The Epic Expedition
August 27, 2013
I Want the Good God: Another Sermon of Grace
October 31, 2013

The Epic Encounter

One of the interesting things that Gracie says to me often is a peculiar question. When she is frustrated or in need, she will ask: “Mama? Can I love you? Mama, can you help me love you?” I’m not sure I understand exactly what she means, but it always induces me to reach for her and whisper sweet words of love into her ears. As I have become overwhelmed by the depth of who God is, I was struck heavily by that question when she asked it last night. I thought back to what I have written in my prayer journal so many times: “Lord, I want to love you more. Help me love you more.” When the Lord hears a prayer like that come from His beloved child, He is going to reach for them and whisper sweet words into their ears. I have found that sweet voice coming to life right out of the life of Jesus and from the pages of God’s word.

When I read the Bible now, I read with new eyes. It’s not about me and what I “should do.” It is about Him and what he HAS done. On the one hand- WOW! What a relief! The Bible is not a list of “dos and don’ts” for me to follow to be a “good girl”! I am no longer just looking for how I can apply the standards of the Bible to my life. Instead, I am looking at God’s EPIC LOVE STORY telling us who He is: THE King of the universe who abandoned His throne to brave the battle and rescue us himself. He is THE Hero who willingly sacrificed his own life that we might live. But there is also a tension because if I have a God who would go to these lengths- How can I be ok with my life being just a hustle and bustle of everyday routine? This God’s sacrifice inspires me to do more than waste the life He so willingly gave His up for. It calls for far more than just trying to be a “good girl” and live a “good life.” That is such a one-dimensional cliché picture! And yet, I encounter so many people who take God and the life He saved for them for granted, resting their existence on a one-dimensional picture that doesn’t do justice to who He really is. A.W. Tozer once said: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” I often ask people to tell me their thoughts about God, and I usually get answers like: “God is love.” But I ask, “What does that mean?” I’m not saying that this answer is incorrect, but like Tozer, I’m passionately asking you to give depth to what has become a simple cliché!  And, now here is the kicker: if you’re honest, you actually can’t define this! So now what?

I once heard Leo Buscaglia, who wrote a lot about “love,” say people would ask him: “Leo, will you define love?” And he would say “NO….  But if you follow me around I’ll try to live it!!!!” What was Leo saying? He was inviting people to come on an expedition with him to explore and encounter love. Love isn’t a one-dimensional word you can define. To really know what it is you need to have an encounter. Logically speaking then, if “God is love” that means to really know God you need to encounter Him. God isn’t a one dimensional definition; he is an encounter— an EPIC encounter. If we don’t think of Him and His purpose for our lives with grand inspirational views then we get reduced to simply living a “day to day” existence. Yes, even “good” Christians can end up that way, by simply going through the motions of studying the word of the law, filing in and out of church, and heading to Bible studies. Please don’t get me wrong— I am not saying to abandon these things. They are necessary. But have you thought about why you are doing them? You are supposed to be doing them to ENCOUNTER God and His EPIC Love & Glory!

Each day I have to question if I am just going through the motions of this life. Are the things I do simply marking off the “check list?” Because this is not what things are supposed to look like! It should all be EPIC! From my laundry room in Virginia to the orphan’s bedroom in Africa— there should be a God encounter in every bit of it. When my way of life becomes a string of “day to day” without God IN those everyday moments— I ask you: Where is love? If God’s not in it, then Love is not in it. And that means I am so busy with “my life,” that my neighbors become foreigners I can’t relate to and don’t have time for, instead of people who are lost, broken and in need of Jesus. My family, co-workers, acquaintances, even good friends are merely people whose lives are a mess, way too messy for me to bother with, instead of people who need the sweet healing balm of Jesus.  But if I take this EPIC view of God— that God is love, not some distant force or simple cliché, He is an encounter— then what I want is to increase every opportunity I have to encounter Him myself, AND every opportunity for everyone I know to encounter Him too!

You know when people come back from an amazing place they show you pictures and say: “Oh, the pictures don’t do it justice.” I’ll say it again: This is no one dimensional God! Don’t rest you existence on a one dimensional picture. The difference between a one-dimensional God and the real thing is like the difference between seeing an Ansell Adam’s picture of Yosemite and actually standing in the High Sierras. Don’t mistake me, this picture is beautiful. We take it out from time to time for glimpses of inspiration. We send it on greeting cards so others can say “how pretty.” We might even hang it on the wall, but even then only stop occasionally to study it. The thing is, the picture is not the same as the encounter. When you are standing at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains it is a totally different thing. The place beckons your engagement— look, walk, hike, climb, view the grandeur, the glory and majesty! Breath in the purity of the air, smell the sagebrush, explore every nook and cove, walk every bend and brook, squish your toes into every grass blade and lose yourself in awe at tiny wild flowers. When you are actually standing there you just want to take it all in and experience the glory, and you are so stirred by your encounter that you want others to see it. In fact, you’ll go get them and bring them back to explore it because you want them to KNOW it like you know it. You want them to have their own encounter.

I’m asking you today- Who is the God you encounter? Is he a pretty picture you look at from time to time for inspiration and put away while you go about the details of life? Or “Have you been” in God’s love? Is He the very fiber of the details of your life because you are exploring and encountering all the epic glories and riches of his Love?

I’m also asking you this— Who is the God you describe to people? Who is the God that people see when they see you?  Is He one-dimensional… or is He EPIC? Do they see you and want to go exploring for Him? Are you living like this is an EPIC God, letting people follow you around and pressing them toward an encounter with Him? Are you “booking them a ticket” and taking them on an expedition? Don’t just say “God is love.” Be part of their encounter with Jesus! Be His hands and feet, serving your brothers and sisters. Be the love and compassion of Jesus tending to the needs and hearts of the broken and lost. Yes, especially the ones you see in the coffee shop or right across the Thanksgiving table.

Your life is not supposed to be a string of mundane “nows” ruled by “to do lists” and the “tyranny of the urgent.” It is meant to be an Epic exploration of God’s love where even the perspective of the “mundane” totally changes… in fact there is no such thing as “mundane.” Even your everyday moments are opportunities to “explore.” Like standing in the High Sierra Nevada Mountains beckons us to come explore, so too does the Lord. When you encounter  Jesus you will be astounded! “You’ll be able to take in… the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights!” (Ephesians 3:18; MSG)

The other day Gracie and I were driving in the car and she said to me: “Mama, the Holy Ghost is God!” I said:” Yes, that is true!” She said “The Holy Ghost is whispering to us all the time!” I asked: “Oh really? What is he whispering to us?” She said with a big smile on her face: “He is always whispering: ’I love you!’”  The time is now— Hear the whisper? Grab everyone you can to join you on the Great Expedition to Encounter the unfathomable dimensions of this Epic God!