Rising into Intuitive Adventure
Normalists and adventurers,
People are paralyzed, or at least slowed down greatly, by their definition of normal. How are you defining "normal"? What visions of "normal" keep playing on your soul's TV screen? What script are you following deep down? I don't know about you, but almost everyone I considered normal growing up turned out to be a normal I unequivocally do not want for myself, on multiple levels. The progressive epiphany continued with my involvement in the church and in ministry: many Christians say they are following God, but they are actually following their definition of normal, then asking God to bless that normal as they work on it. See the sleight of hand? See the sleight of tongue?
Crucifying Normal, Rising into Intuitive Adventure
There is only one normal: God Himself. There is only one script to follow: the individualized program He has for you personally (Ps 16:5,6, 139:16, Eph 2:10). While Christians agree with this on the surface, many of them live real life by the definitions of normal given to them by their family, social circle, culture, denomination/movement, politics, or even their own feelings and needs. If you are loving and following God the Biblical way, the way the incarnate Son did, the way the Hebrews 11 heroes did, the word "normal" will be the furthest thing from your mind. What is "normal" about having Mary Magdalene, a former prostitute, as your best friend in an aggressive, arrogant patriarchal culture? What is "normal" about Paul healing people with a handkerchief, and writing the New Testament from prisons? What is "normal" about the distinctly abnormal experiences of Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Hannah, Hosea, Jeremiah, Huldah, Shadrach, Onesimus...? If you are loving God the Biblical way you will learn normal not a grand idea or a ten-year plan, normal is God Himself, and following Him is a life of intuition and adventure.
Intuition, In a Biblical Worldview
Life in God is a life of Scripture-guided, Spirit-guided intuition. Both Testaments mention intuition often, using a variety of terms and word pictures.
Oxford Languages defines intuition as, "the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning." Psychoanalytic Quarterly, in their October 1994 issue, describes intuition with phrases like, "...inner sensing...inner insight to unconscious pattern-recognition...the ability to understand something instinctively, without any need for conscious reasoning." All of humanity, via the unconditional image of God in them, has at least some measure of superhuman intuitive ability.
A Lamborghini Without Lights
The Creator designed human intuition to function in the context of an obedient relationship with Him and His Word. Without these additional, authoritative sources of illumination, a person's intuition is like a lamborghini without headlights or rearlights. The ghini will still drive, sure, but it is dependent on and influenced by the lesser lights in the environment, like street lights, the lights of other cars, a full moon on a clear night, even the familiarity of the driver with the roads he is driving on. However, without operational headlights and rearlights on the car itself, there are roads the ghini could never drive on. It is limited, prone to small and large accidents.
This is precisely why those who claim, "I always follow my gut"--but not in the context of intimacy with God and His Word--are so hit and miss, hit and miss, hit and miss. They might correctly perceive this and that here and there, but boy do they have spectacular blindspots and epic fails too. Without an ever-deepening, everyday, obedient relationship with Spirit and Truth, our intuition is a dazzling piece of machinery without headlights or rearlights.
Intuition in Scripture
Oh how beautiful is intuition the way God intended! We do not have to be a hit-or-miss roller coaster, depending on lesser lights in the environment to help us sense what is what. Here are a few of the most lovely scriptures that describe intuition.
Intuition = An Inner Sensor
Hebrews 5:14 (NASB, underline mine): But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to distinguish between good and evil.
The Holy Spirit, writing through the author of Hebrews, is telling us our inner senses need practice and training to intuit correctly. The mature, the writer says, can correctly intuit and handle "strong meat" (KJV)--intense, advanced, complex, highly nuanced, highly sensitive matters. He contrasts this with those who are still on milk, only able to correctly intuit the elementary matters of the Word and life in general, but not more advanced matters. An example of the latter is in Luke 9:45 (NKJV, underline mine): But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it... The Greek word here for "perceive" (aisthanomai, the verb form) is the same Greek word for "senses" in Hebrews 5:14 (aistheterion, the noun form). Luke 9:45 shows us what it looks like to have inner senses still on milk and unable to perceive advanced matters, while Hebrews 5:14 shows us what it looks like to have inner senses that can perceive and handle strong meat.
