I remember a boy and girl out on their first date. He was driving his prized 1965 GTO, and though it burned oil like a Texas oil well fire, not every boy in the fall of 1974 had his own car. She was impressed.
Driving her home from the movie, he was nervous as the light turned red and smoke from the engine began drifting into the car - he prayed for a slight breeze and a short red light before they both smelled like burnt oil...mercifully the light turned green and off they went. Later she said she didn't notice, she was just happy to be taken to a movie by a boy with his own car!
He didn't have money for dinner and a movie, so it had been just a movie, a first date, a get-to-know-you thing. But he really liked her and didn't want the night to end just yet. Quickly calculating how much money he had left in his pocket, on the spur-of-the-moment he asked if she'd like to stop for a donut at the donut shop they were driving by, and she eagerly said yes! They sat and talked a long time over milk and donuts, but it seemed to fly by in seconds, the late hour suddenly catching them surprise.
The night ended with a kiss after he had walked her to her door, and she stood a step up because he was so tall - a gentle kiss, lingering for a moment - and in to her house she floated as they said goodnight. She would later tell him she knew she was going to marry him at that kiss.
As you have guessed by now, that was Barb and my first date. She was impressed by the car and my manners, spontaneity and thoughtfulness. Her parents were impressed that I came from a good family, in her mother's eyes 'good enough for her daughter' so to speak. I was impressed that she was beautiful, funny, ornery, smart, direct, and fun to be with.
Is your faith performance based, or knowing based?
Many Christians think faith is about impressing God like I tried to impress Barb on our first date. But being motivated only by trying to make a good impression is not the basis on which to build a long-term relationship.
At some point efforts to impress fall by the way side as you get down to the business of getting to know one another, of being transparent and willing to risk being rejected when they learn this or that about you. At that point revelation about each person's character, life experience, who they are and hope to be, are shared as they talk, in hushed tones about private secrets, or yelling across the room in their first argument.
First date with God, still?
Yet many Christians live their faith like they are always on a first date with God - whether by how they dress or that prayer formula that is said to be effective, or going to church that 1 extra service this week to remind the Lord they have a prayer they need an answer on..."Please be impressed by my efforts Oh God and answer my prayer" is often the motivation behind it.
Like a couple going out on date after date over a year or more, the real knowing of one another comes by walking through life together, getting to see the best and worst of a person over time, and letting love develop. Love develops as a process through the revelation of that person's being, first liking them, them liking them deeper, then realizing you'd give your life for this person. It is the same in our walk with the Lord, as He living in us walks with us through the process called life.
Another drive home
We were driving down the turnpike on our way home, Barb napping beside me, and I thought about the effects of righteousness in our family. My heart overflowed as I thought how our 3 sons turned out, each of them good men and still never hesitating to tell me or Barb they love us. Our wonderful daughters in law, women of strong character and principle, amazing mothers and wives. And how I want to make memories with my grandchildren that they will remember me as an example of the Father God and praying they will walk with Him and know Him.
Upon seeing the broad scope of His grace I exclaimed nearly out loud, "Oh Father, I could never repay you!" and just as suddenly I heard Him reply: "You're not supposed to." And I wondered and marveled, in awe all the more, silenced by the enormity of Love for eternity and His great kindness. I thought about how that is the way love is - love doesn't ask to be repaid or impressed, the person loving just loves, and there is nothing the object of their love can do to add to or subtract from that love.
When you stop trying to impress Him, you can start walking with Him.
In contrast, look around us today at traditional church culture. How many bookstore shelves are filled with books and study guides written for the purpose of helping people know God or have more effective prayer. Attacking prayer like a business laying out a plan to grow by x amount over the next year, people turn walking with the Father as Someone they know and know well, into a means of manipulating Him into blessing their lives.
But that approach would be like me asking Barb's parents for permission to marry her by having them give me all her baby books and school year books, saved school work and awards through the years as a means to get to know her, from a distance, without ever going to a movie and donuts.
Those things would tell me ABOUT her, but they couldn't help me KNOW her. To know her requires a relationship developed over time WITH her, in her presence, with each other through life's ups and downs.
Just do what He did
Look at the Father's method of developing a relationship with mankind. He sent His Son to live with 12 men for about 3 1/2 years. Not a book was written, not a sermon penned. He told stories about what His Father was like, what His dreams for them were, to what each of them could attain, what He had planned.
Aren't we thankful Jesus didn't get 12 scrolls of biographies from the Father, one for each apostle - Jesus could have spent a good part of those 3 1/2 years reading detailed life stories of each of them as only the Father who knows all and sees all could write, without ever spending time with them. But no, He sent His Son to live with them, to get to know them, to see them at their best and worst.
So why in the world when we think of making disciples do we think, 'I need to get a book about Who Jesus is and what He did for us'? How did they make disciples in the first century without Christian materials explaining Life in Christ? They made disciples by walking with those who knew Him, and it remains the primary way disciples are made today - be being in relationship with others who know Him and have walked with Him through their lives, so they may know how to talk to Him and walk with Him through life.
The source of revelation is our own personal, intimate, knowing of the Father. When Jesus said in John 14:6, 'I am the way, the truth and the life', He continued; '...no man comes to the Father but by Me.' Jesus is the way, but the Father is our destination. But many believers aren't knowers of the Father because they've stopped at the Way, but have never arrived at the destination.
Getting to know the Source of all good
(As I mentioned the last 2 weeks) We are cross-thinking instead of resurrection-thinking. We are temple-is-a-building thinking instead of 'temple is my body because of Christ in me' thinking. We first must know that we know that Christ is in us, that He is THAT close, knowing what we are going to think before we think it. Yet there is complete ease in this because He is good and only has good plans for us - He invested in us for eternity, so He knew what He was getting for these few x number of earth-years.
After knowing He is in you and rearranging all your efforts to know Him to revolve around that revelation, the next thing to know is obvious yet perhaps revolutionary in some circles: When asking, address the Father, not Jesus.
Jesus said in John 16:23-26 of when He would be in heaven: "At that time you'll ask Me nothing. Truly I tell you, whatever you ask the Father in my name, He will give it to you... At that day you'll ask in my name..."
There is not a single prayer in the New Testament that asks anything of Jesus or the Holy Spirit. All prayer requests are to the Father. He is the Source of all good and perfect things, the Father of our spirits.
When the apostles were all captured by the rulers and then an angel released them, they went to the disciples and together they all prayed in Acts 4:23-30: "Lord, you are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea and life...Lord look at their threats against us, and we ask that with all boldness we may speak your Word, and that by signs and wonders may be done by the name of your holy child, Jesus." They were addressing the Father.
Paul prayed for the Ephesians in 1:17-18: "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, would give to you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, that the eyes of your understanding would be opened..."
And again in 3:14-20: "For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ...That He would grant you to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in your inner man...being rooted and grounded in unconditional love, will be able to comprehend that which is beyond comprehending, and know what is beyond knowing, the breadth and length and depth and height- to know the love of Christ..."
Do you know the Father? Start by changing from temple culture to Christ in me culture. Change from cross-thinking to resurrection power thinking. Change and determine in your heart to know Him not just believe in Him. Change Who you pray to, and concentrate...the Father!
Stop acting like you are on a first date and trying to impress Him. You've won Him and He you. Next week, how to fellowship with the Holy Spirit, blessings,