On Loving God with your Heart and Soul

Continued from: Loving God with your Intellect


MATTHEW 22:37 AMP

And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect). [Deut. 6:5.]

There is too much data in this universe. No matter how much I know I’m always building my perspective with missing information. I know my intellect cannot tell me everything. At some point, heart and soul must step in where she fails me (and even those fail me too sometimes but hey! We try our best, right?)

We are crazy surrounded by things we can’t use our ordinary senses to interact with. This is one of my favorite illustrations of that.

So, the intellect allows us make mental sense of data we gather through our physical senses but there exists this idea that there are unseen forces we interact with all the time using some sort of internal compass. Cultures and religions all over the world have a concept of this: intuition, 6th sense, third eye, sensing “auras” and “energy,” discernment…

When we’re introduced to ideas outside the range of our 5 senses, we tend to shut down. It doesn’t make sense to the intellect and we don’t have a robust vocabulary for it. We call it crazy or pseudo-science. But I mean, I can’t see a radio wave with my eyes, yet it exists; someone had to be the first one to build a radio – a complex process that I imagine was fraught with many failures along the way. For many generations, no one knew wireless communication was a tangible possibility; we had to collectively evolve to be able to create the technology we have today and I don’t think spiritual things are that different. I think the idea of spiritual perception overwhelms us especially when it doesn’t work like we expect. I think we’ve gotten quite worn out with it all, which is understandable[1]. We stop pressing in to find out what’s going on when things move from logical to intangible or (dare I say the dreaded word?) mystical. We expect it to be easy. It’s not. The art of learning how to feel in the right direction is complex.

Coming from the Christian perspective, we talk about prayer, worship, prophecy, discernment, faith… things that are received by the heart and soul. Generations of devout believers have seen miraculous things happen when they reach out for God past the logical and into the intangible. These practices breed a wide array of emotional responses. Sometimes, those feelings are explainable and sometimes not. I am fascinated by the stories of people who move using the eyes of their hearts, even when they can’t explain why they feel something so strongly, and get to see amazing things happen.

I’m talking about the freaky Jesus stuff. I’m talking about my best friend landing in Haiti for a mission trip. She goes to a woman’s house – someone she had never met – and the woman says, “I had a dream about you and your team yesterday.” My best friend then prays for the woman and she receives a miraculous healing in her leg. Like, that kind of stuff. I have ZERO logical explanation for that. This is the kind of stuff you see in the book of Acts, the kind of stuff my cessationist friends firmly believe don’t happen anymore. And you know,  I’m not just talking about a one time fluke. Stuff like this happens to her ALL the time and stuff like that has happened to me too.

I had a very interesting experience with one of my favorite bands. One day, while listening to their CD, I felt an urge to write them a message and pray  a blessing over them. I specifically felt like I should pray for them to love each other like brothers. The theme of brotherhood was huge on my heart as I penned my prayer to them. I didn’t expect a response and I didn’t get one.

Months later, they were playing a show an hour away from my town. I was so exicted that I wrote them a little fan letter saying that I really appreciated the way they expressed  the teachings of Jesus so poetically and prayed a prayer of blessing on their work. The night of the show, I hopped in my 1990 Honda Accord and headed there. My car made hellish noises that night; I pressed on anyway. After the most amazing concert of my life, I gave the letter to one of the roadies and asked him to pass it on because I thought the band wouldn’t be available to sign things after. I headed to the merch table and the front man was standing right there. I won’t lie, I fangirled a little bit. I was so excited that my words didn’t really come out right. I told him I loved his music so much and asked if he’d sign my guitar. I told him I had given a letter to one of the roadies for them.

Here’s the interesting (yet sad) tidbit. During the concert, they opened up about how one of the band members had just lost a member of his family and I later found out it was a brother. That night of the show was said member’s first time back after a few weeks. It was emotional for all of them. The story online was heartbreaking. 2 months after that concert, I got a reply to my first message to them. They thanked me for praying for them and said, “We couldn’t have gotten this message from you at a better time.” I’ve often wondered if they recognized my name from the second letter and if that was what made them respond.

This was a pretty simple story. I reached out into the void because I had a nonsensical feeling in my heart but for them, it was important. That is one of my favorite types of stories. In loving God with my heart, He often loves and helps other people around me.

