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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

To Experience or Not To Experience

That is the question.

My wife wrote a wonderful document. In fact it is a book. In this book she describes the many different relationships she has had in her life, with friends, parents, teachers, work colleagues, partners.
She also explains what she enjoys and doesn't enjoy, such as foods, drinks, holidays. She also explains what kind of relationship she desires, what attitudes she enjoys and doesn't enjoy. She tells of the places she would like to visit. She also tells of the places she has already visited and how she felt when she went there.

I enjoy reading this book. It helps me to know her better. I also get to see her from time to time, we talk and laugh, have the occasional meal together. Sometimes I sing to her, which she enjoys. Every so often we are intimate with each other. These are very meaningful times because I actually get to tangibly touch her and experience the exhilaration of this intimacy and face to face communion with her. Every time is different and I can't control how it goes. What happens happens. But every time we connect like this it is amazing.

I try to keep these times to a minimal as I don't want to have excessive experience with her because I am concerned that I might head into error. I know others who have ended up becoming so obsessed with physical contact that they have ended up in adulterous relationships with multiple women, including prostitutes. So I exercise wisdom in how I meet with my wife, what those times are like, and how often we should meet. Sometimes we will be talking and then it starts to get romantic. This often makes me nervous, again due to the many errors others have found themselves wondering into. So generally when I feel the romance kicking in, I prefer to end it there and leave.
For now it's good enough that I have her book to keep our relationship going. I love reading about what an amazing person she is. Maybe if there wasn't so much error in the world I would be able to spend more quality time experiencing and encountering my wife; exploring her in ways I haven't done before.

Oh, how I wish the world had not messed this up for me. I love her so much. But my fear of the mistakes of others is keeping me from really getting to know her on a deep level. But, again, as long as I have that book, I can have a relationship with her that is satisfactory.

Obviously by now you know that I'm not speaking about my wife. But as ridiculous as this would sound with regards to our relationship with our wife, we tend to deal with our relationship with God in this way.

Because of the errors made by others we have settled rather for not having experiences/encounter with God, especially if it doesn't fit into our interpretation of scripture. As Bill Johnson says: "The Holy Spirit will never violate the Word, but He has no problem violating our interpretation of it."
A few years ago while I was still in Dubai and we were, as a church, experiencing a renewal with regards to signs, wonders, and miracles, I began to search scripture to confirm and back up what we were experiencing. I found that the entire bible was filled the testimonies of men and women who had encountered God in one way or the other. Some of those encounters were "mild" (they would be accepted in todays standards) and others were quite "radicle" (most of them would not be accepted today). One thing is for sure they were incredibly diverse in nature. Moses experienced God first through a bush that was on fire and that spoke to him.Then after that in some pretty extreme ways. Jacob encountered God is a way that left him with a physical limp. King Saul, on one occasion, had the Spirit come upon him so that he ended up stripping down and fell to the floor prophesying. David had a similar experience of taking off some of his cloths during a time of praise while bringing the Ark back to the city. Jonah was swallowed by a huge fish. John on the island of Patmos had a pretty radical encounter in seeing the glorified Lord. Cornelius had a vision of an angle. Peter was lead from prison by an angle. Paul had some serious third heaven encounters.Elijah and Elisha both struck the river with their cloak and it parted. Elijah called fire from heaven. Not to mention Daniel, Gideon, Abraham etc.

It's illegitimate to allow fear to keep us from pursuing a deeper encounter/experience with God. To embrace this fear will cause a failure to the other extreme, which is more culturally acceptable, therefore we tend not to have an issue with it.

A lack of encounters can lead to a misunderstanding of Gods word, and a lack of Gods word can lead to a misunderstanding of encounters.
I do note however, that some people have been caught up in sensations. It's all about what they "feel". Many have no grounding or understanding of the scriptures nor do they have revelation of the word; it's all about how they "feel" right now. I know that most of us have engaged with people like this, and so we might tend to pull right back, change our language, and stick to what we know is safe. But this might not be best option. We have always heard that the right response to abuse is not non-use, but correct use.

I put it this way: since there is so much abuse in bad eating habits, and people are becoming obese, the only corrective is to no longer eat any food at all. Now this will cause us over a period of time to die. The obvious response to bad eating habits is to eat good healthy food. However, when it comes to the things of the Spirit, the supernatural, and God encounters/experience, we tend to be comfortable with non-use. But as with the example earlier of the relationship between man and wife, the relationship would not be healthy at all, and will eventually die.

We were created to experience God. What that looks like is the question. But I would suggest that we need to allow God to be God, and to embrace us however He feels He wants to. The scripture says "that those of the Spirit are like the wind, you don't know where it has come from" (paraphrased).

I believe that God will give us the answers to ground us in the encounters we have with Him because He would want us to be able to teach others and bring others into similar encounters with Him. When those answers come is another thing. We need to be comfortable with not having all the answers first, before we will "allow" God to move. We need to learn to let God move in, on and with us and the church, then diligently, from a place of hunger, search out the word to ground us in what has happened.

I am amazed at the scripture the Holy Spirit brought to Peters attention on the day of Pentecost. It hardly seems sufficient to explain what was happening. In todays standards we would not accept such a scripture, and many would think it was a scripture used out of context, by Peter.
This group of people who were making a huge noise, behaving as if drunk on wine, and talking in languages that were foreign to them (although they were declaring the wonders of God. But only to those who could understand their own language. The rest were talking nonsense to them). It seems like it was a joyous and festive occasion. Peter stands up and uses the text from Joel about this being the outpouring of the Spirit that was promised.

For us reading this 2000 years later, this makes sense. We have the opportunity of knowing what Jesus told them before ascending. We know what happened in the upper room prior to the outburst into the streets. But to the hearer of Peter, this would be a bit strange. Drunk, joyful men who are speaking strange languages? That text just does not seem like the best one to use in order to give adequate backing for this behavior. Yet because it was the Spirit, these people were cut to the heart.

Similarly we have had, or watched others have, an encounter/experience with God, use a text and to us it seems out of context. Yet we have had no opportunity to see the prelude. What happened in their "upper room" experience. Why did God give them that text to confirm their encounter. We are all too quick to write it off as fringe fanatical, unbiblical, extreme, and ungodly.

The question we need to ask ourselves is: have we become comfortable and reliant on our intellectual understanding of the sacred texts, to the point that we are satisfied with our relationship with God, based on how much of His autobiography we know cerebrally.
Or are we willing to put aside fear of the fruitcake's surfacing, and abandon ourselves to a God who wants to experience us, and who wants us to experience the vastness of who He is, and His kingdom.

I know this is a subject of much conflict and many a discussion and argument. But we really need to allow ourselves to embrace the more dimensions of God, no matter how unreasonable they may seem to our 3 dimensional minds, and no matter how wild they may be, and at times how offensive they may be to our intellect.

Fear of error can lead us into error. In fact to have fear is error. We are to be people of faith.

I'm keen to explore God in the safety of His Word and Spirit, and in the safety of relationships with sound men and women.

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