John 21 [The Message]
7-9 Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Master!” When Simon Peter realized that it was the Master, he threw on some clothes, for he was stripped for work, and dove into the sea. The other disciples came in by boat for they weren’t far from land, a hundred yards or so, pulling along the net full of fish. When they got out of the boat, they saw a fire laid, with fish and bread cooking on it.
I cannot tell you when, as in a time and a date of when exactly this new awareness or reality became rooted in me. I just know it has been a progression all my life with multiple spiritual encounters of various kinds, including crises in understanding, and a thread bare reality that blurred the lines between the tangible physical world, and that world or “thin place” as the Irish Celts call it, where “heaven touches earth”, where trances occur, where you are “present in the Presence”, often unable to do anything but remain transfixed on the immensity of the moment. I cannot tell you when exactly that all began, I just know that it has always been a part of my life. It has become more and more important and real, and I can tell you an acute awareness began for me in my life, when I had struggles with my identity, and issues with my family of origin.
My Journey My Discovery My Choice
Being empowered by the Spirit of God, and empowered by other significant people in your life, will allow you, enable you, to take ownership and responsibility for your life, your whole, entire life and the condition it is in, as well as ownership on making the changes you need in order to improve, change, alter, transform, your life and your personal and spiritual growth. This thing I know, I can do nothing apart from God, and God will not be able to do much in my life, without my own willing participation and agreement with what He is bringing to pass in my life. So, in a very real and tangible sense, there is “hocus pocus” thing here. It is very tangible and real. When we own it, we become responsible for it. So the question for me was, “Will I take responsibility for my walk with God and for how I interact with His plan and purpose for my life on this earth?”
God and the concept of “God” has always been bigger than life to me, from infancy through my whole life journey. The signs of the miraculous were more normative than not. Being the firstborn in my family, a family of Pentecostal missionaries to France and Canada, exposed me to the intimate worship of Jesus Christ, the charismata of tongues, prophesy, and the miraculous, healing, and absolute wonders. The power of God was not a theory in our home, or the church family we were a part of. It was just as tangible and real as my feet touching the earth and walking.
I remember from a young age being taught and having modeled for me, “talking with Jesus” the same way that I speak with my family and friends. Praying was that real and tangible. I know that even today, I speak, often softly, directly to Jesus, for to me, He is present in the moment and is closer than my own breath. He is never apart from me. I don’t have to try to reach out to Him, I am aware of His Presence. I just “know that I know”, and cannot really explain just how real His Presence is to me. He can be as real and often more real than any person in my life. That is the reality of that kind of knowing.
Knowing, Intimacy, And Union
I know when I said my wedding vows 32 years ago, I never fully comprehended what that meant. I never really knew what “love” was, and all I knew is that I had a “passionate desire” for my wife, and thankfully I still do. I very much love and cherish my wife. My love for my wife “grew” as we became “one” emotionally, physically and spiritually. You notice over time, how you “read” each other. You finish each other’s sentences, or you complete a thought you know they are thinking and blurt it out! It still brings laughter and joy to me when that happens. You know exact what to say and how to say it, and I notice this even more as we age together. There is no one on this earth I love more or cherish more than my wife. I love to obey the words of Scripture, and even when it is not as easy as I would like it, I find the words of Paul compelling and motivating:
Ephesians 5 [The Message]
25-28 Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.
29-33 No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband.
When I left my family of origin and I cleaved to Lori, it transformed my life and continues to do so to this day. Throughout our life journey together, facing all those health challenges, a daughter diagnosed with cancer, who dies seven years later, to facing other health concerns for Lori and myself, and raising and homeschooling two incredible young women, as well as dealing with all kinds of family of origin issues, I have found that Jesus has been with us, with me, in each moment, no matter how painful, he has been there in the moment. He has not forsaken me or walked away from me because it was too much to handle. He picked me up and he carried me and still carries me.
