God's goodness, righteousness, and grace can be missed, avoided, neglected, and refused. In order to sense God's goodness we will need to set out sensing receptacles toward it. We will need to seek it. We can't find what we do not look for. And how can we find something that is invisible with our eyes? How can we hear something that does not come about through sound? We need spiritual eyes and ears with a skill of discernment to sense love, peace, mercy, truth, justice, compassion, sincerity, kindness, gentleness, etc. It takes experience to read underlying spiritual activity within and around us. Therefore, we will need to commit ourselves toward new habits of seeking to find love and peace within ourselves and in others.
"Test all things."
1 Thessalonians 5:21 Test all things; hold fast what is good.
The Scientific Method calls for testing and many Christians somehow got the idea not to test faith. Yet when we doubt, but still trust God, and then things turn out for our good, doesn't our faith grow? Testing is not saying something doesn't work. Testing is trying something to see if it works and perhaps learn how we can improve ourselves with it.
2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.
To examine and know ourselves we will need to look deeper into our programmed responses to situations. We will need to examine our bad habits and the reasoning we follow to continue with them. Why do we lie, exploit, resent, or fear? Why do we continue hurtful thoughts within our minds toward ourselves or others? What love, merciful, and compassionate thoughts flow within our minds each day? How are we bringing sincere affection and peace outward toward others? These are questions we ought to keep in mind constantly.
Choose God, then act with God
I took action. I began putting the instructions in the Bible to the test in real life experiences. This took some time and I mean years, but I learned how to do it, and found joy, peace, and love.
Continuing in such action requires a commitment to do things unfamiliar and uncomfortable. This takes desire, willingness, awareness, and diligence or in other words, all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. God is right here waiting for us to join the experience with righteousness, goodness, grace, love, peace, and joy. Yet we must choose to seek, obey, and act in ways foreign to our understanding.
I love kids, the way they explore, test, question, and experience things. Sometimes I intentionally do what I see kids do to experience what they are experiencing. I've stuck my tongue out in the rain, played legos & candy land, and sat on the ground with them playing in sand. There is an invisible world that exists within our working, sharing, and playing together, with which we are called to participate and build. This world has everything to do with the Kingdom of God.
Active learning is to participate and experience. Instead of reading, observing, or talking about information and ideas, we put them into practice and evaluate what happens within our minds, hearts, and relationships.
Growing means doing things differently
Those of us who love to talk can learn to practice listening. We may have a lot to offer, but we must realize sharing from our hearts is part of spiritual development and others may need to talk too. As we relate together through our experiences we can help each other. Being a responsive listener is a powerful part of the process. Jesus asked a lot of questions and listened affectionately with patience. Jesus wanted people to talk sincerely and truthfully. We can grow through a balance of sharing and inviting others to share sincerely and truthfully.
Those of us who do not like to talk can practice speaking. We must learn to share our truth, even if it's messy or doesn't seem to make sense. Finding ways to describe how we feel and what we do teaches us how to search inwardly for spiritual truth. Formulating our experiences into words can help us to understand our spiritual reality better. Explaining things brings learning much deeper. We ought to regularly take time to reflect upon and explain our experiences with others.
As a child I learned to respond to fear, anger, pride, and resentment. I learned to hide feelings and not to trust. When I read the Bible, setting aside what others said about it, and saw what was written in it, I began to see things which validated my experiences. It took a lot of time to gather together the evidence from the Bible and my experiences to gain a new understanding. I needed to unlearn things that were incorrect and teach myself things that were correct despite what others would say or think. I was to dedicate myself to God's truth whether others would agree or not and trust God instead of letting the crowds ideas affect me. I was to cease trying to fit in with the group and instead seek to fit in more with God. This takes discipline.
I was to look inwardly at my heart, mind, and soul to uncover the mechanisms that blocked me from choosing God. I was told to get down to the causes and conditions of my fear, self-pity, and anger. I was to humble myself, stop arguing and finding fault in others. I was to look more at my own thoughts, choices, and actions.
Did I seek to experience God's goodness today? Did I wait upon and trust God? Was I thinking about love, peace, mercy, truth, justice, and forgiveness?
Every system has a structure. We need structure. In our spiritual growth, which is individual, we need to develop frequent prayer with God to sense what God wants us to do. We can listen to our inward senses, evaluate reality around us, think of God's character, collaborate with our spiritual family for feedback and then make decisions based upon all the information that can best fit with God's ways.
At first, our seeking contact with God may seem unproductive. Our prayers may feel empty. Our meditation may seem like a waste of time because we do not instantly understand the benefits. It's like going to the gym one day and waking up the next day expecting to be in good shape. Development takes participation and time. We will need to develop patience, perseverance, and endurance to see what happens. Use a mentor through the process and stick it out.
We can evaluate and quantify the level of participation we are applying. If I go to the gym every day and hit treadmill for 10 seconds that would be good. Of course some people around me who do much more than that would think I was silly. Yet in all practicality I can say I go to the gym every day and I hit the treadmill. I could even add reading every day about running, but that wouldn't help my conditioning. It's a simple fact that what really matters in conditioning is how much time I'm on the treadmill. But wait, what if I spend 30 minutes on the treadmill every day, but it's not moving? I'm still on it longer! So time and participation are important, but so is new and improved action. Am I going to raise the bar? To grow our condition requires time, participation in new action that challenges us, and we ought to keep challenging ourselves to grow.
I don't have time can be an easy out. We can ask God how to help with that. It can go something like this, "Hey God, I know you want my 'all,' but I'm pretty busy right now. Can you please help satisfy my wants and expectations the way I want it to happen so I can give you more time?
The bottom line is that God wants us to be with God. God doesn't exist to satisfy our wants and preferences. God can lead us into Godly experiences if we participate with God's character at a level which can shape and condition our minds and hearts. And like any form of conditioning we will need to follow a structure to grow. See Deuteronomy 6, how to practice the first commandment or John 15.
Willingness to create and follow a plan is essential.
I used to run some groups and one of the first things we would do would be an emotional check in. New people would often be very challenged to describe how they felt. Many of us just don't look inward to see what lies within us.
God is an invisible and intangible entity alive and active within and around us. God is Spirit which we all have access to if we can only look long enough with our inward senses to find God. Emotions and how the way we think affects our feelings are essential to understand. The more we can understand this better we can understand what the Bible is describing. Remember, God is love and compassion. We cannot sense love or compassion without being attentive toward our inward parts.
We may need some help identifying feelings if we have not done it before. Through continued self-evaluation of our feelings we can improve our ability to see and understand our inward condition as we experience and grow God's character.
As we set structure we will need to seek an attitude of humility and willingness to come to God with our minds and let God teach us. In order for us to learn what God is teaching we will need to pay close attention to God's principles within our experiences.
We can practice and participate with love, compassion, patience, peace, mercy, forgiveness, truth, and justice. Humble sincerity in our actions with a willingness to learn new things can be of great help.
In order follow God we must seek with our God senses. We can't follow light blindfolded or sound with our ears plugged. We must set our minds toward God's spiritual truth, mercy, forgiveness, peace, justice, and love each day. As we get distracted we can redirect ourselves.
Loving God involves thinking about God and trying to be more like Christ.