PDF Encounters with God: Spiritual Conversations that Change Lives

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Peter, James, and John had been walking around with Jesus for some time. They had been fed by his listening and loving spirit, and by his teaching. They had even been allowed to participate in his ministry.

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So far, therefore, it had been experience and teaching, loving and inspiration, through contact with Jesus and with one another and all the people coming around with them. We have no record of any specifically unusual non-physical experience by any of the disciples. The disciples are learning in their minds and in their spirits.

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They are making decisions and following Jesus around. They are having conversations and learning to live on the road. There may be no direct encounter with God, but there is inspiration, there is learning, there is choice-making….. And is there longing?

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Do they ever wonder if they are on the right track, if this prophetic journey they are making makes any sense at all? But even at that, their experience of God is second-hand. They seem to be able to stay on the path they are on, in a way it has only awakened even more deeply that sense of distance from truth, that deepening sense of longing for God.

The thing about an encounter with God, or with someone speaking powerfully for God, or with something that seems to come directly from God, is that it is what it is. It displaces other thought. It takes the place of whatever was in your mind beforehand, and then it is what is there afterward. It may answer the question you have been asking, or it may raise a question.

It may appear to relate directly to what is going on, or it may seem unrelated — that is, it may affirm the subject or it may change the subject. When you really become aware, the event is already over, going away faster than you can deal with, and you are already trying to hold on to it or figure out what happened. Fortunately, we have the simplest and most direct template we need to identify whether this was the holy spirit of God himself.

That template is Jesus. Did the feelings and the message and the spirit of the event correspond with what we know of Jesus himself? What Peter, James, and John were getting from Moses and Elijah in this vision on the mountain, — the affirmation that Jesus indeed did relate to what they knew of the Law and the Prophets — we get from Jesus himself. Any spirit of God we experience will be the spirit we identify in Jesus. If a spirit is saying something else, feeling like something else, it is not the true God. Any experience which seems to be from the true God — whether insight, or feeling, or dream, or encounter, or healing, or message — such an encounter will identify itself and will leave you with questions.

It may leave you with an answer, or answers, to your current question. But in so doing, it will leave you with questions for the future. I like the simplicity of Peter's summary. After spending three solid years with Jesus, Peter was able to cook all of that down to the simple call to do what Jesus did. The result of Jesus being anointed with the power of the Spirit was "he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil—for God was with him. This wasn't an idea to ponder and eventually respond to — or as it goes most of the time in life, to never respond with an action.

To see the kingdom stirred, to be truly missional people, we must get out from behind our desks, our doors and our walls.

What all does "doing good" include? How many different, creative good things did Jesus do? Is there a limit to the creativity of God that Jesus carried out in the name of doing good with the kindness of God? John, in the last part of his gospel, stated hyperbolically that if all that Jesus said and did were recorded, the entire world couldn't contain all that'd would be written.

Jesus did certainly more than just 40 things. How can you creatively "do good" to those around you? You and I can do the majority of those things as we also expand the kingdom. Doing kindness in a practical way opens a door to the heart of not-yet-believers the ones on their way to personal faith but not there yet. I used to try to engage those folks in a "spiritual conversation" code for arguing about the good news of Jesus.

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The problem was, my approach to engaging actually felt like bad news to people. A once-overlooked verse that has had a revolutionary effect on me is Romans I read this verse for years, but it didn't sink in till one day the light came on. To see others converted isn't an assignment from God that I can make happen; Holy Spirit is the one true evangelist. I can't bring anyone to Jesus on my own.

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However, I can lay out a trail of bread crumbs of kingdom kindness that result as we serve. Inevitably, people will "taste and see that the Lord is good. At times, the culture around us will confuse and diminish the word "kindness. God's kindness is something spiritual that also has a divine rooting in what's entirely practical.

As we bring the kindness of God in practical ways, it nudges others toward Christ. At lunch today or tomorrow, drive through Taco Bell during a busy time. Make sure there is a car or two behind you in line. When you go to pay for your order, tell the window person that you are also going to cover the meal of the person behind you.

Tell that person what to tell that driver: "This is free as a way to show you God's love in a practical way. It's as if they are evangelizing someone else though maybe they don't get the message themselves quite yet! Kindness brings encounters. Not only will the person behind you be nudged, your "designated" evangelist at the window might just come toward the Lord as well.

To boot, it's easy to imagine that both the window person and driver end up telling the story of God's kindness to someone else later the same day. It's not every day that someone foots the bill for your Mexican food. In a few years they grew from seven adults in a living room to several thousand over eight services per weekend. He lives in Los Angeles where he writes and coaches leaders about the power of God's kindness.

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