The majority of American Christians are either on milk, or, somewhere between milk and strong meat, though they insist pridefully they are on strong meat. They are not. The proof is in the fruit (behavior patterns and relationship quality). The proof is in what they can correctly intuit versus what they cannot recognize and realize. The proof is in what they can handle psychologically ("I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now," Jesus said in John 16:12).
Hebrews 5:14, then, terms the faculty of intuition as "senses", or collectively, "an inner sense".
Feeling Around for Him
Acts 17:27 (NASB, underline mine): ...seek God, if perhaps they might feel around for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.
Speaking through Paul in Athens, the Holy Spirit tells us we are to "feel around for Him and find Him". The Greek word here for "feel" is pselaphao, and it means "to handle, touch, physically explore through touching". What an incredible, incredible word picture!
God is a spirit, so the "feeling around for Him" has to be a spiritual activity, not a literal physical one, not an emotional feeling either. This word picture helps us understand intuition even more as an inner sensor. So how do we spiritually feel around for, or intuitively look for, God? I'll address that in the Application section at the end.
The Voice of the Kidneys
Psalm 16:7 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English): I shall bless LORD JEHOVAH who counsels me and my kidneys teach me in the nights.
Have you noticed the Biblical writers correlate intangible concepts with physical body parts? For example, the concept of power and authority is matched with the right hand (Gen 48:13-20, Job 40:14, Isa 45:1, Ac 5:31, Rev 5:1). Readiness or ready strength is matched with the loins (Ex 12:11, Job 40:7, 2Ki 9:1, Neh 4:18, Pr 31:17, Lk 12:35, 1Pet 1:13; see all in Young's Literal Translation). Sex or sexual ability is matched with the feet (Gen 49:10, Ex 4:25, 2Sam 11:8,11). Intense negative emotion, like anger or grief, is matched with the liver (Lam 2:11; see in YLT).
And then there's the kidneys. In the verse written out above, Psalm 16:7, David said (in the literal Hebrew), "...my kidneys teach me." Word of God, speak!
The kidneys are elevated to a special place in Scripture. It is correlated with numerous intangible concepts. First and foremost, it is matched with the innermost core of one's personality. When David said to God, "you created my inmost being" (Ps 139:13 NIV), the literal Hebrew is, "you have prepared my kidneys" (Aramaic Bible in Plain English). Like kidneys, a person's true core is deep and well-hidden inside. The kidneys are also matched with the conscience, and its ability to be pricked or vexed. Psalm 73:21 says (KJV, underline mine), Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. The Hebrew for "reins" is kilya, the kidneys. The kidneys are also matched with deep yearning or craving. Job 19:27 says (NIV, underline mine), ...How my heart yearns within me! The Hebrew for "heart" is kilya, the kidneys. The kidneys are also matched with deep emotional pain caused by God's judgment. Job said (Job 16:13 ESV), ...He slashes open my kidneys... and Jeremiah said (Lam 3:13 ESV), He drove into my kidneys the arrows of his quiver...
Our concern in this article, however, is how Scripture uses kidneys as a metaphor for intuition. In Psalm 16:7 (written out above), David said "my kidneys teach me". Why would the Spirit compare intuition, that insightful inner sensor, to kidneys?
To ancient, pre-science Hebrews, kidneys were mysterious organs deep in the body. They knew the standout importance of these organs because God commanded them to be central to the Levitical sacrifice system. Isn't intuition like that? It comes from deep, deep, deep within, which is why it is colloquially called "a gut feeling" or "my gut" or "a visceral reaction". Intuition is also mysterious, in the sense that it tends to operate without empirical evidence or hard proof. And, like animal kidneys in the Levitical system, intuition is central to our experience with God. Our intuition has to constantly be put on the altar of sacrifice in God's presence, so He can add doses of Spirit and Truth to it. Without Spirit and Truth illuminating and protecting our intuition, those beloved "gut feelings" can be way off and lead to epic shipwrecks. People who yap on and on about their "gut feelings" and "listening to their heart"--apart from intense daily intimacy with God and Scripture--never tell you how it led them to wrong decisions and epic fails. The kidneys are supposed to go on the altar and stay on the altar.
