In the last 2 weeks I’ve talked how the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives is the evidence He provides of His unconditional love and purpose for us. His presence along with His written Word and all else ‘Christian’ in our lives work together. But without actually experiencing Him, ‘God’ becomes just a formula.
The world and culture carry more weight in a life than a God someone learns about in an hour of church, Sunday School, or youth group once a week, but never truly experience.
In order for God to make a profound difference in our life (or a child’s), we must experience Him – not about Him, but experience HIM. At the point of experience “His opinion” is expressed - that which is felt, that which is perceived in our hearts, that which is felt in the worship, in prayer, in sitting in His presence - MUST carry more weight than the people and culture who destroy or prevent a person from knowing His love.
Great, but how?
Jesus had just fed 4,000 men, plus women and children, then He and the disciples got into their boat and headed out across the lake. When they got to the other side they were immediately besieged by the Pharisees demanding He give them a sign from heaven. But Jesus didn’t respond, and instead they got in the boat and started out across the lake again.
While on the water Jesus told them to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, talking about not being part of the crowd that constantly seeks signs from heaven, but they thought He was talking about the fact they forgot to bring anything more than a single loaf of bread with them.
When He reminded them how He had fed thousands with 7 loaves, He asked: “How is it you don’t understand?” The Greek is: “How is it that you haven’t put it together?” (Mark 8:1-21)
The multiplying of the food was a miracle in their lives He expected them to consider, to let the amazing things they had just witnessed sink down in them and change their thinking.
Notice He didn’t tell them to let the written Word of the Old Testament sink into their hearts and minds. He didn’t ask them to pull notes from something He or John the Baptist had earlier taught. He expected them to think on and consider the miracle He did in their lives right then, in their presence. He asked them to consider His presence as manifest in the miracle of multiplied food so they could change their thinking.
This wasn’t the first time Jesus had multiplied food, for just 2 chapters earlier He had fed 5,000 men plus women and children from a boy’s lunch.
After that miracle Jesus came walking on the water to their boat in the early morning hours, and when they saw Him walk to their boat and the wind and waves go calm, 6:51-52 says they were “…astonished beyond measure because they had not considered the miracle of the loaves.”
The Lord expected them to ‘consider the miracle’ and ‘put it together’ by thinking on the miracle immediately after they witnessed it, and let that experience change the way they thought. It isn’t just the written Word we believe, but the Living Word we see all around us everyday in our lives, because we know Him. We must notice and believe His ongoing presence in our lives, and His ongoing miracles in our lives. All these work together to help us un-believe the lies and assure us in His unconditional love, restoring emotional health.
When we looked at David and Saul, we saw different events over months and years in their lives how the Lord moved them to the next step in their lives by some miracle, some evidence of Him in their lives. In between those ‘benchmark’ miracles of His presence, He expected them to think on what He had done in their lives to the point it made a difference in how they thought about themselves.
David wrote many of the Psalms at those benchmark points*. Several were written while being chased by King Saul. One was written after Ziklag had been burned and they feared for their wives and children. One was written after his sin with Bathsheba was revealed. What do you do to mark the ‘benchmark’ miracles or experiences with the Lord? (*I Sam 21:10-15/Ps 34/Ps 52. I Sam 22:1-5/Ps 56. I Sam 22:35/Ps 35. I Sam 24:1-8/Ps 57. I Sam 30:1-6/Ps 4. II Sam 12/Ps 51, for a few examples)
When my dad left our family it crushed my world. It also crushed my self-image, as like a lot of kids, we blamed ourselves for mom and dad’s divorce. I thought I had failed him by not doing the chores, not greeting him with the love and enthusiasm he expected each night when he came home from work, and so on.
I dropped out of all activities or didn’t continue in them very long from age 12-16. I flunked my freshman first semester of Algebra as all my grades nose-dived. I just didn’t care about anyone, anything, and I didn’t care about myself. I started, then dropped out of Boy Scouts. Started and then dropped out of Scuba lessons. Started and then dropped out of flying lessons. The list goes on. I would have dropped out of school if mom had let me, as I really didn’t care at all for it.
When my friend Janny, who is still a very close friend to Barb and I, led me to the Lord while telling me about Jesus in German class (then I led Barb to the Lord), I latched onto the Father. I could feel a change inside, a new enthusiasm, a vague sort of life or energy or love or something – it was all new, but I was being changed.
Build a history with God
My life was real life. My dad had really walked out. I really didn’t give a care about anything. That was real and it was internal, down inside of me. Now suddenly He was there, telling me in the Word that He loved me and had a purpose for my life. But I still struggled to believe Him because I saw no evidence of a plan or purpose. I expected a big ‘flash’ and suddenly my internal hurt would be healed. Not!
There were little ‘benchmark’ experiences, healings and miracles I saw, coincidences that were more than mere chance, feelings I felt down in my spirit, that one by one built a history of God in me, and slowly I started to believe in His opinions about me while letting go of what I had been thinking about me.
I remember talking to the Father one day and saying this: “Father, I don’t mean to seem ungrateful or anything, but is this all there is? I figured to be born again and have you inside me it would be more…powerful…and I can’t deny there is something in me saying there is more…Is that right?” (I actually prayed that, at the time the most afraid I’d ever been while praying, asking the Father is that was all there is!)
Then Janny and her boyfriend (and future husband) told Barb and me about the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. When we received that, our whole world changed. The Word came alive. That vague awareness of Him inside became an overriding presence, so much so anytime day or night I could just shift my attention to my spirit and feel Him there – though the process of doing that took most of my senior year of high school.
It was then my poor self-image faded in the light of the PROOF of His presence in me. I reasoned, I can’t be that bad because Jesus died for me. I can’t be that bad because He has put His Spirit inside of me…and that reality, combined with the written Word, combined with various miracles and evidence of His activity in my life, brought me from the brink of emotional and possible mental illness.
It is a process, but we must ‘consider the loaves’ in our own lives as evidence of His love, His abiding Presence and involvement in our lives, and then we begin to believe Him more than what we believe about ourselves.
In these end times people are becoming more and more unhealthy emotionally and mentally. How many times have you wondered what you’d do without Jesus as that Rock in your life? The way to maintain or recover from emotional or mental difficulties is always to center back to that unconditional love, and make all your thoughts go back to that love. He has invested in us for the ages to come…amazing grace!
This ends this series, but a related topic next week…blessings!