Making the Decision to Enter “into the Secret” with God

Continued from here.

February 2013 was my breaking point. I decided that if years of therapy and a long-term relationship with God wasn’t going to bring me any more relief from emotional pain than it already had, I wanted out. As I drove home alone from a road trip, I resisted the temptation to drive my car into each body of water I drove over while sobbing to God. If the end result of my hard work of therapy was only going to result in a few days of relief between weeks of emotional misery, I wanted out. If I could be assured that suicide would not result in hell, I would have driven my car off a bridge that day.

I challenged God when I got home – “If You really are bigger than my emotional pain, prove it!” I would do my part by only listening to Christian music and holding every thought captive to Christ for one day. If God didn’t come through, I was ready to end my life. To my complete shock, I experienced joy and peace in such an overwhelming measure that I wondered if my sanity had snapped, and I didn’t even care if it had! I had never experienced a day of such complete joy and peace, and it made me determined to find the secret to having regular access to it.

A few weeks later, in March 2013, I attended Beth Moore’s Living Proof Live event, which has been released as her Sacred Secrets study. The theme of this study is that “secrets manifest.” Whatever is going on “in the secret” of my heart bears fruit in my day-to-day life. Because myself and my pain were the primary focus of my heart, my life was bearing the fruit of bitterness and pain.

Moore shared another way to live. She pointed out that God created me “in the secret” and that before my mother knew she was pregnant with me, it was only God and me “in the secret” of her womb. She talked about how God wants a close, personal, intimate love relationship with me, but I would have to do my part to enter into His presence “in the secret.” I did not fully understand what I needed to do, but I left that event having made the life decision that I would begin the first hour of my day as a tithe of my time to God, no matter what – even if I am sick, or traveling, or have to get up early, or have insomnia. I would seek God first in my day and see what happens.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cover of Beth Moore’s Sacred Secrets – Small Group Kit: A Living Proof Live Experience. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

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Removing Yourself as the Center of Your Relationship with God

it_meContinued from here.

I had a sincere walk with God for most of my life without actually entering the presence of God very often. I received Jesus as my personal Savior at age 8. I rededicated my life to God at age 27 after walking away for 11 years. Part of my rededication at age 27 was to reread the entire Bible, join a Bible study, and join a church, which I attended weekly. I observed the Sabbath regularly and later started tithing. By my mid-thirties, I was leading Bible studies through my local church. I memorized scriptures and even sought God enough to develop a primitive way to determine a “yes” or “no” response from God about His will for me in particular situations.

Nevertheless, I mostly walked in defeat. I was plagued by the aftereffects of severe child abuse that colored every aspect of my life: my marriage, friendships, parenting, and especially how I felt about myself. Despite leading Bible studies and memorizing scripture, I loathed myself. Even after years of therapy, I believed I was fundamentally unlovable and that if anyone ever saw the “real me,” she would run from the room screaming. I did not believe that God’s love for me was personal. I honestly thought I was an “add on” – that Jesus was already dying for others, so he might as well tack me on since he was going through the pain, anyhow. I actually believed that my brokenness was bigger than God’s ability to heal.

Note how self-focused my relationship with God was. Every aspect was about ME. **I** was too broken to be healed. **I** was fundamentally unlovable. **I** had suffered too much to experience God’s promises. I believed I had suffered more than Jesus had, since there is no record of him having been raped as a child, and I vehemently refused to forgive my abusers, believing that my own sins did not come anywhere close to the sins they had committed against me. **I** was at the center of my relationship with God, my thoughts, and my world.

Note that my faith was sincere. I did believe that Jesus died for my sins and was my only way to heaven. I did not question whether I would go to heaven when I died. My prayer used to be just to get in the door – for God to give me a tiny corner near the very back entrance to heaven. I knew I did not belong there and simply sought His grace in not going to hell, where I belonged. Knowing Jesus was in my heart and that I was going to heaven when I died did not bring about God’s promises in His Word about joy and peace. I was simply a miserable Christian.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace in a hole next to a sign pointing to her that says, “It Me.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Daily Quiet Time is Necessary but Not Sufficient

carContinued from here.

