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Posts Tagged ‘knowing God’

I want to know about God’s face.

“Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, And be gracious to me and answer me.  When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,“Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” Do not hide Your face from me . . . “ [Psalm 27:7-9a, NAS]

First of all, as we all know, God (or the Eternal One as God is called in the Voice translation), is not human but fully Spirit, operating in the Universe both of it and in it, above it and below it.

In Exodus 33:20, God tells Moses that no human can see God’s face and live. I used to think that a glimpse would kill a person, but clearly, that’s not the whole story since in Exodus 33:11, it is written that God spoke to Moses face to face.

Detail from a beaded quilt by "Kitty," based on God's eye design.

Detail from a beaded quilt by “Kitty,” based on God’s eye design.

All right, there’s no surprise here. We are dealing with figurative language. It’s not God who has a face but human. And the place of face in relationships is meaningful to us, right? It is important, when having a conversation with someone, to look them in the eye, to interact face to face. It is the face that reveals the most about a person (unless they have schooled their faces, like a poker player, to reveal nothing). But most of us common folk expose ourselves through the face either by what we speak, by the way our eyes register understanding (or lack thereof), the color and heat of the skin, or the flare of our nostrils. Most of our senses are connected to the physical face.

Poem after poem is written about the face, the eyes, the lips and all that is revealed. The eyes are often called the window to the soul.

When the face of another is turned away from us, a message is being spoken (usually not a good one). Usually, the person is hiding what he/she is thinking or feeling. When turned away, the person is withholding information.

So, what do I imply from this verse? God touches my heart and spirit within and says, “Seek to know me” . . . that is what it means to seek God’s face. God is indicating that intimacy is possible as well as revelation and understanding. Look for God among us. Our answers from God come to us through experience with God, through “God’s face.” But, if we are insensitive to God (just as we might be insensitive to the human face), we could be missing the message.

Help me Father to seek your face, to know you, to learn of of you, to see you.

For fun, here’s a little online test that tests our “emotional intelligence” with people. What do you learn from it?

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/ei_quiz/

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One day This DayThe difference between Joseph and me is acceptance of today, just the way it is (not the way I think it should be). Joseph went from “favored son” to “favored slave” to “favored prisoner.” Instead of focusing on the favored part, I’d be moaning and groaning about the other transmutations. I’d be comparing now with what used to be. I’d be comparing now with my dreams. Could this day be God too?
Genesis 39: 5a, 19-21
From the time he [Potiphar] put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. . . . When his master heard [believed] the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison . . . But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.
I remember when I turned thirty (back in the day) and I was sure it was the worst day of my life. I had a litany of accomplishments that I expected to have mastered by then: successful marriage, successful career, stable income, maybe a kid, fabulous apartment, and the perfect body. Instead, I was working as a cocktail waitress in a singles bar, living in a tiny one-room cabin back in my home town (having left New York), with no boyfriend (much less a husband), and totally out of shape. Plus, the one date I did have for my “big turning thirty day” stood me up. I was a mess. God? Surely not. This could not be in God’s plan!
Looking back, of course, I can see some incredible events that happened as a result of my circumstances: the people I met, the healing between my mom and me, but mostly the discovery that I could be alone. I needed to learn who that person was (since my nature had been to define myself by others). I see God in my rear view mirror, but I couldn’t see God then.
Joseph appears to have the gifted insight, at a young age, to trust God no matter what. He took what was given and did the best he could within the parameters he was given. He worked it.
It’s time to take my head out of the sand and really look around. Every neighbor, every acquaintance, every brief encounter at work, every pet (accidents and all), every loss, every gain, every child (adult or not), every married year, every relative, every hour, day, or minute: they are all God.
Last week, I learned that one of my oldest friends (from high school days) is in the final stages of pancreatic cancer. I was so angry, Mary, the happiest one of us all, the most content, the healthiest, the most well-centered in God–she was dying? No Fair! And yet, when I spoke to her, I was immediately arrested by her Today God. She was in the now and accepted this journey just like all the other journeys.
She put me to shame without even trying. Really. Today is God. Thanks. Really, thanks for today. God.