Another time, I had an experience where the last thought in my head before bed was this random “knowing” that I was going to run into a specific person the next day – someone I knew was coming into town but had never met. I ended up running into that person at the park and we talked a bit. He was in town screening one of his movies. We became friends on Facebook and I messaged him a few months later to encourage him in his craft and in his ministry. It was a long message but I felt strongly, spiritually led to send it. He responded saying that the message came at a time when he felt like what he was doing was monotonous and routine. Sometimes, he thought about giving up but he said, “Your reminder sparked something in me that I believe came from the Holy Spirit.” He’s continued pursuing his craft and ended up working with some really impressive people in the music and movie industry.

I know there are times I encourage people and it’s just a nice addition to their day but there are these other times where, on the other end of my words is a life and death situation for somebody else. Sometimes, I try to pray a little more seriously and listen a bit harder so I can hear something specific for someone. In those moments, I feel God is working.

And I’ve seen people do spirit-led ministry wrong and seen them do it so right… no different than watching someone work a piece of new technology. Sometimes we don’t understand it and we push the wrong buttons and nothing happens and we say it’s broken. Other times, people give it a go and they gradually figure out how praying and worship and prophecy and healing works and they grow to lead amazing ministries that change the world, one person at a time.

Then sometimes, it doesn’t “work” and we don’t know why but that’s okay because in the times we have “done it right” it is so powerful and so worth it that we keep pushing through to understand this thing… this marvel… the Holy Spirit and what it means to worship in Spirit and in truth and that is investing your heart. That is loving God with the part of you that feels it even when you don’t understand.

What I sense physically isn’t always enough for me. Sometimes, I have to listen past what I am actually seeing and hearing and allow the light in my heart to guide me. That looks quite messy at first because it is usually an illogical choice but in the end, intuition and discernment have proved to be blessings not curses. The end always justifies the pain it took to get me there. That is why I am less afraid to trust God when things look a little crazy. I know in my heart, He has put assurance there, that it’ll all work out and He hasn’t failed me yet.


[1] The original statement read, “I think we’ve gotten quite lazy with it.” which I don’t agree with anymore. It implies people aren’t trying hard enough. That’s not necessarily true.

 

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On Loving God with your Intellect

(Edited: Thursday, November 12, 2015)

MATTHEW 22:37 AMP

And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect). [Deut. 6:5.]

Intellect: (noun)

the power or faculty of the mind by which one knows or understands, as distinguished from that by which one feels and that by which one wills.


I think a lot of the church traditions I’ve come out of are pretty good at teaching us to worship God with the part of us that “feels” and the part of us that “wills” but there’s something about worshiping God with the part of us that “knows” and “understands” that makes us feel helpless. Sometimes, I can control my emotions. Sometimes, I can control my will but I can’t really control the data I receive through my senses (not unless I actively lie to myself).

I think It’s amazing that He created us to love Him with the part of us that gets geeked out on taking in facts, on studying mountains, principles, science and logic and connecting it back to the Originator of the supreme pattern of life; and to know that is good religion; that is worship.

JEREMIAH 33:2-3 NCV

“These are the words of the Lord , who made the earth, shaped it, and gave it order, whose name is the Lord : ‘Judah, pray to me, and I will answer you. I will tell you important secrets you have never heard before.’

I don’t remember if I’ve ever heard that preached – how to love God with your intellect – but I think it should be. A huge part of us calculates, questions and studies everyday things. We should be comfortable loving God with that aspect of ourselves. It would probably stop a lot of Christians from feeling like their day job is “secular” or separate from worship.

I’ve found God many times in front of a computer screen, programming my brains out. I remember taking my first robotics class a few years ago. Our assignment was to create a robot that would not run into a wall. The test was on an L-shaped path. The robot was supposed to go straight, turn a corner and go straight again. Sounds easy enough, right? No. It takes a lot to create a moving robot that doesn’t run into walls. Hang with me.

I have a point. I promise.

-Elle Woods

STEP 1: Mechanically assemble the robot.

First, you are given

  • a core (the empty brain of the robot)
  • motors and tires (for movement)
  • sensors (to help it interact with its environment) and
  • lego pieces (to connect it all).

