I think our definition of a "dream world" and "living there" needs some serious remedial aid…and I think I just got some!
This is what I shared with some awesome friends at Encounter Indy, Nov 14, 2011.
Tonight, I just want to talk about beauty. If you know me, I always want to talk about beauty. When I talk about beauty, I’m really talking about God.
We hear a lot of what feels to me like disqualifiers about God — when we say He is indescribable, incomparable… that isn’t very satisfying to me. It almost sounds like an excuse not to contemplate God. The other thing that can happen is using biblical words without the vivid experience of what we’re talking about. "Beauty" is a word like that. In my opinion, one of the reasons for that is that beauty has to be qualified. If you were reading a novel with a female character, and she is described as beautiful and nothing else, that is pretty unsatisfying. Because as we know, there are as many different kinds of beautiful as there are people. And God is all of them. His beauty is worth examining in detail. I don’t think He wants to maintain an unknowable glory. He made a world full of His character, His attributes, His great ideas.
"World" is another deceptively small word and we gloss over it. What was birthed out of God includes the idea to create each incredible person you know (think about them individually to get the full effect.) It includes every thought and idea needed to build a cathedral, or an airplane, or an iPhone. Out of God came the desire to tell stories as vividly as possible, and now we are making these immersive films. Fashion came out of God. Cooking came out of God. Vibrating waves came out of God. Some of them vibrate at the speed of light, and we can see them as light. Others vibrate more slowly, and we hear those ones. And when we put sound waves together in certain ways, they mysteriously provoke the most amazing heart responses. God is beautiful!
The Creation is a freaking God-sized playground that He adores, and made us perfectly to love and enjoy ourselves in it also. Don’t you love that God made sound waves, but He didn’t write the music and play it to us? He let us have that fun. He hid diamonds and sapphires in dark, dirty rocks and watched us go sweat to get them out and adorn people with them. This applies to everything, whatever you’re into. Our Dad’s Creation is still unfolding through us. We’re sons of God, inheriting His studio, His practice, His greenhouse, His workshop. It’s epic. If you wrap the entire record of human history, creativity, invention, travel, and experience, the joy and fascination contained therein is too much for us to experience in an 80-year lifespan. We who are reconciled to God don’t have to worry that enjoying life too much is somehow idolatrous. It’s our nature to see our Dad in everything, and our calling to partner with Him to run the family business, which is the universe… both the physical and spiritual realm. God is ready to be experienced in every thing that He made. Embracing God, for us, also means fully embracing His creation. We aren’t going to be separated from it; even when Jesus comes back, we are ruling and reigning with Him over the same systems that He set in place when He made the world.
No more separation
We can feel God’s presence so much more when there’s no more artificial line between what is spiritual and what’s not. That division is pretty huge in a world that’s afraid of God, and sometimes I still feel it brushing against my toe. Like when I say that I’m "high on life," I will wonder for a second if I need to be finding my satisfaction in God more. Not necessarily. I’m high on the good life that He gave to me for that purpose — to be good. That was the criteria for His whole Creation, right?
When I feel like life is distracting me from God, that is usually just because I haven’t been acknowledging Him in it. I’m overlooking the best part of whatever is capturing my gaze a little too exclusively — that this gift is yet another token tying me to the present-tense love of my Dad.
IHOP KC has a great teaching on seven longings of the human heart. They are:
To be enjoyed • To be fascinated • To possess beauty • To be great • To be intimately known without shame • To be wholehearted and passionate • To make a deep and lasting impact
God gave you these. The blueprint for your life, your design sounds pretty much like the most awesome people you can think of in history. There’s safety and anchoring in dreaming big. It keeps us in touch with our identity and gives our hearts the momentum of hope. God gives desires so that He can meet them forever. You are absolutely free and strongly encouraged to desire things that cannot take place in the next 70 years, because you are immortal. Even if your body dies, you do not, and you’re getting a reboot — virus-free — of your body right away. You’ve conquered death along with Jesus, your new body can’t be touched by it.