In all these “moments” I have discovered a greater depth of mystical union with Jesus. Just as my wife “knows” me, and knows me in detail, Jesus knows me in the same way and much more so, and he desires that I know him more and more intimately. That is the challenge for many of us, especially men. We have a difficult time separating “intimacy” from “sexual encounter”.
The “spiritual ecstasy” that I am speaking of is similar to the “rush” or “ecstasy” one finds with our lovers. You realize when you are “in love” that there is that depth of ecstatic love and union that can be found to a measure in the sexual union, but the “ecstasy” itself is greater than the sexual act. The rush of joy and fulfilment one has in union with Christ is beyond words. It evokes tears, silence, sublime peace, and rest that puts you in this trance where you don’t want to breathe, never mind move. You try to hold to that moment as if it is suspended in time. All kinds of stuff goes on inside you, and you know it is good, and you know it is deeper than deep. There is an encounter of transformation taking place in that place and all you can do is stay in that space, in that moment. Such is the mystical reality of union with Christ. I get a head rush just trying to put words to what I am trying to convey here.
I discovered in marriage that spiritual part of my union with Lori and how deep that union really is, and I realize there is a similar union between Jesus and myself. There is a deep bond that is beyond words or imagination. I cannot imagine myself apart from him or separated from him. There is no separation. There is no dichotomy. Jesus and I are One, just as Jesus and the Father are One. That is His promise to you and I. That is our life together in union with God. That is the mystery revealed and the reality of the Christian life. The Christian life is not living by rules or a moral code and holding to a tenet of belief. All these things are merely an outflow out of an inner reality. The “inner reality” is the real Christian life, and not all that other “sfuff”.
The Inward Journey
In my teens I fell in love with Jesus. I would journal and write prose and poetry and thoughts on paper. I used to pain and painted abstract pictures that were filled with colours and shapes of what I was seeing on my inward journey. It was a way to express myself. My inward journey become more pronounced as I matured, and as my family of origin went through changes and crises.
When I met Lori, she too was a pastor’s kid, just like me, and like me, she had her own “stuff” to go through. Part of this journey, this marriage, has been God meeting us in the midst of each moment, be it a moment of crisis, or a moment of great joy and bliss. God has been in these and every moment.
In my 30’s I realized I spoke of God as a “God way out there”, a rather distant figure who was more akin to my understanding of my own distant father in contrast to a close and affirming Heavenly Father. It literally took me decades to see some transformation in my understanding of the “love of the Father”. It took me years of devotional reading and meditation of the Gospels and seeing how Jesus related to the Father to truly begin to grasp how much of this was lacking in my life. I had mystical encounters, and these encounters included Jesus and the Spirit, but I was lacking a real tangible presence of the Father in these encounters.
The Impact of the Toronto Renewal
In my mid 30’s I experienced the Toronto Renewal, of the “Father’s Love”, “walking in the Father’s love and giving it away”. It was almost a foreign concept to me. I had become so detached and emotionally distant from own father, who passed away a couple of years before the Renewal, that I had a complete disconnect from “fatherhood”, although I had a good relationship with my father-in-law, who genuinely loved me and cared for me as if I was His own natural son.
When Lori and I went to what was then TVCF (it would morph into TACF and now into CTF), and it was part of the Vineyard Movement. Lori and I had gone through a failed church plant, and we were hurting pretty bad “church wise”, and so one of the couples we knew mentioned they had been going to KVCF, Kitchener Vineyard. On Sunday we got up and just decided to go. We felt led to do that. There was no audible voice or anything like that. It was just a “knowing” or a “sense” that you get. So we went with what we were sensing. Part of this was very transformative in so many ways for me.