Intuition is an inner sensor, given to all people as an artifact of the image of God. He designed it to function in an obedient relationship with Him and Scripture. Without these supplemental sources of illumination, a person's intuition is like a powerful car without headlights or rearlights. Hebrews 5:14 describes intuition as metaphysical "senses". Acts 17:27 describes it as "feeling around for God", and since God is a spirit, this "feeling around" must be a spiritual activity, not a physical one or an emotional feeling. Psalm 16:7 describes it as the "voice of the kidneys", a metaphor for how intuition comes from very deep inside, how it is mysterious in that it is non-empirical, and how it must remain central and on the altar in our experience with God.
Adventure, In a Biblical Worldview
Life in God is a life of adventure. It will always have a "frontier" quality to it: enterprising, daring, intensely pleasurable, terrifying, uncontrollable, with Omnisciently-controlled knowns and unknowns.
This October will be twenty-eight years of ministry for me. Throughout these years how many times have I heard brothers and sisters in Christ say, "There's got to be more to life and being saved than just this."
Life in God was always supposed to be an adventure. It was always supposed to have a frontier edge. It was always supposed to have a degree of unpredictability, uncontrollability, and unknowns. It was always supposed to require living, ongoing faith. It was always supposed to require ongoing communication from God. It was always supposed to require ongoing intuition.
The problem? Humans have a pathological need to control. A pathological need to know more than is necessary. A pathological need for guarantees. A pathological need for visible, tangible security. A pathological need for safe routines. The fallen nature, our lower selves, wants the laws of the fishbowl more than the laws of adventure.
Adventure, In a Biblical Worldview
Life in God, as depicted in the Old and New Testaments, is supposed to be an adventure. The first command given to humanity's parents was to explore, subdue, and administrate the earth, and have lots of sex and lots of babies along the way (Gen 1:28). Seth started the first prayer and preaching movement (4:26), Enoch was raptured because He was so intimate with God (5:24), his son Methuselah reaped the benefits with a ludicrously long life (v27), and Noah pioneered a cruiseliner by revelation (6:13-22). Before we even get out of the first six chapters of God's Word we see a distinct paradigm emerging: life in God is adventurous, enterprising, daring, intensely pleasurable, terrifying, uncontrollable, with Omnisciently-controlled knowns and unknowns.
Then there's Abraham, who God commanded to pack up his family and "go to a land I will show you" (12:1), though God kept that destination hidden until the right time (Heb 11:8). Adventure in its purest, rawest form. God kept Isaac unmarried until he was forty years old (Gen 25:20), until he first learned to let God see him as Beer Lahai Roi (24:62, 16:13,14) and learned meditational prayer-walking in the field (24:63). Staying single a long time is adventure enough, what about the unsettling adventure of learning to let God see you--really see you--at Beer Lahai Roi? Furthermore, I do not have the space here to describe the adventure labyrinth of meditational prayer-walking; it is as dimensionally infinite as God Himself.
A Universal Pattern
Once again, before we even get out of Genesis we see a distinct paradigm to life in God: adventurous, enterprising, daring, intensely pleasurable, terrifying, uncontrollable, with Omnisciently-controlled knowns and unknowns. The same paradigm marked the life of almost every single Bible person who walked with God, from Joseph to Moses to the judges to Hannah to certain kings to Hosea to Shadrach and his friends to the incarnate Son to Paul to Onesimus to Lydia, all the way to John at the end of the New Testament, whose divine adventure led him to an island prison to write about the End and the Second Coming. You cannot read the Bible from the Origin to the Apocalypse and come to the conclusion that life in God will be predictable, controllable, and safe. You come away with an in-your-face dare, that life in God has an ongoing frontier edge, that it will require ongoing faith, that it will require ongoing communication from God, that it will require ongoing intuition.
The nature of adventure necessitates intuition. Because life in God is inherently unpredictable and always has a known-unknown ratio, you will have to get good at sensing and flowing with the God-ordained twists and turns of the adventure.
See how adventure needs intuition? Life in God will come with many Providential twists and turns, and you will have to sense and flow with those twists and turns. If you are too rigid and fossilized in your schedule or expectations or life structure, you will miss God. You will miss the next development on your destiny path and delay your trajectory by a few hours or many years, depending on how important that next development was.