This blew me away when I first realized it. I’m a permanent fixture in Creation. You’re a permanent fixture. When God designed you, He decided that your spirit, what you carry and reflect and express, needs to be ETERNAL. This is total legitimacy: the fact that you exist. If you didn’t come out of God and make Him amazingly happy, you wouldn’t exist.
God’s a designer. A designer is anyone who is driven to make things as appealing, beneficial, and high-performing as possible. You, along with every part of creation, are appealing, beneficial, and high-performing.
What does this mean? For one, it means your body is a product of the top designer. Who is so awesome that He even made your body come together perfectly in a process of lineage and genetics (which has its own massive value and beauty). This is like designing a Rube-Goldberg machine that paints the Mona Lisa, the Last Supper, and the Girl with a Pearl Earring in succession. So your body is the very best container for you that there could be. And we won’t always understand that until we see our bodies free from every last effect of sin, but you’re free and strongly encouraged to start thinking that way now.
More of what it means to be well-designed and back in union with God: what you do naturally is right on the money.
for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to act for His good pleasure.
This has been hugely changing me. Most of my life, I’ve been someone who’s really concerned about not making mistakes. I was afraid to do anything if I didn’t think I could do it well.
Once I learned about hearing the voice of God, I got a clue that the Holy Spirit was there to help me always make the right choice and say the right things. But I still had such an external perspective on Him. And I was frustrated a lot of time because it was really hard to get myself into that place where I was hearing the Holy Spirit clearly and was willing to be obedient. I would hear people talk about how often and how easily they heard and followed the promptings of the Lord, and couldn’t figure out why it didn’t seem that easy to me. I was really used to listening to the enemy second-guessing things I wanted to do. There was always an excuse, a reason I heard not to talk to that person, or say this or that thing… even if my intent was loving, I decided that it could possibly be taken the wrong way, and so I wouldn’t take the chance.
I tried to pray and work my out of this fear of initiating with people for years. It was not fun.
But as I’ve been starting to sit back and soak what the verse says, that God is inside me, active, not even fighting back a sin nature for me. The sin nature is dead and gone, and God has all the room. I can therefore have a lot more confidence in being who I am, following "my" instincts. Trusting that ideas I have are from God. Let me give some recent really simple examples.
I’ve noticed that I tend to remember random people’s names — first and last names of people in my classes at school that I don’t even really talk to. But if I said "hey" to them in the hallways, I would never use their name because I was afraid that I maybe didn’t have it right and would embarrass myself.
I know how awesome it feels when a casual acquaintance remembers your name. Now I’ve acknowledged that God gave me a good memory, and I can use that gift confidently to make people feel special by using their names. I try not to second-guess myself anymore with that.
I can rest in God’s total power and authority in me when it comes to time management. I know that I’m a responsible person who is not prone to laziness. That’s how God made me. I no longer worry about how I’m spending my time. Sometimes I’ll have the urge to go play piano for an hour. Or take a nap. Or go exploring in the woods. Or spend an hour deciding what to wear, because its fun. If we were robots, nothing like this would be allowed to come before the activities that have deadlines or put money in the bank. But we’re not robots, or slaves… we are children of God. Time serves us, and while it’s a resource we learn to manage, it’s also infinite and in God’s control. He has no problem adjusting time in our favor. We are also complex, multifaceted creatures. There are infinite areas in which we can grow and be blessed. The value systems of the world are too limited. They don’t always reflect who we are. Realize that God gives peace. God encourages real rest, real fun… if you look at the schedule of work, rest, and fun that he set in place for people in the law, it sounds awesome. The drive to get ahead no longer owns you when you realize you possess everything. Orphans have to earn everything they get. We are sons with favor who inherit. We step into the good works already prepared for us to do!
