Seeking Spiritual Witnesses- Summary

This was a very soothing study for me. My childhood was full of agitation when it came to hearing God’s voice. I really, really wanted to, but just had no idea how. I know that this is a common struggle for many others as well, so hopefully some of you will find the scriptures that we have explored helpful.

One thing that stuck out to me from this study was how it reminded me of the importance of diving into the scriptures. All of my questions had answers, they were there for the taking, but I needed to be in God’s word to find them.

In fact, this experience has itself been a witness to me of the importance of God’s word. As I am about to discuss, God has answers and manifestations ready to share with us, we only have to turn the stones over to find them.

Seek With Action

I have been guilty of saying I wanted a closer relationship with God…and then doing absolutely nothing to achieve it. In essence what I was saying was “I want to feel the spirit more…but only if it comes free and without any work.” That’s about the limpest form of ‘wanting’ imaginable!
Receiving a witness from God is free in that it does not cost money, but it does take time and effort. His manifestations are not cheap experiences, to be handed out to anyone that is flippant or half-sincere. God is willing to give us signs and miracles, but He needs us to be serious about this first.
The Spirit is not going to attest to the run-of-the-mill behaviors that we are already doing. It has no need to encourage our default discipleship. Where the Spirit comes in full force is when we do something new, something that stretches us. If you consult your conscience, I am certain there is something that you know you should be doing but really don’t want to. Perhaps it is overcoming a vice, perhaps it is accomplishing a greater good.
Do it. Sincerely. And I promise you that God will show up.
James 1:5-8- If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Accept What Comes

If you act sincerely, God will show up for you. But in what way depends on Him. My wife and I paid tithing for years without fanfare, it was easy to do. Then we reached a time where finances were tight, and we had to make an actual conscious choice to keep following that commandment. We did, and God showed up for us numerous times.
Each of those times He came in a different and unexpected way. One of the most surprising was when a contractor gave me one extra paycheck after I had finished working for them. I informed the company of the error, but it took them months to process the return. Well it turned out that a one-time-interest-free loan was exactly what we needed to get us through those particular months. We came through, they asked for the refund, and we sent it back without any trouble.
Is that how I asked God to handle the situation? Certainly not, that would have been ridiculous to expect. But I did ask that everything would work out, and it certainly did. When we ask God for miracles and witnesses, we should expect Him to have solutions, but we should keep an open mind for how they might arrive.
Isaiah 55:8-9- For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

This is a Joint Effort

As a child I was very obsessed with getting rituals right. I thought that if I didn’t say all the right words, then God might shrug off my efforts to reach Him. He was the strict teacher, grading my every prayer, and refusing to show up until I got an A. Thus whether I ever connected or not didn’t really matter to Him, the onus was entirely on me.
But obviously that is not right. God does not merely hope for us to have a relationship with Him, he fights for it. He isn’t “okay” with the idea of you not receiving spiritual witnesses in your life. He didn’t reserve those for Moses and Mary, and shelve them for you. The truth is that He wants this connection even more than we do.
So perhaps He is mysterious, perhaps He appears absent and we don’t understand why, perhaps He hasn’t revealed Himself to us just yet. But it is not because of indifference. Though you cannot always see it, He is always championing for your every spiritual epiphany, tirelessly working for your good.
Psalm 27:14- Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.

Isaiah 49:14-16- But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.
Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

Seeking Spiritual Witnesses- Question

Scriptures, and the testimonies of others, are full of spiritual witnesses: moments where God showed up for an individual in a very personal and powerful way. It might be an angelic manifestation, hearing a heavenly voice, receiving a miracle, or just a powerful message spoken straight to the heart. Those that have not yet experienced these moments wish that they could. Those that have had them wish they could happen more frequently!

Much of my childhood I found myself trying to “make” spiritual experiences happen. I would try to convince myself that I was having one when I wasn’t, and fear that some might have happened without me even realizing it. As a father I am now anxious that my son have spiritual experiences, but I don’t want to repeat in him the same frantic, second-guessing game that I employed.