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In Him, that would be Christ, no sin abides. So what does that mean? I love asking such questions, particularly with familiar verses. And what is “sin” really? The Amplified translation gives some extra hints:

I John 3:5b-6
And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who abides in Him [who lives and remains in communion with and in obedience to Him–deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] commits (practices) sin. No one who [habitually] sins has either seen or known Him [recognized, perceived, or understood Him, or has had an experiential acquaintance with Him].
[Amplified]

To be “in Christ,” then is to be in relationship or communion with Christ–it means, having such an intimate knowledge of Christ that I would know what would displease Christ’s Spirit within me. I would recognize what is often called “a check in the Spirit,” that still small voice that says, “not that way, this way,” or “eat this, not that,” or even more simply, “let go of that thought.”

This relationship is nurtured in personal prayer, devotion, worship, and ideally, fellowship with like-minded people who are also “in Christ.”

It’s like being in a swimming pool together: everyone is wet, sharing the water, but we’re all doing different activities, we’re all in various depths. The more experienced ones know how to swim while others merely wade or stand around. Some love it so much, they can swim underwater the whole distance of the pool.

Sin is a buzz word that has gotten a bad rap. I have actually seen people roll their eyes when the word, sin, comes into the conversation. I’m not sure how this has happened. Perhaps it’s the growing relativity of our actions. It’s become more and more difficult to identify sinful behavior. Truly. And I’m not saying I can be the one who draws that particular line in the sand either. Most will say the Bible itself identifies sin, but in a post-modern world, that may not be so black and white. Oh, there are entire groups of people, denominations or sects, or whatever, who believe they have it down, but I’m not so sure anymore. After all, whether we like it or not, there are many modern behaviors and practices that were clearly sin in the past but which society, in general, has embraced (divorce being the most prevalent).

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Bible and all that it has to teach me. And there are some clear parameters that humans have accepted over the test of time: murder, for instance. But few people would acknowledge that coveting (a popular American sport), is truly a sin anymore.

All right, sin is a huge topic and cannot have a full discussion here. But I did want to make one point that I learned from Joyce Meyer, that sin is birthed in the mind (see her series on Battlefield of the Mind). And this is the key to the whole thing.

If I am in deep relationship with the Christ spirit within (in Christ, Christ in me), then the inklings of sin, the desires, the intentions, the motives, the impetuses, will not germinate. That is part of the role of the Holy Spirit, to mirror my thoughts, to cleanse, to reveal the implications, to heal, to winnow the seeds of actions that will harm me and others. Sin usually dies on the vine if it is never watered or fertilized in the mind and heart. Selah.

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The goal is the prize but it’s not the finish line. In human terms, that may seem illogical, but it’s important to remember that God doesn’t operate on our human terms. Our “template” for the ultimate prize is revealed in the Christ.

Philippians 3:13b-14a
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me. . .

One of my favorite movies is Forrest Gump. At one point in the early part of the movie, he is chased by bullies and his little friend, Jenny, tells him to “run, Forrest, run.” And as he does run, the braces come off and he becomes stronger and stronger with each step. And soon, running becomes a testament or symbol of who he is and who he can be throughout the film.

Paul is telling us the same thing: to run, to run the race with perseverance, and to keep our eyes on the future, for tomorrow is full to the brim of prizes and surprises.

Part of running the race is developing a sensitivity to the paradoxes of life in Christ. In Christ’s universe, the tortoise can beat the hare, the weak can outlast the strong [II Cor 12:10], and the barren can have more children than the Duggars [Isaiah 54:1]. The rule of perfection is a different measurement. It all happens within.

Of course, my outside behaviors and decisions are imbued by the presence of the Holy Spirit, but the prize is not there. Like the voice of God that Elijah sought on the mountain, it was not in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire, but in the stillness.

Life is not just a carousel where we strain to pluck the brass ring to get the prize. It’s a life in conjunction with the Holy Spirit who is perfection. [Matthew 5:48]

The goal/prize is captured in these loaded phrases: to live IN Christ, to live IS Christ, to be found IN Christ, and to know Christ.

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To know . . . to know . . . to know. What does it mean to know Christ? What does it mean to know the power of his resurrection? And what does it mean to know the fellowship of his sufferings? I mean, really!

Philippians 3:10a
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings . . .

To understand with certainty, that’s one definition. Or, to establish or fix something in the mind (like memorization). Or, to be acquainted with (like a friend). Or, to understand with experience (like baking a cake). And finally, to be able to distinguish one thing from another (like right from wrong).