Daily quiet time is critical to experiencing the presence of God. After all, how can you build a relationship with someone without ever spending any quality time with him? We set aside time for the relationships we value. Our time with God cannot be an afterthought or squeezed in whenever we have a spare moment throughout our day. While God certainly welcomes our invitations, even when it’s a minute here and a minute there, Jesus did not come so God could get a sliver of your time whenever it’s convenient for you. Jesus came to reconcile us to God and restore relationship with Him. This relationship will only blossom by prioritizing regular time with God.

Because my entering into the presence of God coincided with establishing daily quiet time, I thought this was enough, but I have learned from others that it’s possible to set aside daily quiet time with God over an extended period of time without entering into the presence of God. Thus, setting aside daily quiet time is necessary but not sufficient. Let me explain what I mean by this…

For my car to work, it is necessary for me to fill it with gas. However, having a full gas tank is not sufficient to ensure my car will run – I also need to turn on the ignition. So, filling my car with gas is a necessary component to running my car, but it is insufficient without also turning on the ignition.

I’ll share another analogy that a friend gave me: When you received Jesus as your Savior, God turned the electricity on in your house (soul). However, until you plug something into an outlet, your house will function as if it is without electricity. It is possible to live your entire Christian life without using the electricity, causing your life to appear functionally no different from those without a relationship with God/without electricity. What a travesty to have access to electricity that you never use!

I am not in a position to judge why someone else’s quiet time is not bearing the same fruit that mine is. However, I can examine what was different in my own walk with God before and after I started spending daily quiet time with God and share those differences with you. I hope that seeing the before-and-after contrasts in my own experience will help lead you to the door in your heart so you, too, can enter into the presence of God.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace driving a car. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Why Entering into the Presence of God Matters

why_even_tryContinued from here.

Many people seem to believe that the point of being a Christian is about getting into heaven and avoiding hell. If that is the primary focus of your faith, you are still an infant in Christ and feeding on milk. It’s time to mature! God has so much more to offer you than “fire insurance” against going to hell. While I am happy to know I won’t go to hell when I die, that fact is low on my list of reasons why I am grateful to have a relationship with God. God can make a very real difference in your life today, as well as in the lives of everyone you encounter in your day-to-day life, if you stop seeking additional reassurances that you really are avoiding hell and start feasting on the meat God has to offer you. There’s so much more to be excited about than avoiding hell!

The big picture story of the Bible has four parts: Creation, the Fall, Rescue, and Restoration. We were created to be in relationship with God. The Fall happened when Adam and Eve chose to make their own decision about what was good. Jesus came to rescue mankind and restore relationship with God. Jesus did not come only so mankind could escape hell: the main point was to bring people back into relationship with God:

[Jesus’] purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” ~ Eph. 2:15b-16

To have a relationship with someone, you need to come into his presence. While our society keeps trying to convince us that we can have successful relationships over a computer screen or through our smart phones, there is simply no replacing face-to-face contact for building solid relationships. Your relationship with God is no different.

Jesus did not come simply to save us from hell. His sacrifice was not for us to check “not going to hell” off our worry list so we could continue living in a way that is functionally no different from the culture around us other than warming a pew on Sunday. Jesus destroyed the barrier of sin that separated us from entering into the presence of God! God wants a relationship with you, and this is only going to happen if you enter into His presence. Again, I am not saying that you are not a Christian or are going to hell if you choose never to do this. But don’t you want more? You have direct access to the presence of the Living God! Don’t rest until you learn how to open that door in your heart and walk boldly into His presence!

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace’s face on the cover of a book entitled, “Why Even Try?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Entering into the Presence of God

rainbow_heartI have previously shared about the importance of setting aside daily quiet time with God. Because this decision coincided with God completely transforming me, I believed that daily quiet time was the missing piece. However, a couple of friends who have been setting aside daily quiet time for an extended period of time have told me that they have yet to experience this transformation. So, I went before God to ask why. This series is about what God revealed to me in from my own spiritual journey, which I hope will help you experience the same radical transformation that I have.

If you are a Christian who has never been overwhelmed by God’s Spirit to such a degree that you could not help but transform into something new, then you have not yet experienced all that God has to offer you. I am not in any way saying you are not a Christian—I am simply alerting you to the fact that you have yet to experience the very best part of being a Christian. Once you have entered into the presence of the Living God, you cannot help but transform in His powerful presence. While God is always with you since you received Christ as your Savior, you are not always with Him. Entering into the presence of God is different from receiving forgiveness for your sins and changing your eternal destiny from hell to heaven. While that is an important part of Christianity, if that’s your end point, you are missing out on the very best parts of your faith!

