Are you experienced?

You wanna know God’s real? Start seeking God-experiences.

Every so often someone’ll ask me, “How do you know there’s a God?”

They’re not asking me rhetorically, “How do we know God exists?” They don’t wanna go over the apologists’ various proofs for God’s existence. In fact that’d be the fastest way to annoy them: “Well y’see, I know there’s a God because the universe works on cause-and-effect, and if we trace all the causes back to a first cause…” Yeah yeah, they’ve heard the “unmoved mover” idea before. They don’t care about that. They wanna know how I, me, K.W. Leslie, the guy who talks about God as if he’s met him personally, knows God exists.

Well, that’d be how. Met him personally.

No, really.

No, really. See, that’s the problem with such Christians: They’re not sure “met him personally” is a valid option in this present age. Often they’ve been taught to believe in some form of cessationism where God stopped personally intervening in the universe, or interacting with his kids once science was invented. Or that in order to have any such encounters, you gotta have a near-death experience. In many cases they’ve never been taught any such thing by their fellow Christians… but they assumed it’s true because they’ve never encountered a miracle. Since they assume (sorta arrogantly) they are the standard for what’s “normal” in our universe, if they never saw a miracle, must be that nobody experiences miracles.

So when I tell ’em I met God—and continue to meet God—they assume I must have a screw loose. Because deep down that’s actually what they believe about God: He’s a figment. He’s imaginary. He doesn’t interact with the real world; he’s not even remotely “real” in that sense. He’s a platonic ideal or an anthropomorphized abstract. He’s mythological.

The very idea God’s totally real, in every substantive sense of the word “real”… kinda scares them a little. ’Cause it means they oughta take God a lot more seriously than they currently do. Right now the idea of an impossibly distant, remote, otherworldly, outside-our-universe and doesn’t-intervene God kinda works for them. They’re comfortable with the arrangement: God expects nothing more of us than that we intellectually accept his existence and Jesus’s kingship, and in exchange he’ll graciously let us into heaven. Done deal. Easy-peasy.

Only problem: That’s not all God expects of us. We know better. He wants us to take much, much bigger steps. But before we ever do that—before we get radical about our Christianity (and hopefully not in those crazy legalistic ways), we wanna know our religion isn’t based on wishful thinking. We wanna know there’s a real live God behind it all.

There is. If you’re Christian, he lives inside you. You wanna see him? You wanna silence your doubts about his existence for good and all?

Then you gotta put aside that imaginary-God crap and start acting like he’s real. And you’re gonna discover that all this time, when you weren’t paying attention ’cause you were too busy playing church, God’s been there all along.

“Don’t seek God-experiences.”

The excuse most folks give for not seeking God-experiences, not seeking miracles, not listening for God’s voice, is a pretty lame one: One day some Pharisees came to Jesus wanting a miracle, and Jesus blew them off.

Mark 8.11-13 KWL
11 Pharisees came and began to debate Jesus,
searching for a heavenly miracle from him, testing him.
12 Groaning under his breath, Jesus said, “Why do kids these days seek miracles?
Amen, I promise you: If kids these days will get a miracle…” 13 and he left them.
Again, Jesus boarded a boat for the far side of the lake.

Yeah, Jesus didn’t even feel the need to finish that sentence. Although translators sorta do it for him, changing it from its implied meaning to a definite “There shall no sign be given unto this generation.” Mk 8.12 KJV

Luke presents Jesus’s public response with a little more detail.

Luke 11.29-32 KWL
29 Jesus began to say to the growing crowd round him, “Kids these days are evil.
They seek a miracle. Well, a miracle won’t be given them unless it’s Jonah’s miracle:
30 Like Jonah became a miracle to the Ninevites,
likewise the Son of Man is a miracle to kids these days.
31 The southern queen of Sheba will rise up on Judgment Day
with the men who were kids these days, and she’ll condemn them:
She came from the ends of the earth to hear Solomon’s wisdom,
and look: Here’s Solomon’s superior!
32 The Ninevite men will rise up on Judgment Day
with the kids these days, and they’ll condemn them:
They repented at Jonah’s message,
and look: Here’s Jonah’s superior!”

