The young man was very nervous as I directed him to a seat on the sofa in my office. I was the Director of a Bible school and he a student, so I thought he was nervous about being in my office. He was about 18 and I remembered that he sat near the front to my left and was always paying attention and writing notes.
"I'm sorry for bothering you, but I'm in your classes and you seem like you'll tell me the truth, and I don't want to sound stupid or anything, but I really want to know: Is any of this real?"
I was confused: "What do you mean, 'Is any of this real?'" Suddenly the depth of his question hit me as the reason for his nervousness became clear - he was questioning the reality of God.
He continued: "You know, all of this. Is God real or is church just a show, a performance to stir up emotion and make people feel good? I just don't know anymore. I mean, I accepted the Lord when I was in junior high at our youth group and I really experienced something, and thought He was real. But now, I'm not sure."
I asked why he wondered and he said he didn't feel God anymore. He was very busy with school from 8 until noon, and volunteered in children's church on Sunday and 1 Saturday a month worked the puppets for the church's outreach to children in poorer apartment complexes. He also had a job, studies, and social activies. But he no longer felt God's presence inside.
Busy-ness doesn't equal Godliness
I was visiting a missionary in Mexico back in 1986 and one evening he handed me a piece of paper with about 20 names written on it: "You're a prophet, would you pray over these names because each one is a person who said they want to come work with us, but I don't know most of them and I need to know the Lord's will." I replied that he needed to spend time in prayer and interviewing these people, not have me get a word from the Lord on it. His reply: I'm too busy doing the work of the ministry to pray."
He was like the Bible student: Too busy doing Christian things to actually know God.
(The Father was gracious. I went back to my room and told the Father I was there as a guest, so under the missionary's authority, so had little choice in the matter though I didn't agree with it, and if He would indulge me by giving me a word about each person and their involvement yes/no with the missionary I'd appreciate it, which He did, which the missionary said he really appreciated and helped fill in the blanks on some things he had felt he had gotten from the Lord.)
Many of us are as busy as the missionary or the student, then when you add all our devices which connect us to the rest of the world, it is no wonder Christians can get more wrapped up in the production of church more than knowing the Lord church is supposed to be about.
American Internet users spend 23% of online time in social networking sites, 62% of adults world-wide now use social media, and 56% of social media users have admitted to using it to spy on their partners.
The average US teenager sends/receives 3,339 texts per month (111 per day). In 2009 there were 1.5 trillion texts sent/received in the year, in 2011 that had jumped to over 7 trillion. (7,000,000,000,000) (mashable.com, dhtech.com, thesocialskinny.com)
There are some positives to being connected of course - it provides a distraction, a break in routine, we catch up on news, and opens us to new possibilities. The down side is that it can become addictive and people tend to share Too Much Information (tmi if you know the language of texting, lol).
Being too connected can be narcissistic - Narcissism defined as excessive self-love, inflated sense of self-importance and unjustified feelings of entitlement. Too many 'friends' may mean you are spending too much time on social sites and it makes people feel more comfortable with online relationships than face to face relationships, thus making thousands of friends actually mean 'none'.
And of course social networks have their share of weirdos and complainers, but the biggest reason to use them in balance is that social networks prevent people from being social and networking.
God is a Spirit
Jesus said "God is a Spirit, and those that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24)
The word 'must' here is not a demand or requirement like 'You must do your homework before you go to the game' or 'You must complete this report before you leave today'. It can mean all these things in scripture, but in this context 'must' is more of a road map instructing us on how to fellowship with the Father.
As in, 'When you're coming into town on that road you must pass the big library before you reach our street.' Or, 'To get food to your stomach it must pass through your mouth and esophagus first'.
So when Jesus said true worshippers must worship the Father in spirit and truth, He was providing a road map: To be able to worship the Father you must do so out of your spirit and out of a motive of truth. The 'entering of the gates' so to speak, must be accomplished out of the spirit.
The word 'worship' is 'proskuneo', one of my favorite words in the whole universe, made of 'pros' which means 'towards', and 'kuneo' which means 'to kiss'. Literally then, worship is the kissing towards the Father out of your spirit, your innermost being, and in truth - pure motives of love (not trying to remind him you have an urgent prayer request or trying to manipulate Him as if you can praise Him enough to motivate Him to answer your request).
Oh, so that's why the empty feeling!
Our physical bodies can only touch the physical world. Our minds can only touch the mental world. Your body can't leap into the pages of a book anymore than your mind can drive the car outside. But get your mind and body together and then you can open a book and go places mentally or get into the car and drive it where you desire.
When we sit in front of a computer to connect socially, we are using our mind and body to do so. Our spirit man is not involved...stay with me here I'm speaking in broad generalities...GENERALLY speaking, it is our soul and body that is involved, not our spirit.
But God is a Spirit...we can't touch Him physically and He isn't a mind that we have union with Him in the space between our ears. The road map to fellowship with Him is as Jesus said: Our spirit.
Your spirit is the innermost you. It is in your spirit questions arise which flow into your mind like 'Who am I?', 'Why am I here?', What is my purpose?' Your spirit is where God lives in you and when you hear His voice, it is in your spirit. Your spirit and your soul (soul includes your mind) are eternally connected, for your soul actually proceeds from your spirit and is what makes you, you. People in heaven are now spirit and soul, lacking a physical body, yet your spirit and soul look like you - because they are the real you.
As we renew our minds to learn to think like God it is the process of the Life in your spirit flowing to your thoughts to change them. That requires effort and an act of your will. Spirit and soul are housed in an earth-suit, a body.
One day we'll get a new body made of heavenly material such as Jesus has now, but for now we're stuck on planet earth in a body that has an expiration date. Only a blessed few know the season of their expiration date, for the rest of us, we just keep breathing and putting one foot in front of the other.
People try to fill the emptiness in their spirit with mental and physical things, but because physical can only touch physical and mental can only touch mental, their spirit man remains untouched. That is why surrounding oneself with 'things' in the physical realm proves empty. It is why no amount of education, drink, drugs, or money can fill the emptiness inside. It is why sex for the sake of sex alone can't touch the emptiness inside. And it is why too much focus on being 'connected' in social networks makes for a shallow and hollow Christian life. All these 'things' only touch the soul or body, not the spirit.
I asked the young man in my office to remember when he last felt the presence of the Lord. He recalled a time at his home church before life got so busy, when he was just sitting (body) during the worship and his thoughts (soul) were focused not on talking to the Lord but rather more in neutral, then slowly his attention turned inward, away from the music inwardly to what was happening in him...(to his spirit), and there he felt peace, an overwhelming love...and he recalled sitting there for an unknown amount of time, unaware of anything but the love and Presence in his spirit...
And that is the subject for next week, for I don't want to present a problem like too much Internet social networking, without present the solution - Next week: How to experience His presence...until then,