I would like to explore this concept over the next few days, that of how we can properly pursue and recognize God’s witnesses to us. In the meantime, I would love to hear about your own experiences as well. What ways have you found to foster spiritual experiences? Have you had any control over when or how they occur, or is it entirely up to God? How have you been able to tell the difference between an actual witness versus your own mind playing tricks on you?

Personal Promises- Summary

Many believe in God, but true spiritual vocation does not begin until one knows Him personally. I wanted to use this study to explain why this is the case, and to convince any reader that they can and must seek this personal relationship with God.

We are immensely aided in this quest by the fact that the greatest being in the universe has this exact intention for us as well. It’s not like we have to convince God to be our friend. And if there are obstacles that are preventing Him from coming into our lives, He will work tirelessly to bring them down.

This is why people so many say that coming to know God was simply being a process of tearing down their walls and letting in the light. It’s already there reaching out for us, we only have to receive it.

No Person Can Replace the Need For God

My wife and I are expecting our second child, and I have had some concerns for how this will affect my relationship with our son. I do not doubt that my capacity for love and devotion to him will remain intact, even while cultivating the same for the new child. But there is simply no getting around the fact that my time for him will diminish.
We are finite beings with limited physical resources. When new dependencies are added, all others must necessarily receive less of those resources. That is just the way of the world.
Already I am incapable of meeting my son’s every need, and as my resources stretch thinner and his needs grow deeper, I will only become more so. Any person who has had any position of authority is well acquainted with this inadequacy, and they will realize that their real duty is simply to point their followers to the true source. Like Jairus, we must bring the Lord to our children, so that He can do for them all the things that we cannot.
Exodus 18:17-18- And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.

We All Need God in Different Ways

We may try to chart our own course, following general guidelines and generic rules, but that will only take us so far. Eventually we all run into very personal, and very specific spiritual needs. And even if our highly specific need is already answered in the scriptures, we will still need a personal touch just to show us where it is!
Even outside of receiving guidance, we also need to be seen and heard. Yes, knowing God’s will is important, but we also need to know His love. We need to feel the reality of being His child. Being told by a preacher that we are His child is not enough, we need Him to tell us that we are.
In short there is not a single one of us that does not need God to come personally in our hearts. We were never meant to follow His shadow, or to only hear secondhand the wonders that He has done. He wishes to reveal Himself to us directly.
Psalm 102:1- Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come unto thee.
Matthew 11:28-29- Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Scriptural Stories Give Us Hope For Connection

The presence of God was never meant to be limited to the prophets of ancient times. The miracles of God were never meant to cease with the Kingdom of Israel. The scriptures and the accounts of the miracles in them were not given to tell us what God theoretically could do. We have those records to give us confidence that He will do the same for us.
We often say that we are inspired by the stories of Jesus healing the sick. But “inspired” does not mean just to be made to feel good, it means to be motivated, to be stimulated, to be given a vision to reach for. We should read about the blind seeing and the lame walking and say “well then why not me, too?”
Counting on God to show up for us can be a frightful thing to do. The fact is, if we vulnerably reach out and find nothing there, that would be a very crushing experience. There’s no shame in admitting that.
But the stories in the scriptures tell us that we should dare to hope. Yes it would be crushing to learn that no one was there to meet us. But there was someone there for Bartimaeus. And for Jairus’s daughter. And for the man sick with palsy. And for Mary Magdalene. And for the widow with the cruse of oil. And for Daniel in the lion’s den. And for the army of Gideon. And for the Israelites fleeing across the Red Sea. And for so many others. He will be there for you, too.
Malachi 3:10- Prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Personal Promises- Question

In a previous study I explored how God has the capacity to see each of us individually. Though there are billions of us here on Earth, He hears our pleas directly and answers us personally. It is a remarkable feat, one that is a physical impossibility to all of us who are constrained by time.

Perhaps more important than God’s being able to, however, is that He wants to. I’ve seen my young son pray about the most inconsequential of things, such as his new toys and knee-scrapes, yet I am convinced that God listens to his heart with rapt attention. I am sure from His perspective that my prayers about work and finances seem just as inconsequential, but He cares about these things because we care about them.

