Clergy Corner: How can we experience God?

Know love that surpasses knowledge

File Photo
Rick Puls.

■ By Rick Puls / Contributed

Years ago, my wife and I and our four children spent Christmas holidays in Hawaii. Nora was born and raised there, and we stayed with her mother, who lived on the north shore of Oahu, at Sunset Beach. Since it was winter, the surf was crashing on the beach in 20-30 foot waves. We saw crowds of people and television crews just down the beach broadcasting a surfing championship at the Bonsai Pipeline. Because the airline had over-booked the flight to Hawaii out of Los Angeles, my family opted to take a make-up flight an hour later. Because of the inconvenience, the airline gave us standby, round trip tickets, which we sold to a man who offered good money for them. As a result, we could relax even more without concern about finances.
While my family slept, I would get up early, walk down the street to the beach, sit on the sand, read my Bible, and pray. The experience involved all five of my senses. The temperature was about 70 degrees and a light breeze was coming off the ocean. The air smelled fresh and I breathed it in deeply. The color of the water was a beautiful turquoise. I could feel the texture of the sand beneath me. The huge waves were rhythmically crashing on the sand. I could see curling over, hear the roar of the water, and feel them pounding the beach. I had a slight taste of sea salt in my mouth from the steady breeze. I read my Bible and prayed, with a great feeling of joy and contentment. I have never felt closer to the Lord, and it is easy for me to bring up that scene in my mind and re-experience those pleasant sensations.
I have a very logical brain and enjoy reading books on theology, apologetics, and historical events. I often use logic in my approach to understanding about God. However, I have found that logic by itself is ultimately not very satisfying. One of my seminary professors, John Warwick Montgomery, said that people seek God in one of two ways. Some have truth questions that they want answered and they find God when these issues are addressed by the Bible. Others don’t care so much about truth questions; they are looking for life satisfaction. I believe that only Jesus Christ can provide the satisfaction they crave.
The Bible invites us to seek satisfaction in the Lord, involving our five senses. Psalm 34:8 says, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” 1 John 1:1-2, states, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.” The Apostle Paul uses the sense of smell to describe the relationship of Christians to others: “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,”
The terms, “love,” “joy,” and “peace” are described in the Bibles in ways that defy logic. The Apostle Paul urges us to “know this love that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19), and to guard our hearts with “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). The Apostle Peter urges us to rejoice in God with “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8). We cannot comprehend love, joy, and peace solely with our minds; we must experience them with our whole beings.
It is difficult to describe experiences with God in words. My wife, Nora, is an artist, and she can often capture in her drawings and paintings her experiences that seem to transcend the use of language. Art can be a bridge between our limited expressions and God’s transcendent, all-encompassing nature. She teaches senior adults how to express their thoughts in paintings. You are invited to join her at Hemet Valley Christian Church, Friday, Aug. 3, at 10 a.m., as she guides you in how to explore your thoughts and feelings on canvas.

Dr. Rick Puls is pastor of the Hemet Valley Christian Church, 330 S. Franklin St., Hemet 92543, phone 951-925-7212.

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