In Romans 8 and Galatians 4, Paul reminds us that we [children of God] are given the Spirit in order to allow us to experience the love of God. No longer are we slaves, but we are sons and daughters.

No longer do we live in fear, but we live in freedom, putting death the flesh through the power of the Spirit.

No longer do we depend on outward duties, but we depend upon the inner testimony of the Spirit of God which screams, cries, and yells  out about this relationship, "Abba! {Dad}"

In John 14, Jesus says that He is going to send the Holy Spirit to be our Comfortor, Counselor, Strengthener, or Advocate (depending on your translation). The Spirit is our paraklete. One of the primary reasons Jesus sent the Holy Spirit was to comfort/strengthen us in the midst of this world, allowing us to be made more into the image of Jesus through the power of the Spirit.

Yesterday, in our Connection time, we discussed three reasons why we don't feel like these truths are a present reality in our lives.

1. We might not have the testimony of the love of God in our lives through the Spirit of God because we aren't children of God. We might have the head knowledge of the gospel, but we've never had the heart transplant of the New Covenant--a heart of stone being taken out and a heart of flesh being given to us by God.

2. We might not have this relationship with God through the Spirit because our lives are way too safe or comfortable. We discussed times in our lives when we had to depend on the Holy Spirit for direction, guidance, strength and comfort. For many of us, it was a recent trip oversees where we didn't know the culture, language, or lay of the land. Yet, we knew that our desire to share the gospel broke through all of those barriers because of the Holy Spirit. Still others, it was a huge life-situation--cancer, loss of loved one, divorce, guts to bring sin to the light--that we knew was the Holy Spirit working in us.

If however, we had to think for awhile of the last time that we HAD to depend upon the Spirit (which is funny, because as children of God we are to be the ones that are led by the Spirit of God according to Romans 8), then it wasn't that our God was too small, it was that our lives are too safe.

3. Another barrier, Noise. One of the most observed and bemoaned aspects of life in our day and age is the rapid pace of everything (says Francis Chan in Forgotten God). "When we're not busy at work, we're on the phone or talking to friends and family. Even inanimate objects demand our attention--televisions, ipods, radios, computers, books, and so on.

We asked: When was the last time you sat quietly with nothing at all to distract you? What was it like?

As I eavesdropped on some of your group conversations I heard that it was sometime in college, a retreat, or an extended camping trip where you were able to just get away. While attending Liberty in Virginia, I had my spot. It was about an hour away from campus. The hike was beautiful, but at the end there was a huge waterfall. I would often sit and just listen, talking to the Lord, spending some time in solitude for hours. In Tennessee, I had my spot. It was near an inner city ministry that my wife and I worked with called The Oak Project. One involved nature, the other centered around people. If Jesus, Creator and Sustainer, had to get away from the crowd in order to spend time in prayer... I'm pretty sure that I'm in even more need of this discipline. (If you haven't studied the life of Jesus, the rhythms of his life between ministry, disciples, and getting away... you need to.)

You may need to do something about this right now.

Your life may have become so busy and noisy that you haven't sat alone with God for weeks, months, maybe even years. God jealously desires intimacy with you, His child. If that's the case, set it aside and spend some time speaking and listening to Him directly. You don't have to find a waterfall. His presence and Spirit are everywhere. We just need to be more aware of Him.

Prayerfully, list some things in your journal or wherever you write things down that keep you from a real relationship with God. Seriously, ask God, "God, what is it that is keeping me from this intimacy with you?" Whatever it is, no matter how long ago it was or how far out there it seems, write it down.

Then, consider which of those things you need to get rid of in order to pursue intimacy with God? Determine how to do this. For some of you, it is the cell phone. Yeah, you don't want to cut the service off... but you may need to turn it off at night. Yet, for others... it is constant activity with other people instead of slowing down, clearning out the airwaves in your life, and allowing the Lord to speak. Television, facebook, video games, fitness... those were all things that were mentioned yesterday.

Warning, you don't want to enter into legalism with this one. A good rule of thumb, take each thing or relationship and ask, "Does this stir my affections for Jesus, making me more like Him, or does this turn my affections away from Jesus?"

As I said yesterday, I hope this doesn't come across as harsh or accusing. The bottom line is, the Lord wants to pursue a relationship with you through His Spirit. In fact, He gave His life for that end. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us... so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:13-14). Jesus died so that you could receive the Spirit. He purchased intimacy for you at the greatest possible price.