In spite of all this, I know a lot of people that don’t expect God to ever make direct, personal covenants with them like He did for Abraham, David, or Moses. I myself have been doubtful of it at times. I’ve had this idea that I’ll just be grandfathered-in to the promises that he made to His covenant people millennia ago.

That simply is not the way God works, and I’d like to use this study to examine that fact. In the meantime I would love to hear about what ways you have seen God show up for you personally? What sort of legendary promises has He made to you? How did that change your life moving forward?

Knit Our Hearts- Summary

This study has been a very good place for my mind to dwell. Personal relationships with others is an element of my discipleship that has been lacking, and through this study I have been able to identify the reasons why. And knowing them, I have been able to choose practices that I believe will help me to improve.

Specifically I have committed to reaching out to neighbors around me on a weekly basis, whether to serve them or to just to share in a positive experience. Also I have begun a daily “forgiveness” meditation, where I reflect on the day’s frustrations, acknowledge those negative feelings, and then vocally forgive the perpetrator. Including when that perpetrator is myself.

If while reading through my study notes you had ideas and behaviors come to your mind as well, then I would encourage you to take those seriously. Perhaps God is speaking to you through these verses just as He has to me. Here are the core concepts that stood out to me from this study.

We are made for companionship

John Donne was correct when he penned the words “no man is an island.” We are designed to be social, to be connected to one another. I sincerely believe one of the greatest blights in our world today is how isolated so many of us are. And merely being in public places or attending group gatherings is not the same as having social connection.
All of us require personal, one-to-one companionship with others. We need someone to know us by name, by face, by heart. We are incomplete beings after all, there is no getting around that. It will never work to try and fill all those holes with by sheer force of will. Sooner or later we need to let another person complete us instead.
Genesis 2:18- And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
Proverbs 27:17- Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Relationships Are Built On Sharing

Being lonely is unpleasant, and those in that state of being will surely try to escape it. But how exactly to do so can be a mystery. One might master the art of telling jokes and stories, go to a social gathering, be incredibly entertaining the entire evening, and all the while still feel hollow inside.
Having good manners and knowing how to “get along well” with others are good things, but they are not the things that real connections are made of. Vulnerability, shared experiences, working together for a common cause; these are the things that form true bonds between people. Each of them is uncomfortable or difficult in its own way, and everyone is tempted to find an easier path. In the end, though, how can we hope to have a meaningful relationship, if not by meaningful effort?
Amos 3:3- Can two walk together, except they be agreed?

Closing the Rifts That Grow Between

Whenever we succeed in establishing a meaningful relationship with another, there will always arise an opportunity to end it. Whether one intentionally wrongs the other, or there is a misunderstanding, or even just a gradual drifting apart. Each of these situations sets a trajectory, one set upon dividing the two permanently; and unless that force is intentionally curtailed it will succeed. There must be a moment of turning back together.
We all know that we must repent of our sins and seek forgiveness from God, but every human relationship requires reconciliation as well. If we never learn how to both forgive and seek forgiveness, then we will never learn how to make anything that lasts. And isn’t that one of our great purposes here in life? To make bonds that hold through all things?
James 5:16- Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.
Matthew 18:15- Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault…if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

Knit Our Hearts- Ecclesiastes 4:9-11, 12

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

COMMENTARY

For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow
A threefold cord is not quickly broken
A single strand does have some strength to it. That is why when it is weaved with another it is able to increase its power. But two cords woven as one has more than double the strength of each individually. Similarly, two oxen, when pulling together, are able to carry far more than a double load.
A man alone is in danger of falling to all manner of temptation and self-harm. This is why in addiction recovery they teach individuals to make connections to one another, to be accountable to each other at low times. Once one has a companion in the hard place, the likelihood of a relapse begins to plummet.
The bonding of two souls is one of the most enchanting mysteries I know of. Somehow the two retain perfect individuality, yet also become a single unit. No matter how big a number it is, it can only become greater by addition. Similarly, no matter how strong of an individual you are, you will always be greater with a companion.