In some ways, each one of these definitions can be applied to this verse. Like Paul, I want to “know” Christ with certainty. I don’t want a casual acquaintance but a deep knowing that comes from exposure. I want the sunburn of Christ (no sunscreen) inside and out. With that kind of knowing, there is trust, contentment, patience, confidence, and security. To the degree that I don’t have those attributes is the degree to which I don’t really know the Christ. Perhaps “to know” really means “to love” (which is how the more archaic definition for knowing meant a sexual union). There is nothing more beautiful than transparent sex, the give and take of pleasure, the concern for other. Too bad. most sexual unions miss the sacred part.

And how about knowing the “power of his resurrection?” That’s formidable. Can anyone imagine being acquainted with this type of knowledge or certainty? That is supposed to be the case for every Christian, but we don’t walk our lives with that kind of confidence. I know I don’t: I still fear illnesses and teens driving home late at night and violence. Besides, isn’t Paul actually asking for the knowledge of this power to operate in the present and not just for raising his own body. Undoubtedly, this kind of power heals the sick, makes the blind see, the deaf to hear, and the lame to walk. Same power, I’m sure of it.

And lastly, to know and share in the afflictions that Christ suffered: not just physical but emotional, mindful, and spiritual. Can I bear the pain? Can I accept it? Or do I still run away from pain. Sweet paradox again.

I’m thinking they all go together. I cannot “know” one aspect without the other. I cannot be acquainted with healing power without knowledge of pain and hardship. My certainty is strengthened by the operation of all three in my life.

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I pray for my eyes to be opened! I pray for enlightenment (knowledge, understanding, awareness and clarity). And I pray that this awakening would not be an isolated event but a groundbreaking moment that prepares the way for a turn in my story.

Ephesians 1:18-19
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Power is promised and I consider power dangerous, particularly for humans untethered by the seal of God. In some ways, I want power and control. If I said otherwise, I would be lying. I struggle with “control issues” all the time. And successful control translates into power. But that is power abused and we see that every day in our culture. The power of influence or money or position.

But here, we are told that an enlightened heart, eyes wide open, understands power in a new way. It’s an inheritance from God in Christ. It’s a focus. And as I’ve written a million times before, I’m sure there’s a paradox involved. Power is probably in letting go of one’s own “power.” It’s submitting to divine power. And of course, that power will not be the way I would expect. Would I even recognize that kind of power?

Will I recognize what I see when those spiritual eyes are opened?

When the prophets of old described all the unbelievably fantastic things they saw in their visions, they could only use their limited understanding. Am I any different?

And yet, it is my heart’s cry today. Open the eyes of my heart Lord.

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John 7:28
Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him,…”

In the past I have worried a great deal about false teaching. I knew there was a lot of it and I was afraid I would get sucked into the wrong way if the teacher appeared to be really smart and spoke with sincerity, authority, and used the Bible to substantiate the teaching. Jesus said, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” [Matthew 7:15] I was afraid I would be fooled by the sheep’s clothing.

Today, I had a simple epiphany: false teaching can be recognized if one knows the Source.

If I know what God has taught me, if I understand what I have read, if I spend time in prayer and meditation, if I remember how God has touched my life in the past, then I will recognize God’s hand upon a teacher.

It’s similar to knowing a friend or family member. If someone would tell a bad story about a friend, but I know that friend well, I can determine whether it’s true or false. If I know that person’s character, I know that some things are simply outside the realm of possibility. Oh sure, people can act differently than their normal character, but those actions would have to be provoked by a profound change or external pressures.

The really sad part is that we don’t always know people very well. Sometimes it’s because people are not transparent; they don’t want to be known. And so, by all appearances, their behavior is unpredictable; their character is unformed in the eyes of the world. But sometimes, it’s our fault: we don’t take the time to know the very people we care about in our lives. We don’t listen. We don’t look. We make assumptions. If we treat God the same way as we treat our acquaintances, we will make false assumptions about God as well.

God’s character does not change. We are encouraged to know Him. He shows Himself every day. He shows Himself in scripture. He shows himself in nature. He shows himself in the light. He shows himself in love.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” [Matthew 11:29-30]

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