I am having difficulty finding the words to express what I mean by entering the presence of God. A devotional written by Sabrina McDonald in Daily Wisdom for Women 2017 Devotional Collection includes a good quote to help explain this:

In the secret place of my heart there is a little door which, if I open and enter, I am in the presence of God.” ~ Joseph Fort Newton

McDonald added…

God is personal. He doesn’t just want your work. He wants you, and that requires meeting with Him, talking with Him, gleaning from Him. In His presence, we are refreshed.”

This series is about my own experience with opening that door in my heart and entering the presence of God. I hope my words will help you do the same. Until you enter the presence of God, you are missing out on the very best part of being a Christian!

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace’s heart leaving her body in a rainbow. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Some Final Words

wordContinued from here.

The decision about whether or not to reconcile with someone can be tough, and it is one that I recommend against making until after you have fully forgiven the person for the wrongdoing. Someone who has fully forgiven has a very different perspective than someone who has not. Until you have forgiven the wrongdoer, the bitterness you are harboring will continue to drive your emotions and cloud your judgment. You will know that you have fully forgiven the other person when thoughts of what he or she did no longer hurt. I have not forgotten what Person #1 and Person #2 did to me – I simply remember their actions as facts  that no longer hold an emotional punch on the rare occasions that I think about them.

After you have forgiven, pray for God’s wisdom and discernment about whether to reconcile with them. In my experience, God’s answer has been based on the heart of the other person, not my own, and only He knows what is inside the person’s heart. Only he knows whether the other person is truly remorseful or is simply trying to manipulate you.

Confirm whichever direction you are sensing from God with His Word. Reconciliation isn’t about how heinous the other person’s action was – it’s about the degree to which the person is repentant. What Person #1 did to me was exceedingly worse than what Person #2 did. The difference is not in the level of culpability – it’s in the level of remorse.

If God is leading you to reconcile, obey Him. Trust that He knows what He is doing and that He will bless you richly for your obedience. If you have concerns about walking back into an abusive situation, pray for God to confirm what He is telling you as well as for any specific steps you need to take to protect yourself from further harm. Part of the healing God wants to do for you is to remove the victim mentality. My interactions with Person #1 after forgiveness and reconciliation have been empowering, not victimizing.

Trust that God knows what He is doing. If he is leading you toward reconciliation, trust that He will give you beauty for ashes as you walk in obedience with Him.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace doing a rap move with “Word” on a necklace. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Confirming the Reconciliation Decision with God’s Word

let_me_knowContinued from here.

God is never going to tell you to do something (or not do something) that is inconsistent with His Word, so reference the Bible to validate that what you are feeling led to do is consistent with biblical principles.

Person #1 was (and is) regretful and repentant. While she has not taken full responsibility for every single thing she has done, she has taken responsibility for and apologized for some of it. She is contrite and appears to feel guilty for many of her bad choices. Her motivation for apologizing appears to be her guilty conscience seeking relief. Like the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet, Person #1 demonstrates an understanding of her guilt. She has humbled herself without justifying her actions. (She has offered some insights into her behavior, not as excuse but as explanation.) Extending reconciliation to someone who humbles himself and is contrite has a biblical basis, such as the father’s reconciliation with his prodigal son.

Contrast this with Person #2. She would also like to reconcile but has expressed no remorse for her actions. She denies any wrongdoing, offers excuses, and has made it clear that she is open to reconciliation on the terms of ignoring the things she has done. In other words, she wants the benefits of a restored relationship with me without having to take any sort of responsibility for the harm she inflicted. While I have forgiven her for her past actions, I continue to hold her accountable for the harm she inflicted. I have told her that unless and until she takes responsibility for her actions, I will not be in a relationship with her.

The Bible supports this position as well. While Jesus loves and died for all of us, only those who repent enter into a relationship with him:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9

Note that this passage begins with the word if: Jesus forgives us if we confess. Person #2 has not confessed her wrongdoing and continues to justify it. In cases in which someone continues to do something wrong, we are to remove the person from our fellowship:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?” ~ 1 Cor. 5:1-2

This does not mean that we withhold forgiveness, which heals us, but we do not provide wrongdoers with the benefits of fellowship with us when they take no responsibility for their actions.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding a tin can on a rope and saying, “Let me know.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]