This is Workshop 7 in the Foundations for Connecting With God Series (Click to view series overview)
Understanding is imagining reality as it actually is.
Understanding as a foundation for Connecting with God has to do with being able to imagine enough about what is actually real that we are able to cooperate with God’s design for us to be able to be aware of God’s presence/activity and ultimately to connect with God in a living and loving relationship. That may sound a little vague, so let me try to make it more concrete.
Wherever you are as you as you read this, just pause for a moment and look around you. How did all of that stuff around you get come get there?
- How did Earth, and you and me get here?
- What will happen when all of this stuff in ages to come?
- What happen after we die?
The ways you answer these questions show a lot about what your understanding of reality is. We can only answer these questions based on what we imagine to be the big picture. We don’t have answers to all of these questions based on what we’ve experienced through our physical senses because we weren’t here physically when the world came to be, and if we are still breathing, we haven’t experienced death (except some who have had near death experiences who often describe amazing experiences like going to heaven that can increase all of our understanding of reality). Thus, we might say, we don’t have direct knowledge which Dallas Willard defines as interactive relationship with creation of the world, or with the end of the age, but we can still have understanding about these questions informed by what we’ve learned from other sources. The understanding we come to about these and other central questions greatly informs how we live our lives. For example, a person who imagines that the material universe and life randomly appeared and death is the end of our existence may not be open to a lot of possibilities that are considered by someone who has a view that the universe and all of life including ourselves was created by a loving God who sustains us, wants a relationship with us, and will continue to take care of us after we die. Prayer and interactive relationship with God, welcoming God to do miracles, worshipping, loving others as people created in God’s image, and a million other choices only really make sense with an imagination of reality that includes a loving, present, active, creative God.
It may be helpful to look at a couple more questions: Again, I encourage you to look around the room wherever you are.
- Do you see God, or Jesus?
- Do you feel God’s presence right now in some way?
- Do you have any sense of God’s love for you right now?
If so, that is great, I think you are probably in touch with reality. If not, does that mean that God is not present or that God does not love you? Of course not, it simply means that in this moment you are not aware of the higher realities beyond and mingled in with your immediate physical surroundings. Understanding is essentially the foundational thing that helps us remember what is actually real even if we aren’t directly experiencing it in this moment, and even if we have never had direct experience of it ourselves.
We need to understand there is more to reality than our five senses are picking up, and part of that reality includes God’s presence with us in every moment and God’s love directed toward us and showering over us as constantly and steadily as the sun.
Here is an illustration that may help. This is a video of a group of children in Uganda singing Jireh by Maverick City Music and Elevation Worship. I don’t know much about the ministry or the children, but there seems to be a deeper reality that these children are tapping into regarding God’s presence with them and love for them which I find inspiring and a good example of how we can learn understand and live into realities beyond the immediate physical world around us.
What might be the most important things for us to understand if we want to recognize and relate to God? Here is my stab at the question, but feel free to create your own list.
- God is real.
- God is present.
- God is active.
- God is able to interact with us.
- God wants a relationship with us.
- God loves us (which also means God likes us).
You may have noticed that these are the same things that I listed in the reading for the Hope workshop that we need to have hope in in order to connect with God. Understanding and hope are closely linked together. These are perhaps the basic things we need to understand in order to keep prioritizing our activity and choices to move us in the direction of connecting with God. The more we understand about the reality God has created, however, the more we are able to participate with God and to operate as members of Jesus Body on Earth and as citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Our life in relationship with God and God’s people should probably be a never ending journey in increasing our understanding of who God is and how God relates to God’s people and all of creation and how God wants us to relate to one another. Here are some examples of additional things that help to understand:
- God is love
- Loving God and loving one another as we love ourselves are the greatest two commandments
- The kingdom of heaven is at hand (both here and near)
- The church worldwide is literally Jesus body with Jesus as our head. When one is hurt all are hurt, and when one is honored all are honored.
- God is always doing something new.
- God is with us, in us, and all around us.
- Heaven is both now and coming.
- Angels are real and actively participating in God’s work with us on Earth.
- Demons and spiritual forces opposed to God are real and need to be dealt with using the authority Jesus has given us over them.
And here are some which I think are helping open up more possibilities.
- Heaven seems to be accessible to us now, we are seated with Christ in heavenly places.
- Angels seem to be assigned to us and we can ask God to direct their assignments.
- God is present in any memory of our lives and comes to life in a living interactive connection when we connect with him in the memory.
- God is making us into the fullness of Christ, conforming us to Christ image and our journey on Earth is only a part of that great work.
Of course there are tons of things about the created world that are also helpful for us to understand in order to be well prepared to co-labor with God, these include understandings of how our minds and bodies work, how cultures work, how to care well for people, how to get along with people, how to build community, how to communicate, how to pray, and much much more. Isn’t it fun and often humbling to keep learning new things. A two year old I know often says, “Teach me daddy” when he doesn’t understand something. May we have that same childlike curiosity as we ask God to help us understand what we need to know about who God is, who we are, and how to love like God loves.