Assemble the robot of your choice

STEP TWO: code code code

Teach your robot basic survival skills by giving it’s empty brain instructions to follow. You’re importing libraries, connecting to the motors and sensors, naming them, telling them what to do in different situations e.g. Robot, when you sense an obstacle 5cm in front of you, turn and scan for a different path (and so on).

STEP THREE: incremental testing & debugging

Then (and this part is crucial), turn on your robot to watch it do things. It will do nothing. Proceed to spend 3 hours looking over your code to find the missing semi-colon that broke everything.

STEP FOUR: Potential infinite loop

Repeat steps 2 & 3 about 5000 times. Consider majoring in music. Try any combination of steps 1, 2 & 3.  Eventually, you will have an autonomous robot that doesn’t run into walls.

wpid-fb_img_1447300446035.jpg

To me, the study of technology is the practice of slowly comprehending the improbability that anything functional was ever created. I felt kind of amazed by myself after that project. I make it around corners without running into walls ALL THE TIME (and that’s only one of the things I’m good at). I had to bow before God’s artistic and engineering prowess. It was definitely a spiritual experience for me. If someone sits across a table from me and calls my existence a happy accident, I have the most difficult time seriously considering their viewpoint simply because of its statistical improbability. We could sit down and calculate the odds together. It’s not “the bible tells me so” or I just feel it or I wish it were so. I actually think so. I don’t believe we are an accident and that belief which was once purely spiritual, is now, for me, intellectually sensible.

Loving God is definitely “feel”-centric and “will”-centric but I think that is just a portion of what it means to connect your existence to Him/Her. Artists, writers, chemists, physicists and all sorts of other normal people easily discover the extraordinary in the ordinary as they open their intellect to God.

You know why parables are powerful? It’s because someone connected the dots on what otherwise would have been a boring story or an uninteresting data set and they made it divine. What is so amazing about a woman losing a coin? Jesus made it divine. That is loving God with your intellect.

But I’ve seen subsets of Christianity that encourage you to shut your eyes to the concrete and focus more on finding God purely in the mystical, the emotional, the ethereal… This approach often demonizes the intellectual process of accepting God however He might choose to show (or not show) Himself.

I get it. It’s scary and sometimes you get lost along the way. You’re not in control. It’s not about your emotional prowess. You just have to accept whatever comes. It is sincerely believing that God really is His own being, that He reveals Himself when and how He wants and that we are at the mercy of that.

But if He’s real, then He’s real, right?  If He’s good then He’s good. If He’s just, then He’s just. If all these things are true in scripture, then they’re true in the physical world right? So, let’s stand in real time and see if God shows up. One of two things will happen:

1. Truth will change for you or

2. Truth will be solidified for you

But whatever happens, is it not better  to have the truth than to have a lie?   The thing faith does, is that it leaps  into the questions and asks God, “Catch me.”

And I believe God is faithful to catch us.

PSALMS 91:15 NCV

They will call to me, and I will answer them. I will be with them in trouble; I will rescue them and honor them.

It sounds similar to Satan’s call for Jesus to test God but actually, it’s  closer to Peter’s bold prayer: “Lord, if it is really you, then command me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 28:14, NCV)

Because if He really is who He says He is, then we will find Him wherever we look. And I won’t spend my time worried about Galileo’s claim that the earth revolves around the sun. It’s probably true… And God is the one that made it that way.

COLOSSIANS 1:16-17 CEV

Everything was created by him, everything in heaven and on earth, everything seen and unseen, including all forces and powers, and all rulers and authorities. All things were created by God’s Son, and everything was made for him.  God’s Son was before all else, and by him everything is held together.

Disclaimer: (I hate this part but with the Internet-age, I feel I have to add a few footnotes) Because the moment a Christian hints at intelligent design, there’s that awkward, “Oh. So you’re one of those, eh? Don’t believe in evolution?”

And… no. I’m not a biologist though I took some classes… But I do think the idea of evolution sans God is akin to believing that if I leave an iphone in a room long enough,  it will eventually become an iphone 6. I believe in guided evolution. Someone taught us to evole. Someone/something programmed us to evolve. That’s pretty much it. I wonder sometimes why we give technology the benefit of complexity even more so than biological beings. We’re so cool and so complex. Accidental seems insulting.

Part 2: On Loving God with your Heart and Soul