Understand life in God will never be a predictable, controllable fishbowl. That is legalism, we'll get to that in a sec. Life in God is a providentially-organized adventure, and it will require you to practice, train, and grow your inner senses (Heb 5:14) to "feel around for Him and find Him" (Ac 17:27 NASB) and flow with Him from one development to the next. Do this well and you will experience "immeasurably more than all you could ask or imagine" (Eph 3:20 NIV) and "his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Ro 12:2 NIV) and "joy unspeakable and full glory" (1Pet 1:8 KJV).
Legalism: The Enemy of Intuitive Adventure
The ontological opposite of intuitive adventure is legalism. Legalism is essentially a box, or multiple boxes, we try to keep God and our spiritual experience in. Legalism is tempting because it is something we can control, predict, measure, and fully know--unlike adventure.
The ontological opposite of intuitive adventure is legalism. What is legalism? Paul devoted an entire book to legalism, and significant portions of multiple books. We need to understand this and understand it well.
Old Covenant Legalism
The word legalism is derived from the concept of legality or law. Paul chided the Galatian church for trying to have a New Covenant relationship with God that included legalities from the Old Covenant Law. By obeying those 600-plus legalities, Israel had a contractual relationship with God. We could say, then, it was a laws-driven or "legalistic" relationship with Him. Two words, therefore, capture well the Old Covenant Law: excessive and fixative. The 600-plus religious and behavioral laws were, to say the least, excessive. And because of the sheer volume and baffling nitpickiness of many of those laws, the people had to fixate on them to not violate them. It was a burdensome and exhausting system. Paul called it "the letter that kills" (2Co 3:6), "the ministry of death" (v7), and "the ministry of condemnation" (v9).
New Covenant Neo-Legalism
In the New Covenant, thank you Jesus, we are not bound to a legality-filled contract with God (the Mosaic system). Yet, strangely, the Galatian church was trying to have a relationship with God with elements or portions of that system. They backslid to a laws-driven or legalistic relationship with Him. If you read Galatians slowly and thoughtfully, you will see those two descriptive words that characterize Old Covenant spirituality: excessive and fixative. The Galatians regressed to an "excessive laws" spirituality, and therefore, a fixation on keeping them. It became a cancer to their New Covenant intimacy with the Lord.
Neo-legalism or legalism in the New Covenant, then, takes four forms: (1) a strangely excessive fixation on Old Covenant practices within Christianity, (2) a strangely excessive fixation on a particular New Testament command or concept, to the neglect of all others, (3) a strangely excessive fixation on legislating gray areas, and (4) a strangely excessive fixation on man-made rules, traditions, or preferences within Christianity. For the purposes of this article, our concern is #3 and #4.
An Excessive Fixation on Legislating Gray Areas
In Romans 14:1, Paul said not to quarrel or pass judgment on "disputable matters" (NIV). He is referring to what we call today "gray areas". He is telling us not to legislate (issue authoritative thou-shalts or thou-shalt-nots) on gray areas. You might have a personal conviction about never having a glass of red wine, but do not get all Pharisaical and try to legislate against everyone else doing so, because Scripture does not legislate a black-n-white command on a glass of red wine, only drunkenness and dissipation. This is only one example of many where Scripture is either (1) silent or (2) ambiguous or (3) addresses a subject differently across different situations.
How does this relate to intuitive adventure? The more legalistic you are in the gray areas, the less free you will be to sense and flow with God in sensitive, daring, high risk/high reward, intensely fulfilling, low known/high unknown, unpredictable, maybe even dangerous, situations. God will lead you to phases in your journey that fit those descriptions, and you have to be free enough from legalism to sense it and flow with Him. In Romans 14:1, Paul said the legalistic or excessively rigid brother is "weak". He is not being derogatory, he means spiritually and psychologically fragile, not yet able to flow freely and flexibly in the gray areas with God.
An Excessive Fixation on Man-Made Rules, Traditions, & Preferences within Christianity
If you think only wind instruments, or no instruments at all, should be used in musical worship, you have effectively eliminated anything God might do outside that box. If you think musical worship must always have drums, electric guitars, and be concert-like, you have effectively eliminated anything God might do through hymns sung acapella, or anointed words delivered through rap. If you think every meeting has to end with laying hands and prophecies and people falling down, or has to end at a set time, or has to look the same every time, you are eliminating anything God might do outside those boxes. Christians, churches, and ministries are filled with weird fixations on man-made rules, traditions, and preferences.