I may have been in my mid 30’s but I was pretty immature emotionally and spiritually there was a lot of issues I needed to deal with. I came face to face with my own true self, and my own lack, and my own need for God to really transform my life. I was no stranger to prayer ministry or the prophetic, but I did not like either one, not at all. In fact, I would say that I despised the prophetic, simply because the people I knew who were prophetic, lived a weird kind of life. They were really intimate with God and you knew that, just by how they lived, spoke and acted, it revealed a love of God and love for God that let you know they were in what I would call now a “sweet spot”. They demonstrated love for God and a real desire to minister to people, through prophetic words, pictures and visions. It was that stuff that “spooked” me, because they all sounded weird. Meanwhile, in my private intimate time with God, God would speak, and I would write, and I would meditate and pray into what I got and would search the Scriptures. But this was private and did not seem all that weird. I had a disconnect between the private and the public side of the prophetic, and I came head on into it through deep intimate times of worship.
It was at the Vineyard that I began to get comfortable in the prophetic stream, and began to experience moments of intimacy in corporate worship, and through prayer ministry, but it was a controlled flow that was about to get the doors blown off.
Worship Lead to Encounter which Lead to Intimacy & Transformation
The winds of Heaven blew through the cavern of my heart as I worshiped the Lord as I had never done before. One of the things I always appreciated with the Vineyard was the worship and intimacy with God were central values that was part of the Vineyard DNA, no matter what Vineyard fellowship you visited or attended. I realized just how much I loved to worship God, privately and corporately.
I discovered as I read the Scriptures narratively and devotionally, without going exegetical on steroids that I was actually having God speaking to me through the narrative. I would essentially take down the Scriptures, and wait in silence, and then ask the Lord a question, and write down the question, and wait. When the Lord spoke I would take it down like dictation. I never read it until my time with the Lord at that moment was complete. I did not want to mess with what I got. I wanted to leave it alone, and pray and meditate on it after the fact and do some searching of the Scriptures if I felt led to do that. This became my regular way of using the Scriptures and hearing the Lord through the Scriptures. I still do that, to this day, over 20 years later.
What I found to be normative when I did this, was that I was usually being given bits and pieces, sometimes large, and sometimes small, of what the Lord was revealing to the local church as it gathered on a Sunday. I did not see that before, and it became more and more frequent. I also noticed that when there were significant issues going on, the Lord would reveal things that pertained to the issues, that would only be seen as I was given more details about the issues. I would get things that made no sense, and yet, when the issue was revealed, what the Lord had shown me made perfect sense spiritually and scripturally. This impacted me greatly as this too became more and more normative.
I found myself worshiping God when I was listening to my CDs on my Discman or my Walkman, and now I do the same with my iPod Nano. The same things happen still without the music, where I enter into that “zone” and God speaks to as I worship and meditate upon him. When I am in one of those “moments in the Presence”, I become transfixed and have the Lord by His Spirit speak to me. This is why I love the “ministry of silence and solitude”.
In Solitude, In Quiet and Rest, I Find Peace, I Find My God
My life in the last decade has been shaped by community, authenticity, intimacy, meditation and solitude. I realized as I was ageing, and as my children grew up into adulthood, I too was growing up spiritually, and I was entering this mid-life season, a season where I am more pensive, more reflective, more concerned about my inner life, peace and tranquility and finding the wisdom that only God has as we yield and submit and allow Him to transform our lives from the inside out.
I find the Lord speaks to me in solitude and silence that is intentional as well as when I engage with Him as I walk in nature. I find that the silence even in my own home is a place of encounter, a think space, where Heaven touches earth and where I encounter the Lord deeply and intimately.
It Is All Rooted and Grounded in Intimacy
It is all possible only because, I know my Beloved, and I know He is Mine and I am His. It is because I know that regardless of my family of origin issues, I am loved by God. I am loved by God. I am truly loved by God. And so are you.
Life in the Spirit is grounded in a heart that is transformed and ravished by love. God is love. God does love, but His very existence and nature is love. He cannot do anything but love. His love is pure. His love sees us just as we are, and He loves us still. I am ravished by Him. At times I can only tear up and be overcome and overwhelmed by His love. His love is sublime. His love washes over me, and takes all the junk away and makes me new. His love refreshes and renews me. His love just never ever quits.
God loves you. Jesus loves you. He will not and He does not ever, ever quit on you. His love remains. Just as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 [The Message]:
3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
8-10 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.