See, the reason tis geneás táftis/“kids these days” were seeking miracles, had nothing to do with seeking God. It had everything to do with avoiding Jesus. They didn’t wanna believe or follow him. They demanded a miracle, not because they had legitimate doubts and wanted them erased, but because they had full-on unbelief and expected Jesus to fail, and then they could dismiss him. (And if he didn’t fail, they’d just explain it away as Baal. Mk 3.22 You know, just like how cessationists claim the miracles in Pentecostal churches all come from Satan.)

True of kids in Jesus’s day; true of kids in ours.

But the kids of ours have put this spin on Jesus’s teaching, in order to justify themselves and their doubts: “See? You’re not supposed to seek miracles. At all. That’s a sign of unbelief and rebellion, just like the generation Jesus condemned for it. You’re only supposed to believe. Trust God even though he never, ever comes through for you, shows you nothing, tells you nothing, and is as powerless as a block of wood.”

And people wonder why the ancient Hebrews used to stick with Baal. Obviously for many of the same reasons the naysayers reject miracles. They are getting something out of it, like power and authority and money. Pity none of it’s connected to the One True God.

The real God responds to his kids. When Gideon wanted evidence the LORD actually had called him to rescue Israel, God patiently fulfilled his two tests. Jg 6.36-40 When Thomas wanted evidence Jesus really had risen from the dead, and wouldn’t believe till he saw proof, Jesus patiently appeared to him, and invited him to poke his healed-up wounds. Jn 20.24-29

Throughout the Exodus, the LORDGod has no problem whatsoever with proving himself time and again through his mighty acts. Ex 7.5 “You’ll know I’m the LORD,” he declared multiple times, when acts of judgment took place, when prophecies were fulfilled, when blessings came down upon his people, when people saw God act. But thanks to one iffy interpretation of Jesus’s teaching, we’re ordered not to seek any such thing. ’Cause in this new age of grace, God apparently gets angry when we ask to see him act.

Yeah, it’s a stupid interpretation. But it’s everywhere.

The excuse of the false experience.

One of the various blogs I read is by a cessationist whom I’ll call Ayberk. Despite Ayberk’s claim of love for the scriptures, he simply refuses to believe ’em when they state the Spirit’s supernatural gifts are to be the normal practice of everyday Christians. Ayberk has had no God-experiences, and exactly like those people who can’t believe I met God, he trusts his personal experiences more than he does the bible. As a theological conservative he would never, ever admit to doing any such thing. But it’s precisely what’s happening. According to his firm belief, we have the bible, and that’ll have to do us till Jesus returns, for God himself is exactly like those mute idols the gentiles used to worship. 1Co 12.2 He’s not a speaking God. His bible does all his speaking for him.

I bring up Ayberk because a few years ago, one of his charismatic friends challenged him to actually try to hear God: For once, could he just put his personal skepticism aside and just ask God to talk to him? So Ayberk took him up on it: He asked God whether he had anything to say, and if so, just say it.

That night, Ayberk had an unusually vivid dream: He dreamed his wife was cheating on him. He even got the man’s name.

So Ayberk hacked his wife’s Facebook account (as if a smart adulterer would communicate over Facebook, but whatever) and couldn’t find the man. He asked his wife point-blank whether she knew anybody by that name, and interpreted her blank response as she’d never heard of such a man. I’ll optimistically presume, as did Ayberk, she’s not an exceptional liar. He concluded his wife is innocent—and how stupid it was of him to believe in prophetic dreams.

So that’s what he blogged: He never should’ve sought a personal, extra-biblical communication from God. ’Cause error is what happens when you dare go outside the cessationist bunker. You’re led astray by your own fertile imagination. You could go all sorts of wrong, dangerous directions because you think—without proof—God told you to do such-and-so.

Ayberk’s partly right. But mostly wrong.

