Jesus is the most fascinating man who ever lived. He is the "visible image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15), "the exact representation of his being" (Hebrews 1:3, NIV), "all the fullness of God in a human body" (Colossians 2:9). Jesus said, "The Father and I are one" (John 10:30) and "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). So hanging out with Jesus is hanging out with God.
Even though blow-me-away experiences with God can't be manufactured, it's within your reach to have personal, consistent communion with God. Here are three priorities I recommend to every man:
1. Know about God, know God. Mike believed in God but had always been content to keep the relationship intellectual. But during a personal crisis, God awakened Mike's soul and gave him an overwhelming desire to know Jesus personally. Suddenly he was consumed with a passion to not only know about God but to really know Him.
Perhaps you've heard of this distinction between knowing about God and knowing God. Authentic, vibrant faith is based on accurate knowledge about God, sure—but it's also based on personal experiences with God.
Let's call these, respectively, theology for the head (truth, knowledge) and doxology for the heart (spirit, communion). We need both. Both are forms of worship. We know this because John 4:24 says, "God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth."
How does that happen? Since 1988 I've read through the Bible every year. Sometimes I follow a Bible reading plan (several plans are available on the internet). Other times I read different versions of The One Year Bible.
I read the Bible for two reasons: to know about God and to experience communion with God. First and foremost, Christianity is a relationship with the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, who lavish their love on me. When I read the Bible, I am literally spending time with the living God. The Bible, along with prayer, is the gateway to communion with God. I also read the Bible for discipleship—to grow and mature in faith.
If you want to hang out with Jesus, the Bible is the place to start. A friend of mine, John Smith, asked, "What do you think would happen if I offered you $10 million to read the Bible from cover to cover over the next year?" Of course you would read it. Well, it's worth a lot more than $10 million. Everything Jesus knew as a man is in there. He said, "I have told you everything the Father told me" (John 15:15). With such an encyclopedic treasure trove of His words—34,450 to be exact—why wouldn't we want to start there?
Bible reading works best when it's a habit with a regular time and place. I like early mornings in a favorite chair, and I shoot for five days a week. How long? Some guys spend 15 minutes a day; some spend two hours—it's completely up to you.
Spending time to know God and know about God is central to your discipleship—and it comes with a huge promise. Jesus put it this way: "You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32). We've all wondered why Christians "stray." It's because they don't invest themselves in remaining faithful to the teaching of Jesus.
2. Leave room for mystery. On a recent January 1, I read the creation account in Genesis 1 and said out loud, "Mystery abounds!" I then wrote Mystery abounds! at the bottom of the page.
Also I decided to put the initials MA at the bottom of any page on which I found something that was mysterious, that seemed hard to understand, or that raised a question. Can you guess how many pages I initialed that year?
All of them.
Mystery, which is truth beyond human understanding, is built into the deal. God declares,
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9, NIV)
We get this. We've all had to hold back information from someone we didn't think could handle it.
Part of communion is trusting—and loving—the mystery of God. We must often squint at the beauty of God's holiness through a thick veil of human limitation.
But what about all the questions you have for and about God that are unanswered?
Allow me to show you something. I'm going to ask you to bow your head, close your eyes, and fold your hands in prayer. Then I want you to think about what your posture is trying to communicate to God.
Assume this prayer posture for a count of five. I'll wait ...
Okay, so what's your answer? If you said, "He is the infinite God and I'm just me," or simply "Humility," you'd be right. We don't come to God as equals. We come to Him with awe and humility. Some things in this life we'll never understand—and we were never meant to.
I'd take it even further: Never want a God you can fully explain.
3. Take your time. A business colleague and I were in New York City. Whenever I'm there, I try to take in the Monet collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As we left for the airport, I asked my friend if he wanted to catch the Monets.
He said, "I'm in," but we were tight on time. So we asked the cab driver to wait outside the museum while we dashed in for 10 minutes with Monet. Almost as soon as we arrived, we had to turn around and brisk-walk back to our waiting cab.
Of course, you can't really get Monet by treating his paintings like fast food. Ten minutes isn't enough to really appreciate the depth, color, texture, and mood that are there. You have to stand, be quiet, and wait. And then, suddenly, it hits you.
It's the same with communion with God. You can't really experience transcendence and awe unless you slow down and quiet yourself.
I define hang time as anything that nurtures your soul with a sense of the power and presence of Jesus. It can be quiet times, Bible reading, small groups, Bible studies, conversations about God, contemplative moments, singing in church, listening to music in your car, listening to a sermon, watching a sunrise, or worshiping while hammering new shingles onto a widow's roof.
Remember, it's a Person you're after, not a task to check off your to-do list.
Men have a raw and personal need for transcendence, awe, and communion. There are so many things that hold us back, but getting it right is pretty simple. That's because the main business of God is soul making. He wants communion with us far more than we do with Him. Mostly, it's about showing up and hanging out.
Be sure to build time for hanging out with Jesus into your schedule. It's something that men who lead powerful, transformed lives do differently than their lukewarm counterparts. For men who desperately want to be fully alive, it's a game changer.
Excerpted from Man Alive by Patrick Morley Copyright © 2012 by Patrick Morley. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
You can hear Patrick Morley on a recent FamilyLife Today® interview.