When my two sons were very young, I learned that one of the most difficult things to instill within a child is the ability to know when it is time to play and when it is time to be gentle.
Playtime is often the easiest to initiate. Wonderful things happen in intimate moments of tickle time and storytelling. Likewise, we bond with our children as we walk with them through times of difficulty, disease, heartache and sorrow. We hold them when they are sick in bed and wish that we were sick instead of them. We experience incredible disappointments with our children, and we experience hopes and dreams-come-true and the best of memories with them.
What does all of this have to do with God and protocol? There are times when God wants to have “tickle time” with us, and it is good. There are times when we roll on the floor and can’t catch our breath, when we feel glued to the ground and couldn’t get up even if we wanted to. In those moments, everything is sublime. It is amazing what God can do and heal and fix and impart during “playtime.”
There are other times when we are broken, and in a wholly different way, those experiences are just as impacting as tickle time.
But we often have trouble knowing when it is time to play with the Father and when it is time to be quiet in His presence.
God outlined specific protocol that was to be followed in the Temple and Tabernacle. He told Moses what He wanted to be done and when He wanted it to be done. As he made his rounds, the priest had a highly defined routine that included the outer courtyard, the inner courtyard, the Holy of Holies, the brazen altar, the table of shewbread, the altar of incense and so on. There were seven different places where the presence of God would come and meet with him.
Many of us are asking God to take us to the next level in Him, but our experience has been mostly limited to the outer court, and we don’t yet understand how to act in the Holy of Holies. If He were to grant our request, they would be dragging us out by a rope! What was allowed by the priest in the outer court got him killed in the Holy of Holies.
Someone could argue, “The Bible says that we are to come boldly before the throne.” Absolutely. But coming boldly has nothing to do with protocol. It has everything to do with the blood of Jesus covering our sin. When we do not treat the protocol of Heaven with reverence, our spiritual perception deteriorates, and we don’t know what God wants to do next. When we lose sight of His protocol, we lose our boundaries, and we don’t know how to proceed: what is right, what is wrong, when it is time to do something, when it is not time to do something — and gradually, an indifferent generality spreads to every value system we have. If we continue down that road, we can end up calling the holy things profane and the profane things holy, because our relationship with God has become centered around what we want to do and not what He wants to do.
Protocol is intimacy, not more rules
I believe there is a coming presence of God that will require us to act differently. We will need to have His Spirit written in our hearts so that we will be able to keep His protocol.
However, here is what I’m afraid of. Contrary to traditional assumption, the practice of heavenly protocol does not equal following the rules for the sake of following the rules. I came out of a very staunch, very stiff Pentecostal movement, and we were known for everything we couldn’t do. It seems to me that whenever people focus on “what not to do,” it is because they think there is nothing better to do! We were not created to be mechanical rule-keepers; we were made to be the sons and daughters of God, reflecting His divine image and joy. We were created to be so wrapped up in the life and freedom found in hearing God’s voice and living in His presence and performing miracles that we don’t spend our time studying “what not to do.”
Protocol is a form of worship. It is a form of honor and praise and reverence: We know how to treat the King when He comes.
I believe that God wants to give us more of Himself than we have ever had before, but it is His grace that keeps it from happening — because He loves us too much to give us something that He would later have to judge us for. We are not ready for the adulation that would come with greater power, but He is ready to release it.
The Body of Christ needs to be willing to embrace the protocol of Heaven and come to God on His terms, knowing when it is time to laugh and when it is time to be silent, honoring what He honors — in other words, respecting the Father.