Here’s what he got right. When he dreamed his wife was having an affair, he didn’t immediately believe, then act upon it. He checked it out. Confirmation, people! Lots of charismatics skip that step, ’cause they think their spiritual ears infallibly know the difference between God, devils, and their subconscious burping up middle-of-the-night fantasies. They don’t, which is why there are so many false prophecies out there. It’s why St. John instructed us to test spirits. 1Jn 4.1 Ayberk correctly tested his dream, found it untrue, and correctly rejected it. Good on him.

Where he went wrong: We logicians call this “the fallacy of proof by example.” It’s like arguing, “A white man stole my wallet; therefore all white people are thieves.” Ayberk’s dream was fiction; therefore all prophecy is fiction. But all he actually knows is his dream was fiction. The conclusion is still unproven. Y’can’t jump to general conclusions from one instance. That’s called prejudice.

And hey: If a devil overheard Ayberk’s request for God to talk to him, and wanted to drive a permanent wedge between him and God, guaranteeing Ayberk would never, ever listen to God again, this was a really easy trick. All it had to do was play God this one time, insert the idea into Ayberk’s subconscious so it’d show up in his dream, get caught (or not; the resulting chaos would’ve done the trick too), and here we are.

Ayberk’s worldview was already against this experiment to begin with. He’s spent years defending cessationism. So he’s probably relieved to find it easily confirmed. Back into the comfort zone for him, with an inert God who’s really easy to ignore. Easier, now that Ayberk has “proof” he shouldn’t try listening.

Now for my experience.

About 25 years ago I told God to either reveal himself, or I was giving up on Christianity. So he did. And has revealed himself in many different ways, many times since. No way I’m ever quitting now. I might quit an individual church if they go bad, as they sometimes do. But never Jesus.

By contrast, Ayberk won’t try to hear God again, and in so doing has quit God. He doesn’t see it that way; he’s pretty sure a close personal relationship with his bible counts the same as one with God. (I should point out he can also close that book whenever he wishes.) He’ll put off any real relationship with God till the End. Presuming God even recognizes him, Mt 7.23 which I hope he does.

I don’t think it’s wrong to find Ayberk’s whole situation disturbing.

Why you want these God-experiences.

Humans learn best by personal experience. The only way in which book-learning is superior, is when book-learning preemptively warns us away from awful things, and we heed its advice. That’s why you wanna read Proverbs, and for that matter the rest of the bible. But when it comes to obeying God’s will: We learn by doing.

Ayberk again. He’s learning a little by doing. He’s probably obeying the Ten Commandments, more or less. He snoops on his wife, which exposes some level of mistrust and moral failing, but I won’t analyze that too deeply; we all slip up now and again. He’s studying his bible, and applying everything he thinks can still apply to his life. Without revelation and miracles though, it leaves out an awful lot. And shortchanges the rest.

Fr’instance Ayberk still has a lot of nagging questions about the scriptures. Thus far he thinks his only recourse is fellow Christians. (Preferably Christians who already think like him.) But they only know so much, so he still has loads of questions. He’d like to take ’em to the Holy Spirit… but he doesn’t really believe he’s allowed to do that in this revelation-free age. So he’s saving them up for Kingdom Come: When he dies, or once Jesus takes over the world, he figures here’s his chance to stand before Jesus and ask him every little thing he’s always wondered.

Since I believe revelation and prophecy and hearing God are the norm, and available to every Christian, I’m saving up nothing. I already ask the Spirit all those questions. He answers, y’know. I still have to confirm everything he tells me, but man would bible study take longer if he didn’t point me in all the right directions.

I have found, to my regular annoyance, many of the Spirit’s responses are, “What’s that to you? Follow me.” Jn 21.22 Unlike Ayberk, I don’t expect in my later face-to-face meetings with Jesus, he’ll answer every last one of my nagging questions. Because he didn’t in the bible, Jb 38-41 and doesn’t now. He wants me to follow him, not play backseat driver with his wisdom. So I say, “Yes sir,” submit, and move on. Ayberk, in comparison, isn’t moving on. He’s just stockpiling ten thousand disappointments.

See? That’s something that’ll only truly sink in when you learn it from your God-experiences. It’s why Ayberk’s never gonna learn it. Among other things.

That’s why you wanna get these experiences. Start asking God for ’em. He’ll answer.