Thursday, March 7, 2013

How to Get Closer to God

How to get closer to God has been the theme of my heart for the last several months. I have felt a dull and distant wall in my relationship with the Lord, like I can't seem to cut through this thickness of separation. It can be frustrating because you know the truths in your mind, that "He dwells on the inside", and that He is "close at hand", but honestly when your not "feeling it" you can begin to lose heart. So how do we stay vibrant & alive in the inside? How do we stay in a place of encounter as a daily lifestyle as opposed to trying to live from "encounter" to "encounter"? Or from "conference" to "conference"? I don't want to be an event-driven believer, where I am alive when I am around the corporate anointing, but empty and dry when I am left alone. Can you relate to this?
      I want to explore this reality, and it will take a few posts, because I need to chew on smaller chunks and hopefully that will help you as well. The first way to get closer to God is to LOVE.

the first commandment + the second commandment

There is a hidden secret here in Mark 12:29-31 about how to get closer to God. When Jesus gives the first and second commandment. Jesus said there was nothing greater than these. 

"Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Just stop for a second and digest that- there is no thing greater. No thing. No other thing that satisfies. No other thing that fulfills the purposes of the human heart. No other effort that rewards the human emotional connecting to life and purpose. 
       I think most understand the theology with our minds, but the emotion of the heart may not fully be connecting for you, as it wasn't for me. The satisfaction our soul feels by worshiping God, the one true and living God, can not be duplicated by any other activity. And yet at the same time, there is something else inside of us crying our for the completion of that satisfying encounter. That second component is the second commandment. But what does it mean to "love one another as you love yourself."?

 love yourself.

     I use to think that if I loved myself I was being arrogant and selfish, and that was not godly. Over the years I began to hear these teaching on self esteem and loving yourself. I thought, "yeah yeah ya, I don't buy into all that." But I could not escape this passage. If I was not loving myself, I was despising myself, and how is that godly? To despise oneself is to cast off the very handiwork of God's creative design. It actually offends God and repels His presence from your life- the opposite of getting closer to God.
    As if that wasn't offensive enough, not loving yourself also puts you completely out of balance as far as the distribution of love goes. If you are not loving yourself, where is all the love going? Consider this illustration:

 All the love is on one side of the scale representing that it is all going towards other people & things. The affections of my heart are always going somewhere, and if it is going to things, that can produce idolatry. If it is going to people, that can produce the fear of man and what I call "performance-acceptance syndrome". 
     How do you "love yourself" in a godly way that promotes encounter? I am learning to love myself in these ways:

1. Blessing My Spirit

I have this great little booklet my bestie gave me you can check out called Daily Spirit Blessings.  Some days I need more than others, but most days I try to speak one blessing over my spirit and let it soak in. This puts me in the right place, aligned with God, for each new day I am given.  Simply call your spirit to attention to receive the blessings of God and read one of these blessings to yourself aloud. Simply let it soak in and receive it. For example, today I Blessed my spirit with the Ability to Trust God. Some days, I just chose one that stands out as something my spirit is lacking and speak the increase in that area.  

2. Blessing My Mind 

My mind is renewed when I take time to speak declarations of God's truth over myself from His word. Sometimes I just don't have the time to loads of scripture from my Bible, but thanks to another bestie, I received this wonderful tool to help me break off wrong thinking and put on the right truth over my mind each day. Daily Declarations can be a powerful tool for you to love the truth of God's word and renew your mind.  It literally takes five minutes to read through this page, and boy do I feel it when I do!!

3. Blessing My Body

 Taking time for myself is the proof in the pudding, as they say. If I am truly caring about myself I am taking time to prepare good and right food to eat, time to rest my body and mind from the stresses of life, and time to laugh and enjoy the time the Lord has given me on earth. Admittedly, this is the one I have the hardest time doing. It is easier to run ourselves down caring for others sometimes that to stop and drink a glass of water or make a protein shake. It's so funny because we will take the time to go get a latte (which is not good for our bodies) but we struggle to find the time to juice vegetables for 15 minutes! Think about that! If you left your home or office, drove to starbucks, waited in line, got a latte, then headed back, how many minutes is that? Not that I do that, but many people I know do. My problem is I will just keep working and plowing through stuff and not take five minutes to juice! In either case, you get the drift! Love your body = loving yourself.

 love each other.

Last year I spent a few months studying on the name of God, "Love". You may remember my post, "In the Name of Love". During that study I hit a huge spiritual reality in 1 John 4:20-21. First, let me say, if you want to understand the topic of Loving God and Loving One Another, 1 John Chapter 4 is the place to start, bit by bit, chew, meditate, ponder.
      Look at these verses for a second:

"If anyone says, "I love God" and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him; whoever loves God must also love his brother." 

Here's the thing- we can not even do the first commandment without the second. Did you get that?? We can not love God if we do not have love for one another. Ohhhhh the ache in my heart right now as I am writing this. The truth is that we feel like something is missing or disconnected if we are going after one without the other. We must be actively demonstrating love towards one another. Now, the picture comes in to focus, when we love ourselves+each other, like this:

getting practical.



Do you ever clean out your house? Like get rid of things you don't need? ask the Lord to show you someone you can give away things to. Put some prayer into. What do you have that you can give away? 
       We absolutely LOVE doing this. My husband gets parts from random computers and fixes them up and blesses people who need a computer. Its a gifting he has that has blessed so many people! We love it! What skills do you have that could help someone else? Can you cook? Is their a family that is having a rough time, or just busy and could be blessed by a meal showing up at their door for dinner? Get creative! It doesn't have to cost very much money either, like I said earlier, maybe its something you already have you can just give away? It's like a kiss from God on my heart when I give to someone in need.

share your life.

The most valuable asset we have is time. Time is life, and for a busy mama, I don't always have time to give everyone I'd like to give my time away to. But I also have discovered that if I want to get closer to God, I need to hang out where He's hanging out. In Psalm 35:18 it says that , "the Lord is near to the broken hearted". Spending time visiting those who are sick, hurting, or needing a friend is a place to find God. We actually feel closeness with God when we share our lives (time) with those in need. 
      From the beginning of human creation God said it was not good for man to be alone. (Gen 2:18) He designed us to need one another, human fellowship. So much so that even when it comes to intercession He said that where "two or more are gathered, there He is in the midst of them." (Matt. 18:20) He made it so that we do not feel fulfilled or satisfied apart from Him or others. That we would share our lives with one another, loving, giving, serving, and even praying with one another. His very presence is drawn to human-community.