How does this relate to intuitive adventure? Any box you have for God eliminates that same degree of providential adventure. This does not mean it is wrong to have recurring activities or vehicles in our spiritual experience. What this means is that it cannot be a box that you conveniently hold the key to. It cannot be rigid. It cannot be a legalistic fixation. At a moment's notice you have to be able to shift gears and break pattern when your Spirit-filled intuition senses it. You have to be able to sense and flow with God when He twists and turns, without fear of your own conscience and without fear of any Pharisees nearby.
Now what? How do we act on the Spirit of wisdom and revelation hovering in this article?
Repent for fishbowl Christianity. Dedicate (or rededicate) to the Biblical paradigm of life in God.
Begin with a simple prayer of repentance. Confess you have settled for the spiritual life of a fish in a fishbowl--predictable, controllable, measurable, safe, monotone--not the dynamic providential adventure of almost everyone in Scripture, including the Lord Jesus. Ask Him to help you, like Peter, move from that boat spirituality to a walking on water spirituality; different metaphor, same concept.
Compare and contrast intuition with other forms of awareness.
Distinguish intuition from other forms of awareness. Intuition is not the same as revelation, which is also called the word of the Lord or rhema in Scripture. Intuition is our inner sensor (Heb 5:14), revelation is a direct communication from God. Intuition is not the same as wisdom, which can be gained from a variety of sources, including illumination from the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:17,18). Intuition is not the same as knowledge, which can be gained from a variety of sources, including illumination from the Scriptures (Ps 119:105, 130). Intuition is not the same as imagination. Intuition is our inner sensor, imagination is our creative thinking ability. All these and other awareness faculties have their purpose, work in concert with one another, sometimes work simultaneously, but are not one and the same.
What, exactly, does "feeling around for Him" mean in Acts 17:27?
Acts 17:27 says (NASB, underline mine), ...seek God, if perhaps they might feel around for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. God is a spirit, so the "feeling around for Him" has to be a spiritual activity, not a literal physical one, not an emotional feeling either. So how do we spiritually feel around for, or intuitively look for, God? David answers that in Psalms.
In Psalm 16:7, David said (Aramaic Bible in Plain English, underline mine), I shall bless LORD JEHOVAH who counsels me and my kidneys teach me in the nights. In 63:6, he said (NKJV, underline mine), When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.
Put these two psalms together. David is telling us, at night when he is alone, he meditates on the Lord with deep reflective prayer, and as a result, his "kidneys" teach him...he senses and perceives things. Feeling around for God, who is a spirit, is done through this kind of meditational prayer in silence and solitude. Intuitions that stay anointed and illuminated do so because the worshiper knows how to reduce or isolate busyness and noise, and makes time daily to do what David is describing here. Jesus did it too (Mk 1:35 NASB): And in the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and prayed there for a time.
Our intuition is not pushy, any more than our kidneys are pushy. If we ignore it, it will not scream and lash out. It will lie dormant and ignored. A voice coming from that deep, coming from the nonmaterial part of our being, must be accommodated and coaxed forward. And we do that by "feeling around" in spiritual realms through seclusion, silence, and meditational prayer in God's presence.
When God grants the opportunity to leave the fishbowl and get onto the path of providential adventure, obey.
If you are in the fishbowl, the Lord will occasionally send an opportunity to deliver you from the fishbowl, and give you an on-ramp to a divine adventure. If you ignore it and disobey it, you are consigned to another season of cutting boredom and consequences, not to mention missed promise lands and more than you could ask or think. Yes, getting out of the boat and walking on water to where Jesus is calling you will require flexing and working faith muscles. Yes, it will include some level of sacrifice. Yes, it will probably irritate losers who love the fishbowl and want to keep you in it. Yes, it might even be terrifying. But the life the deepest, truest You craves to live, the life that is abundant on every level, the life that is "good, pleasing and perfect" (Ro 12:2 NIV), the life that is "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine" (Eph 3:20 NIV), is the life of intuitive adventure in God.