My love affair with God is growing and growing. Although my new love for God started in church almost 20 years ago, it wasn’t until God separated me unto himself and took me through a desert experience that I began not to just know of God, but truly experience Him on a personal level.
As new or immature believers in Christ, our walk is generally characterized by what we do for God. Although the gift of salvation is free, it’s hard for our natural minds to comprehend that we can get something for nothing. Our church leaders also weight us down with a litany of what good Christians do. Good Christians never miss a Sunday Service, attend weekly bible study, volunteer in several ministries, read their Bibles everyday, and the list goes on. As a result, when we fail to meet these standards, guilty feelings surface and fear sets in. We may even question whether we are saved.
The irony is that going to church doesn’t necessarily constitute a relationship with God just as not going to church suggests a lack of one. The first time I stopped going to church I was guilt-ridden. I must be in a back-slidden condition I ponderedt, although my heart was just as devoted to God as ever. Scriptures like, “do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together,” surely meant I was on my way to hell. Yet at that time in my life going to church left me feeling empty. It was just a weekly ritual, a habit that I had been doing for years and I was tired of putting myself through its misery.
As I look back over those years, I realize something profound. I didn’t really know God. Well I knew a lot about God. I knew even more scriptures. I had a lot of Christian friends and was involved in many Christian ministries. I was on the witnessing team and taught Sunday School. I had been an usher and sang in the choir. Most definitely accepting Christ into my heart transformed everything about me. Yet my Christian walk had more to do with service than a relationship with God and I after 15 years of doing, it just didn’t satisfy anymore.
Although briefly I had given up on church, God sure hadn’t given up on me. It was during one of my church hiatuses that my real relationship with God took a big turn. I remember so vividly sitting in a restaurant one evening when I had a close in encounter with the King of Kings. Without any forewarning or preoccupation, the Spirit of God spoke to me in a Loud but silent voice, “Rhonda, what are you doing here.” Then again, “Rhonda, what are you doing here, this is not the life I have called for you.” With goose bumps over ninety percent my body, God spoke to me in a way I had never experienced before. Within a period of one month my life turned upside down and I began a new course that I never anticipated. God drew me into the desert with Him, naked and alone and my journey to knowing God, not just learn about God, started.
Psalms 46:10 tells us to “Be still and know that I am God.” Yet amidst the busyness that accompanies many of our lives and the lack of teaching on building our own thriving relationship with God, many believers haven’t the foggiest idea what that even means. When are we ever taught to just dwell in God’s presence or encouraged to listen to and trust God’s spirit living in us. Our spending time with God usually results in an extended Bible study, but there is a big difference in studying God’s word and fellowshipping with Him. And don’t even mention the word meditation for fear of evil spirits jumping into our bodies and possessing our souls. No, it’s better just to keep us busy doing for God than to feel the tugging in our hearts to come out from among them and draw closer to our Creator.
Because God loves us so much and wants so much to fellowship with us on an intimate level, he creates or allows situations to arise in our lives that can’t be solved by human minds or hands. He creates a hunger in our heart so massive that nothing can fill it but Him alone. And although for a time being we try this and that to plug the hole, we’re fighting a losing battle. God told the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 8:2 that it was God who led them into a desert place. Then it was God who humbled them and caused them to hunger so that He could satisfy them. He wanted to teach them that man does not live on what the world produces, but life emanates from the Lord.
It is that insatiable hunger and sometimes pain that pries us from the deceptions of the world to the very arms of God. Neither the world, nor the church can save us. And it is during these times that the conversations, the cries, and the pleadings with God begin until we reach a place of surrender. Our quest to know God often times mimics the very journey of Job. His story depicts a great loss and pain, followed by deep contemplation and communion with God, and ending with new understanding and transformation. When God allowed Job to be tested it says he was a Godly man, no doubt an avid church goer of our time. Yet in the end Job declared in Job 42:5, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” Then the Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.”( Job 42:18.) Job came out of this turmoil with something more precious than all the possessions of the world, a one-on-one relationship with His Heavenly Father.
If you are in pain or hungry or hurting today, run as fast as you can into the arms of the Lord. Become a student of the Spirit. You’ll learn more about God by spending time with Him and abiding in His presence than you ever will sitting in a church pew. God told the children of Israel that a building could never contain Him. God is as close as your own heart and He desires not only to fellowship with you but to become one with you in spirit, His spirit. This is the foundation of Christian meditation, finding that place in God that moves beyond time, place, and space. Through Biblical meditation we connect with the divine nature of God. We create a greater space in our hearts and minds to embrace all that God is. It is the highest form of communion that we can experience with an invisible God.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I would never discourage anyone from attending church. In fact, my early church experience laid the foundation of my Christian walk. It contains a family of believers to walk alongside and share in the joys and upheavels of life. It is where we are most likely to learn about God and study the scriptures. However, we must be careful not to substitute the church for a relationship with God. The church is an institution. God is a spirit and we must worship and “relate to Him” in spirit and in truth.
I recently read a passage where Jesus is said to have spoken, “My followers have forgotten the art of divine inner communication. Outwardly they do good works, but they have lost sight of the most important of my teachings, ‘to seek the kingdom of God first.’” Where do we find true and living God? In the quietness and openness of our own heart. Learn more about Christian Meditation.