When it comes to "ministry," which for me has been a lot of playing on worship teams, I’ve noticed that God works through what He’s anointed me to do, whether I feel it or not, whether I do it "right" or not. The proof of this that I usually get more comments afterwards from people about how anointed the music was on the days when I feel like it sucks. My responsibility is to let out what’s inside, not to critique and control it – because God, the AWESOME God is working through me – being myself is honoring and giving glory to Him.
When I give prophetic words, I used to get nervous about giving a word unless someone gave something similar, and I could piggy-back off of it. It was faith-building to have that confirmation, but then I realized that I didn’t need to fear a word that sounds vastly different from what other people are delivering. Why? Because God gives us so much dignity. He has words for a person, and He gives each person who is ministering to that person a unique message to deliver. Speaking to each of us uniquely is one of the ways that God honors us. Even in preparing for tonight, I had to trust that what I wanted to talk about is the same thing that He wants me to talk about, and that it’s valid, even if I’ve never heard anyone else give a similar message.
Finally, I can find peace in whatever season of growth that I’m in with the Lord. There was a time several years ago when I used to get up early and walk out the vineyards to watch the sun rise. One thing about the early morning sky is that it changes continually, but you don’t notice that unless you look away for a moment. I’ll never forget the parallel Jesus showed me about spiritual growth: like a sunrise, every second is different, but every second is beautiful. Every season brings greater light. We go from glory to glory. Our journey into greater revelation and intimacy with Him is a gorgeous display from start to finish. Oh wait, except that there is no finish. This is the sunrise that just gets more and more mind-blowing every hour!
Let me share with you some of my dreams. This is kind of vulnerable, because you might think I’m really out of touch with reality. But I really believe with all my heart that our reality has NO limits, thanks to Jesus. So this is my prophetic testimony of how good God is, how big He is, and how fully invited into this reality I am.
Let me give you some background first. Some of you maybe don’t know that my parents are missionaries in France. Our family started out living a really "normal" suburban, upper middle-class life in Denver, but then we moved to Europe when I was ten. I’ve lived in Scotland, France, and Germany, and visited Italy, Switzerland, England, Austria, and a few others. There are a lot of things that Europe really fostered in me. One is an love of history and old architecture. Jesus, who designed me, adores me, and knows more about who I am than I do, knew that I would start to feel really deeply about castles, cathedrals, and palaces by frequently visiting them. They’re all over the place in Europe. When I step into architecture that has real grandeur, I feel at home. These buildings concretely put me in touch with my dreams. They were built by people who were not afraid to be expansive. To me, they are tangible expressions of royalty (an intangible).
So my dreams include living in Europe and spending substantial amounts of time in the most beautiful buildings in the world. I would love to share these buildings with other artists of every kind and we’ll all disciple people in music, and design, and languages, and what it means to be married to God. I want to be part of a movement producing art and music that is irresistibly attractive because it’s full of the beauty of God. I want to see secular clubs blasting the most epic dance music the Holy Spirit will give me. I want to play my violin in cathedrals on a regular basis. I want to be in the cathedrals when the Presence of God manifests in them. When they decide to take out the pews and turn the whole thing into a dance floor. I want to see the people that make the news, make the news with the way they give their lives back to Jesus, one after another. I want to see how the European family of nations, each country with it’s own story and personality, grows together in love and gratefulness and awe of God, and their identities sparkle without tarnish of past sin.
Dreaming = Breathing
It’s like going to an oxygen bar when we let our souls expand like this and begin to be in awe of redemptive history, what’s happening now, and the unending adventure that has been stored up for us. We don’t even really have language for the epicness of what we’re living in. If you have lots of impossible dreams, you’re in really good shape, because God gives these dreams to us in order to one-up them. Toss your mind up as high as you can and you won’t be able to get it over God’s head. This is the best. Having someone so much greater than us. We can trust in His bigness. We need bigness. We don’t have to be afraid that life won’t be as cool as we hope it will be. It will most certainly be cooler. You can bet it all on our Beautiful Dad.