavenlies. (see the letter to the Ephesians)
Error comes when we give emphasis to one side over the other. I just came from having coffee with Kelly, a man I knew a little, when I was a pastor here in this area. Kelly had heard me speak the other night and wanted to know how I could go from preaching what I used to preach to now preaching with an emphasis on the fullness of the Spirit. He was wanting to know how I was able to live in both the natural and spiritual worlds after having functioned primarily in only one for so many years.
I use to say things like this: “if you get it right in your mind you will get it right in your life.” This statement, while it contains some truth, is not the whole truth. I was full up on knowledge and had a very good grasp on the truth but I didn’t always get it right in my life. I was not a whole person. I knew the Word but I was not open to the Word the Spirit wanted to implant, moment by moment as I walked through my day.
When we have an extreme emphasis on the rational, natural side of life we tend to have trouble receiving anything from the Spirit. When our focus is solely on study and aquisition of information we are not always conscious of the Holy Spirit speaking, leading or revealing and we miss that moment by moment direction the Spirit wants to give us.
The natural and logical are important dimensions of our life and must be trained and used to function in the natural world but our spiritual senses need training as well so we can receive from our spiritual side as well. Paul prayed that we would be sanctified (made pure) entirely, body, soul and spirit (1Thessalonians 5:23). God never intended us to deny or reject any of these essential parts of our nature. The message of the gospel is redemption, redeeming of our entire being. If our minds are the only thing redeemed we will miss much of what the Father’s intentions for us, are. The Father’s intention for us is that we live in touch with both the natural and the spiritual world.
Because most of my life was lived primarily in touch with the natural world at the expense of the spiritual world I have a lot of ground to cover to catch up. I am not going to get out of touch with my natural side but I am going to give a lot of attention to my spiritual side. I want more and more of the Spirit and will gratefully and boldly take anything and everything He wants to blast me with. However whatever that is must be worked out in the natural.
I plan to do some writing on how we can live out our maximum potential in the Spirit while we walk it out in the natural. Check back, it could be interesting.